Justin Gaethje (Phil Lambert/Combat Press)

Combat Press 2020 MMA Awards: Event of the Year – UFC 249

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.

Event of the Year
UFC 249

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic swept across the world and brought the sports universe to a standstill, the UFC was forced to cancel five consecutive shows from mid-March through the end of April. While many other combat-sports organizations and stick-and-ball sport leagues remained on hold throughout May, UFC boss Dana White led the way back with the first major event since the pandemic began: UFC 249.

With fans champing at the bit for a little return to normalcy, even a mediocre fight card could have earned this event the Combat Press selection as the 2020 Event of the Year, but this night more than lived up to the hype.


Originally slated to be the fifth incarnation of the long-awaited showdown between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov, UFC 249 instead featured Justin Gaethje stepping in on short notice to replace Nurmagomedov, who was unable to make it into the United States due to travel restrictions. Gaethje brutalized Ferguson in a grueling fight that referee Herb Dean was forced to wave off at 3:39 of the fifth and final round.

While the main event clearly stole the show as Gaethje earned an interim title, the rest of the lineup did not disappoint either. From the early prelims, where Bryce “Thug Nasty” Mitchell put on a grappling seminar against Charles Rosa, to the featured prelim between Anthony “Showtime” Pettis and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, who engaged in a closely contested rematch that ended in a controversial unanimous-decision win for Pettis, there was hardly a moment for fans to catch their breath. That’s not to mention the steamrolling of Jairzinho Rozenstruik by Francis Ngannou that resulted in a knockout just 20 seconds into the opening frame. UFC 249 delivered from top to bottom.

The show’s highlights, combined with its importance as the first major sporting event in the United States with legitimate coronavirus protocols in place, make it hands down the Combat Press choice for 2020’s Event of the Year.

Other Finalists: UFC 256, UFC 254

Make sure you check out the rest of the Combat Press 2020 MMA Award winners.