Fight Facts: UFC 2018, a Year in Review

By Jay Pettry Jan 13, 2019

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The Ultimate Fighting Championship enjoyed a monster year in 2018, with 39 events spread across 15 states and 11 countries. In this Fight Facts review, we chronicle the story of the UFC over the past 12 months, including incredible performances, guarantees, monumental upsets and more knockouts than ever before.

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Golden Years

ONE HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS: The UFC announced a landmark deal with ESPN starting in 2019 for five years and $1.5 billion. The deal calls for 42 events airing live in 2019, including 10 on ESPN networks and another 20 on the ESPN Plus streaming service. The remaining 12 events are presumed to air on pay-per-view, with preliminary bouts from those cards on ESPN or ESPN Plus.

THE OL’ SWITCHEROO: In a first for major promotions, the UFC and One Championship agreed to a “trade” for their top fighters in which the UFC would release former champion Demetrious Johnson in exchange for One releasing its welterweight champion, Ben Askren. Both sides kept their ends of the bargain, as Johnson is preparing for his entry into the One flyweight grand Prix and Askren is set to face Robbie Lawler at UFC 235 in March.

CUT THE CORD: Tony Ferguson was set to finally challenge Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 in Brooklyn, New York. Less than a week before the fight, Ferguson was forced to withdraw after injuring his knee when he tripped on a cable while preparing for media interviews. Featherweight champion Max Holloway was slated to replace him but could not get medically cleared, so the promotion pulled Al Iaquinta from his matchup with Paul Felder to make the lightweight title fight. As Iaquinta came in two-tenths of a pound over the championship limit, he was ineligible to win the belt.

SO MUCH DRAMA: Two days before UFC 223 was set to begin, Conor McGregor and his team attacked a bus full of fighters competing at the event. As a result of the attack, two fighters were forced to pull out from injuries sustained after being struck by broken glass, and a third matchup was pulled because Artem Lobov was involved in the attack.

LAST YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT IT: One week prior to UFC 232, the organization relocated the event from Las Vegas to Inglewood, California, to allow for headliner Jon Jones to get licensed. It was not the first time the UFC had made such a move. In 1997, the UFC faced pressure in New York to get sanctioned, so it relocated UFC 12 to Dothan, Alabama, on extremely short notice.

THIRTY-NINE STEPS: The UFC put on 39 events in the calendar year -- the same number as 2017. This was the fewest number of events it put on since 2013. In 2019, it will likely be adding a few more dates to its schedule.

MEET INTERESTING, STIMULATING PEOPLE … AND FIGHT THEM: Prior to 2018, the UFC had never held events in Argentina, Chile or Russia. In the United States, the organization had not hosted an event in the state of Idaho. Including these new locations, the UFC has now appeared in 25 different countries and 38 states across America in its 25-year history.

I LIKE TO CALL IT LOST WAGES: The UFC went to no city more than once in 2018, other than Las Vegas. It made five trips to the “Fight Capital of the World.”

HAMMER TIME: While making the move from middleweight up to light heavyweight, Thiago Santos was the only fighter on the roster to compete five times in 2018. In that span, he went 4-1 with three knockouts. Seven other fighters competed four times, the same as previous year.

NOT JUST FOR SHOW: Santos and Israel Adesanya both notched four wins in 2018, as they tied one another as the winningest UFC fighters in 2018. Twelve other fighters each recorded three victories.

THERE IS GRACE IN DEFEAT: Five fighters ended the year with three losses inside the Octagon, tied for the most in 2018: Andrei Arlovski, Ben Saunders, Brandon Davis, Eryk Anders and Mark Hunt.

NO NO, NO, NO-NO NO NO NO NO …: No bouts were declared or overturned to no-contests, making 2018 the first year since 2010 to have zero bouts ruled as no-contests.

WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS: One fighter lost by disqualification in 2018. Hector Lombard landed multiple punches after the bell of the first round on C.B. Dollaway, rendering Dollaway unable to continue.

QUICK DRAW: Two fights ended as draws: Randa Markos-Marina Rodriguez at UFC Fight Night 137 and Lando Vannata-Matt Frevola at UFC 230. This is the fewest draws in a year since 2015, which also featured two.

