The year 2021 produced tons of unforgettable fights that amazed audiences worldwide.
Watching these high-level fights might spark a question and make you ask, what was THE very best UFC fight of 2021?
The best UFC fight in 2021 was between Michael Chandler and Justin Gaethje during UFC 268. It was a back and fort war between two elite strikers of the Lightweight division. The main card opener looked like the actual main event.
Want to know what are the other best UFC fights of 2021? Dive deeper into this article to find out.
11. Jiri Prochazka vs Dominick Reyes at UFC Fight Night: Reyes vs. Prochazka
Jiri Prochazka faced Dominick Reyes for the vacant Light Heavyweight belt in UFC Fight Night held at the UFC Apex. It was a two-round, all-out war between the two. Unfortunately, Reyes found himself at the receiving end of a spinning elbow knockout.
The first round was a head-to-head battle between the two. Both fighters landed heavy counters and inside leg kicks. Reyes was even able to take Jiri down for a short time.
It was a back and forth brawl, but Reyes couldn’t find the perfect antidote for Prochaska’s unorthodox fighting style.
Entering the second round, Reyes and Prochazka look fresh and still ready to go. However, a noticeable redness on the face of Dominick is evident, showing the amount of damage he absorbed in the previous round.
As the second round progressed, Jiri continued to land stiff right hands; despite that, Reyes remained relentless. Blow after blow, Reyes’ red face became bloody, giving Jiri confidence to swarm him with strikes coming from everywhere.
Prochazka landed a perfectly-timed spinning elbow to the temple that shut the lights off for Reyes. An upset for most of the fans considering how Reyes performed during his Jon Jones fight.
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10. TJ Dillashaw vs Cory Sandhagen at UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs. Dillashaw
UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs. Dillashaw has a controversial split decision win in favor of the former Bantamweight champion, Dillashaw. Both fighters gave it their all, but TJ was the busier fighter in the judges’ eyes.
Dillashaw and Sandhagen didn’t waste any time as they tested each other to the limits in the first round. Cory even attempted to land his famous flying knee that slept, Franky Edgar.
TJ answers with a high volume of takedown attempts, but Cory does a good job rolling to counter it. Sandhagen locked a high heel hook that hurt the knee of TJ; luckily, he was saved by the bell.
In round two, Sandhagen’s striking fitness shined. Despite Dillashaw’s vision being compromised, he continued to press forward and rack up some points. He landed various strikes, from his flying knee to perfectly-timed counter shots that opened a deep cut at TJ’s right eyebrow.
Rounds three to five remained the same regarding the fighting intensity. Both fighters refused to back down. However, TJ converted many takedown attempts that allowed him to have ground control for a considerable time.
The fight ended with a fresh-looking Sandhagen and Dillashaw with a bloody faces. Despite that, TJ managed to snatch a split decision victory over his opponent.
9. Sean O’Malley Vs. Kris Moutinho at UFC 264
Sean O’Malley faced Kris Moutinho at UFC 264, headed by McGregor and Poirer. Just like in his last fights, Sean rained punches on his opponent. However, the people were shocked by how tough Kris’s chin and heart were.
The first round started with an immediate brawl. Both fighters are going after each other, especially Kris; due to his reach disadvantage, he does need to close the distance.
Sean did a great job at utilizing his long jab to keep his opponent away. At the end of the round, O’Malley scored a brutal knockdown immediately followed by a guillotine attempt; but the bell saved Kris.
Both fighters entered the second round hungry for more action. Again, O’Malley continued to take advantage of his reach, footwork, and speed to land some kicks and punches that wore down Moutinho. Kris continued to press forward while at the same time talking trash to Sean.
The third round was going well for Moutinho; he was finding his rhythm and successfully closing the distance to land some powerful shots. Everything changed when Sean landed various combinations that wobbled Kris.
