Fight Of The Night honors is the type of recognition that fighters look to associate with their name.
Earning FOTN indicates that the bout produces adrenaline, excitement and fireworks in way that stood out from the rest of the card. That stand-out fight could come in the form of a back and forth brawl, a fast-paced slugfest or an incredible display of high-level martial arts.
After each event UFC.com will list out and update the power rankings of each 2020 FOTN ending the calendar year with a complete picture of the year’s best fights.
The criteria applied to each ranking includes: Entertainment value, watchability, competitiveness (back and forth), the type of fight (technical vs brawl vs well-rounded), intensity (crazy moments) and the quality of the finish (if there is one).
Each fight is viewed as if they are in a vacuum, meaning the context surrounding a fight does not factor into the rankings. For example: A title fight could definitely have more implications that the opening fight on the prelims, but the best fight based off the given criteria will receive the highest ranking.
Let's get to the rankings.
Note: These rankings only represent FOTN awards confirmed by the UFC.
Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk delivered the greatest fight in women’s MMA history Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and when it was over, the result of the UFC 248 co-main event was almost secondary due to the epic nature of the bout, but it was Zhang retaining her UFC strawweight title for the first time via five-round split decision in a fight that raised the stock of both ladies and the sport.
Scores were 48-47 twice and 47-48 for Zhang, now 21-1. Jedrzejczyk falls to 16-4.
Both fighters were busy to start, but a minute in, Jedrzejczyk landed a hard right hand upstairs and her combinations at close range had the former champ smiling and in the lead. Zhang began to find her rhythm midway through the frame, though, and she was throwing with power every time, clearly getting Jedrzejczyk’s attention.
Resuming their high-volume striking battle in round two, Jedrzejczyk was mixing things up nicely, and in the second minute, the two locked up against the fence, taking turns in control, with Zhang landing elbows and Jedrzejczyk responding with knees. With a little over two minutes left, Zhang rattled Jedrzejczyk with a right hand, forcing the Poland native to reset. By the end of the round, the crowd was roaring at the fast-paced action, but Zhang’s eye was rapidly swelling.
Zhang came out fast for round three and got in some hard shots before Jedrzejczyk settled back in and continued unleashing combinations. And once Jedrzejczyk switched to southpaw, she had more success. With two minutes left, Zhang locked up with Jedrzejczyk briefly, and once they broke, it was Zhang roaring back, raising a welt on the challenger’s head in the process. But Jedrzejczyk finished the round strong, making it another nightmare for the judges to score.
The high-level action continued in round four, with neither fighter backing down and each taking turns rocking the other. And while Zhang was in the championship rounds for the first time, she was still swinging for the fences, but it was Jedrzejczyk who was clearly the fresher of the two. With two minutes left, Zhang landed a hard shot to the forehead, but Jedrzejczyk kept moving forward, landing an elbow before the two locked up against the fence. Jedrzejczyk glanced at the clock in the final 30 seconds, but that didn’t stop her from bringing the heat.
Both fighters showed the wears of battle on their face, but there would be no let-up once the final round began, and the exchanges were as ferocious in the fifth as they were in the first. A left hook by Zhang briefly rocked Jedrzejczyk in the second minute, and the champion surged forward. But then it was Jedrzejczyk’s turn, and she scored with several hard blows. With a little over two minutes left, Jedrzejczyk clinched to grab a well-deserved second’s rest, but then it was back to work and both fighters were determined to leave nothing left in the tank. And they didn’t, Jedrzejczyk landing a spinning backfist and Zhang responding with a punch of her own just before the horn ending the leading candidate for 2020 Fight of the Year.
Lightweight contenders Dan Hooker and Paul Felder were expected to deliver the goods in the UFC Auckland main event at Spark Arena, and that’s exactly what they did in a memorable five-round war that saw Hooker emerge with a split decision victory that propels him further up the list of elite 155-pounders.
As for Hooker’s rival for five rounds, he may have made his last walk to the Octagon.
“This might be it for me,” said an emotional Felder, who cited being away from his four-year-old daughter for his leaning towards retirement. That’s a final decision for another day, though. For today, fans will celebrate a fight to remember between two of the best in a stacked division.
Scores were 48-47 twice and 47-48 for the No. 7-ranked Hooker, now 21-8. The No. 6-ranked Felder falls to 17-5.
After refusing Felder’s offer to touch gloves, Auckland’s own Hooker got right down to business with a series of kicks to the calf as he used movement and range to keep his foe at bay. With two minutes left, Felder landed a hard left hook, putting him on the board, but Hooker took it well and kept using lateral movement to his advantage. As the round wound down, Hooker locked Felder up against the fence briefly, and then it was back to sticking and moving as Felder marched forward.
