Skip to main content
Athletes

The 10: Top UFC Fight Island Performances

Look back at top ten performances on UFC Fight Island so far.
The 10 Best Finishes from Fight Island...So Far
The 10 Best Finishes from Fight Island...So Far
/

Last year, as the coronavirus pandemic began ramping up, prompting a pause in sports around the globe, UFC President Dana White announced that he was securing an island as part of the company’s plans for resuming events.

Fight Island in Abu Dhabi was soon turned into a “UFC bubble” that allowed the company to test and quarantine fighters and host numerous events over the summer. Everything went so well, the company embarked on a five-week return in the fall, culminating with a memorable lightweight championship clash.

In total, the UFC delivered nine events in Abu Dhabi in 2020, and as the attention of the MMA world shifts back to Fight Island for the start of the 2021 UFC campaign, we thought it’d be a good time to look back at some of the incredible performances that occurred there last year.

This is The 10: Top Fight Island Performances.

Watch UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs Kattar For Free On ABC At 3pm/12pm ETPT

Alexander Volkanovski def. Max Holloway by split decision to retain the UFC featherweight title (UFC 251, July 11)

Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway face off prior to their UFC featherweight championship fight during the UFC 251 event at Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 12, 2020 on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway face off prior to their UFC featherweight championship fight during the UFC 251 event at Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 12, 2020 on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa L

Though it didn’t have the sudden momentum shifts and palpable tension of some of the other top fights of the last 12 months, the rematch between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway was even closer than their first encounter, which was a hotly debated decision in its own right.

After going back-and-forth for 25 minutes in their first go-round, the Australian champion and Hawaiian challenger engaged in another dogged battle drawn out over the full five rounds in the sequel, prompting numerous re-watches, countless debates, and even calls for a third consecutive bout, even though Volkanovski once again earned the nod and now holds a 2-0 edge in their championship series.

(Watch Volkanovski Vs Holloway 2 On UFC Fight Pass)

This was a fight that really makes you appreciate the little things and the minute details that can determine the outcome a fight: a low kick here, a quick counter combination inside there, the consistent volume and pace of each man, the divergent emotions washing over their faces as the verdict was announced.

The mark of a great fight and tremendous rivalry is if you would happily sit down and watch the two combatants spend the next five years of their careers only battling each other, and in the case of Volkanovski and Holloway, I know that I would without hesitation… though I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what each of them has to offer up against different opponents in 2021 as well.

Ariane Lipski submits Luana Carolina by submission (UFC Fight Island 2, July 19)

Ariane Lipski of celebrates after her victory over Luana Carolina of Brazil in their flyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 19, 2020 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Ariane Lipski of celebrates after her victory over Luana Carolina of Brazil in their flyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 19, 2020 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bot

Watch enough fights and you can develop a little bit of an ability to see things that are about to happen before they actually happen; not in some Mystic Mac, “I predict these things” kind of way, but rather you get a sense for what can come from different movements and positions.

This was one of those times.

The women landed on the canvas early in the fight, with Lipski chasing Carolina to the deck after stinging her with a body shot. As she stood up and looked to pass the legs, Carolina threatened with a leg lock and took Lipski’s back, resulting in a quick scramble where the “Queen of Violence” ended up sitting on Carolina’s stomach with their legs interlocked.

(Watch Lipski's Kneebar Victory On UFC Fight Pass)

As soon as Lipski began to untangle their lower limbs, you could see what was coming: Carolina’s leg was in a perfect position to be grabbed, pulled, and torqued in a nasty way and that’s exactly what happened.

Carolina cried out as soon as Lipski leaned back, bending her knee at an angle it’s not supposed to reach, bringing the fight to a halt and giving the emerging flyweight contender the top submission finish of 2020.

Deiveson Figueiredo submits Joseph Benavidez by rear-naked choke (UFC Fight Island 2)

Fight Island 2: Deiveson Figueiredo Post-Fight Interview
Fight Island 2: Deiveson Figueiredo Post-Fight Interview
/

Nothing went right for Figueiredo in his first championship encounter with Benavidez at the end of February in Norfolk, Virginia.

First, the Brazilian missed weight, wiping out his opportunity to claim the vacant flyweight title before he’d even set foot in the Octagon. Then, in the middle of the second round, as he was starting to have success on the feet, the two clashed heads, opening a cut in Benavidez’ hairline that sent blood streaming down his face, towards his eyes.

It was as the perennial contender and fan favorite was pawing away the claret that Figueiredo uncorked a sniper-like right hand that put Benavidez on the canvas. Precision follow-ups quickly brought the bout to a halt, but the outcome felt unsatisfying and necessitated an immediate rematch between the two.

(Watch Figueiredo Claim The Flyweight Title On UFC Fight Pass)

When they ventured to Fight Island for the sequel, Figueiredo made sure there was no way to question who the top man in the flyweight division was.