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Knocks Me Off My Feet

KNOCK KNOCK: Seventy knockouts were scored in 2018, more than any other year in the history of the organization. The previous high came in 2017 with 63.

GOOOOOOAAAALLLL!: For only the second time in UFC history, a fighter won by soccer kick knockout. As Tim Williams was attempting to stand, Anders caught him flush with a kick to the head, putting him out in the third round at UFC Fight Night 135. The first took place at the first fight in the history of the UFC, as Gerard Gordeau obliterated Teila Tuli with soccer kicks at UFC 1.

THE KARATE KID: Lyoto Machida temporarily retired Vitor Belfort with a front kick knockout at UFC 224, scoring the only front kick knockout in the Octagon in 2018. Belfort is the only fighter to get knocked out multiple times by front kicks, and Machida is the only fighter to ever score multiple front kick knockouts.

JUST FOR KICKS: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos blasted Sean Strickland with a spinning wheel kick at UFC 224, picking up the only knockout of its type in 2018 and just the fourth in the history of the organization.

EYE FOR AN EYE: Cat Zingano suffered a technical knockout defeat due to injury at UFC 232, where she caught an inadvertent toe to the eye from Megan Anderson in a perfectly legal but unfortunate situation. Her injury TKO was the only one to take place inside the Octagon in 2018.

SLAMSGIVING: Two fighters were knocked out with slams this year: Humberto Bandenay by Gabriel Benitez and Jarred Brooks, who he knocked himself out while attempting to slam Jose Torres. It was the first year to feature multiple slam knockouts since 2001, when Tito Ortiz knocked out Evan Tanner with one and Matt Hughes did the same to Carlos Newton.

ONCE IN A GENERATION: In Sherdog’s 2018 “Knockout of the Year,” the dynamic Yair Rodriguez landed a stunning reverse elbow with one second left in his five-round battle with Chan Sung Jung at UFC Fight Night 139. This tied Demetrious Johnson’s armbar of Kyoji Horiguchi at UFC 186 in 2015 for the latest finish in UFC history. It did become the latest knockout in UFC history, breaking the record held by Cain Velasquez’s fifth-round slam knockout of Junior dos Santos, which took place at 3:09 of Round 5 at UFC 166 in 2013.

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Shimmy Tap

LONG LOST GRACIE: Charles Oliveira set the record for the most submission wins in UFC history when he submitted Christos Giagos by second-round rear-naked choke at UFC Fight Night 137. He then extended his own record less than three months later, picking up his 12th submission victory inside the Octagon by tapping Jim Miller with a first-round rear-naked choke at UFC on Fox 31.

SURPRISE, SURPRISE: The three most common submissions performed in 2018 were the rear-naked choke (39, or 42.9 percent), the guillotine choke (12, or 13.2 percent) and the armbar (eight, or 8.8 percent).

SUB THE UNSUBBABLE: Ryan Hall won Sherdog’s 2018 “Submission of the Year” after doing the unthinkable and submitting B.J. Penn by first-round heel hook. Penn had never been submitted in his 30-fight, 17-year career, despite suffering 12 other losses along the way.

ONE-OFFS: Seven different kinds of submissions were performed exactly once in 2018: an anaconda choke, an Ezekiel choke, a front choke, a kneebar, a neck crank, an omoplata and a straight armlock.

RAREST OF THE RARE: Alexey Oleynik pulled off the second Ezekiel choke in UFC history when he tapped out Junior Albini at UFC 224. Meanwhile, fellow heavyweight Adam Wieczorek performed the second omoplata submission in company history by tapping Arjan Bhullar at UFC on Fox 29.

STRETCH ACROSS THE SKY: Entering 2018, only one Suloev Stretch had ever occurred in the history of the UFC: Kenny Robertson submitted Brock Jardine with the maneuver at UFC 157 in 2013. Two were performed over the last 12 months, as Aljamain Sterling dispatched Cody Stamann and Zabit Magomedsharipov did the same to Davis, both at UFC 228.

MORE THAN A TECHNICALITY: Eleven fighters were put to sleep or otherwise stopped by the referee due to technical submission from chokes. The number was up significantly from 2017, which only featured five.

