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 2019 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.
The war between Kelvin Gastelum and Israel Adesanya for the interim 185lb belt at UFC 236 won’t be forgotten anytime soon, as both fighters put on a thrilling show that prompted Dana White to describe the bout as “one of the best fights I’ve ever seen.” And the boss isn't exaggerating.
Both middleweights had their moments in the first four rounds of the fight, with Gastelum dropping “The Last Stylebender” in the first round and Adesanya upping his offensive output in the second and third rounds. In the final minute of the fourth round Gastelum landed a head kick that badly hurt Adesanya, but the New Zealander was able survive and take the fight to the final frame.
With the momentum on Gastelum’s side, he continued executing his gameplan of constant pressure and closing the gap on the lengthy Adesanya. But Adesanya would fire back, stunning Gastelum with a big right that sent him to the canvas. Adesanya pounced, nearly locking up a guillotine and triangle choke before Gastelum made it back to his feet. With a little over a minute left, Adesanya dropped Gastelum for just a moment, and when he got up, Adesanya sent him right back down to the floor with a right hand. Dripping blood and exhausted, Gastelum refused to give in, but Adesanya would not be denied, sending Gastelum to the floor once more before the final horn sounded. What a rise to the top of the fight game for Adesanya and what a display of heart in that fifth round from Gastelum.
Without question this fight deserves to be in the "Top 10" fights of all-time conversation.
Watch the full-fight here.
From the moment that Octagon door closed, welterweights Vincente Luque and Brian Barberena were ready to absolutely throwdown. The two welterweights landed a combined 292 significant strikes, delivering big time shots and crazy combinations at a feverish pace.
Both Luque and Barberena were battered and bloody heading into the final moments of the third round, with neither fighter giving an inch. In the closing moments of the fight Luque pushed Barberena up against the fence in the clinch and landed two devastating knees to his opponent’s mid-section, dropping the durable Barberena once and for good. The performance from both fighters sent the crowd at Talking Stick Resort Arena into a fever pitch.
Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier 2 delivered an even better fight than the prequel, as both fighters competed with grit and determination for the entire 25-minute interim title fight. With the crowd erupting with each massive strike and big time combination, fight fans around the world were on the edge of their seats during the whole fight.
The opening round of the fight might have been the most important of the entire fight, as “The Diamond” connected on huge power shots that wobbled and hurt the featherweight champ like we’ve never seen before. But despite getting beat-up badly in round one, Holloway’s unbelievable toughness and durability allowed him to even up the momentum by hitting Poirier with a barrage of accurate strikes. Rounds two, three, four and five featured impressive surges from both fighters. Holloway and Poirier combined for 359 significant strikes, the second highest tally in UFC history (Holloway vs Brian Ortega combined for 400 last December). In the end, it was the fighter from Louisiana who left Atlanta with the interim lightweight strap.
Watch the full-fight here.
The bout between two of the best at middleweight absolutely lived up to the hyped. Both Paulo Costa and Yoel Romero not only delivered in their three-round UFC 241 bout, but they sent the crowd inside the Honda Center into a fever pitch with their incredible power and showmanship.
Both Costa and Romero were dropped in the first round as the result of wild exchanges. Costa struck first hitting Romero with a left and as he pressured "The Soilder of God", he was sent to the canvas Romero's fist. Costa rose and continued to push the pace, pressuring Romero to navigate around the edge of the Octagon.
The second frame featured more of the same from Costa, constantly moving forward and pushing the action. But just when it seemed Romero was slowing down he roared back landing strikes and causing damage. He would end the round with a last second takedown.
It was here that it started to get even more fun, as Costa and Romero started taunting each other and sticking their tongues out. Both men tried to finish the fight by landing powerful shots but tonight wasn't the night to see a giant fall (until the main event). In the end, Costa would get the nod in a close and incredible firefight.
This fight was every bit as great as we hoped it would be.
2019’s first Pay Per View featured what might be the greatest display of high-level striking we’ve ever seen. The chess match between the charismatic Israel Adesanya and the legendary Anderson Silva was almost breathtaking, as each fighter displayed their usual level of showmanship and unique striking techniques.
“The Last Stylebender” was able to touch-up, confuse and stun Silva with his creative strikes that became more effective as he adapted to the style of the former champion. Adesanya also showed his fight IQ, not falling for traps set by Silva. By the end of the fight, it was clear that the torch that “The Spider” had been carrying for years had been passed to Adesanya.
