Let me just start off by saying that writing this without a computer has been a big pain in the ass. The desktop that I bought almost ten years ago with my tax returns finally fried, so I’ve had to write heavily caffeinated blocks on my lunch break and even make a couple of trips to the library and use the public computers there. I’ve got another one on the way so hopefully this will ease the process for the next 84 entries I have to make in this set.
With that out of the way, it’s finally here. After a year of watching, tracking, and ranking fights I’ve finally settled on a listing of what I believe to be the 100 “best” UFC fights of the year.
Now, you’re definition of “best” may vary greatly from mine but there was a method to my madness. My criteria for ranking was (generally in order of importance):
- Competitiveness. How close was the fight? Was it one-sided or did both fighters consistently show the ability to win the fight throughout the contest?
- Technical aspects. Was the wrestling, grappling, and striking delivered by both parties at a high level?
- Excitement. Were there exciting transitions and exchanges between the fighters? Did one fighter have the other in a precarious position (e.g. a near submission or visibly hurting the opponent on the feet) at one or more times throughout the fight? Did the other fighter escape or reverse this position?
- Length. Did the fight meet the above criteria for a short-time only or did it last multiple rounds or go to a decision?
- Finish. Did the fight end in spectacular fashion? Rare or obscure submission? Crazy knockout?
- Intangibles. Was the fight aided by being a title shot? Was the fight between two highly ranked opponents or heated rivals? Was the crowd especially loud or excited?
Sometimes I simply went with my gut and arbitrarily moved a fight up or down based on my own whims and instincts. It is my list after all!
I’m sure all of this preliminary writing has left you excited to read more but it’s time to move onto the list itself! Now there was no way in hell that I was going to do a write-up for 100 fights at one time so I decided to split it into chunks for the benefit of time and my own sanity. I’ll be providing the combatants (obviously), date, card, and Fight Pass link for each fight. I’ll try to avoid spoilers in the text but may need to include some to provide context.
Azaitar was a maniac here, always pressing forward and swinging powerful punches with almost reckless abandon. I give credit to Miranda for hanging in there but Azaitar was just a tornado on the feet. Miranda’s best moments were on the ground, particularly when he nearly had an armbar during the third, but these moments were few and far between.
Means looks like Tom Brady if he grew up in a trailer park, knocked his girlfriend up, and then had to turn to fighting to pay child support bills. In what seems to be a recurring pattern in fight sports, the stocky, muscular guy with a shaved head throws with crazy power. Take Sergio Moraes, in this instance. I thought this was a bad decision when I first watched it but upon second viewing, I found it to be much closer. Means was the cleaner, more technical striker but Moraes had a scary element of danger accompanying each strike which typically makes for a fun match up. This was no exception.
This was a wild fight in the sense that one fighter would have the other in a position of extreme danger but then something would happen that would suddenly flip the script back to the other side. Lewis is a guy that appears overmatched at times but is always dangerous — even when the fight isn’t going his way — and this fight was no exception. This fight isn’t something that professors are going to be showing to the (never going to exist) MMA class 101 in 2025 or anything but it’s two hosses throwing down on each other for 10+ minutes so what more can you ask for?
In a sport that unfortunately has some terrible nicknames on the both the professional and amateur level, Andre “Touchy” Fili may have the worst, as long as Tim “The Maine-iac” Sylvia stays retired that is. Regardless of nicknames, I was impressed by Fili in this fight, particularly against someone as skilled and dangerous as Bermudez. This was one of those close fights where one fighter may have taken 2 of the 3 rounds but you couldn’t tell by looking at them, which oftentimes makes it difficult to judge. Some called this a bad decision at the time but when you are scoring using the rounds system (as opposed to, say, the old Pride system) sometimes appearances can be deceiving.
Tuivasa is a new age Mark Hunt. Basically, a guy that is there to knock your teeth out the back of your throat and not fool around with this ground nonsense (what’s BJJ?). Surprisingly enough (to me at least), Tuivasa took it to dos Santos at times in Round 1, even wobbling his legs on one occasion. JDS is a vet, though, and weathered the storm before making Tuivasa pay in the 2nd for dropping his hands after an exchange. Fun while it lasted.
Condit is a guy whose ground game resume looks impressive on paper but upon closer inspection was against lesser talent, as Cruz and Rogan made sure to helpfully point out to us during the fight. Chiesa, on the other hand, is a ground wizard and a legit black belt. I wouldn’t say his take downs are spectacular but he has a way of getting in close and sticking to his opponent like glue before finagling a take down. Condit was game on the ground, which made for some exciting scrambles where Condit may have caught someone less savvy than Chiesa. Good, short fight.
