If there was one thing to be grateful for in 2020, then it is all the spectacular moments brought to you by a number of up-and-coming talents in the UFC. In a year that may go down as one of the worst in modern day history, these men and women made the most of their appearances inside the Octagon and gave us plenty to talk about for years to come.
Although there are many fighters who certainly deserve recognition for their performances this year, UFC President Dana White says there are at least three that should be paid close attention to heading into 2021.
“Obviously, Khamzat [Chimaev],” said White to the SHOUT! The Buffalo Football Podcast. “What I love about the kid is that he wants to fight all the time. The guys that are as good as him and want to fight all the time, not everybody wants to fight him, so it’s tough to make fights.
You sprinkle some COVID on top of that and here we are. Everybody was asking about him this weekend why he pulled out of the fight. He got COVID. He’s a savage. He tried to get back in the gym and train through it, and I guess his lungs didn’t respond well, so the doctor wants him to take some time off before he trains again. He doesn’t even want him to start training until some time in January. So, you got him.”
Chimaev made his promotional debut on one of the first shows to take place on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi and announced his arrival with a submission over John Phillips at UFC on ESPN: Kattar vs. Ige. 10 days later, Chimaev would return and knock out Rhys McKee at UFC on ESPN: Whittaker vs. Till, picking up his second straight win as well as another ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus.
The momentum did not slow there as Chimaev fought again in September at UFC Fight Night: Covington vs. Woodley, where he knocked out Gerald Meerschaert in 17 seconds. The buzz around Chimaev only grew greater after this performance and there was talk of him blitzing his way to the top of the welterweight division sooner than expected. Unfortunately, as White mentioned, Chimaev will be on the sidelines for a bit as he recovers from complications stemming from his COVID-19 infection.
Sticking with the middleweight division, White gave the names of the other two breakout stars of the year.
“Kevin Holland,” said White. “Another guy like Chimaev [who] wants to fight all the time. The kid went 5-0 in 2020. He’s fun. He’s exciting. Good looking kid. And then another one would be Joaquin Buckley, who had in 2020 — not in 2020, but ever — the most viral win ever in UFC history with that knockout that he had.”
Both Holland and Buckley put their names on the map with unbelievable knockouts over their opponents this year. Holland recently knocked out Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza off of his back in the first round of their fight at UFC 256. Buckley stunned the world with his video game-esque spinning back kick knockout over Impa Kasanganay at UFC Fight Night: Moraes vs. Sandhagen in October.
White gives credit to those men and touts the discovery of much more talent like them by way of Contender Series.
“So, I mean those are just three. We’re putting together this piece right now for the Contender Series and the amount of talent that is coming off that show is phenomenal. That’s just three guys out of many.”