In what will likely go down as the most challenging and unpredictable calendar years in modern history, it's crazy to think how big of an impact the sport of mixed martial arts -- spearheaded by the relentless pursuits of UFC president Dana White -- had on providing some form of normalcy.
The reality, however, was that 2020 for UFC was anything but a normal year and in some way that turned out to be for the better. Following a two-month hiatus at the start of the coronavirus outbreak, UFC beat all other sports in getting back to business and seemingly never stopped.
The fallout created a perfect setting for those looking for opportunistic ways to make their names known and the result was no shortage of contenders in the running for best fight, fighter and finish of this chaotic year. Let's take a closer look at who shined the brightest in 2020 across UFC.
Awards as voted on by Brian Campbell, Luke Thomas, Brent Brookhouse, Jack Crosby and Brandon Wise.
Fighter of the Year
Deiveson Figueiredo -- 3-0-1 in 2020
If the UFC men's flyweight division was in dire need of a lifeline following the abrupt retirement of champion Henry Cejudo (shortly after vacating the title), Figueiredo proved to be a fitting 125-pound knight in shining armor. The 32-year-old Brazilian went 3-0-1 in 2020 and delivered three one-sided stoppage wins before co-authoring a Fight of the Year contender with Brandon Moreno in December. Figueiredo also proved opportunistic by taking advantage of canceled fights to headline a pair of pay-per-view cards just three weeks apart. Although the division remains competitive around him, as evidenced by the Moreno draw, Figueiredo has become the face of flyweight and one of the sport's pound-for-pound best fighters.
Second place: Israel Adesanya -- 2-0
"The Last Stylebender" continued to build his legacy with a pair of title defenses that included an underwhelming points win over a passive Yoel Romero and a thrilling second-round TKO of unbeaten Paulo Costa. Adesanya also did well to expand his brand through a never-ending Twitter war with Jon Jones and a 2021 tease of an assault on the 205-pound division.
Third place: Jan Blachowicz -- 2-0
Very few could've predicted the 37-year-old Polish slugger would have such a breakout campaign. Jon Jones vacating the light heavyweight title opened the door for new contenders as Blachowicz finished Corey Anderson in one round before upsetting top contender Dominick Reyes via knockout to capture the vacant 205-pound title. Along the way, Blachowicz improved to 8-1 over his last nine bouts.
Others receiving votes: Gilbert Burns (2-0), Kevin Holland (5-0), Brandon Moreno (2-0-1)
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UFC Fight of the Year
Winner: Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UFC 248)
Before COVID-19 led to the end of live crowds, the women's strawweight championship bout between the defending champ and former champ thrilled fans in the an all-out war. Jedrzejczyk outstruck Zhang over the five rounds by a total of 186 significant strikes to 165 for Zhang. After battling for 25 minutes, Jedrzejczyk was left with a massive hematoma on her forehead, leaving her barely recognizable as she awaited the reading of the judges scorecards. While a decision victory would have soothed the pain from the brutal battle, only one judge saw the fight her way, with the other two judges scoring the bout for Zhang, who had certainly done enough to deserve the victory an retain her championship. Far from a patronizing title of "one of the best women's fights ever," Zhang and Jedrzejczyk put out an effort that ranks as simply one of the best fights in the history of MMA.
Second place: Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno (UFC 256)
Figueiredo had a dominant 2020 -- as is clear by his winning our Fighter of the Year -- until the flyweight champion met a man who could match him nearly strike-for-strike in December. Moreno was the clear underdog coming into UFC 256, just one month after both men had picked up impressive wins at November's UFC 255. Both stepped up on short notice to save the card after three other planned title fights had fallen through. Five rounds of drama followed, with Figueiredo and Moreno engaging in a wild brawl, complete with some bending -- and outright breaking -- of the rules by the champ. Those fouls ultimately cost Figueiredo a clear win as the fight ended in a majority draw that demands a 2021 rematch.
Third place: Dustin Poirier vs. Dan Hooker (UFC on ESPN 12)
On paper, Poirier and Hooker made for a dynamite pairing of action fighters. To expect them to put on the kind of war that transpired in the Octagon would have been unreasonable. Poirier and Hooker combined for more than 300 significant strikes landed. Hooker scored four takedowns, only to be met with four submission attempts by Poirier. Nowhere was safe in the Octagon that night, and in many years, Poirier vs. Hooker would not be a third place finisher in Fight of the Year voting, but there were two all-time classics that just edged it out.
Others receiving votes: Josh Emmett vs. Shane Burgos (UFC Vegas 3), Jon Jones vs. Dominick Reyes (UFC 247), Rose Namajunas vs. Jessica Andrade (UFC 251)
Knockout of the Year
Winner: Joaquin Buckley knocks out Impa Kasanganay
Before 2020, Buckley was a journeyman fighter trading wins and losses under the Bellator and LFA banners. But the 26-year-old closed the year as a middleweight prospect to watch after going 3-1 over a five-month stretch. There was no bigger announcement of his arrival than his spinning back kick knockout of Impa Kasanganay in October, which instantly was hailed among the most unique and viral finish in the sport's history. Kasanganay caught a high kick attempt with his left hand and didn't let go. Somehow, Buckley had the presence of mind and athleticism to leap into a spinning kick to the face with his other leg that neither Kasanganay nor anyone watching at home could believe had happened.
Second place: Cody Garbrandt knocks out Raphael Assuncao
Returning from a three-fight losing streak, all by knockout, the former UFC bantamweight champion achieved savage redemption in June. With one second remaining in Round 2 of their UFC 250 bout, Garbrandt duck down to change levels and rose back up to deliver a lightning right hand that floored the durable Assuncao and left him knocked cold after a face first fall.
Third place: Kevin Holland knocks out Jacare Souza
Consider this the exclamation point on Holland's breakout 2020 which included five victories inside the Octagon. His December knockout of the Brazilian middleweight veteran at UFC 256 was so incredible because of how unusual it was. Holland was on his back following a takedown only to briefly sit up and stun Souza with a right hand to the chin. From there, Holland exploded up to his feet for a violent furry of right hands to force the stoppage.
Others receiving votes: Sean O' Malley KO Eddie Wineland (UFC 250), Calvin Kattar KO Jeremy Stephens (UFC249), Beneil Dariush KO Drakkar Klose (UFC 248), Francis Ngannou KO Jair Rozenstruik (UFC 249)