We’ve formally reached the midway level of 2020, which gives excuse to mirror on what’s occurred to this point this yr.

The MMA world actually has been a novel trip to comply with over the previous six months. No sports activities has gone untouched by the coronavirus pandemic, however compared to others, this world has been capable of transfer alongside fairly efficiently. Primarily the UFC, that’s.

Though UFC occasions take the lions share of the eye underneath regular circumstances, it has been the one main present on the town over the previous a number of months. Neither Bellator, ONE Championship, PFL, Rizin FF, Cage Warriors, or Invicta FC have held an occasion since March.

The again half of the 2020 schedule appears to see nearly all of these promotions return – together with the UFC placing on virtually weekly occasions – so the months forward may see loads of memorable moments.

With that stated, there’s no higher time to look again at the most effective of the most effective to this point in 2020 with a number of mid-year awards on some main classes, issued with my judgment solely.

With out additional ado …

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Greatest male fighter: Gilbert Burns

(Jeff Bottari, Zuffa LLC)

This was most likely the trickiest class to kind, primarily due to how sometimes athletes compete in MMA. Making a finest fighter evaluation six months into the yr sometimes means we have now one efficiency to go off of, and it’s totally attainable the general 2020 “Battle of the Yr” hasn’t even stepped within the cage to this point. That’s how shortly issues can change.

Though there are a number of fighters who’ve competed greater than as soon as this yr, there’s just one who has registered wins and eye-popping performances each instances. Curtis Blaydes acquired midway there with two major occasion wins, however Gilbert Burns was the person who introduced it dwelling. He scored a uncommon end of Demian Maia within the type of a first-round knockout in March, then compelled his method right into a major occasion alternative towards former UFC champ Tyron Woodley in Might just by talking out and staying ready.

Burns blanked Woodley on the scorecards, and in what looks like the snap of the fingers is now lower than two weeks from difficult Kamaru Usman for the welterweight title at UFC 251. Nobody – and I imply nobody – claimed firstly of the yr that Burns could be combating for a belt, in the principle occasion of essentially the most stacked major card we’ve seen in 2020, simply over six months into the yr. It’s been a loopy rise, and he deserves the popularity for it.

Honorable point out: Justin Gaethje

Greatest feminine fighter: Zhang Weili

(Stephen R. Sylvanie, USA TODAY Sports activities)

Given the dearth of feminine fighters and weight lessons in comparison with the boys’s aspect, the requirements change just a little bit right here from what was described for the male model of this class. Angela Hill would have a compelling case if she acquired the choice win over Claudia Gadelha to be the one one to go 3-Zero to this point this yr, however that didn’t occur, so technically she skilled a loss.

That leaves UFC strawweight champion Zhang Weili as the one true choice. Her solely win of the yr got here in fashion towards Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248 in March in what’s basically been universally dubbed as the most effective battle in ladies’s MMA historical past. It was a blood-and-guts efficiency from Zhang towards essentially the most embellished champion the division has ever seen, and that counts for a complete lot.

Sure, fellow ladies’s champions Valentina Shevchenko and Amanda Nunes earned way more lopsided defenses towards Katlyn Chookagian and Felicia Spencer, respectively, however neither of these challengers is as credentialed or embellished as Jedrzejczyk. Due to that, the worth of Weili’s win skyrockets.

It’d take one other protection for Weili to lock up the year-end award, however up to now she’s defended her belt in arguably essentially the most talked about battle – male or feminine – we’ve seen since Jan. 1.

Honorable point out: Valentina Shevchenko

Greatest battle: Weili vs. Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248

Weili doubles up courtesy of her win over Jedrzejczyk. That battle on March 7 in Las Vegas was some of the ridiculous issues I’ve ever seen from the cageside place, and it was really particular.

I’m not going to exhaust each element of the motion in Weili’s unanimous choice win over Jedrzejczyk, as a result of I couldn’t do it justice. For those who haven’t seen it already, appropriate your self instantly. It’s on UFC Battle Move, it’s on ESPN+ – it’s someplace on the web. Go discover it and embrace the brutality.

There’s been another memorable affairs to this point this yr. Dustin Poirier vs. Dan Hooker and Josh Emmett vs. Shane Burgos provided comparable thrilling exchanges and grotesque moments (although nothing matches Jedrzejczyk’s hematoma), however what wasn’t there have been the championship stakes.

Weili vs. Jedrzejczyk would’ve been a wild battle underneath any circumstances, however the drama was additional heightened by the very fact just one aspect may stroll away with the title. It got here all the way down to the wire, too, and nobody knew the winner for sure when the choice was being learn.

It had all of the components you want and extra, and if two individuals are capable of produce a greater battle over the subsequent six months, then God assist these poor souls.

Honorable point out: Dustin Poirier vs. Dan Hooker at UFC on ESPN 12

Greatest submission: Aljamain Sterling vs. Cory Sandhagen at UFC 250

(Picture by Jeff Bottari, Zuffa LLC)

I don’t really feel significantly strongly about this class, if we’re being sincere. Primarily as a result of it’s fairly open to interpretation with no apparent selection. You may go along with Maurice Greene’s arm-triangle choke from backside over Gian Villante at UFC on ESPN 12 purely for the weirdness (I’m nonetheless attempting to determine how Villante tapped to that), however that was not some Bryce Mitchell Tornado end the place the extent of opponent doesn’t fairly matter.

Once more, my desire is to aspect with stakes when deciding these classes, and though it ended with the most typical submission approach within the sport, a rear-naked choke, I nonetheless have to offer it as much as the person Aljamain Sterling for completely washing Cory Sandhagen at UFC 250.

There have been variety of folks selecting Sandhagen to win the matchup that UFC president Dana White dubbed as a No. 1 contender battle at bantamweight. Even when Sterling was going to win, most consultants would’ve agreed it wouldn’t be an 88-second wipeout. Nobody had ever dealt with Sandhagen like Sterling did when he shortly established again place and completed the battle, and for that he deserves some reward.

Honorable point out: Diego Ferreira def. Anthony Pettis at UFC 246

Greatest knockout: Cody Garbrandt vs. Raphael Assuncao at UFC 250

Cody Garbrandt almost despatched Raphael Assuncao’s head into the bleachers and his physique by the octagon canvas with a sick knockout at UFC 250. Some ( you, Sean O’Malley) have labeled it sloppy and missing approach, however we all know that’s not not what it’s actually all about in MMA.

Knockouts from punches occur on a regular basis. It’s essentially the most routine method fights are completed when putting, however Garbrandt didn’t solely separate Assuncao from consciousness, he did it with one of many cooler wanting right-hand setups we’ve seen shortly.

Simply earlier than the second-round horn, Garbrandt threw a feint that acquired a response out of Assuncao. He dipped away then loaded up on the identical punch from one other hemisphere then planted it proper on Assuncao’s chin. The visible was fairly excellent.

Add within the backdrop to the battle, and Garbrandt has to triumph on this class. The previous UFC bantamweight champ got here in on a three-fight skid with everybody claiming he was performed, regardless of being solely 28. Assuncao is among the most traditionally troublesome opponents to complete at 135 kilos, and as almost two rounds had been accomplished, it appeared “No Love” would possibly want the total 15 minutes.

Then Garbrandt dropped the hammer, and unexpectedly he was a bantamweight contender once more. I’d name {that a} fairly crucial knockout from all views.

Honorable point out: Francis Ngannou def. Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC 249