After a tricky 2020 thanks to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 has been a genuinely excellent year for the UFC.
The UFC has put on some spectacular events during 2021 and many of these events have seen epic title fights headlining them.
So with a total of 18 UFC title fights having already taken place during 2021, which were the most memorable overall?
It’s difficult to decide, but after much hand-wringing, here are the five best UFC title fights of 2021.
#5. Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns – UFC 258
Reigning UFC welterweight kingpin Kamaru Usman was the only champion to defend his title on three occasions during 2021.
A violent knockout of Jorge Masvidal was almost definitely the best finish produced by ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’, but the best fight from Usman overall came at UFC 258 in his defense against Gilbert Burns. What made this fight more memorable than Usman’s other two title fights in 2021 was the fact that he had to dig deep in order to come away with the gold around his waist.
Burns, who was somewhat of an unheralded challenger despite beating Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley in 2020, did what Masvidal and Colby Covington couldn’t. He dropped Usman with a big right hand in the first round.
Usman looked to be on the verge of losing his grip on the title, but he somehow recovered, showing an amazing chin, and then began to work his way back into the fight by hammering Burns with his jab.
As the fight ticked on, it was clear that ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ was beginning to take control. Sure enough, early in the third round he landed a stiff jab that put ‘Durinho’ down.
Burns did his best to attempt to recover, but couldn’t get back to his feet and Usman didn’t let up until the fight was over.
Despite not being as highly anticipated as Usman vs. Masvidal 2 or Usman vs. Covington 2, this welterweight title bout proved to be an underrated classic and remains the closest that Usman has come to being unseated thus far.