Riding the wave of an action-packed series of events, December’s UFC pay-per-view had the nearly impossible task of satiating fight fans’ bloodlust to close its ill-fated 2020 schedule.
With the original main event and the co-main event already falling victim to unfortunate circumstances, the UFC president Dana white and friends were put to work to find suitable and healthy replacements. Their solution? Call in the resident boogeyman and have him fight a man with anacondas for weapons.
But even with Tony Ferguson and Charles Oliveira in tow, there was still a serious shortage of gold at the top of the map. Surely there was some sort of heavyweight, lightweight, or even welterweight to save the day?
In staggered flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo, a pint-sized Brazilian with concrete fists, pressure that could choke an elephant, and the meanest mug on the list. Standing in front of this bleach-haired pugilist was Brandon moreno, a Mexican scrapper with endless cardio, an unpredictable array of submissions and submissions, and the biggest smile on this side of the Atlantic.
It was a clash of personalities that would create magic as they fought for no reason for 25 minutes en route to a majority draw. It was a fitting end to such a momentous event following Oliveira’s star performance against Ferguson as a co-headliner.
Still not satisfied? What would you say Kevin holland breaking the record books with his fifth victory of the year, Ciryl Ganecrippling destruction of Junior dos Santos, Cub swanson and Rafael Fiziev tear up the respective opponents like tissue paper, or Chase hooper force Peter Barrett in submission with a dazzling ground game?
UFC 256 had it all.
UFC 249 in Jacksonville sparked a wide range of emotions for fight fans. It’s here that Dana White drew a line in the sand, defying detractors who blasted her for staging an event amid a global pandemic. While many were delighted to see their favorite fighters knocked down, there were an equal number of fans wary of the risks.
Combined with the fact that the entire map was thrown from the bones of several canceled events, including both the main event and the main co-event, the night was one of the most memorable in the history of promotion – in a completely empty arena nothing less.
While the undercard has most certainly had its moments, including some big wins for Anthony Pettis, Bryce mitchell, and Vicente Luque, this was the main map where the gods of combat really started to work wonders.
After Greg hardy methodical victory over another heavyweight prospect Yorgan De Castro, Calvin kattar cemented his place in the featherweight division with a TKO Jeremy stephens. Not to be outdone, Francis Ngannou delivered Jairzinho Rozenstruik a one-way ticket to the Shadow Kingdom with a 20 second knockout.
With a path of destruction mapped out, it was in Ferguson and Justin gaethje to put a violent exclamation mark on the night. Ferguson had a 12-game winning streak before the Ronda Rousey era of the UFC, while Gaethje had won three consecutive knockouts in the first round. The hype surrounding the interim lightweight title fight was palpable.
(Side note: Sitting next to the cage for this fight will remain one of the most memorable moments of my journalistic career.)
With empty chairs surrounding the grizzly bear scene, Ferguson and Gaethje fought for no reason. Sweat and blood flowed from their bruised skulls, and neither man relented as they continued to attack. But in the end, it was Ferguson’s body that gave way as Gaethje won a fifth round, ending one of the craziest nights in combat sports history.
Let’s go through the checklist for the preliminary UFC 254 card in Abu Dhabi, okay?
- Doctor stop because of a horrible cut? I get it.
- A first-round armband? You know.
- First round knockout of a returning heavyweight? Absolutely.
- A brilliant performance in the bantamweight? Bingo.
- A draw between the light heavyweights? Yeah.
- The emergence of an undefeated welterweight from Kazakhstan? Surprisingly, yes.
It was one of those rare nights (or mornings if you were in the United States) where the preliminary fighters set the bar high for the main card.
Magomed Ankalaev, Lauren Murphy, and the beginnings Phil hawes were more than happy to keep pace as they rode their opponents. A freshly inked Alexander Volkov reconstituted Walt harris, followed by another dominant victory for the former middleweight champion Robert whittaker how it broke Jared Cannonierarm and winning streak.
So what closing moment could be worthy of such an exciting card? How about light Khabib Nurmagomedov announcing his retirement after doing a light Gaethje job with a second round triangular choke. A perfect end to a perfect career.
In the serious MMA world, the event of the year was unmistakably UFC 256. But in the world of human cockfighting, there was no event more spectacular or triumphant than CamSoda’s return to MMA with Fight Circus: Vol. 2.
For the uninitiated, Fight Circus is the brainchild of Jon Nutt, an American expat living in Thailand. Nutt’s goal is to strengthen an economy hard hit by COVID-19 and provide entertainment for fans by promoting the carnival aspect of MMA.
Whether or not he was successful first, I have no idea. But on the latter, it happened in spades. For a deep dive into the event, MMAFighting wrote an article on theft. 1, but the short version is this: there was intergender struggle; a kick-only fight; secret bonus fights; and a two-man fight that redefined the term “immediate rematch” (literally, after the solo fighter lost in about a minute, they just revived him on the spot).
And that only scratches the surface of everything that has happened (luckily the event was successful enough that the second event, Flight. 2: Circus Harder, took place a few months later, with other installments to follow). MMA is basically a rogue sport, and Fight Circus reminded us that it’s okay not to take things too seriously – it’s good to push the boundaries and have fun.
Everything they tried didn’t work and not everyone will want to see more, but at the end of the day, a random American in Thailand and a porn streaming company donated the three hours of viewing. most daring, ridiculous and captivating fighting games this year.