One final time, O’Malley landed a sick seven-punch combo right on the chin that made Herb Dean stop the fight despite Kris still standing. This stoppage earned a lot of boos from the crowned.
8. Cannonier Vs. Gastelum at UFC Fight Night: Cannonier Vs. Gastelum
Jared “The Killa Gorilla” Cannonier went head-to-head with Kelvin Gastelum to be one step closer to the Middleweight title fight. It was a back and forth war between the two, rocking each other. But Jared exited the octagon victorious.
The opening round can be described as a round where both fighters observed each other’s movements. Many tactical faints and jabs are thrown to find a power shot opening or measure the distance.
The second round is where the action started. Kelvin became busier with some heavy combinations matched with some switch stances. In the middle of the game, Kelvin managed to land a crisp one-two that rocked Jared.
Despite that, Cannonier stayed calm and collected throughout the entire fight. He didn’t let that second-round loss affect him; instead, he returned stronger in the third to the following rounds. Jared even scored a knockdown that could’ve ended Gastelum’s night.
In the end, Cannonier won the judges’ hearts and went home with a decisive win via unanimous decision.
7. Edson Barboza Vs. Shane Burgos at UFC 262
Edson Barboza fought Shane Burgos at UFC 262, headed by Oliveira and Chandler. This fight showcased one of the creepiest knockouts that a UFC fan can see inside the octagon.
Round one was all about Barboza throwing all the calf kicks available in the world while Burgos was working his way in with some vicious body shots that seemed to hurt his opponent.
Burgos looks exceptional in the first round silencing Barboza with his high-level Boxing skills. Despite that, Barboza could still inflict much damage on Burgos.
Edson started to dominate the whole second round as soon as it started. Burgos was still throwing punches but the volume compared to what Edson’s giving out is far from close. Barboza suddenly mixed his kicks with slick punch combos that were left unanswered by Shane.
Barboza entered the third round confident with what he’s done in the previous round. Burgos looks relentless while still putting pressure to the aggressive Barboza.
Edson landed a quick jab followed by a hook to the forehead. Everyone thought that Shane ate those strikes well, but suddenly he started to back away without consciousness, leaving everyone confused about the delayed KO.
6. Petr Yan Vs. Cory Sandhagen at UFC 267
Yan and Sandhagen had a co-main event war at the UFC 267. A close battle of damage dealers for the interim UFC Bantamweight belt. As the war ends, Yan’s arms are raised with the interim belt on his waist.
This co-main event is the main event for striking fans. Both fighters mix it up with unpredictable jabs, straights, spinning back fists, and knees. However, Yan’s touching Sandhagen more.
In the next round, Cory changed his game plan and started changing levels. Unfortunately, Petr successfully defended these takedown attempts, which allowed him to land more shots and rack up some points.
The fight nearly ended in the third round as Cory found himself at the receiving end of a spinning back fist. The backlist wobbled Cory to a knockdown. Petr then proceeds to finish the fight with vicious ground and pound; however, Cory showed the heart of a champion and lived to survive another round.
Same story with rounds four and five. Cory pursued the takedown attempts and continued to fail badly, while Petr kept his hands busy dealing the most damage he could to Sandhagen. In the end, Petr won via unanimous decision.
5. Holloway Vs. Rodriguez at UFC Fight Night: Holloway Vs. Rodriguez
Max “Blessed” Holloway went toe-to-toe with Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez to be a step closer to the UFC featherweight gold. An elite puncher vs. an elite kicker equals a total war.
After destroying Kalvin Kattar, Max Holloway entered the octagon oozing with confidence. Max said he wanted to repeat his impressive record or beat it with this fight. Little does he know, Yair wouldn’t let him do it quickly.
Round one immediately started with a blast as both fighters already gave it their all. Max did his high-level Boxing as usual; shockingly, Rodriguez could answer with his own Boxing combined with his signature Taekwondo kicks.