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We Are the Champions

TRULY THE DADDEST MAN ON THE PLANET: Daniel Cormier, the 2018 “Fighter of the Year”, cemented his legacy as an all-time great when he became the second simultaneous multiple-division champion. Already the light heavyweight champion, he moved up to heavyweight to knock out Stipe Miocic at UFC 226 and win that second belt. He also became the first fighter in UFC history to defend a belt after winning a second, as he submitted Derrick Lewis to retain the heavyweight crown at UFC 230.

NO MORE BOYS CLUB: Not to be outshined by Cormier, bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes became the first female fighter to hold two belts at the same time, as she smashed featherweight titleholder Cristiane Justino at UFC 232.

HEAVY IS THE TORSO THAT WEARS THE BELT: Three title fights took place at heavyweight in 2018, more than any other weight class. Miocic defended his belt against Francis Ngannou for a divisional record third time, only to lose it five months later to Cormier. “DC” then defended the belt against Lewis in November.

WE HAVEN’T GOT ALL DAY: Seven of the 12 weight classes inside the UFC only saw the belts on the line once in 2018. The only divisions with multiple title fights were at lightweight, welterweight, light heavyweight, heavyweight and women’s featherweight.

JONESING FOR HIS BELT: By demolishing Alexander Gustafsson for the vacant light heavyweight throne, Jones became only the second fighter in the history of the organization to win the championship three separate times in a weight class. He joined Randy Couture, who did so at heavyweight.

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They Work Hard for the Money

150 GS, BABY!: Five fighters -- Oliveira, Adesanya, Santos, Anthony Smith and Ronaldo Souza -- all earned three post-fight bonuses for their performances in 2018, more than any other fighter. Santos and Smith earned a “Fight of the Night” bonus for their bout at UFC Fight Night 125.

DOUBLE-DOUBLE: Two fighters earned double post-fight bonuses for their wins: Rodriguez for his thrilling elbow knockout of Jung and Holloway for his drubbing of Brian Ortega at UFC 231.

RECENCY BIAS: All 39 events awarded at least one post-fight bonus to a main card participant, compared to 2017, when three events awarded post-fight bonuses exclusively to preliminary card bouts.

MAKING IT UP AS THEY GO ALONG: At UFC Fight Night 136 in September, the “Fight of the Night” bonus was awarded to Petr Yan-Jin Soo Son, but Son missed weight so the promotion opted to award an additional “Performance of the Night” bonus instead of giving Yan the full $100,000. This differs from UFC 225 in June, when Robert Whittaker earned the full $100,000 bonus from “Fight of the Night” after Yoel Romero missed weight.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Twenty-five bonuses were handed out to main event bouts, accounting for about 20.5 percent of all bonuses. The number was lower than in 2017 (24.3 percent) but still the most for any position on a fight card. Half as many “Fight of the Night” bonuses were awarded to main events compared to 2017, when 12 were given out.

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You Better You Bet

CALLING FRED FLINTSTONE: According to odds from the 5dimes betting service, 289 betting favorites secured victories in 2018, compared to 149 underdogs; the remaining fights were pick-’ems. Compared to 2017, 11 fewer favorites won while 14 more underdogs sprang upsets.

COIN FLIP: Thirty-two bouts closed in 2018 with both fighters as betting favorites, far more than 2017, which only had 22.

WORLD-SHOCKING CONSEQUENCES: Paul Craig scored the biggest UFC betting upset of 2018 as a +550 underdog against the undefeated Magomed Ankalaev (-800). Craig pulled off a literal last-second triangle choke at UFC Fight Night 127 after being dominated for all three rounds. The next largest betting upset came when Mauricio Rua (+415) knocked out Tyson Pedro (-525) at UFC Fight Night 142. Taking the biggest betting upset in a title fight was Henry Cejudo (+375), who scored a controversial split decision victory over flyweight kingpin Johnson (-470) at UFC 227.

WELL, DUH: Securing the biggest betting lock of 2018 in the UFC was Livinha Souza at -1500, who made her Octagon debut at UFC Fight Night 137 against Alex Chambers at +1000. Souza handled her business in the form of an 81-second guillotine choke victory. The next biggest betting lock was Magomedsharipov (-1375), who not only defeated the +900 Davis but also pulled off an incredibly elusive Suloev Stretch submission to win. The third-greatest betting lock came when Anders (-1200) soccer kicked Tim Williams (+775).

