MMA Awards Predictions: Breakout Fighter, Fight of the Year, and More

It may be a few months early, but I couldn’t help myself here is my current predictions for finalists and winners for MMA 2018 Awards including Breakout Fighter, Male and Female FOTY, KO of the year and more…


Breakout Fighter of the Year Contenders:

Israel Adesanya- This man had 4 fights this year, not only did he go 4 for 4 in the win column, but had 2 finishes and 3 performance of the night bonuses. Adesanya also arguably faced the toughest of opponents of any fighter in this category for this year. Adesanya is also the closest to title contention of any of these contenders.

Tai Tuivasa- The Undefeated Heavyweight went 2-0 in this calender year, a KO win and an impressive decision win over his toughest opponent yet in Arlovski. Tuivasa’s year is not over either, he still has Junior Dos Santos in December, a win there and it would make an even bigger push for the SHOEY to win this category.

Zabit Magomedsharipov- In the 2018 calendar year Zabit went 2-0, with a fight of the year contender at UFC223 and a submission win on a late replacement at UFC 228. Zabit has continued the trend of the terrifying, nearly unstoppable Russian takeover in the world of MMA.

Aaron Pico– Pico is largely considered the prodigy of the MMA world, he is considered one of the top prospects we have ever seen. In the 2018 calendar year Pico went 3-0 with 3 TKO or KO finishes to opponents. After a 1-1 start to his career the Bellator fighter is a top candidate for BFOY.

My Winner: Although all worthy, and all had an amazing year of fighting, it was pretty easy for me to choose Israel Adesanya as my Breakout Fighter of the Year. I mean this man not only has all the hype behind him, he continues to prove his haters wrong, and every time fight fans say “Ok he will meet his match this time” (I.E. his last two fights) Adesanya comes out and performs like a champion. Adesanya may be a champion this time next year.

Photo Via Esther Lin


International Fighter of Year Contenders:

Khabib Nurmagomedov: The 155 pound king is a recent winner of this award, and completely should be in contention to win again, I mean not only is he STILL undefeated, he won the 155 pound strap at 223 and then defended it against Conor McGregor in a dominating performance at 229.

Gegard Mousasi: 2-0 in 2018, including 2 KO wins, but that demolition of Rory MacDonald was something of beauty, because it is no secret that Rory can take a serious amount of punishment. Mousasi continues to show us all he is one of the best, if not the best middleweight on the planet.

Lyoto Machida: Yes, I do mean 40 year old Brazilian Machida. 2-0 in 2018 after a rough 3 fight losing streak stretching back to 2015. Machida got a hometown victory against soaring prospect Eryk Anders, then followed that up with a performance of the night bonus at 224 with a stunning KO victory over Vitor Belfort.

Cris Cyborg/Amanda Nunes Winner: Two of the most dominant women on the planet, each Brazilian force of nature has a 1-0 record (Via TKO) on the year,  Obviously we have don’t know the future, but whoever can pull off this win is my nominee. The winner of this fight could very well win this category.

My Winner:  Not many have the backing of their own country quite like Khabib Nurmagomedov, Russian fans have a passion for this man. With the year he has had, it comes as no surprise. Not only is Khabib now 27-0, but he won the belt at UFC 223 after a week of controversy, and defended it against the biggest draw in MMA, another man who has won this award multiple times, McGregor. Khabib’s dominance wins him international fighter of the year again.

Esther Lin


Fight of the Year Contenders:

Zabit Magomedsharipov Vs. Kyle Bochniak

Justin Geathje Vs. Dustin Poirier 

Tony Ferguson Vs. Anthony Pettis

Robert Whittaker Vs. Yoel Romero

Mike Perry Vs. Paul Felder

Yair Rodriguez Vs. Korean Zombie

My Winner: This is a tough one, these are all super deserving bouts for fight of the year, If you asked me a week ago, got to go with Whittaker Vs. Romeroas my winner. Not only was this one 5 rounds of a complete war, there was also near finishes on both ends. These two men are also not human in the cage, taking and giving punishment like none other. We live in the world of MMA and it is a crazy one, Rodriguez Vs. Zombie is the absolute winner here, I mean just wow….