He made championship weight without issue and wobbled Benavidez with one of the first real punches he threw. From that point forward, it felt like everyone was waiting for the next impactful blow to land and give the Brazilian an opportunity to wrap things up. It happened late in the round, and after initially attacking with ground-and-pound, Figueiredo slipped to Benavidez’ back and sunk in the fight-ending rear-naked choke.

This was one of the best individual performances of the year on Fight Island.

Khamzat Chimaev def. Rhys McKee by TKO (UFC Fight Island 3, July 25)

UFC Fight Island 3: Khamzat Chimaev Post-fight Interview
UFC Fight Island 3: Khamzat Chimaev Post-fight Interview
/

Khamzat Chimaev talks about getting his second win in 10 days on Fight Island.


While he burst onto the scene 10 days earlier with a dominant victory over John Phillips at middleweight, Chimaev’s best effort of the summer was his absolute demolition of McKee in his sophomore appearance inside the Octagon.

Chimaev pitched a shutout, stopping the newcomer from Northern Ireland inside the first round without getting hit.

(Watch Chimaev Earn His Second Victory In Just 10 Days On UFC Fight Pass)

Let me say that again: Chimaev got in a fistfight with another human being and didn’t get hit. Instead, he spent three minutes and nine seconds beating McKee up, tossing him around the cage and pummeling him non-stop until the referee had no choice but to make him stop.

The breakout star of the first foray to Fight Island, Chimaev got the whole MMA world buzzing with his twin victories 10 days apart, and enters this year with a ton of momentum and plenty of people waiting to see what he does next.

Don't Miss Out On Poirier Vs. McGregor 2

Jan Blachowicz def. Dominick Reyes by TKO (UFC 253, September 26)

Jan Blachowicz punches Dominick Reyes in their light heavyweight championship bout during UFC 253 inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on September 27, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
Jan Blachowicz punches Dominick Reyes in their light heavyweight championship bout during UFC 253 inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on September 27, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

The silver medalist in the Fighter of the Year race, Blachowicz capped off the biggest year of his professional career with an incredible showing on Fight Island, stopping Dominick Reyes late in the second round to claim the vacant UFC light heavyweight title.

After stumbling out of the gates in his UFC career, the Polish veteran started to find his groove towards the end of 2017 and flashed some of that “Legendary Polish Power” in his second-round stoppage win over former middleweight champ Luke Rockhold at UFC 239 just under two years later. He flashed it again against Corey Anderson in February and promised to show it against Reyes once they stepped into the Octagon, and he did just that.

(Watch Blachowicz Secure The Light Heavyweight Title On UFC Fight Pass)

Look at any of the pictures of Blachowicz from the time he’s standing in the center of the UFC cage waiting for the official decision to be announced through to when he exits the Octagon and you’ll see just how much joy and satisfaction this performance brought the 37-year-old veteran.

Though not the kind of “one shot, one kill” blow that often wins Knockout of the Year, this was an impressive finish and outstanding performance, nonetheless.

Israel Adesanya def. Paulo Costa by TKO (UFC 253)

Israel Adesanya punches Paulo Costa in their middleweight championship bout during UFC 253 inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on September 27, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
Israel Adesanya punches Paulo Costa in their middleweight championship bout during UFC 253 inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on September 27, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

“The Last Stylebender” made this one look easy, just as he told us he would.

What really stands out to me about this performance is how the finish came from the first instance where Adesanya had a real opportunity to put Costa away. There were a couple points earlier in the contest where he landed clear and had the Brazilian challenger backing up, looking for a little time and space, but none that were obvious instances where he could unload his clip and end things.

But when Costa reached out with a lazy jab midway through the second, Adesanya pounced.

(Watch Adesanya Defend His Middleweight Throne On UFC Fight Pass)

Right to the temple, left to the chin on the way down.

He saw an opportunity and capitalized, making good on his promise to finish Costa and do so without much trouble.

Joaquin Buckley def. Impa Kasanganay by KO (UFC Fight Island 5, October 10)

Joaquin Buckley: The Kick Heard Around The World
Joaquin Buckley: The Kick Heard Around The World
/

This wasn’t just one of the best performances from Fight Island or the top knockout of the year: this is one of the absolute best knockouts of all-time.

This was the kind of thing you conjure up in your head when you’re a little kid doing karate moves on imaginary attackers in the backyard.

It’s the kind of thing that you whip up with the right combination of joystick moves and button mashing on fighting games like Tekken and Street Fighter.

(Watch Buckley's Knockout Of The Year Performance On UFC Fight Pass)

It’s the kind of thing you see in a movie or television show that makes you say, “That would never happen!” out loud because it’s just not the kind of kick you ever expect to see landed inside the Octagon.

