Christmas is the season for giving, spending time with family and, of course, counting down the top five best UFC moments of 2021.
Fans have been treated to many shocks, title exchanges and explosive knockouts this year. But which fights, finishes and injures stand out from the pack?
Here’s our official countdown of all the craziest UFC moments of 2021 that MMA enthusiasts have had the pleasure of witnessing.
5) Aljamain Sterling def Petr Yan via decision – UFC 259 – March 6
UFC championships usually change hands following impressive finishes or hard-fought decisions. But that wasn’t the case when ‘The Funk Master’ emerged from his world title fight as the new Bantamweight World Champion.
Despite winning the fight, Sterling faced a massive amount of criticism. He had been losing the battle comprehensively, and Yan appeared to be in total control. But then suddenly, the Russian threw an illegal knee which forced the referee to end proceedings.
Although Sterling couldn’t be blamed for what happened, fans are still clamouring for the rematch.
4) Kamaru Usman def Jorge Masvidal – UFC 261 – April 24
When ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ agreed to give his rival a second contest, most fans expected the fight to end in the same way as the first— a one-sided decision for the champion.
However, this time Usman wanted to make a statement. Instead of utilising his superior wrestling, he decided to go toe-to-toe with the challenger.
This looked like it could play into the hands of ‘Gamebred’, but then suddenly, the unthinkable happened. Usman landed an absolute thunderbolt of a right hand to knock Masvidal out cold.
The most durable man in the sport had been stopped for the first time in thirteen years, making this one of the best moments that the UFC produced in the entirety of 2021.
3) Dustin Poirier def Conor McGregor – UFC 264 – July 10
Despite squaring off on two separate occasions, ‘The Diamond’ and ‘The Notorious’ were yet to determine who the victor of their incredible rivalry would be.
McGregor wiped his 32-year-old opponent out in less than two minutes of the opening round of their first encounter. But in the rematch, the American survived the storm and dropped the Irishman before finishing him with lethal ground and pound.
The second contest was respectful. The third not so much. There was a dispute about whether the former world champion had donated the money he had promised to Poirier’s charity. This created all the ingredients for a real grudge match.
As always, the Irish superstar started strongly, but once again, Poirer withstood the early onslaught. He then took the 32-year-old down before dismantling him with nasty blows from top position.
McGregor was eventually able to rise to his feet, but what happened next shocked everybody. The lightweight took a step back and snapped his tibia in the process.
In the contest’s aftermath, the legend sat on the canvas shouting abuse at his opponent’s family. The glory days of the biggest star in the sport’s history could now be over – but never count McGregor out.
2) Glover Teixeira def Jan Blachowicz – UFC 267 – October 30
There may be no other sport that gives us the same amount of heartwarming moments as MMA. The incredible stories of the fighters resonate with fans more than any other athletic competition.
Their unique ability to go through the highs and lows and overcome adversity is what draws us in every time. And at UFC 267, we witnessed the most remarkable tale of all.
Going into the event, Glover Teixeira was 42 years of age and considered way past his prime. Despite coming into the biggest fight of his life off the back of a winning streak, the Brazilian was still expected to be easy work for the reigning world champion. However, that wasn’t to be the case.
Blachowicz seemed bamboozled by the resilience and will to win of his opponent, and by the second round, the contest seemed close to its conclusion. The Sobralia native took the Pole’s back and locked in a rear-naked choke. The 38-year-old tapped. It was over. Glover Teixeira had become the oldest first-time world titleholder in the sport’s history.
No matter what happened in his career, he never gave up on his dreams, and eventually, it all paid off.
1) Julianna Peña def Amanda Nunes – UFC 269 – December 11
The UFC has been home to some incredible upsets throughout its history. This weekend, what we saw was perhaps more shocking than anything we had ever witnessed before.
Julianna Pena was a seismic underdog with most bookmakers going into her fight with the greatest female martial artist of all time, Amanda Nunes.
The Brazilian had dominated nearly everyone she’d faced since winning the bantamweight world title in 2016. Her freakish power and elite-level skillset put her on a pedestal that no other woman could match up to. Until Saturday night, of course.
Her underdog challenger had no interest in turning up to make up the numbers. Pena may have had to endure a tough opening round, but she took complete control as soon as the second started. The American began blasting Nunes with a series of power shots, leaving the champion rocked to her core.
However, many expected this to be a flash in the pan. Simply a little bit of adversity for Nunes to overcome. But Pena didn’t stop.
The 32-year-old took the Brazilian down before she began to look for the submission, and to the shock of fans around the globe, she found it.
The Nunes reign of terror was finally over. There was a new champion in the 125-pound division. We don’t know how long Pena will keep hold of the belt or if she’ll even be able to win the rematch. But one thing we do know for sure is that her victory is one of the most incredible stories of all time, which is why it was not only one of the greatest UFC moments of 2021, but also one of the best of all time.
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