Watch the full-fight here.
Fan favorites Al Iaquinta and Donald Cerrone collided in Ottawa, Canada in a fight that more than lived up to the hype. The five-round war was jam packed with action start to finish and it display true heart on multiple occasions. For a majority of the fight, "Ragin" Al found success striking when he closed the distance, but "Cowboy" used his reach advantage a variety of attacks to significantly hurt Iaquinta.
Bloodied up and walking forward, Iaquinta was dropped for the first time in his UFC career when Cerrone hit him with a perfectly timed jab at the end of the third. In the fourth round "Cowboy" landed a massive front kick to Iaquinta's face that sent the fighter out of New York back down to the canvas. Despite being very hurt, Iaquinta was able to defend himself enough to make it to the final bell.
It was an incredible display of heart from Iaquinta and yet another impressive performance from the newly reborn Cerrone. It was a battle that fight fans won't soon forget.
If you're the type of person that loves a fast pace and high output fight, then boy was Aspen Ladd vs Sijara Eubanks 2 the fight for you. Both ladies showed that their cardio is top-level as they battled on the feet and the canvas for a full fifteen minutes at UFC Rochester.
The first round consisted of high and lows for each fighter, as Eubanks started and finished strong (especially in the final ten seconds) and Ladd controlled the fight and nearly sunk in multiple submissions. Ladd took Eubanks back to the ground in the second and utilized her elbows and jiu jitsu to control Eubanks for nearly the entire round. The two bantamweights kept it on the feet in the final round, attacking one another in the clinch with knees and short elbows. Flurried exchanges highlighted the final frame as both ladies traded hands at close range repeatedly until the clock showed triple zeroes.
In the end, it was Ladd's pressure, striking and ability to control where the fight took place that earned her the unanimous decision victory.
Tony Ferguson vs "Cowboy" Cerrone is a fight that fans around the world couldn't wait to watch. And for 10 minutes, they witnessed two of the best lightweights in the world absolutely put on a show.
"Cowboy" came out of the gates like a man possessed, finding striking success seemingly at will. Ferguson was game to respond to each of Cerrone's attacks with his own creative combinations. And before you know it, the two were engaged in an all out war trading shots.
The second round things took a turn, as Ferguson landed a couple devastating blows that caused significant damage to Cerrone's right eye. As the second round progressed, Cerrone displayed his trademark heart as he battled Ferguson despite his impaired vision. Ferguson's volume, conditioning and pure athleticism are special and he reminded fans of that again against Cerrone.
In the end, the damage to Cerrone's eye was too significant and deemed unsafe so the doctors called the fight at the end of the second round. It wasn't the way people wanted to see the fight end, but for 10 minutes it was incredibly fun and showcased the best-of-the-best, both in technical ability and in personality.
If you take a look at this list there are a couple household names. Among them are Vicente Luque and Mike Perry. So a clash between these two exciting fighters was bound to make the list and they didn't disappoint. In their fast-paced UFC Uruguay bout, both Luque and Perry display grit, technical ability and toughness.
All three rounds were highly contested and very close, with the edge in strikes going to "Platinum" and the damage dealt going to "The Silent Assassin." It was an impressive performance from both fighters and with less than two minutes to go in the fight, Luque landed a devastating knee that gruesomely broke Perry's nose. Luque then sold out for a guillotine attempt squeezing large amounts of Perry's blood onto the canvas.
But Perry had no plans of giving up, breaking out of Luque's choke and ending the fight in a dominant position.
It was a very close fight but in the end, the judges sided with Luque by split decision.
Both Bryce Mitchell and Bobby Moffett earned their way into the UFC by performing on shows (Mitchell on The Ultimate Fighter: Undefeated, Moffett on Dana White Looking For A Fight and Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series) and after they both secured wins in their first official UFC appearances, it was critical that they keep the ball rolling in Nashville.
Their fight ended up being just as crazy as Mitchell’s drill story. In the first round Mitchell dropped Moffett with a perfectly timed punch but Moffett would go on to recover, take Mitchell down and attempt submissions. The next 10-minutes featured crazy scrambles, position changes, submission attempts and near finishes for both “Thug Nasty” and “The Wolfman.” In what might have been a deciding factor in the fight, with just over a minute remaining in the fight Mitchell was able to explode out from under Moffett and take his opponent’s back to end the round in a favorable position. The judges would go on to give Mitchell the victory.
