2019 is done and dusted, and wasn’t it full of memorable bouts? This year is shaping up to deliver more of the same and you can check out some exciting UFC prices here, but for now, let’s take a look back at some of the best fights from the final year of the decade.
Dustin Poirier v Max Holloway
Dustin Poirier and Max Holloway met for the second time in their careers seven years after the first, in a fight which bore virtually no resemblance to their opening bout. With Poirier one of the most capable boxer-punchers going around and Holloway boasting a highly potent offensive game, this was always going to be a high-quality affair – a stark contrast from their 2012 battle which saw Poirier take down his 20-year-old opponent with relative ease.
Ultimately, the result of this one would be the same, but the way it was achieved demonstrated just how far both fighters have come in the past seven years. Poirier held the upper hand from the outset, but Holloway demonstrated his durability by staying in the game throughout. It wasn’t enough in the end, with Poirier taking the points and the interim Lightweight title, but the gruelling nature of the fight made it one of the best of 2019.
Israel Adesanya v Kelvin Gastelum
UFC 236 proved to be one for the ages. While Poirier and Holloway, as the main event, put on a brilliant show of their own, it could easily be argued that the bout of the night came when Israel Adesanya met Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum started the fight with a right hook in the first round, surprising many – not least Adesanya himself – who figured the Nigerian-New Zealander would have things his own way on his feet. However, Adesanya fought his way back into it with a number of lusty blows, and the fight was even heading into the final round. Ultimately Gastelum’s tank ran low and Adesanya got the points, but only after what could be argued was the most memorable fight of the year.
Kamaru Usman v Colby Covington
In the lead-up to this bout, few would have predicted that, come the end of 2019, this would be on a list for the best fights of the year. Courtesy of the seemingly endless number of twists and turns that were littered throughout it, however, it would be virtually impossible to exclude. Both Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington are known more for grinding out victories than for achieving them with a devastating blow, but it turns out that putting them in the octagon together bodes for an enthralling battle. It was Covington who started the bout looking the better fighter, but that all changed in the third round when Usman found success targeting the body of his opponent, and throwing in a punishing right cross. Another twist was to follow, however, with Covington wrestling his way back into the fight and appearing likely to finish things off. And yet, as if the fight hadn’t had enough twists, Usman knocked Covington to the floor twice, smothering him in hammer fists after the second and earning a famous victory.
Khama Worthy v Devonte Smith
As was the case prior to the Usman v Covington bout, few would have expected this to be one of the better fights of the year, but the result caught plenty by surprise and had tongues wagging for a long time after its conclusion. Devonte Smith didn’t have a weight of experience behind him, but he did have two knockouts from two UFC fights and carried a swagger, backed by a punishing fighting style, that seemed almost certain to hold him in good stead against his much older former training partner in Khama Worthy.
Worthy is no slouch, but he’s in the latter stages of his career while Smith is only just beginning, and had only a week’s notice about the fight. All the signs pointed to a comfortable victory for Devonte Smith, but Worthy shocked everyone and proved that age is just a number by knocking out Smith a little over than four minutes in. This wasn’t a fight with the fanfare of plenty of others, but the surprising result means it deserves a spot on this list.
Vicente Luque v Bryan Barberena
Perhaps in contrast to the two fights highlighted above, the bout between Vicente Luque and Bryan Barberena had the makings of a classic as soon as it was announced. Two men renowned for their power and brutality, it was no surprise to see these two come out and belt the suitcases out of each other for the first three rounds; Luque, it could be argued, with a little less finesse than his 29-year-old opponent.
With Barberena racking up points he seemed destined for victory, but Luque reminded everyone of his ability with a knockout late in the final round, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in the process and revitalising the UFC after a slow start to the calendar year.