UFC VIP Experience Blog

UFC Half-Year Awards 2019: Best Fight, Fighter and Card of the Year

Posted by Evan Chronis on Jul 26, 2019 5:00:00 PM

Halfway through 2019, the UFC has already provided fans a full years worth of memorable fights and moments. 

With a stacked schedule for the fall featuring title fights with the biggest names in the sports, we're looking back on what has defined the calendar year so far. 

Here are your official 2019 UFC Half-Year Awards from the UFC VIP Experience.

Fighter of the Year: Henry Cejudo

Henry Cejudo UFC

Henry Cejudo started the UFC’s new partnership with ESPN off with a bang when he silenced former Bantamweight Champion and Flyweight contender T.J. Dillashaw in 32 seconds on the first UFC on ESPN card in January. 

The victory shocked many, as Cejudo out muscled Dillashaw from the jump and landed several uncontested shots before the fight was stopped just over the half-minute mark. 

After effectively "saving" the UFC's Flyweight division to start the year, the Olympic Gold medalist had more on his mind than simply staying a single-division champion. The plan was to fight Dillashaw again, but this time for the 135-pound champ to put his title on the line, but that quickly dissipated after Dillashaw was suspended for two years by USADA and forfeited the Bantamweight Championship. 

But that didn't stop Cejudo's quest for a second belt. With the 135-pound title vacant, the UFC matched Cejudo up with Bantamweight contender Marlon Moraes to fight for the belt in the main event of UFC 238. 

In the third round of the fight, Cejudo rode Moraes down to the ground and began torturing his opponent with a flurry of ground-and-pound punches. After a minute of the onslaught, the fight was called and Cejudo became the fourth double-champion in the UFC's history. 

Fight of the Year: Israel Adesanya vs. Kelvin Gastelum

Israel Adesanya UFC

After months of waiting and even parading around with a prop belt, Kelvin Gastelum finally got his chance to fight for gold at UFC 236.

He was originally scheduled to face Robert Whittaker at UFC 234 for the Welterweight Championship, but Whittaker was forced to pull out of the fight the day of after being hospitalized with a hernia. 

Two months later in the co-main event of UFC 236 in Atlanta, Gastelum and undefeated Kiwi Israel Adesanya fought for the Interim Middleweight title. 

The fight went down as an all-time classic, as both Adesanya and Gastelum went back and forth for five full rounds. Gastelum gave Adesanya the biggest test of his career, rocking the undefeated challenger in the first round and then almost ending his night with an unblocked head kick in the fourth. For Adesanya, he was able to knock Gastelum down a shocking four times, a record for a UFC title fight, and was relentless with his pressure. 

Both men dug deep into the trenches during the bout, whether it was Adesanya showing his ability to defend while on his back or Gastelum proving that he can quickly rebound from getting stunned on the feet.

Entering the fifth round, all three judges had the fight at 38-38 with each fighter taking two rounds. But 'Stylebender' came out guns blazing in the fifth, applying pressure when it seemed like both fighter’s gas tanks were approaching empty. In the final ten seconds, Adesanya knocked Gastelum down for the final time, sealing a 10-8 round and his first taste of UFC gold. 

Event of the Year: UFC 236

While UFC 236 reached its ultimate heights with the Gastelum-Adesanya fight, it also featured a cherry on top in the main event. 

After the two middleweight contenders put on our current "Fight of the Year," Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier followed it up with a slobber knocker of their own in the main event. In a fight to determine the new Interim Lightweight Champion and next challenger to Khabib Nurmagomedov, the Featherweight Champion and Poirier went to war for five rounds. 

Both men stood and delivered damage, neither taking the fight outside of the striking pocket. 

While the scorecard reflected a lopsided victory for Poirier, the fight was thrilling through moment. Even in rounds that Holloway lost, he was able to land heavily on Poirier and make any jab or hook look like it could be the last one of the fight. 

With an event that featured two “Fight of the Year” candidates, there's no doubt that UFC 236 is the crème de la crème of cards so far this year. 

Knockout of the Year: Jorge Masvidal def. Ben Askren

If it wasn't for Cejudo’s success in the first half of the year, Jorge Masvidal would be the unanimous selection as "Fighter of the Year".

'Gamebred' came into 2019 on a two-fight slide with his future in the Welterweight division a big topic of conversation. But in the span of four months Masvidal has gone from division gatekeeper to top contender and one of the most recognizable faces in the sport. 

Fate turned in his favor on March 16 when Masvidal violently knocked out Darren Till in front of an English crowd in London. Up until July, this was easily the "Knockout of the Year" front runner, but then Masvidal had to go an one-up himself. 

In the most significant fight of his journeyman career, Masvidal knocked out then-undefeated wrestler Ben Askren in just five seconds with a flying right knee to the temple. The knee not only gave Masvidal the fastest knockout in UFC history, but also skyrocketed him to social media fame and into Welterweight title contention. 

It's been argued as the greatest knockout of all time, so it wasn't hard to hand this KO our half-year award for 2019. 

It's been argued as the greatest knockout of all time, so it wasn't hard to hand this KO our half-year award for 2019. 

Moment of the Year: Alexander Gustafsson Calls it a Career

As one of the top contenders in the Light Heavyweight division, it came as a surprise when Alexander Gustafsson retired after his loss to Anthony Smith at UFC Fight Night Stockholm on June 1. 

Gustafsson was out of title contention for the foreseeable future with Jon Jones still reigning as champion but hanging up his gloves at 32-years-old was a move that few saw coming. 

But even without reaching the top of the mountain in the sport, Gustafsson retired as the most important and impactful fighter in the history of Swedish MMA.

Fighter to Watch in Second Half of 2019: Leon Edwards

With victories of Gunnar Nelson and Rafael Dos Anjos in the first half of the year, Leon Edwards has shot himself up to the top of the Welterweight rankings in 2019. 

With no sign of injury after the Dos Anjos fight in July, 'Rocky' could be one win away from a shot at the 170-pound title if things go according to plan.

Many are clamoring for the British fighter to face Masvidal in the second half of the year after the "three piece and a soda" incident following UFC Fight Night London, but there is no guarantee that the fight will be booked. 

Edwards has shot up the rankings to No.4 and is currently riding an eight-fight winning streak. With impressive striking and a resume that now includes wins over RDA and Donald Cerrone, the Birmingham native could see his stock rise even higher in the coming months. 

Attend a UFC event in the Second Half of 2019

Don't miss out on the epic slate of fights that the UFC has scheduled for the rest of 2019. Be at the biggest events of the year, including UFC 242, 243 and 244 with an Official Ticket Package from the UFC VIP Experience. Packages include premier seating for the card, access to premium hospitality, fighter meet-and-greets, the pre-fight weigh-ins and much more!

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Topics: UFC VIP Experience

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