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Best MMA Fighter 2021: Making Cases For The Candidates

Best MMA Fighter

Best MMA Fighter
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Making Cases For The Best MMA Fighter Of 2021

The ESPY’s award for best MMA Fighter started back in 2019 with its inaugural winner, Daniel Cormier. Last year there was no winner due to the pandemic, but it is back this year with a strong list of candidates. The final four is Rose Namajunas, Francis Ngannou, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Amanda Nunes. All four of these fighters are absolutely incredible and are/have been champions this year (Nurmagomedov is the “has been” since he retired this year). I will break down every fighter’s case for the Best MMA Fighter award for 2021 and tell you why they deserve it.

*The award is based on the body of work from June-May of each year. So the dates will be a little off, not a traditional January-December*

Rose Namajunas

Every time I hear the name Rose Namajunas, I get flashbacks to UFC 217, where she defeated Joanna Jedrzejcyk by KO. Daniel Cormier screaming “Thug Rose! Thug Rose!” was, without a doubt, an all-time moment and an all-time call. After a devastating KO loss at the hands of Jessica Andrade in May of 2019, Namajunas rebounded and avenged that loss in July of 2020 in a fantastic split decision win. That set her up for a title shot against what many considered to be one of the best fighters on the planet, Weili Zhang. Few people could have seen what was coming next: a flush head kick KO to win the belt in under 90 seconds. Namajunas is back on top of the women’s Strawweight division and she can be champion for as long as she wants after two wins during the judging period and a statement KO to win the belt.

Francis Ngannou

Francis Ngannou might be the scariest man alive. Fighters have often ducked “The Predator”, which might explain him only having four fights since 2019. But when that cage door shuts, you can expect Ngannou to knock someone’s block off and unfortunately for Stipe Miocic, that is exactly what happened in the rematch of their 2018 championship fight. 52 seconds into the second round, Ngannou caught Miocic and leveled him, winning his first UFC Heavyweight Championship. An all-time feel-good moment for sure, and with a new kingpin on top of the Heavyweight division, he is sure to be an instant draw no matter who he fights (but please, give us Ngannou/Jones next). Only one win during the judging period, but it is a KO win for a championship.

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Khabib Nurmagomedov

A rough year would be an understatement for Khabib Nurmagomedov. He lost his father in July of 2020 due to COVID complications. MMA fans know how much Khabib’s father meant to him and how close they were, and Khabib wanted to fulfill his father’s wishes by fighting one more time. His last fight, in October of 2020, saw Khabib go up against Justin Gaethje. Khabib finished the fight almost halfway into the second round, making Gaethje pass out with a Triangle Choke. He subsequently retired after the fight, telling the media he made a promise to his mother that he would not fight anymore without his father. Only one win in the judging period: a submission win to defend his Lightweight championship.

Amanda Nunes

You cannot convince me that Amanda Nunes is not the best MMA fighter alive. She is dominant in every aspect of the sport, and she flashes her brilliance in every fight. Her fight against Felicia Spencer in June of 2020 showed Nunes can grind out wins, but her March 2021 fight against Megan Anderson showed that she is a wizard on the mat and can throw submissions from anywhere, finishing Anderson in the first round with a Reverse Triangle Armbar. Nunes possesses dynamite in her hands, elite wrestling, and has wicked submissions in her arsenal and frankly, nobody can stop her. Two dominant wins during the judging period, a unanimous decision win, and a submission win.

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