CALLED IT: Nine fighters closed at -1000 or better, and all nine won their fights.

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Them Heavy People

NOT SO TRUSTY .22: Twenty-two fighters missed weight in the UFC in 2018, but 13 of the 22 still won their bouts. The first seven fighters that missed weight all won their bouts, and the next five all suffered losses.

TIME TO MOVE UP: Yoel Romero was the only UFC fighter to miss weight multiple times in 2018, and doing so cost him greatly. He first missed weight for an interim middleweight title fight against Luke Rockhold, leaving him ineligible for the championship when he knocked out Rockhold. Four months later, he missed weight again before a title fight, this time against Robert Whittaker, who defeated Romero by split decision.

WHAT IS YOUR DEAL?: Four fighters missed weight by five pounds or more, doubling the number from 2017.

TOUGH CUT: One fighter missed weight by seven pounds: Mackenzie Dern, who ended up submitting Amanda Bobby Cooper at UFC 224. Dern missed weight by more than any other fighter in the UFC in 2018.

WHAT ROTTEN LUCK: Desmond Green faced two fighters who missed weight by five pounds -- Michel Prazeres and Mairbek Taisumov -- and both defeated him by unanimous decision.

FOUR ON, FOUR OFF: Four fighters missed weight at lightweight, good for the most weight misses in a single weight class in the UFC. Prazeres, Taisumov, Kevin Lee and Michael Chiesa all missed their lightweight marks, but three of the four -- only Chiesa lost -- still won their bouts.

JUST CALLING IT HOW WE SEE IT: Across 402 men’s bouts, 16 fighters missed weight, for a weight miss percentage of about four percent. In women’s divisions, 72 bouts took place and six fighters missed weight, doubling the men’s percentage for about 8.3 percent.

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You’ve Got The Music In You

HEARD IT: Three songs were used six times across 2018, the most during the year: “God’s Plan” by Future, “Juicy” by Notorious B.I.G. and “O Hino” by Fernandinho.

THAT’S THE TICKET: One song celebrated five wins this year between Jussier da Silva and Charles Oliveira: “O Hino” by Fernandinho. Four other songs had four wins each to their credit: “Juicy,” “Gonna Fly Now” by Bill Conti, “Marretta Da CCD Para O Mundo” by MC Isaac Saradinho and “WIN” by Jay Rock.

THIS WAS NEVER YOUR PLAN: With five losses, “God’s Plan” by Future held the unfortunate distinction of suffering the most defeats in 2018. Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” and Puff Daddy’s “Victory” featuring Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes both earned four losses.

WINS & LOSSES: The most frequently used walkout artist in 2018 was Drake, who could be heard in 20 fights. Fighters who walked out to Drake went 11-9. Following Drake was Eminem, who was used 18 times, with a record barely above .500 at 9-8-1. With 16 uses came Notorious B.I.G., and fighters went a subpar 7-9 with Biggie. Kanye West came in fourth with 14 uses and a solid win-loss ratio of 9-5. In fifth was 50 Cent, who was used 13 times to great success, with fighters accompanied by the artist going 10-3.

STRUCK OUT: Fighters walked out to AC/DC 11 times in 2018, and their records reflected just two wins and nine defeats in those bouts. “Thunderstruck” in particular was heard on three separate occasions. All three were followed by losses.

YOU KNOW NOTHING: Three different fighters -- Alexis Davis, Gray Maynard and Carlos Condit -- each walked out once to “Know Your Enemy” by Rage Against the Machine, and all three lost.

THE HERO!: Marco Polo Reyes walked out to the theme song from the anime series “One Punch Man” at UFC Fight Night 124 and knocked out Humberto Bandenay in exactly one minute.

TOEJAM AND EYE: Making her walk to the cage with “All Eyez on Me” by 2Pac playing in the arena, Anderson defeated Zingano via eye-injury TKO.

Jay Pettry is an attorney and a statistician. Writing about MMA since he started studying the “Eminem Curse” in 2012, and writing for Vice Sports and Combat Docket along the way, he put together many fight result and entrance music databases to better study the sport. You can find him on Twitter at @jaypettry. Advertisement
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