The second round was all about calf kicks of Yair. Leg kick after leg kick, Max’s inner calves have shown evidence of swelling. Despite that, the former champ remained relentless and continued putting pressure on the young Rodriguez.
Third Round, Max landed a well-timed flying knee that hurt Yair. The striking war between the two continued for two more rounds. The fight ended with the two looking like they could still fight for ten more rounds together.
Holloway went home with a unanimous decision win, while Yair took a ton of respect for his extraordinary performance against the former featherweight champion.
4. Volkanovski Vs. Ortega at UFC 266
Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski defends the Featherweight gold against one of his toughest challengers, Brian “T-City” Ortega. This title defense showcased how great Alexander was as a champion.
The champ dominated rounds one, two, four, and five with his superb striking skills that seemed to shock Ortega. This assertion of dominance allowed Volkanovski to defend his belt via unanimous decision. Judges scored the fight 49-46, 50-45, and 50-44, all in favor of Alexander.
It is in the third round where Ortega shined the most. He knocked the champion down with a kick catch followed by a solid left hand. Brian immediately locked in a guillotine choke everyone thought was the end for the champ.
Volkanovski escaped the guillotine and proceeded to control the ground. The crowd goes wild when Ortega attempts another submission, a triangle choke. It was tight, but the champ did what a champion does. He escaped and continued to dominate the fractions of the fight.
3. Chandler Vs. Oliveira at UFC 262
Bellator Lightweight champion Michael Chandler makes his first title shot in the UFC. He will be faced by Charles Oliveira, the best finisher in the history of UFC. This shows how quickly a fight can change in just a matter of rounds.
“Iron” Michael Chandler nearly finished Oliveira in the first round with a scary knockdown. He followed up with a barrage of punches, but luckily, Charles managed to get a hold of Chandler in the bottom control until the bell rang.
Everyone taught that Chandler would dominate the fight with what he did in the start of the battle. The whole arena was left roaring with amazement as Oliveira fired a short left hook in the beginning of round 2 that put Michael on the canvas.
Unfortunately, Chandler did not survive the knockdown and lost the fight.
2. Holloway Vs. Kattar at UFC Fight Island 7
Max Holloway makes his fight island debut against Kalvin Kattar. Everyone expected this to be a good fight, but it exceeded all the people’s expectations.
Max Holloway obliterated Kalvin Kattar from the first minute of round one to the last second of the fifth. In this fight, UFC records that nobody would have thought to be reachable were born.
After this fight, Holloway got the record for the most strikes landed in one UFC bout, 447. On the other hand, Kattar has the record for the most strikes absorbed in one match(447).
This match is also the birthplace of Max’s famous line, “I’m the best boxer in the UFC, baby!”. He shouted this while looking at the commentators while simultaneously dodging punches from his opponent.
Max wins the most dominant unanimous decision that any UFC fan would ever watch.
1. Gaethje Vs. Chandler at UFC 268
Justin Gaethje went to war with Michael Chandler in UFC 268, headed by Usman and Covington. Their performance looked like the actual main event. Eventually, their colossal match-up became the UFC fight of the year.
Gathje and Chandler are set to start up the main card of UFC 268. During the pre-fight press con, both fighters promised to stand in front of each other and deliver an entertaining fight, and oh boy, they did it.
Once the first round bell rang, both fighters immediately launched bombs at each other recklessly. No jab setups; everything’s a haymaker until the last second of the third and final round.
Chandler managed to wobble Justin in the first round, but Gaethje landed a clean uppercut while backing up that also wobbled Chandler. Justin knocked Michael down in the second round with another crisp uppercut right on the chin.
Chandler survived the knockdown, and both fighters continued to beat the living hell out of each other. In the end, Gaethje won via unanimous decision.
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Joe Bloom is the lead author and editor of MMA Hive. Joe has been a passionate mixed martial artist in training since 2019, having studied Boxing and Muay Thai at BaliMMA and Soma Fight Club, as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with RitualsJJ.