When you're fighting in front of 57,000 plus people you have to bring it and that's exactly what Brad Riddell and Jamie Mullarkey did in Melbourne. The two showed out by displaying big time heart and true grit for three scrappy rounds. The fight's third round was riveting, with both fighters absorbing and dealing significant damage. It was a true round of the year candidate and a must watch.
In the end, it was Riddell's night and he was able to walk out of Marvel Stadium with a hard-earned victory.
After a controversial no contest in September, Yair Rodriguez and Jeremy Stephens ran it back, and instead of 15 seconds, the two featherweight contenders went to war for 15 minutes, with Rodriguez taking a close, but unanimous, decision.
Rodriguez flew out of his corner with a kick and the fight was on. Both fighters were looking to end it early, but it was Rodriguez having greater success, mainly with his kicks. With two minutes left, Stephens got close and bulled Rodriguez into the fence, but only for a short spell. With under a minute left, Stephens got too aggressive going after an off-balance Rodriguez and got dropped briefly by a jab, capping off a solid round for “El Pantera.”
Rodriguez dropped Stephens with a body kick early in round two, and while Stephens appeared to be defending himself, Rodriguez emptied his tank in an attempt to finish. When it was clear that Stephens had cleared his head, Rodriguez slowed his attack on the ground, and after looking for a choke, Stephens was able to escape and get to his feet. Soon, it was Rodriguez on his back, and after he sought another submission, the two rose and Stephens surged just before the horn.
With the crowd roaring, Stephens marched forward in an attempt to land a haymaker while Rodriguez kept using his kicks from long range early in round three. As the round progressed, Stephens scored a pair of takedowns, and with the second one he kept Rodriguez grounded to the horn as he fired off strikes from the top position. When it was over, the two heated rivals shook hands and embraced, burying the hatchet after settling their score as sportsmen.
If you're looking to see a fight featuring two guys with no quit and excellent stand-up skills, look no further than Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson vs Vicente Luque. For three rounds Luque puts the pressure on Thompson, absorbing shot after shot from the always entertaining fighter out of South Carolina. In the end, Thompson's striking and movement were too much for Luque, and "Wonderboy" earned himself a big time win.
Rose Namajunas knew defending her belt in hostile territory wouldn't be easy, but the UFC strawweight queen accepted the title bout with Jessica Andrade ready to face her fears. And while it she may have been nervous she certainly showed no signs of it, dominating Brazil's Adrade for the entire first round.
"Thug" Rose looked as good as we have ever seen her, utilizing her speed to beat up and batter the ever tough Andrade. After a big knee from Namajunas dropped Andrade it looked as if the champion was going to completely smother and overwhelm Andrade.
But not tonight and not in Brazil.
Andrade showcased her incredible strength by picking up Namajunas, who was clinging to an arm bar attempt, and slamming her to the canvas. The impact to Namajunas' head immediately knocked her out of the fight and just like that in an instant, Brazil had a new champion. What an incredible comeback victory for Andrade and what a spectacular moment for the faithful fight fans present in Rio De Janeiro.
Watch the full-fight here.
Fight fans were treated to a bantamweight banger at UFC 235, as Cody Garbrandt and Pedro Munhoz sent the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas into a frenzy.
After spending the first few minutes of the fight feeling each other out both fighters started finding their range on the feet. Munhoz struck first, stunning Garbrandt with a massive shot and after a mad scramble on the canvas it was Garbrandt’s turn to attack. Like a man possessed Garbrandt charge “The Young Punisher” hitting him with multiple shots directly to the chin. But Munhoz’s chin would prove to be iron as the final 50 seconds of the first round consisted of Garbrandt and Munhoz standing and delivering huge punch after huge punch until “No Love” was knocked out of the fight for good. It was a crazy sequence that ended perfectly for Munhoz.
Watch the full-fight here.
Wow. What a performance from Carla Esparza and Alexa Grasso. Both ladies brought the excitement for 15 minutes and showed just how well rounded their games are. The big highlight of the showdown happened with just under two minutes to go as Grasso nearly sunk in an arm bar. But somehow, someway Esparza managed to escape from Grasso's grasp. The veteran then made her way to a dominant position and worked her way to a victory.
