2017 has been a great year for us UFC fans. We’ve seen great fights, stacked cards and fighters take great strides on their personal goals to UFC gold. Before the new year, let’s take a look back at three of the best fights, best moments and look at what fighters have progressed the most in 2017.
Fights Of The Year
Justin Gaethje vs Michael Johnson
Justin Gaethje made his UFC debut against a very tough striker in Michael Johnson. Gaethje found himself in deep water at the start of the fight. In a battle were both fighters bit down on their mouth guards and swung for the fences, Gaethje reigned victorious in the 2nd round TKO victory. After the fight, Gaethje said, “I want Ferguson, that’s who I want.” “I want to take out the best in America; then I want to take out the best in the world.”
Mirsad Bektic vs Darren Elkins
Mirsad Bektic was the favourite to win this fight, and he imposed his will on Elkins for virtually the whole bout. With Bektic’s game plan going perfectly, nobody saw Elkins getting anything positive from the fight. Then three minutes into the 3rd round, Elkins landed a few picture-perfect punches followed by a head kick which knocked Bektic out cold. Elkins roared with a passion so loud it was all you could hear, even with the fans cheering in admiration for the fantastic display they had just witnessed.
Dustin Poirier vs Anthony Pettis
Both fighters at the top end of the rankings in the lightweight division were aiming to keep their names in the title picture with a victory in this fight. With both fighters trading shots, it was a fight that fans were loving. With neither fighter taking complete charge, it would have been a nightmare for the judges to score. But two minutes into the 3rd round, Pettis has to quit due to a rib injury, so it counted as a TKO victory for Poirier.
Although it was a disappointing way to finish such an incredible fight, the battle between these fighters still has to be recognised as one of the matches of the year.
“I’m not gonna ask for a fight, I’m going to tell you right now who I’m going to fight,” Poirier told Jon Anik in his post-fight interview. “I want to fight the winner of Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez. ”I’ve laid it out for you, the work is over.”
Stand Out Performances
Alexander Gustafsson def. Glover Teixeira
Alexander Gustafsson had the performance of his career against Glover Teixeira. Sweden’s Allstars gym has given us some fantastic fighter performances of late, but this one sits at the top of the tree.
The Swede was able to ice skate around the Brazilian, landing punches and moving just out the way of Teixeira’s counter strikes. Many wondered how long the UFC veteran could withstand the punishment being inflicted on him. One minute into the 5th round Teixeira could take no more. Gustafsson landed three brutal uppercuts and a right hook that Lennox Lewis would have been proud of; his opponent folded like an ironing board. Gustafsson has left us all very excited for his future bouts at the top of the light heavyweight division.
Henry Cejudo def. Wilson Reis
Henry Cejudo came out eager to put his name back in the UFC’s winning column after back to back defeats Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez.
He was faced with Wilson Reis, a fellow top-ranked flyweight with dreams of fighting the champion Mighty Mouse once again. Cejudo had his best performance by a country mile, with a much lower stance and a Conor McGregor flow about his movement, Reis could not touch Cejudo.
Cejudo, an Olympic wrestler, surprised many with his performance as we had become accustomed to his wrestling style of fighting. But he lit Wilson up like a Christmas tree.
At 25 seconds into the 2nd round, Cejudo ended the fight with a TKO victory and with performances like that, as well as the victory he claimed against Sergio Pettis, many of us are hoping that Cejudo gets the next shot at the flyweight champion.
Francis Ngannou def. Alistair Overeem
Francis Ngannou once again proved he is too much for anyone to handle in the heavyweight division. But this time against one of the greatest heavyweights of all time – Alistair Overeem.
Overeem, wary of the power Ngannou posses, tried to close the distance fast and wrestle Francis up against the cage. Ngannou was quick to turn Overeem against the fence before referee Dan Miragliotta stopped the fighters and put them back in the centre of the octagon.
Sizing each other up, both fighters seemed slightly wary of one another. Then out of nowhere, Ngannou landed an uppercut from hell which left Overeem seeing stars.
In his post-fight interview with Joe, Rogan Ngannou said: “I think I have done enough for a title shot, I am ready for that, I’m more ready than ever.”
This 1st round knockout has earned Ngannou the title shot against Stipe Miocic at UFC 220 next year in January.
Darren Till has had his best three fights this year in the UFC with dominant decision victories over Jessin Ayari and Bojan Velickovic; many thought it was too soon for Darren Till to be fighting someone of Donald Cerrone’s ability.
But at UFC Fight Night 118 in Poland, Till got the ranked opponent fight he had hoped for. Till put on a striking display that would have been appreciated by Muhammed Ali. It took only four minutes in the 1st round to knock out the highly regarded Cerrone. The performance catapulted Till up the rankings to #7. A fight with Stephen Thompson or Mike Perry seems to be the most likely for the Scouser in the new year.
Max Holloway has had a year to remember. Beating the greatest featherweight fighter of all time, Jose Aldo twice.
First back at UFC 212 to gain the belt, then Aldo stepped in as a late replacement for the injured Frankie Edgar in a bid to regain the title.
But Holloway once again proved to be too much for the Brazilian, putting on a striking masterclass in the two encounters, both fights ended in the 3rd round by TKO.
Holloway will be pleased to have proved that beating Aldo the first time was no fluke, and he has cemented his name as a true great in the featherweight division.
Rafael Dos Anjos
2017 has been a good year for Rafael Dos Anjos, since moving up in weight to welterweight. Dos Anjos has beaten Tarec Saffiedine by decision, gained a submission victory over Neil Magny and most recently defeated the toughest welterweight alive in Robbie Lawler by decision; winning all five rounds convincingly.
Leg kicks, closing the distance fast and efficiently, and using his outstanding wrestling, all played a factor in the victory. Post-fight when Anik asked, “Do you believe you did enough to get the title shot?” Dos Anjos replied “In my opinion, I just beat the toughest guy in the division. I think I deserve it because of my history and doing what I’ve done in the division. Being in the UFC for 10 years and I think I did enough tonight to earn this shot and I’m sure I’ll get that belt.”
Dos Anjos is expected to be next to face champion Tyrone Woodley in what would be an outstanding match up.
Looking back at what an incredible year 2017 has been, I hope you’re all looking forward to another great year of UFC action in 2018.