Unquestionably, 2018 was a good year for the fans of MMA but, without a doubt, this last quarter was the most moved. There were many fights that provided unexpected results for fans of the UFC and other organizations.
On top of that, there have also been many controversies within the circuit of the MMA, such as those unleashed by fighters such as Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov and the boxer, Paulie Malignaggi.
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1. Khabib Nurmagomedov
Khabib’s stock well and truly went through the roof after a time in which he finally gained some consistency – fighting three times in the space of eleven months, beating Edson Barboza, Al Iaquinta and Conor McGregor
His last defence was, of course, made against the former dual-weight champion McGregor, and as we know, that bout was one that displayed the Russian at his destructive best. Nurmagomedov, although his future in the sport is unclear, does look set to come through with another phenomenal year in 2019.
2. Jon Jones
Born on July 19, 1987, he became the youngest fighter to obtain a title in the UFC. His pro-career had only lasted four-months before he received his shot at the big-time and the rest, as they say, is history.
Sure, he has had his run-ins with anti-doping organisation USADA in recent times but regardless of where you stand on that entire debacle – expect to see Jon’s name featured frequently in the headlines for as long as he continues to fight.
3. Justin Gaethje
This former lightweight champion of the now-defunct WSOF is an extraordinarily vicious competitor, one who brings it each and every time he steps into the cage.
Despite going 1-1 in 2018, Gaethje has lost very little in the way of momentum and with a showdown against Edson Barboza set for UFC Philadelphia, do not be surprised if we have another Fight Of The Year on our hands before all is said and done.
4. Conor McGregor
The Irishman may have been thoroughly dominated in his last outing against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 but by the looks of things, is gearing up for a return to the octagon in a bout that will see him belt-less for the first time since 2015.
McGregor’s talent is undeniable but at this point in his career, questions over his motivation to continue fighting given his financial position have been rampant. Either way, the biggest star in the history of the sport will no doubt be a main-stay in the news for as long as he is even remotely linked to a contest.
5. Henry Cejudo
Indeed, we have only scratched the surface as far this year is concerned but on the merit of his UFC Brooklyn victory over TJ Dillashaw, 2019 so far it has well and truly been Cejudo’s year.
With a rematch at bantamweight against TJ now seemingly an inevitability – another win would move the former Olympian into the category of dual-weight world champions, a bracket that is still quite prestigious – even if it becoming less and less exclusive.
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6. Tony Ferguson
Four times we have geared up to see this creatively devastating lightweight fight the current champion Khabib and on four separate occasions we have been left disappointed.
One would have to assume though that Tony Ferguson will be signed on to fight the Russian for the fifth time this year and given his ever-growing fanbase and completely unique (and at times bizarre) personality, expect 2019 to be the year that El Cucuy well and truly arrives on the scene.
7. TJ Dillashaw
The massive weight-cut TJ undertook to make the 125lb championship-limit clearly impacted his ability to take a punch from the flyweight king Henry Cejudo earlier this month but he remains the man with the belt at 135lbs.
Dillashaw has quietly become of the most recognizable faces on the roster over the years and with a rematch against Cejudo on the cards and his title to defend, we’re sure his name will be a prominent one in 2019 no matter what happens next.
8. Max Holloway
The incredibly likable but completely ruthless champion of the featherweight division seems to have a limit set on the amount of time he has left at 145lbs – something that could open him up for some blockbuster showdowns in 2019.
A not-so-subtle dig at rival Conor McGregor during a recent trip to Dublin left many wondering what ‘Blessed’ has in his plans for the future.
9. Amanda Nunes
The champ-champ established herself as the greatest female fighter to ever do it by running through Cris Cyborg at UFC 232 in an upset victory as shocking as any we have ever seen.
The big question now is what she does next. A showdown against the former-champ Holly Holm seems to be the biggest fight on her horizon at present but even still, no matter what she does, her legacy is already set in stone.
10. Daniel Cormier
Enjoy him while you can because it really does look as though 2019 will be the last year we will have the honour of watching this former Olympian compete in MMA.
Whether it’s a defense of his heavyweight title that involves a money-fight with Brock Lesnar, a rematch with Stipe Miocic, or a third and final matchup against his long-time rival Jon Jones – the biggest year of DC’s career is upon us and his standing in the ever-present G.O.A.T conversation could depend entirely on what happens between now and Christmas.