Felder was showing damage to his right eye after the opening frame, prompting him to show even more urgency to get inside on Hooker, who calmly stuck to his game plan in response. In the second minute, Felder did well in exchanges, only to have Hooker lock him up for a spell until the two separated. Felder proceeded to work his kicking game in the closing stages of the round, but Hooker upped his work rate, leading to some more heated exchanges.
The already compelling action heated up in the third round, with Felder beginning to land more and more shots to the head and legs while Hooker was now marked up on his face but still throwing and landing as the fight began to approach the championship rounds.
Felder was throwing bombs to start the fourth frame, and he landed several on Hooker, rocking him briefly in the second minute. Hooker responded with a takedown attempt, but when that came up short, he settled for a brief clinch against the fence. The two broke briefly, then locked up again, Hooker in control until they separated. Felder went on to land a pair of hard right hands, but Hooker wasn’t budging. Hooker went back to his clinch game in the final minute, but Felder wouldn’t give him the takedown, sending the fight to a fifth round.
Starting off strong, Felder continued to tag Hooker in the fifth, prompting another grappling sequence from Hooker, but after they broke, “The Hangman” went back to his striking attack, with every blow pivotal for each man. A takedown by Hooker with a minute left caused the crowd to erupt for their fighter, and as the two scrambled for position, there were more roars from the packed house, and they lasted through the final horn, when the two rivals shared a hug that could only be earned by 25 minutes of battle.
Last month, Justin Gaethje said he likely only had 18 or 19 minutes of “pure hell” to give Tony Ferguson in their UFC 249 main event. He lied, as he gave “El Cucuy” 23:39 of it, stopping Ferguson in the fifth round to win the interim UFC lightweight title.
Gaethje, 31, replaced lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in a bout originally scheduled for April 18, and now after snapping Ferguson’s 12-fight winning streak, “The Highlight” will get his crack at “The Eagle.”
But first, Gaethje had to upset Ferguson, and he did just that.
Ferguson’s movement and kicks kept Gaethje from getting a read on him in the early going, but two minutes in Gaethje landed a couple hard lefts at close range. Ferguson took the punches well and kept throwing a variety of strikes from a variety of angles, while Gaethje stuck to a more conventional attack that was still working as he tagged his foe with accurate shots to the head. In the final 30 seconds, Gaethje landed a pair of lefts, getting Ferguson’s attention.
Both landed as round two opened, and Gaethje followed up with what was rapidly becoming his weapon of choice, a sweeping left hook. Gaethje made sure to toss in some leg kicks too to keep Ferguson guessing, and his confidence was growing by the second. To his credit, Ferguson’s chin was rock solid, but he was taking more and more shots from the Arizonan. It was Ferguson who got the last word for the round, though, as he dropped Gaethje with a right uppercut.
Gaethje kept the heat on in round three, and soon Ferguson was cut over the left eye and under the right eye. Add in a swelling under the right eye and Ferguson had to hope his skin wasn’t going to betray him. With a little under three minutes left, Ferguson got rocked by a right hand, and seconds later he ate another one, as Gaethje was clearly unaffected by the previous round’s knockdown. Ferguson stayed in the pocket with Gaethje, tripping him to the mat briefly in an attempt to turn the tide, but it didn’t happen in the third.
Gaethje remained in control in the fourth, and midway through, Ferguson staggered after getting caught with another hard right. A low kick by Ferguson brought a brief halt to the action with a minute left, but Gaethje jumped right back into the fray, and his kicks and punches kept coming.
With five minutes left, Gaethje could have sat on his lead, but that’s just not his style, and he kept the compact power shots coming, and few missed. To his credit, Ferguson’s heart and chin were still intact, but he just couldn’t get his offense going against an opponent fighting a perfect fight. And after Ferguson staggered from another flush power shot, referee Herb Dean had seen enough, stopping the bout at 3:39 of the final round.
Welterweight James Krause made headlines around the MMA world on Friday when he stepped up on a day’s notice to face Trevin Giles at middleweight, and rightfully so, but it was Houston’s Giles who took the victory by way of an exciting three-round split decision.
Scores were 29-28 twice and 28-29 for Giles, now 12-2. Krause, who replaced Antonio Arroyo, falls to 27-9.
Krause got a takedown in the opening minute, but Giles was up to his feet immediately. Krause stayed locked on and took Giles’ back as they went back to the mat, and while the veteran threatened with a choke, in the final minute it was Giles getting free, rising and scoring with some hard shots before the end of the frame.
Giles kept it standing for the first three minutes of round two and that allowed him to land several hard blows on Krause. As the bout went to the mat with under two to go, Giles took the top position and landed a barrage of hard shots on the tiring Krause, drawing a hard look from referee Jacob Montalvo before nearly sinking in a choke with seconds to go in the round.
Krause got off to a good start in the third, as he was landing good shots from all angles. Midway through the round, Giles rattled the bloodied Krause but wasn’t able to put him away, but his surge was enough to take the nod on the scorecards and snap a two-fight losing streak.