Li is a nut with lots of power who just looks like he enjoys fighting and would do it for nothing if he could. Abe had a decent rep coming into this fight but a look at his resume shows that the majority of his KO victories came against taxi cab drivers, although he had one good decision victory over Hyn Gyu Lim back in September of 2017. Li, who is a big welterweight anyway, dwarfed Abe, who looked small for featherweight, let alone 170 pounds. Still, the fight was mostly interesting and competitive at times, although Li imposed his will more and more as the fight went on, leaving you wondering how much it would take to put Abe away.
Spectacular finish here, which came out of nowhere. Definitely not something you see every day. That the fight was competitive beforehand is enough to get it on here but the finish is what you really need to see.
Edwards was a huge favorite here but Madge was the one who was most impressive. Madge was pushing the action right off the bat, pressuring Edwards with combos and forcing him to take it to the ground where he would supposedly feel more in his element. However, Madge also proved adept off of his back throwing up an armbar that was nearly the end of Edwards. The end of the fight was one of the more impressive finishes of the year; Madge is definitely on some hypetrain watch-lists going into 2019.
Adesanya is really a joy to watch. Tavares is a quality fighter with 10+ years of experience but Adesanya is just on another level striking. Tavares’s only success was with the overhand right but he was never able to connect with a truly clean shot on the faster moving Adesanya, who would just dart out of the way, often angling back in with a fancy strike. Fighting Adesanya is like trying to get away from a hornet: you can run, duck, and jump around but he’s still always going to be one step ahead of you. Tavares’s toughness made the fight more compelling than it should have been, although you never got the impression he would win (I only gave him one round, the 5th, on my score card).
This was the first time that Tuivasa had gone past the first round in an MMA fight as his previous seven had all ended with him on the good end of a TKO. That it was against Arlovski was not really all that surprising initially, until you realize that Arlovski, despite being a vet and former champion, is 2-4 in his last six and has a chin that is somewhat suspect. Tuivasa did knock Andrei on his ass in the first but let him up, as opposed to earlier in the round where Tai had muscled him down and sat on him like an older brother only for Arlovski to hug him like a koala until the stand up. Arlovski did fairly well after the knockdown, taking the second after rocking Tai, but ultimately Tai showed that while he isn’t winning any bodybuilding contests, his stamina is good enough to take decisions as well as early stoppages.
Interesting fight in that it was a battle of contrasts on the feet as Haqparast looked to close up and fight from the inside while Diakese preferred to fight at a distance. Haqparast won this particular battle but Diakese put in a gutsy performance, nearly being finished at the end of the second and managing to still fight back in the final stanza despite being down a considerable amount of the scorecards. In a battle of wills, which most fights are, Haqparast was able to impose his.
If this had been a tad more competitive I may have ranked it higher but there were times when Aldana was a punching bag and just looking to survive. That doesn’t mean it didn’t make for a compelling fight as you wanted to see just how much he could take. Apparently a lot, as Aldana needed to have a cut checked twice during the fight, and by the end of the fight looked like he had been jumped in the parking lot after a night of heavy drinking. Starapoli didn’t come through unscathed, either — with a hematoma developing on his face by the end of the first — but he was able to ride the home crowd advantage (Starapoli is a native Argentinian) and gain confidence and power as the fight went on.
This was an extremely close fight for the relatively short time it lasted with good action in stand up and on the ground. Both are high-level fighters and the scrambles and reversals/transitions were thrilling to watch. However, the highlight of this fight has to be the finish, and rightly so. Sterling was able to get a kneebar from the back mount which really needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.
It’s really a shame that the UFC appears to be phasing out the Flyweight division because it deprives us of fights such as this one. While it gradually became more and more one-sided in favor of Kara-France, Garcia was game early on, attempting a triangle, armbar, and kneebar before knocking Kara-France down with a left straight — all before the midway point of the first. This seemed to light a fire under Kara-France and he was relentless with the pressure for the remainder of the fight, sapping the will of Garcia to the point where Anthony Pettis (working Garcia’s corner) was practically begging him to get up. Garcia was completely sapped by this point and resigned to trying to win off his back but Kara-France was having none of it. The scorecards aren’t really indicative of the quality of this fight as Garcia was certainly a threat throughout the first before wilting.
Bobby Green is a guy I’ve never been a big fan of because of his propensity to talk too much during his fights, which almost seems to distract him as much as his opponent. I did think he got jobbed in this fight, landing more strikes, better strikes, and more accurate strikes. He also got the fight’s only take down and came close to sinking a standing rear naked choke in. The judges saw it differently though, and while Klose fought a competitive fight I didn’t think he did enough to take two rounds, let alone one. Green impulsively retired after this fight although I imagine we will see him back at some point.
Next up: Some ladies’ fights (I promise)!; some fights I quite possibly ranked too high!; fighters doing wrestling finishers to win matches!; Zombies (Joe Lauzon, Darren Elkins, etc.)!