But Buckley landed it perfectly, freezing Kasanganay in place momentarily before he fell to the ground. As incredible as it was — and it was completely bonkers — the fact that Buckley thought to throw the kick and actually pulled the trigger deserves some acknowledgement too, because coming up with this on the fly, in the heat of battle, and rolling the dice was pretty dang impressive, too.

RELATED: Best Finishes On UFC Fight Island So Far

Jessica Andrade def. Katlyn Chookagian by TKO (UFC Fight Island 6, October 17)

Jessica Andrade delivers a stunner on Chookagian to secure victory | UFC Fight Island 6
Jessica Andrade delivers a stunner on Chookagian to secure victory | UFC Fight Island 6
/

Earlier in the summer, Andrade ventured to Fight island for a rematch with Rose Namajunas, whom she’d beaten for the strawweight title 14 months earlier. After falling behind early, the former champion rallied down the stretch, only to fall short on the scorecards.

The Brazilian powerhouse opted to move up to flyweight and was paired with Chookagian, a perennial contender and recent title challenger, in her divisional debut. It was the kind of booking that would provide an immediate indication of where Andrade fit within the division and the diminutive dynamo made it emphatically clear that she was a serious title threat in less than a full round.

(Watch Andrade Defeat Chookagian On UFC Fight Pass)

Throughout the opening stanza, Andrade deployed her trademark marauding style, pressing forward behind heavy combinations, working the body routinely, and taking whatever Chookagian offered in return while never really taking a backwards step.

Clinched along the cage late in the round, Andrade dug a right hand into Chookagian’s midsection that made the “Blonde Fighter” retreat in pain, prompting the Brazilian to chase her down. Another right hook to the body put Chookagian down for good, elevating Andrade to the top of the list of contenders in the 125-pound weight class.

Brian Ortega def. Chan Sung Jung by unanimous decision (UFC Fight Island 6)

Brian Ortega punches ‘The Korean Zombie’ Chan Sung Jung in their featherweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on October 18, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
Brian Ortega punches ‘The Korean Zombie’ Chan Sung Jung in their featherweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on October 18, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

You might balk at the idea of a fight where all five rounds were scored 10-9 in favor of the winner landing on this list, but if you watched this featherweight main event, you understand.

This was Ortega’s first fight since his loss to Max Holloway at UFC 231, as injuries and delays kept the L.A. original on the sidelines for nearly two years. It was his return after tasting defeat for the first time, and his first bout since stripping his team and himself down to the studs and rebuilding something new.

When he walked into the Octagon, he looked like a new man — the flowing locks twisted into braided designs he’d become known for replaced by a freshly shorn head and steely intensity. Stylistically, he was a different fighter as well.

(Watch Ortega's Triumphant Return On UFC Fight Pass)

Ortega decisively and effortlessly outboxing “The Korean Zombie” wasn’t something many people thought would happen, but that’s exactly how this one played out. At every turn, “T-City” was quicker, sharper, cleaner, working at a steady pace that kept Jung from ever really finding a rhythm or having any kind of prolonged period of success.

When a fighter suffers a lopsided loss like the one Ortega did at the hands of Holloway, I’m always curious to know how they’re going to respond. In his case, that drubbing was his first professional loss, so the experience of losing was completely foreign to him as well, which only upped the intrigue.

Against Jung, the ultra-talented 29-year-old showed that not only were there no ill effects of his first loss, but that he was ready to challenge for championship gold once again.

Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Justin Gaethje by submission (UFC 254, October 24)

UFC 254: Khabib Nurmagomedov Octagon Interview
UFC 254: Khabib Nurmagomedov Octagon Interview
/

There was a moment late in the first round of this fight that really accentuates just what a different level Nurmagomedov is on compared to his contemporaries, especially on the canvas. It’s easy to miss, but after finally dragging Gaethje to the ground, the lightweight champion moves in sequence with Daniel Cormier’s commentary, slipping his leg between the challenger’s knees and climbing into mount effortlessly.

You just don’t do that kind of stuff — not against high-level competition; not when everyone knows the ground is where you’re best; not 15 seconds after finally dragging an elite fighter like Gaethje to the ground in the waning moments of the first of five rounds.

That sequence became a precursor to what followed, as Nurmagomedov quickly brought the fight back to the canvas in the second, quickly transitioning to mount again before locking up a mounted triangle choke that put Gaethje to sleep.

(Watch Nurmagomedov Improve To 29-0 On UFC Fight Pass)

What followed was beautiful as well.

Nurmagomedov fell to his knees in the center of the cage, overcome with emotion after competing for the first time following the passing of his father. After getting the title wrapped around his waist, “The Eagle” announced he was walking away from the sport, hanging up his gloves with a perfect 29-0 record and a place in the pantheon of all-time greats.

 

Visit Abu Dhabi: http://www.abudhabievents.ae/