Who said flyweights can't bring it? Both Alexandre Pantoja and Deiveson Figueiredo displayed everything that you'd want from a fight. Technical ability, discipline, creative striking, iron chins and big heart. Figueiredo landed multiple big shots in the fight, each of which put Pantoja in survival mode. But Pantoja was too tough to be finished and didn't back down one bit in each exchange and scramble.
In the end, it was Figueiredo's ability to combine great angles and speed with volume that would earn him the unanimous decision victory.
Would you expect anything less from a fight featuring two of the most interesting personalities in the UFC? "Platinum" Mike Perry and Alex "Cowboy" Oliveira brought it from the beginning, showcasing their toughness and appreciation for a good ol' brawl. Oliveira had a really nice first round, pressuring Perry and utilizing his dynamic striking to connect from distance. But the real story of this fight was rounds two and three, where Perry turned up the pace.
Perry was able to display the strides that he has been making at Jackson-Wink, nicely mixing-up his stand-up game with his grappling. Perry was able to combine his power with crisp combos, especially when Oliveira came in close, in order to drop "Cowboy." After losing the first round Perry was able to grind out the win by unanimous decision. This was a fun fight between two fun fighters that definitely put on a show that fight fans appreciated.
Did anyone anticipate three rounds of phone booth dirty boxing between Cub Swanson and Kron Gracie?
Swanson and Gracie never slowed down, with both fighters landing blow after blow in the center of the Octagon. Swanson kept ripping Gracie to the body but Gracie kept walking toward him like a zombie. But by the time the final seconds came off the clock it was clear that Swanson had earned himself an important victory.
And you could feel just how relieved he was to get back into the win column. Swanson let his emotions flow, reminding spectators just how taxing and difficult the fight game can be.
All the talk in the lead up to this fight was about how Swanson would handle Gracie's ground game. But it was clear that Gracie wanted to show his standup game and heart. He earned a lot of respect last night, and regardless of the outcome he has a great future at featherweight.
Saying that middleweights Deron Winn and Eric Spicely started the UFC Greenville card off right is an understatement. Both fighters showed great heart and had their moments in the battle. Winn was making his anticipated UFC debut and Spicely was stepping in on short notice and with performances like that, it's safe to say they capitalized on the opportunity.
Winn used his high volume combinations and power to hurt Spicely on multiple occasions, pressuring him up against the cage as Spicely covered up to weather the storm. Spicely bounced back by engaging the clinch and hitting Winn with big knees to body and head. Althought Winn would get the victory, neither fighter gave up, both put on a heck of a performance and both definitely earned the $50,000 Fight of The Night bonus.
The battle for the best grappler didn't start as people would have guessed, as a majority of the first and second round featured plenty of striking. Demian Maia and Ben Askren would hit the canvas eventually though, with a couple exciting scrambles and submission attempts mixed it, it was only a matter of time until one of the fighter made a mistake and it was Askren. Maia was able to take Askren's back in the third after avoiding being trapped on the wrong side of an Askren take down and he sunk in the rear naked choke.
Well played Maia, well played.
One fight removed from his title shot at UFC 228, Darren Till went to battle against veteran Jorge Masvidal at the O2 Arena in London.
Moments into the fight “The Gorilla” landed a straight punch that sent Masvidal reeling, but “Gamebred” recovered so quick that he was seemingly talking trash to Till before he even hit the floor. Till hit the gas, attempting to finish the fight quickly in front of his home crowd. Masvidal was able to survive and work his way into the second round thanks to his crafty striking and toughness. Then out of nowhere, Masvidal closed the gap with a unique entry point and hit Till with a devastating strike that put Till out before he hit the canvas. The epic finish completely silenced the crowd and earned Masvidal just the type of win he needed after such a long layoff.
From the moment Justin Gaethje is placed on a card, whatever fight he is a part of is instantly the front runner for FOTN. And when you add the explosive Edson Barboza to the equation it was a main event that was almost too good to be true.
The two lightweights didn’t disappoint, landing their trademark kicks in the fights opening moments. But it was Gaethje who would solidify his spot as a member of the UFC lightweight elite. “The Highlight” was able to hunt Barboza down as he moved around the outside of the cage and connect with a devastating combination that shut Barboza’s lights off. It was an incredible performance from Gaethje, who at this point could probably just change his nickname to “The Fight Of The Night”.
Fans had chanted Islam Makhachev's name all throughout fight week and for good reason. The lightweight has been on fire, winning his last four heading into his co-main event with UFC newcomer Arman Tsarukyan. The two athletes would go on to put on a 15-minute display of high-level wresting and grappling.