Bantamweight up and comers Song Yadong and Marlon Vera put on an exciting three-rounder at featherweight that was ultimately won by Song via unanimous decision.
Scores were 29-28 across the board for Song, now 16-4-1, 1 NC. Vera falls to 15-6-1.
The dead-even matchup lived up to expectations in the first round, with both fighters having their moments of success in an opening five minutes that was tough to call. The pace got even higher in the second, with Vera staying busy while the harder shots were clearly coming from the fists of Song. With a minute left, the two delivered an extended – and even – exchange, but the biggest punch of the round was a body shot by Song delivered late in the frame.
Vera scored the first takedown of the fight early in round three, a big scoring move in a close fight. In the second minute, Song got back to his feet and resumed throwing and landing hard punches upstairs. Vera got another takedown with a minute left, but Song rose almost immediately, only to hit the deck again as Vera kept the pressure on until the end of the bout.
After appearances on Dana White’s Contender Series and The Ultimate Fighter, Kyler Phillips finally got his chance to shine in the Octagon and he did just that, winning a three-round unanimous decision over fellow bantamweight prospect Gabriel Silva.
Scores were 30-27 across the board for Phillips, now 7-1. Silva falls to 8-2.
Silva kept the pressure on Phillips for much of the first round, but Phillips was the much busier fighter, and he bloodied Silva’s nose with a steady stream of varied strikes. Silva did trip Phillips to the canvas late, but it wasn’t enough for the Brazilian to steal the round.
Able to keep the fight in his world in the second, Silva utilized his grappling throughout, but Phillips wasn’t far behind, getting the full mount briefly while also using scrambles and hammerfists to show that he was just as effective on the mat.
On the feet and the mat, Phillips broke the fight wide open, and while Silva gave a gritty effort, there was no question who the winner was at the end of 15 minutes.
In a meeting of bantamweights moving up to 145 pounds for the night, Brian Kelleher removed Hunter Azure from the ranks of the unbeaten, stopping the Contender Series graduate in the second round.
There was no shortage of action in the opening round, with both fighters eagerly getting into exchanges on the feet throughout. Azure was the faster and busier of the two, though, allowing him to take the lead in the first five minutes.
Kelleher opened round two with an overhand right that got Azure’s attention, and while the Arizonan kept throwing back, he started to take more and more shots, and with Kelleher in a rhythm, he scored with a flush left hook that put Azure down. Two hammerfists on the grounded Azure followed, with referee Jason Herzog stopping the contest at the 3:40 mark.
Kelleher moves to 21-10 with the win. Azure falls to 8-1.
Maryna Moroz earned her first performance bonus since her UFC debut nearly five years ago. Moroz stormed into the UFC with an armbar finish against Joanna Calderwood (now the 3rd-ranked flyweight). She hasn’t finished an opponent since, but her back-and-forth affair with Bueno was more than enough to earn a bonus.
Moroz nearly earned a stoppage in round two and then survived an onslaught from Bueno in the final round. Bloody forehead and all, Moroz never stopped throwing. And her performance in rounds one and two were enough to get the victory.
Fighting for the first time since August 2018, bantamweight up and comer Brett Johns snapped a two-fight losing streak with a third-round submission of Tony Gravely.
Johns dominated the first round behind a slick grappling attack that nearly produced a finish in the closing seconds of the frame. Gravely came out fast for the second, though, landing a couple hard shots on the feet before slamming Johns to the mat twice. Johns soon broke out of his slow start to the round, but neither fighter could pull ahead decisively before round’s end.
Gravely got a takedown to start the third frame, but Johns responded well and took his foe’s back. A barrage of ground strikes followed and, this time, when the Welshman sunk in the rear naked choke, Gravely was forced to tap out at 2:53 of round three.
With the win, Johns moved to 16-2. Gravely fell to 19-6.
Scott Holtzman won the most important fight of his career, taking a unanimous decision over veteran lightweight star Jim Miller in a grueling three-round battle.
The fight stayed on the feet for the first five minutes, each fighter having his moments before the horn sounded. For Miller, the left hand was the weapon of choice, but in the second half of the round, Holtzman found his timing with his right upstairs, making sure he got the veteran’s attention.
In the second minute of round two, Miller used a missed spin by Holtzman to wrap up his foe, but “Hot Sauce” got free quickly. The two then let loose with their strikes at close range, both emerging bloody before a clinch at the two-minute mark. Holtzman used the position to get a takedown, and he finished the round with a series of ground strikes.
The third was a war of attrition in the pocket, with Holtzman and Miller both digging deep in the high altitude to get the win, but it was Knoxville’s Holtzman who took the nod via scores of 30-27 and 29-28 twice,
With the win, Holtzman moves to 14-3. Sparta, New Jersey’s Miller falls to 31-14 with 1 NC.