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The UFC’s Big Winners and Major Losers of 2020

| December 26, 2020 5:02 am PDT
Big Winners and Losers in the UFC in 2020

2020. A unique year. One that we will look back on in the future for material when trying to come up with crazy stories to keep our grandkids entertained.

But more than being a year that most can’t wait to see the back of, 2020 was also a year that affected the best UFC fighters on the planet. Some very positively and others, well… the complete opposite.

It also made stars of fighters that were relatively unknown less than twelve months ago. It also had some of the best fights seen over the past few years and some sad ends to stellar careers.

With all that in mind, we’re going to talk about the UFC’s big winners and losers of 2020.

Let’s start off with the good bits.

The Big UFC Winners of 2020

If you have been betting on UFC fights in 2020, the chances are that a few of these guys below will have made you some moolah.

From Deiveson Figueiredo to Marvin Vettori, read on to find out more about who made 2020 a year to remember… for all the right reasons, of course!

Deiveson Figueiredo

2020 was the year of the rat? Nah, 2020 was the year of the Figueiredo.

Although things didn’t start off swimmingly for the Brazilian, they sure got better very quickly. Two massive stoppage wins over flyweight legend Joseph Benavidez, with the latter earning him the UFC flyweight title, preceded a dominant win over Alex Perez as well as a draw in a fight of the year candidate with Brandon Moreno.

What a ridiculous twelve months this guy had. Not only did he achieve so much, but he also had a hand in making the flyweight division more exciting than it’s probably ever been before. And yes, even with Demetrious Johnson in it.

I’ll wager on Deiveson Figueiredo having another huge year.

Kevin Holland

Of course, you can’t talk about 2020 and the UFC without Kevin Holland’s name popping up.

The dude had five fights this year and won them all. That’s Anthony Hernandez, Joaquin Buckley, Darren Stewart, Charlie Ontiveros, and Jacare Souza that feel to Holland since May!

Holland set a new record for the fastest time to register five fights in the promotion. He earned stoppages in all of those fights apart from the Darren Stewart split decision. Oh, and he probably ended the career of one of the greatest middleweights in UFC history in Jacare.

Not bad at all, huh?

Khabib Nurmagomedov

It was a sad year for Nurmagomedov, who lost his beloved father, Abdulmanap, in July.

But if anyone thought that would be enough to keep “The Eagle” down, Khabib’s awesome submission win against Justin Gaethje in Abu Dhabi quickly proved them wrong.

Nurmagomedov broke down immediately after the win, crying tears for his father. It was such an emotional moment, even for those of us that don’t cry but often get something stuck in our eye at such times.

Khabib announced his retirement from MMA on the night, with an unbeaten 29-0 record in the sport. The greatest champion of all time in the UFC lightweight division, and perhaps even the G.O.A.T of MMA.

Of course, there is reason to believe that Khabib could return to the UFC in 2021. But whether he does or he doesn’t return will not destroy his legacy.

Khabib endured one of the worst years of his life. But he made sure that professionally, it was one of his best.

Jan Blachowicz

Who saw this one coming?

Former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones decides to split from the division, heading north to heavyweight.

Naturally, this opens up a scramble among the top tier light-heavyweights, with Jan Blachowicz and Dominick Reyes landing a slot in a scrap for the vacant title.

Blachowicz knocked Reyes out, becoming the first male Pole to win a UFC strap and the second Polish champion in the promotion’s history following former women’s strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

This was not the guy who many foresaw as the heir to Jones’ title. And there is something pretty cool in that, you have to agree.

Marvin Vettori

Another fighter that had a pretty bad start to the year only to end on a considerable high.

Vettori saw numerous fights canceled in 2020 and also lost his grandfather. It appeared that things weren’t really going his way, but a submission win over Karl Roberson in June was a major positive.

The Italian then had another couple of setbacks before landing a headline slot in a fight with Jack Hermansson. Vettori beat the breaks off the Swede, who sat at fourth in the official UFC middleweight rankings, earning his place in the top five for the very first time.

Vettori is now eyeing a rematch against incumbent 185-pound champion Israel Adesanya. Feel free to check out the best UFC betting sites online for odds.

UFC Losers in 2020

It hasn’t been rosy for everyone this year.

One fighter, in particular, enjoyed the kind of annus horribilis that could have been soundtracked by Radiohead.

Yup, you know who I am talking about…

Tony Ferguson

Man, you have to feel for Tony Ferguson.

The guy was on the hottest win streak in the lightweight division and was blasting fighters out of there for fun for eight years. He saw five fights with Khabib Nurmagomedov fall apart, often in the weirdest of circumstances.

Despite his consistency and elite reputation, Ferguson never got to fight for the UFC lightweight title. Sure, he had the interim strap for a little while a few years back, but how he never had a shot at the main belt is just… it’s sad.

