A new year is on the horizon, and that means it’s time for Combat Press to take a look back at the best of MMA in 2020. In the coming days, 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.
Breakout Fighter of the Year
Who else made a bigger breakthrough this year than Khamzat Chimaev? The Chechen-born, Swedish-based fighter went 3-0 in the UFC for the year after making his Octagon debut in July. Chimaev tapped the ever-tough John Phillips at UFC on ESPN 13. Just 10 days later, “Borz” scored a first-round TKO of Rhys McKee at UFC on ESPN 14. In doing so, Chimaev broke the record for the shortest time between two UFC wins in the modern era.
With huge hype on his name, Chimaev was then booked against the gritty Gerald Meerschaert at UFC on ESPN+ 36. This was seen as a tough test for the rising Chimaev. However, the Russian obliged the UFC’s wishes and bludgeoned Meerschaert with a straight right hand for a 17-second knockout. With this win, Chimaev scored the fastest finish in the company for the calendar year.
As a result of his impressive run, Chimaev was scheduled for a December fight against welterweight contender Leon Edwards. However, the fight has twice fallen through due to COVID-19 complications. Nevertheless, Chimaev’s rise from a July debut in the UFC to a fight against a top-five contender by December further speaks to the year he has had.
At the start of 2020, Chimaev was a name known only by hardcore fans of the sport. Within six months in the leading MMA organization, the Chechen transformed into the biggest rising star in the sport. With prospects such as Sean O’Malley and Edmen Shahbazyan suffering devastating first losses this year, Chimaev has taken center stage as the new undefeated dynamo of the MMA world. This is why Chimaev is the 2020 Combat Press selection as the Breakout Fighter of the Year.
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