Via Esther Lin

WMMA Fighter of Year Contenders:

Cris Cyborg

Amanda Nunes

Rose Namajunas

Jessica Andrade 

My Winner: I mean let’s not forget the amazing performance Rose and Joanna put on at UFC223, and even though Rose’s 1st victory over Joanna was in 2017, she defeated her again with everything to lose. Andrade’s vicious KO of Karolina was a work of art, and she went 2-0 in 2018. BUT, how can we not choose the winner of Cyborg/Nunes as the winner of this award. These are the two most feared women on the planet and they are going toe to toe in the very last days of 2018, winner takes this award.

KO of the Year Contenders:

T.J. Dillishaw KO’s Garbrandt

Machida KO’s Belfort

Ricky Bandejas KO’s James Gallagher 

Yair Rodriguez KO’s Zombie

Brian Ortega KO’s Frankie Edgar

Nico Price KO’s Randy Brown

My Winner: Let’s be honest, there are so many amazing KO or TKO wins left off this list of only 5, this is probably the toughest category to even slice down to contenders never mind pick a winner. I personally was amazed by Price, I remember being in legitimate disbelief about that KO. I enjoy watching Gallagher fight, but cmon it couldn’t have been scripted better, Bandejas winning in that fashion was impressive. Dillishaw proved to us all it was no fluke what happened the first time around, but for this one I am going to cheat and pick 2 winners in Ortega KO of Edgar and Yair KO of Korean Zombie. Edgar has fought some of the best fighters on the planet and never been Knocked out, this came as a huge surprise to us all. With one second left in an absolute war, a fight I’d argue Yair was losing, that elbow was perfect placement and just insanity.

Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports


Male Fighter of Year Contenders

Daniel Cormier

Brian Ortega (IF he defeats Holloway)

Henry Cejudo

Dustin Poirier

Khabib Nurmagomedov 

My Winner: The problem with doing this early is not everything is set in stone, if Ortega wins a championship he absolutely should be a contender here, so I placed him in the hunt. Poirier had he not been injured and defeated Diaz had the closest shot in my eyes to take this award away from my winner, Daniel DC Cormier. Khabib obviously winning one of the biggest events in MMA history shows how big a year he has had, but nothing can take away from DC. Cormier began the year at 220 crying in the octagon, and ends it defending his NEW heavyweight belt, insane that this 39 year old Cormier seems in his absolute prime.


Comeback Fighter of Year Candidates:

Anthony Smith

Jose Aldo

Chad Mendes

Fedor Emelianenko

My Winner: For me this comes down to Fedor and “Lionheart” Smith. Aldo had an amazingly emotional win and Mendes looks as if he never took time off, but Fedor is now in the Heavyweight Grand Prix final after a 2-0 2018 coming off a loss. Anthony Smith started this year with a FOTN loss, in which a body shot shut him down, fast forward and he is 3-0 since, 2 1st round KO’s and 2 POTN bonuses, he is my clear winner.

Event of Year Contenders

UFC 229

UFC 228

UFC Fight Night: Alverez Vs. Poirier

UFC 220

UFC 226

My Winner: The easy winner is 229, McGregor returns, Ferguson returns and some great fights on the card. Poirier Vs. Alvarez was an amazing card on Fox but had all time low for views. UFC 220 got the year off right with Stipe Miocic legitimately scaring Ngannou into not being able to throw punches anymore. The winner though is UFC228 oddly enough. 228 had an all time high for finishes, and Tyron Woodley had a dominant performance, 229 may have broken records but 228 had all the craziness.

Coach/ Team of Year

Team AKA (American Kickboxing Academy)

There just isn’t anyone close right now, AKA is having a dominant year. Cormier, Khabib both have belts around their wastes. Not only is AKA talent all over the UFC but look into Kyle Driscoll, Luis Pena and others who are dominating out of the spotlight this year. Javier Mendez and his staff had an amazing year with some amazing wins.



Feel free to respond with your own winners! Follow me @joe_mcdonagh6

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