Match of the Year
Chris Murphy: Teofimo Lopez Jr. vs. Vasyl Lomachenko (Boxing)
Teofimo Lopez Jr. vs. Vasyl Lomachenko had a lot at stake. However, even with four separate titles on the line, it managed to live up to the hype and more. Going into the fight, Lopez Jr. was the brash knockout wunderkind and throttled everyone in his path while Lomachenko continued to uphold his position as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Lomachenko was the heavy favorite going in but found himself overwhelmed from the start of the fight. Lopez Jr. didn’t let up in his assault and gave Lomachenko no time to strategize. Lomachenko was forced to go on the defensive for much of the fight and Lopez Jr. won by unanimous decision.
Drew Pierce: Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (MMA) Fury vs. Wilder (Boxing)
The Strawweight title fight between Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk was an instant classic that had all MMA fans buzzing. In the 25 minutes of action between the technical strikers, sparks flew. The pair exchanged huge shots in a heated battle that brought me to my feet even just watching from home. This was also one of the few pre-COIVD fights of the year, so the fighters were also able to play off of the energy of the fans, a missing aspect of the game for the rest of the year and one that seriously changed the dynamic and energy of the fights to come.
Back in 2018, legends Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder squared off in a highly anticipated bout. Fury came out on top via split decision and stayed undefeated. This fight was for the WBC World Heavyweight Title and it set up a rematch that would surely deliver a lot of hype. The rematch came in February of this year and Fury’s jab was on point. It couldn’t even go the distance because Fury was too much for Wilder to handle. There was even a point where Fury looked the blood off of his opponent’s shoulder because he “wanted to taste blood.” Fury is a bad man and always fun to watch.
Michael Donius: Emmett vs Burgos (MMA)
In late June, two promising and exciting Featherweight prospects, Josh Emmett and Shane Burgos, faced off in a key divisional matchup. Emmett showed superhuman levels of toughness and grit as he suffered a number of knee injuries including a complete ACL tear just 15 seconds into the fight. Despite the injuries, Emmett stayed in the pocket and had an absolute dogfight, dealing well with the unrelenting pressure and pace of Burgos. Both men showed extreme endurance, heart, and toughness in this fight, but ultimately the big power shots landed by Emmett were enough to earn him a unanimous decision.
Kirien Sprecher Katzmarek: Shana Dobson vs. Mariya Agapova (MMA) Roy Jones Jr. vs Mike Tyson (Boxing)
The up and coming Agapova was a -1900 favorite and lost to the veteran Dobson in the second round via TKO. After a dominating 9-2 record in MMA, Agapova won her first octagon fight and called out Dobson. They went head to head on August 22 at UFC Fight Night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Right away, it was clear that Agapova was not ready for the level of competition that Dobson brought. Gassed in the 2nd round, Agapova lost her position and took numerous shots to the head before the referee was forced to call it. Although the oddsmakers made this fight out to be David vs. Goliath, Dobson proved that when two fighters touch gloves anything can happen.
Roy Jones and Mike Tyson came out of retirement to cash in a hefty paycheck after receiving 1.6 million pay-per-view buys. For reference, the Holyfield/Tyson duel in 1997 that ended with the infamous ear-biting raked in 1.99 million PPV buys. The fight itself was not an expedition of great boxing, given the age of the fighters and the outcome ending in a draw, but it was nonetheless an important one. This fight represented what is now a growing trend in boxing and the one opponent that all boxers, regardless of level or skill, are up against: money. Boxing will follow the money, and the money is currently in these over-publicized celebrity matches.
Submission of the Year
Chris Murphy: AJ Mckee over Darrion Caldwell Bellator 253 (MMA)
Despite all of the fluctuating circumstances and uncertainty in the world this year, Bellator managed to deliver consistently high-quality fights. One moment that proved the most impressive occurred at the end of the AJ Mckee and Darrion Caldwell fight. Going in, it was assumed Caldwell would find a way to take Mckee to the ground in a short time. This assumption was proved true, as Cadwell managed to accomplish just thing in under a minute. However, Mckee didn’t give up and created an opportunity to lock his arms around Caldwell’s left shoulder and neck, in what could only be described as an unorthodox technique. However, this technique paid off, and Mckee forced Caldwell into an early submission in round one.
