(Originally posted on https://matthewfillery.wordpress.com/my-top-5-ufc-moments-of-2018/)
2018 was a wild year for the UFC, one befitting of being its 25th anniversary. In a year of double champs and controversy, I took a look back at my top 5 moments.
5 Derrick Lewis’ come-from-behind KO – UFC 229
After his contender for the worst fight ever with Francis Ngannou, Derrick Lewis had it all to prove when he came up against the Russian giant Alexander Volkov. However, failing takedowns and being beaten on the feet, it did not look good for Lewis – who by the third and final round looked exhausted after the Russian’s attack. But, with less than 15 seconds until certain defeat, The Black Beast did what he always does, and uncorked a missile of a right hand. It floored Volkov and the follow-up strikes were enough to allow Lewis to snatch the victory from the jaws of defeat.
4 The Chaos of UFC 223
Where do you even begin with UFC 223? In a week that could only be seen as nearly fatal for UFC President Dana White, the event experienced the loss of not one, but two main events PLUS the UFC’s biggest star facing jail time.
In a turn of events that a clairvoyant would struggle to see coming – the original main event of Tony Ferguson vs Khabib Nurmagomedov for the Lightweight championship was cancelled after interim champion, Ferguson, tripped up on a camera cable and tore the ligament off one of his knees.
Then, it seemed that bad luck had given way to a dream match as the current Featherweight world champion Max Holloway would make the move up to fight for the championship instead.
But then, following the scheduled media day at Madison Square Garden, CONOR MCGREGOR TURNS UP IN THE CAR PARK TO TRY AND ATTACK KHABIB, incensed after seeing Khabib confront a friend of his. In the carnage, McGregor picks up a sack truck/ dolly and launched it at a bus that not only contained Khabib, but half of the fighters expected to fight. Smashing a window, Conor injures two fighters, whilst traumatising women’s Strawweight champion Rose Namajunas to the point that she almost does not fight.
Conor is eventually arrested – and with that, the main event is still good to go, however other fights are cancelled.
BUT THEN, it is announced that Holloway (who fights at a lighter weight class to Nurmagomedov) is unable to fight due to issues making the weight limit for the title fight!
Finally, it becomes Khabib vs 10th ranked Al Iaquinta, who was scheduled to fight someone else on the card. If Khabib wins, he wins the championship, but if Iaquinta wins, he does not, due to not meeting the correct weight. Khabib wins and becomes the champion. PHEW.
Confusing right? Imagine watching it unfold – it was easily the most chaotic, yet entertaining week to be a fan of the UFC.
3 Yair Rodriquez’s Final Second KO – UFC Fight Night Korean Zombie vs Rodriguez
Similarly to Derrick Lewis, Yair Rodriguez did not look like he was going to win when he came into the final round of his five-round fight against The Korean Zombie Chan Sung Jung. An incredibly high-octane fight, with fast combinations and unique movements, it was the final strike of the night that sealed the deal. With literal seconds to go, and with Jung approaching, Rodriquez bent over forwards and moved his right elbow upwards, connecting cleanly with Zombie’s jaw to completely knock him out cold.
An amazing feat of ingenuity that has to be seen to be believed.
2 The Whole of UFC 229
The aforementioned Derrick Lewis knockout, Tony Ferguson returning to the cage in a fight of the year contender, the return of Conor McGregor and the bat-sh*t insanity of the main event? UFC 229 was a pay-per-view that will be hard to top as Conor McGregor faced Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
With some of the most heated and aggressive pre-fight antics from McGregor, the whisky-clad Irishman left no line uncrossed. As he went at Khabib, his religion, his home Dagestan and even his manager. But after the talking, the amazing undercard and the goose-bump producing entrance, McGregor entered Khabib’s world.
The Russian produced an absolute mauling (barring the third round) as he completely outclassed McGregor. Khabib was relentless in his wrestling, grinding McGregor into the mat. He even, in the second round, managed to do what many have not been able to do and rocked McGregor with a nasty overhand right. Although the spotlight was on Conor, it was Khabib’s night, and in the fourth round, a tight neck crank submission was all that was needed for the Notorious one to tap out.
But it was what happened after the fight that was to be remembered. Still incensed at the trash talking, Khabib launched his mouth guard into the crowd before clambering over the octagon fence and launched himself at McGregor’s teammate Dillon Danis. The chaos sparked a mass brawl, as the two teams came together in an ugly scene that spoiled an excellent evening. Although it was still an amazing evening of fighting, with possibly the strongest build up ever seen, the aftermath still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth to this day.
1 Daniel Cormier Wins the Heavyweight Championship
What a difference a year makes. In July 2017, Daniel Cormier was crying on worldwide television after being head kicked by Jon Jones, fast-track a year and here he becomes only the second person in history to hold two UFC championships at the same time. After retaining the Light Heavyweight championship, Cormier defended it once before taking on Stipe Miocic, the then Heavyweight champion, and potentially greatest heavyweight of all time.
It took Cormier less than one round to finish Miocic, as he connected with a swift uppercut that sent me out of my chair screaming as I watched it live. In a scene of pure jubilation, Cormier, who had been Heavyweight champion elsewhere, had seemingly vanquished any doubt that he was one of the greatest fighters of all time.
To wrap it all up, Cormier called out former champion and WWE star Brock Lesnar. With a few shoves and a foul-mouthed interview from Brock, a super fight between the two seems to be set.