Best of MMA in August 2020: Huge upsets and legacy defining fights steal the show in UFC and Bellator

August was another month stacked with fight cards as MMA kept chugging along and making the best of it during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also a month that saw major shifts across divisions, huge upsets and prospects being brought back down to reality.

In total, the UFC held five events with Bellator MMA holding two of their own. Across those events, there were plenty of noteworthy moments featuring some of the best in the sport.

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest moments from a big month of battles in the cage.

A new era at light heavyweight

The largest single change to any division in August was Jon Jones’ decision to vacate the UFC light heavyweight championship and move to heavyweight. That move prompted Bellator light heavyweight and heavyweight champion Ryan Bader to claim he was now the best 205-pound fighter on the planet. He aimed to make his case at Bellator 244 when he put up his light heavyweight championship against Vadim Nemkov. Nemkov had other ideas, however, as he dominated the fight from the jump before landing a head kick to finish things off in the second round and make his own case for placement among light heavyweight’s best.

Aleksandar Rakic made his own moves in the division to close out the month, grinding out a win over former UFC title challenger Anthony Smith. In victory, Rakic moved himself up the rankings and closer to a shot at the winner of the vacant title fight between Jan Blachowicz and Dominick Reyes on Sept. 26.

A stunning upset

Shana Dobson entered her fight with Mariya Agapova as a more than +800 underdog for a reason. Dobson was 3-4 in her career and on a three-fight losing skid. Meanwhile, Agapova was 9-1, riding a three-fight winning streak and all but two of her wins came by submission or knockout. Agapova went too hard in the early going of their fight, gassed out and opened the door for Dobson. She stormed back before finishing the fight in the second round and scoring the biggest UFC upset since Holly Holm’s head kick KO of Ronda Rousey.

Miocic secures his legacy

Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier met for a third time at UFC 252, having split their previous meetings with each man scoring a knockout win. Neither would score a finish in the rubber match, but it was a back-and-forth tactical battle with both men having big moments, both receiving nasty eye pokes and eventually Miocic getting the win by decision. With the victory, he arguably locked down the title of the best heavyweight in UFC history. As for Cormier, he hung up his gloves for good after an amazing career.

More prospects go down

Prospects have been having a rough run of it lately. On Aug. 1, Edmen Shahbazyan came into the Octagon as a favorite against Derek Brunson, a rugged middleweight who had only lost to elite fighters in the UFC. Shahbazyan entered the cage 11-0, had looked like a force of nature and took out Brad Tavares in his most recent fight. However, Brunson was simply too much for the 22-year-old, riding out the early attacks of Shahbazyan before turning the tide and dominating the fight until a stoppage in Round 3.

Sean O’Malley had been positioned as the future of the bantamweight division, a striking phenom with seemingly limitless potential. He had looked incredible since coming back from a questionable failed drug test. Marlon Vera was, on paper, a stiff but passable test on the way to an eventual O’Malley title shot. Then, at UFC 252, O’Malley took a bad step, appeared to injure his leg and Vera pounced. Once O’Malley was on the canvas, Vera dropped bombs to score the upset victory.

Chandler heads into free agency with a bang

Fighting in the last bout of his Bellator contract, Michael Chandler was paired with Benson Henderson at Bellator 243 in a rematch of their highly competitive bout in 2016. Chandler delivered a big statement as he went into free agency with a knock out of Henderson in just over two minutes. Fans are now left to wait to see if Chandler will move on to the UFC’s deep lightweight division or remain as one of Bellator’s cornerstones.

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