Anyway, 2020 was when all of that was going to change. This was the year when “El Cucuy” would finally stand opposite Khabib and fight his heart out for glory. Then the world fell apart, with Khabib unable to travel due to the global health crisis.

Tony, being Tony, agreed to fight Justin Gaethje for the interim strap at short notice. That fight was pushed back, giving Gaethje a little more time to prepare.

On the night, Gaethje massacred Ferguson on the feet, denying him his final shot at Khabib. But one loss, right? Nothing to panic about.

Ferguson then took on Charles Oliveira at UFC 256 in December and was outclassed by the Brazilian. It was sad to watch for fans of Ferguson, but the fight game can be cruel.

Can Tony come back from this and re-establish himself as the man? It’s unlikely. He turns 37 in February, and the only direction is down from here.

Yoel Romero

It has often been a pleasure watching Yoel Romero over the years, but 2020 wasn’t a great year for the “Soldier of God.”

Romero was cut from the UFC in early December, which prompted a pretty bad reaction from fans. I have to admit that I was a little surprised to see him sent packing, but that was more likely due to the unexpected nature of it all.

When you think about it, Romero is 43 years old and has a record of 1-4 from his last five fights. Four of those fights were for the title, too. His competition was Israel Adesanya, who he lost to in March. Paulo Costa, who he lost to by a contentious unanimous decision. Robert Whittaker, who beat Romero by split decision and unanimous decision, with a win over Luke Rockhold sandwiched in-between those two losses.

The Cuban was a popular fighter with three bouts left on his deal. But business is business.

Anderson Silva

The greatest UFC middleweight of all time looked a shell of himself over the best part of a decade in the promotion.

By the time Silva was matched up with Uriah Hall in October, he had one win from his last eight fights. That win, against Derek Brunson in 2017, was incorrectly scored. Brunson won it.

It was painful watching the once-great Silva decline a little more in every fight, so you can’t really argue with his departure.

Let’s just hope he can learn to leave his gloves down and enjoy the rest of his life.

Conor McGregor

Alright, alright. It was hardly the worst year of all time for betting on Conor McGregor.

He fought once and won by stoppage, earning many of us a nice few beans. But let’s not be selfish here, and consider this poor man’s feelings for a moment. Poor Conor must have had a horrible time of it…

Considering the guy’s net worth is more than the GDP of a small country, it’s difficult to envisage any year that sucks for “The Notorious” one. But 2020 was set to be the year when McGregor flipped the cap of his bottle and poured his contents back into the UFC.

McGregor destroyed Donald Cerrone at UFC 246 in January, coming back to the promotion in style. This was the first leg of McGregor’s four-fight plan for 2020, but it would be the last time we saw him inside the Octagon this year.

The Dubliner was not happy in the slightest about what he saw as the UFC holding him back from being more active. But with McGregor vs. Poirier 2 set to light up UFC 257 in January, he’ll get another chance to shine.

Dominick Reyes

Reyes took on light heavyweight G.O.A.T Jon Jones in February for Jones’ 205-pound title.

Despite pushing Jones to the brink of his limits, Reyes lost the fight by way of a unanimous decision. He deserved much more, it must be said.

I couldn’t help but feel bad for “The Devastator,” who many believed had done enough to get the nod. He became the first man to ever outstrike Jones in the UFC and just looked better than “Bones” inside the cage.

Now, that was no reason to feel as though he was entitled to the belt when Jones got up and left the division. But that’s exactly how it felt watching Reyes walk into the Octagon to fight for the vacant title against Blachowicz.

Reyes underestimated his man and paid the price. He now must work his way back into title contention in 2021.

The Craziest Year in UFC History?

I wouldn’t quite say that 2020 has been the most eventful year in the promotion’s history, but it has to be the nuttiest of all time.

With all the drama, the fight cancelations, and the various twists and turns, there is a lot to remember about 2020. Let’s just say that there were highlights. And plenty of them, too.

But looking ahead to 2021, I can’t help but get excited for the big stories and subplots that will unfold. We have the return of Conor McGregor to lightweight, Jon Jones’ assault on the heavyweight division, the Figueiredo vs. Moreno rematch, and, very possibly, Khabib’s UFC comeback.

The new year is gonna be wild, so make sure to regularly visit our blog as well as our UFC picks section to stay ahead of the game when betting on UFC bouts in 2021.

While on that subject, the first major UFC card of 2021 is a rematch almost seven years in the making. Check out the following content for the latest odds and bets for McGregor vs. Poirier 2.

Good luck with your bets!

Adam Haynes
Adam Haynes

Adam is a sports writer and tipster with a strong background in MMA, boxing, and combat sports.

When Adam isn't writing about those, as well as politics, rugby, and Gaelic Games, he can be found working on methods and strategies to beat the bookies.

For his troubles, Adam is a fan of Leinster Rugby, Glasgow Celtic, and trusting the process.

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