2019 UFC Year in Review [Jan-Jun]

From Henry Cejudo becoming champ champ to Israel Adesanya’s headline debut, we review the first 6 months of 2019.

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The UFC’s 2019 kicked off with Conor McGregor in the news. Unfortunately for Dana White, it wasn’t for fighting… in the cage anyway.

Firstly, Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov accepted fines and suspensions for their post-fight brawl after the acrimonious main event at UFC 229. Shortly after that McGregor decided to smash an overly persistent fan’s phone and found himself charged with strong-arm robbery and criminal mischief.

McGregor decided to tweet his retirement again, saying “Hey guys quick announcement, I’ve decided to retire from the sport formally known as ‘Mixed Martial Art’ today”, and shortly after that, the New York Times named him as the person of interest that Dublin police had been investigating for sexual assault. It was a horror way to start 2019.

The first big fight story came by way of flyweight champion Henry Cejudo, who beat TJ Dillashaw as the Bantamweight champ tried to become a dual-division champion. All in only 32 seconds.

A head kick knockdown and a series of clean shots from the former Olympic gold medallist were enough for referee Kevin MacDonald to wave the fight off. But Dillashaw’s protests at an early stoppage were soon drowned out by the news that the former bantamweight legend had tested positive to an EPO and copped a two-year suspension.

Cejudo then jumped up to Dillashaw’s old division and stopped Marlon Moraes late in the third to capture the vacant bantamweight belt. "The Messenger" managed to fulfil Dillashaw’s dream and become the fourth champ champ in UFC history.

Fans got a glimpse of the future when middleweight champion Robert Whittaker suffered a near-fatal collapsed bowel and was rushed to hospital on the eve of defending his title against Kelvin Gastelum.

In his place, Israel Adesanya’s fight with Anderson Silva was promoted to the headline, and "The Last Stylebender" showed the Brazilian legend what it was like to face a charismatic counter striker with lightning reflexes.

Two months later Adesanya was back in the ring. At UFC 236 he dropped Kelvin Gastelum three times in the fifth to take the decision and the interim middleweight title.

In our fight of the year, both men put each other down and gave us five rounds of technical chaos. Gastelum almost finished the fight in the fourth, but Adesanya rallied with an absolutely savage 10-8 round 5. It was superb.

In the heavyweight division, Francis Ngannou welcomed Cain Velasquez back to the cage with a first-round knockout, before following that up with the same result against Junior Dos Santos to become the number one contender.

Unfortunately for the Cameroonian power puncher, the champ, Daniel Cormier, was out of action from that most classic of old man injuries.

I hurt my back in New York City when I sneezed. This was no joke and I’m still trying to rehab it.

Light heavy legend Jon Jones managed to stay controversial as he continued to try and prove he was clean by registering with VADA and introduced fight fans to the terms “picogram” and “pulsing”. Then, in his defence against divisional bolter Anthony Smith, he was deducted two points for clearly kneeing his opponent in the head while Smith was down. He was lucky to escape a DQ.

Dustin Poirier beat featherweight champ Max Holloway at UFC 236 to snare the interim lightweight title and an all-important shot at Khabib Nurmagomedov. Dustin landed bombs early and often and while Holloway survived, the move up in weight seemed to have sapped the power of the Hawaiian’s strikes. Poirier split Holloway’s face open and got the judges’ nod in a stone classic.

Jessica Andrade powered her way through Rose Namajunas’ pretty, pretty striking to take the women’s strawweight title with a slam KO at UFC 237 in Brazil.

And Valentina Schevchenko absolutely flattened Jessica Eye with an at once sickening, yet beautiful, head kick to make her first defence of the flyweight title at UFC 238.