It’s a new year, so Combat Press is taking a look back at the best of MMA in 2019. Throughout the the week, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.
True torch-passing moments don’t come often in sports. In 2019, however, the UFC’s middleweight division provided fans with the ultimate moment when it booked the legendary Anderson Silva against his heir-apparent, Israel Adesanya. This was just the beginning of a 2019 campaign that led the latter man to our “Male Fighter of the Year” award.
Adesanya, a talented kickboxer, had already started to make big waves in 2018 when he destroyed Derek Brunson in under a round while showing off his striking abilities and amazing knack for avoiding his opponent’s strikes. However, it’s the 2019 run that truly put Adesanya head and shoulders above his peers.
It began with his showdown against Silva in February. The legendary Brazilian is no longer at the top of his game, but he turned in a strong effort against “The Last Stylebender.” The Australian crowd witnessed the prodigy get the better of Silva over five rounds at UFC 234 to take the unanimous decision.
The Nigerian-born fighter returned just two months later to tangle with Kelvin Gastelum for the UFC interim middleweight title. It turned into another spectacular display. In fact, the fight is on many MMA media outlets’ shortlist for “Fight of the Year.” Again, after five action-packed rounds, Adesanya walked away with the judges’ nod at UFC 236.
Roughly five months later, Adesanya cemented his standing as one of the best in the sport when he fought Robert Whittaker at UFC 243. Whittaker, another middleweight who ascended the ranks to claim interim gold, turned out to be no match for his 30-year-old opponent. Adesanya didn’t even need the judges in this one. Instead, he finished off Whittaker in the second round with a counter left hook.
While runners-up Jorge Masvidal and Alexander Volkanovski had amazing years of their own, nobody could quite live up to what Adesanya delivered in 2019. For that reason, the New Zealand-based star is our 2019 pick for “Male Fighter of the Year.”
Other finalists: Jorge Masvidal, Alex Volkanovski
Make sure you check out the rest of the Combat Press 2019 MMA Award winners.