MMATORCH YEAR END AWARDS: Rising Star of the Year

By Michael Hiscoe, Managing Editor

UFC 243
Nov 3, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Israel Adesanya (blue gloves) celebrates after beating Derek Brunson (red gloves) during UFC 230 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the latest of many MMATorch Awards for 2018. MMATorch staff have voted in a wide array of categories, with the top vote-getters receiving the awards. Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments or Tweet us @MMATorch. Be sure to check out our other awards thus far.

Rising Star of the Year

Rookie of the year awards are difficult to hand out in MMA. Most MMA rookies spend their early years on the regional circuit fighting on cards seen by few with varying degrees of visibility to the wider audience online. A strictly UFC Rookie of the Year awards is also tricky because fighters can make their UFC debuts and various points in their careers. Ben Askren will make his UFC debut in 2019 and he’s already been retired with an impressive career outside of the UFC. He could have a great year as a UFC rookie, but it wouldn’t be fair to call him that or award him as such.

This brings us to the Rising Star of the Year award. It can go to a fighter at any point in his or her career that simply increased their stock significantly from January to December. It could be a newcomer who made waves or a veteran who finally found his or her groove. This year’s award goes to a UFC newcomer who has impressed fans and finds himself at the cusp of a title shot after just a few fights with the promotion.

Winner: Israel Adesanya

Adesanya ran away with the voting in this category. The 15-0 fighter fought four times in 2018, all under the UFC banner. It started with an impressive stoppage of Rob Wilkinson in February, through a couple hard-fought decision wins through the spring and summer and he capped it off with a devastating knockout of Derek Brunson at UFC 230 in November. Adesanya took three performance of the night bonuses in four UFC fights and is without a doubt MMA’s rising star of 2018. 2019 looks promising as well, with an upcoming fight against Anderson Silva and a likely title shot to follow should he win.

Honorable Mention

  • Zabit Magomedshariopov
  • Aaron Pico
  • Al Iaquinta

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