The physical chess match continued into the final frame, before Makhachev was able to secure some much needed time in top control and grind out the win. It was an impressive showing for both athletes, as it showed Makhachev's ability to deal with adversity and revealed that Tsarukyan has a very bright future at 155lbs.
Who doesn't love a true underdog story? Tristan Connelly was offered a fight with Michel Pereira on just five days notice and it was up an entire weight class (Connelly typically fights at lightweight and the bout against Pereira was at welterweight). Not to mention Pereira was coming into UFC Vancouver off a devastating KO victory over Danny Roberts.
Connelly handled the pressure like an absolute boss. Dealing with the expected theatrics of Pereira (flips, kicks, cage attacks, etc.) and managed to execute his gameplan to perfection: Let Pereira tire himself out. Connelly's constant pressure and pace wore Pereira down and heading into the third frame, "Boondock" knew he was most likely tied with Pereira. But the underdog had plans to come out on top.
Connelly took Pereira to the canvas and dominated for nearly the entire round. Landing punch after punch from half-guard, all the while controlling the dangerous and explosive fighter from Brazil. It was an impressive performance and it showed how mentally tough and high Connelly's fight IQ is.
Well played good sir.
Mario Bautista and Jinsoo Son absolutely brought the heat at UFC San Antonio. Both bantamweights showcased incredible heart and two iron-chins as the two stood in the center of the Octagon and gave it their all. Bautista's diverse striking gave Son issues, but Son never stopped moving forward. After Bautista would land a great shot Son would often smile and beckon to Bautista to continue attacking.
Bautista landed some really nice elbows and creative strikes that wobbled Son, but he was unable to put away his tough adversary. When the dust finally settled it was clear that Bautista's volume and efficiency earned him a unanimous decision victory.
August 31 was a banner night for mixed martial arts in China. Many athletes from China and its surrounding countries showed how much the sport has developed in recent years. Part of that display of excellence can be attributed to the high-level performances put on by Alatengheili and Batgerel Danaa.
Both fighters showed off great technique, big chins and a dynamic skill-set. The sheer volume thrown by each fighter was impressive with Batgerel pushing most of the action. But it was the take downs of Alatengheili that made the difference in the fight. Alatengheili striking set up timely take downs and helped earn him a unanimous decision victory in a fun little scrap.
Antonina Shevchenko and Lucie Pudilova put on a show at UFC Newark. Both athletes had some success in the clinch, with Pudilova landing a nice elbow that cut open Shevchenko. But that wouldn't stop Shevchenko from attempting an arm bar that looked like it may end the fight. Pudilova would fight through it though and put her great flexibility on display before the end of the first round.
In the second round Shevchenko was able to secure a dominate position and take the back of Pudilova. Once that happened it was over and Shevchenko was able to get the submission victory.
Making the move back down to 155lbs isn’t easy for Donald Cerrone but that’s where he feels that he is the most dangerous. And at UFC Brooklyn he proved just that against the young and upcoming Alexander Hernandez.
In the lead-up to the fight things were heated between “Cowboy” and “The Great”, with both exchanging words with plenty of intention behind them. But once the talking stopped and the fists started flying, it was clear that Cerrone was on a mission to demolish Hernandez. Cerrone had immediate success against the quick Hernandez, landing crushing body shots and mauling the young prospect to the point of a TKO stoppage. And just like that Cerrone was right back in the lightweight picture.
Watch the full-fight here.
UFC’s first trip to the state of Kansas featured a heavyweight showdown between former champion Junior Dos Santos and title challenger Derrick Lewis. With both fighters capable of knocking each other at any moment, the intensity inside the Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita was palpable.
“The Black Beast” struck first, hitting Dos Santos with a power shot that got the attention of the Brazilian. But the turning point of the fight between these two goliaths was a kick to the body of Lewis, immediately hurting him and forcing him to retreat. “Cigano” charged ready to end the fight only to be forced to dodge a massive uppercut from the hurt Lewis. Heading into the next round it was clear that Lewis was still injured and Dos Santos capitalized by cornering Lewis against the fence and landing power shot after power shot until the referee had no choice but to stop the contest.
Check back to see where the FOTN for UFC 244 lands in the rankings.
Gavin Porter is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com, follow him on Twitter at @PorterUFCNews.