Drew Pierce: Jimmy Flick over Cody Durden (UFC)
Although many preliminary fights do not get a lot of love, they often play host to some of the best performances on a card. At UFC Fight Night: Thompson vs. Neal just a few weeks ago, Jimmy Flick won his UFC debut against Cody Durden via a flying triangle choke. Although there wasn’t a lot riding on this fight from the perspective of the larger Flyweight division, the spectacular submission was enough for it to top out my list. What makes it even more impressive is the fact that Durden was clearly winning the first round. His boxing skills were showing until Flick threw a kick, Durden caught it, and Flick flew into a triangle choke. This was only the third submission of its kind in UFC history.
Michael Donius: Khabib over Gaethje (UFC)
Khabib Nurmagomedov has been nothing short of dominant in his tenure with UFC. He has faced the best of the best and has only known defeat in a handful of rounds. On October 24, Khabib welcomed his latest challenger, the formidable Justin Gaethje. After a fairly close first round, Khabib was able to get a quick takedown early in the second. From there, he hopped into a mount and threw in a beautiful triangle choke which put Justin Gaethje to sleep mere seconds later. The following moments were deeply emotional as Khabib cried in the octagon, honoring his late father and coach who passed earlier in the year. Khabib then left his gloves in the cage and announced his retirement from the sport, with an unblemished record of 29-0. The combination of the extreme impressiveness of the choke parlayed with the stakes of the moment, make this the clear choice for submission of the year.
Kirien Sprecher Katzmarek: Tim Means vs. Daniel Rodriguez (UFC)
Tim Means and Daniel Rodriguez faced off at UFC 167 in New Mexico, with Rodriquez managing a takedown so impressive that it almost didn't seem like much of a fight at all. With a minute and a half left in the 2nd round, Daniel Rodriguez landed a few blows to Tim Means’ head and pushed him into the fence. Means tried to gather himself by grappling Rodriguez’s leg, but Rodriguez quickly countered with a chokehold. Rodriquez brings him to the ground and the referee has no choice but to call the fight.
Knockout of the Year
Chris Murphy: Jake Paul over Nate Robinson
When YouTube star Jake Paul first announced his foray into boxing, many critics derided the decision as another publicity stunt for the controversial figure. Now, he is 2-0 (although he has not faced an actual boxer as of yet) and Paul’s knockout of former NBA player Nate Robinson, while it may have been more flash than substance, could also be foreshadowing of things to come for boxing. Paul completely dominated the former pro athlete before laying Robinson out with a devastating blow. The excitement Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr. fight late in the year proved fans were interested in more of these celebrity exhibition fights. Paul is set to face off against the legendary Floyd Mayweather sometime in 2021.
Drew Pierce: Davis knocks out Santa Cruz
Right from the start, viewers knew that this fight was going to end spectacularly. Both Gervonta Davis and Leo Santa Cruz can be really aggressive and deliver explosive shots. Somehow, this fight went all the way to the sixth round with each fighter hurling a flurry of attacks. Right from the start, I was thinking of a knockout all the way. This happened in the sixth when Davis completely slept Santa Cruz with a devastating uppercut. Santa Cruz regained consciousness a few minutes later, but the shot was so explosive that it left everyone with their jaw agape.
Michael Donius: Povetkin vs Whyte
In August, we saw Interim WBC Heavyweight champion Dillian Whyte attempt to defend his belt against challenger Alexander Povetkin. The champ, Whyte entered the contest a fairly large betting favorite, and he got off to a hot start. He controlled the first four rounds, leading the dance and even scoring two knockdowns. Things changed drastically in the fifth, however, as Povetkin threw a jab and rolled right into a crushing left uppercut which landed on the button and put Whyte out cold. It was a truly amazing knockout, especially when you factor in the direction the fight seemed to be heading.
Kirien Sprecher Katzmarek: Lanell Bellows vs Malcolm Jones
Fighters: (20-6-3) Lanell Bellows vs (15-2) Malcolm Jones
Location/Venue: Sam’s Town Hotel & Gambling Hall, Las Vegas
Event: Preliminary to Hunter vs. Rakhmanov
In the Preliminary to Hunter vs Rakhmanov in Las Vegas this February, it was the Bellow's vs Jones fight that proved to be the main event. 34-year old veteran Lanell Bellows stunned the promising 27-year old Malcolm Jones with an uppercut to the ribs late in the 4th round. After the blow, Jones panicked and threw a wild haymaker that Bellows nonetheless was able to dodge. Bellows knew that Jones would be off-balance after that strike, and managed to launch a brutal right-hand knockout in response. The single blow was enough to render Jones unconsciously and lead to a victory for Bellows.