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UFC in 2019: Year of Nigerian Nightmare, double-double champ Cejudo and the G.O.A.T

Bengaluru, December 22: The Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2019 kicked off January 19 in Brooklyn and ended on December 21 in Busan. And it was one wild ride of the Octagon from Americas, Europe and Asia.

The promotion hosted 41 events this year and oversaw a few title changes, championship defences, double-double champs being crowned and many debuts of which two in particular were the stand-outs for different reasons. Plus, one big name retired from the sport along side many others.

The year 2019 kicked off with a title bout at UFC Fight Night 143, which was the first event as part of the promotion's five year contract with ESPN. The journey then continued with 40 more events which included twelve pay-per-views.

And with quite an eventful year coming to an end, now it's time to look back at the significant moments of 2019 in the Octagon:

Double-double champ!!

Henry Cejudo, who ended a dominant run held by Demetrious Johnson to claim the UFC Flyweight Championship in 2018, opened the year 2019 with a bang and made a successful title defence against former Bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw via TKO in just 32 seconds of the first round.

The title journey didn't just end there for The Messenger as he was later slated to face Marlon Moares for the vacant Bantamweight title, which he claimed via a third round TKO.

With that win he created history as he became only the fourth fighter to hold championships simultaneously in two weight divisions in UFC. And he also became the seventh multi-divisional champion in UFC history.

However, on December 19 it was announced that Cejudo will focus on the bantamweight division going forward and relinquished the flyweight title.

Nigerian Nightmare!!

Kamaru Usman, who has been undefeated since his UFC debut made incredible strides this year as he went on to end a three-year title reign held by Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. And the Nigerian Nightmare rounded off the year with a successful title defence against former interim UFC welterweight champion Colby Covington via a fifth-round TKO.

The Last Stylebender

Nigerian-New Zealander Israel Adesanya, who is 18-0 with knockouts in his MMA career, opened the year by beating veteran Anderson Silva via decision and put himself into contention for the UFC Middleweight title, then held by Robert Whittaker.

He, however, had one more hurdle to cross in the form of Kelvin Gastelum, whom he dominated in all the five rounds to claim the interim Middleweight crown, which further pushed him for a title scrap against Whittaker.

And in October, Adesanya fought Whittaker in front of the Aussie's home crowd and gave the Reaper a night to forget by securing a second round knock out to claim the undisputed Middleweight title.

The G.O.A.T Amanda Nunes

The G.O.A.T Amanda Nunes

Amanda Nunes, who is 12-1 in the UFC has wins against Shayna Baszler, Sara McMann, Valentina Shevchenko (twice), Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, Raquel Pennington.

She finally ended 2018 against Cris Cyborg, whom she finished in just 51 seconds to claim the women's featherweight title and doing so she also became the first woman in UFC history to hold championship belts in different divisions simultaneously.

The Lioness, then made two successful title defences in the bantamweight division and was eventually labelled as the G.O.A.T. First up, she defeated Holly Holm via a first-round TKO and to end 2019, she claimed a decision win against Germaine de Randamie. That win meant Nunes had the most wins in women's title fights in the UFC, with seven.

The Blessed, the Diamond and DC

The Blessed, the Diamond and DC

After an incredible winning streak for four years, Max Holloway, the then featherweight champion, opened 2019 with a decision loss to Dustin Poirier in the UFC interim lightweight championship. The Blessed, however, bounced back with a featherweight title defence against Frankie Edgar.

The Diamon Poirier, on the other hand, lost his title unification bout against lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in September.

The Blessed Holloway's year, meanwhile, ended on a sour note after he dropped his two-year featherweight title run to Alexandre Volkanovski in December.

After much speculation of a matchup with Brock Lesnar which never materialised, Daniel Cormier, the first and only fighter to successfully defend titles in two different weight classes, decided to rematch Stipe Miocic in August.

And it was his only fight this year which ended on a sour note for the fifth multi-divisional champion in the UFC as Miocic earned a fourth-round TKO and reclaimed the title he lost to DC in 2018.

Mixed bag for debutants

Former Dallas Cowboys star Greg Hardy made his highly awaited UFC bow earlier this year, but it ended on a sour note as he was disqualified for an illegal knee on his opponent. He, however, bounced back the two TKO wins against Dimitri Smolyakov and Juan Adams. But his last two bouts were ones to forget as one ended in no contest and the other in defeat to Alexander Volkov.

The other notable debutant in the UFC was former ONE Chmapionship and Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren. Although he had a successful debut with a victory over veteran Robbie Lawler, Askren lost the following two fights, one being the fastest knockout in UFC history.

After dominating Lawler, Askren fell victim to a flying knee by Jorge Masvidal and lost via submission to Demian Maia in October after which he announced his retirement from the sport.

The BMF title

The BMF title

After beating former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in UFC 241, Nate Diaz proclaimed himself as the "baddest motherfucker in the game" and issued a challenge to Masvidal. Dana White also confirmed that a celebratory "baddest motherfucker" (‘BMF') belt will be delivered to the winner of this bout.

And the bout had received a lot of hype with the US President Donald Trump and former WWE Champion The Rock Dwayne Johnson in attendance to witness the "east coast vs west coast" dubbed fight. But, the finded ended via a doctor's stoppage to hand Masvidal the BMF belt which was put around the Gamebred's waist by The Rock.

Retirements and suspensions in 2019

While T.J. Dillashaw, Aspen Ladd and David Branch were notable athletes to be handed suspension, there were many who called time on their MMA career. And the most notable ones who announced their retirement in 2019 were George St-Pierre, Alexandre Gustafsson, Dennis Bermudez, Jimi Manuwa and Nick Diaz.

Fights to look forward to in 2020

The next year will start with a bang as former lightweight champion Conor McGregor is set to meet Cowboy Donald Cerrone at UFC 246. The other fight to look forward in the lightweight division is the title bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson.

Also being scheduled for 2020, is a light heavyweight title fight between Jon Jones and Dominic Reyes, a couple of women's title bout as strawweight champion Zhang Weili defends her belt against Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Valentina Shevchenko puts her flyweight title on the line against Katlyn Chookagian. While, many other bouts are also in the pipeline.

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Story first published: Sunday, December 22, 2019, 11:26 [IST]
Other articles published on Dec 22, 2019
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