So, here we are, rapidly approaching the fifth month of 2021 and when it comes to MMA action we haven’t been left wanting. We’re still less than half the way through the year, but UFC fans across the globe have been kept entertained and enthralled with some pretty spectacular and devastating wins and losses in the Octagon.
Much like we’ve seen in this month’s AEW Dynamite, there have been some stellar fights taking place in the Octagon. The UFC has pitted Poirier against McGregor, Adesanya against Blachowicz, Nunes against Anderson, and Barber against Grasso. But who among them and their peers were responsible for delivering the best fights of 2021 so far?
Let’s find out!
Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier (2) – UFC 257
The second instalment of the McGregor vs. Poirier saga really does belong on this list, purely for the fact that it proved Poirier to be worthy of the number-two lightweight contender position if nothing else.
The duo first met back in 2014, the outcome of which helped set the “Notorious” Irishman on his path of superstardom thanks to his 106-second victory.
It was a much different story this time around, however. Poirier has worked tirelessly to earn his way back into the contender zone, losing just two of the thirteen fights he’s had since that fateful night in September ‘14. McGregor meanwhile has gone in and out of retirement for a grand total of three times and hadn’t even stepped foot inside the octagon for a full calendar year before facing Poirier.
At exactly two minutes and 32 seconds into the second round, Poirier proved himself to be the better fighter after a flurry of strikes led the ref to step in and call a TKO victory for “The Diamond”.
Frankie Edgar vs Cory Sandhagen – UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs Volkov
Source: BT Sport
Edgar vs. Sandhagen was quite the fight to welcome the man dubbed “the UFC’s own Rocky” to the Bantamweight division. While the fight, unfortunately, resulted in another loss for MMA’s most tenacious underdog, Sandhagen nevertheless delivered one of the most brutal KO’s in the history of the promotion.
Just 28 seconds into the first round, Sandhagen launched a flying knee that knocked the veteran fighter out cold. As Sandhagen launched himself for the strike, Edgar ducked as though going for the takedown, but at that very moment Sandhagen’s knee landed square on Edgar’s chin.
Edgar, transparent about his performance as ever, was notably devastated about the loss in the post-match press conference. But he’s vowed to keep on fighting, stating that he’s “definitely not thinking of stopping. Not after this one”
Alistair Overeem vs. Alexander Volkov – UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs Volkov
Speaking of UFC Vegas 18 (Overeem vs Volkov), the title fight of the card also deserves a mention in this round-up.
This particular pairing was originally due to square up back in 2019 at St. Petersburg, so it was a long time coming for both fighters. Overeem would enter the fight riding a two-fight winning streak, while Volkov had a recent victory over Walt Harris last October. Despite Overeem’s seeming return to form, it was Volkov who shone that night.
Midway through the first round, “Drago” launched a barrage of ground and pound on a fallen Overeem, nullifying his ability to answer with anything more than single strikes. The second round followed a similar path, with Volkov dominating with his strikes. It wouldn’t be long before a heavy one-two combo would send Overeem to the canvas, leaving ref Jason Herzog to step in and name Volkov the winner.
Sadly, however, this was probably the last time Overeem would make a run for the Heavyweight title. A true veteran of the game, he’ll no doubt continue to take the fights that suit him and his schedule, but he’s likely out of the top five from here on out.
Amanda Nunes vs. Megan Anderson – UFC 259
It’s not just the male fighters on White’s roster that have been delivering the spectacle of first-round knockouts this year. Amanda The Lioness Nunes successfully defended her Featherweight title against Megan Anderson last month, launching her onto a twelve-fight winning streak.
Ferocious from the get-go, the double-belt holder overpowered the former Invicta FC champion with her relentless striking, before taking the fight to the ground. There, and at just over 2 minutes into the first round, she smoothly transitioned to an armbar after some vicious ground and pound, forcing the Aussie fighter to submit.
Nunes is now the only female fighter in the promotion to hold two simultaneous belts (Bantamweight and Featherweight) and with multiple successful title defences behind her, there aren’t that many opponents left that could pose a threat.