UFC PICTURE SPECIAL 2021: The best photos from the Octagon this year

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The UFC has enjoyed another barnstorming year.

Superstar names like Conor McGregor, Nate Diaz and Nick Diaz have made dramatic returns, nine new champions have been crowned and there has been no shortage of drama inside and outside of the Octagon over the past 12 months.

They say a picture paints a thousand words and the UFC has delivered stunning images this year. 

From McGregor suffering back-to-back defeats against Dustin Poirier to Julianna Pena delivering one of the biggest upsets in the sport’s history, Sportsmail takes you through some of the best shots of 2021 in chronological order. 

JANUARY

Max Holloway continued his title charge with a boxing masterclass against Calvin Kattar in which, mid-fight, he exclaimed ‘I am the best boxer in the UFC’.

Meanwhile, Conor McGregor failed to tempt Khabib Nurmagomedov into coming out of retirement after suffering his first career knockout defeat against Dustin Poirier on Fight Island. 

Former Bellator champion Michael Chandler made a big statement on debut against Dan Hooker in the lightweight divsion.  

Max Holloway put on a boxing masterclass to defeat rival Calvin Kattar in January. He was heard saying 'I am the best boxer'

Max Holloway put on a boxing masterclass to defeat rival Calvin Kattar in January. He was heard saying ‘I am the best boxer’

Dustin Poirier points at lightweight foe Conor McGregor after landing a counter hook during their clash on Fight Island

Dustin Poirier points at lightweight foe Conor McGregor after landing a counter hook during their clash on Fight Island

McGregor is left bundled on the mat and is watched over by Herb Dean as Poirier rejoices in his win at UFC 257 this year

McGregor is left bundled on the mat and is watched over by Herb Dean as Poirier rejoices in his win at UFC 257 this year

Michael Chandler made a spectacular arrival in the UFC and celebrated his victory over Dan Hooker in stunning style

Michael Chandler made a spectacular arrival in the UFC and celebrated his victory over Dan Hooker in stunning style

FEBRUARY

Kamaru Usman made his first of three Octagon appearances as he swept aside Gilbert Burns to defend his welterweight crown.

Corey Sandhagen delivered a gruesome knockout of UFC veteran Frankie Edgar with a flying knee, while Polyana Viana showed her grappling prowess against Mallory Martin.  

Cory Sandhagen continued his march up the bantamweight division with a flying knee knockout win over Frankie Edgar

Cory Sandhagen continued his march up the bantamweight division with a flying knee knockout win over Frankie Edgar

Polyana Viana successfully submits Mallory Martin via armbar at UFC 258 to register back-to-back wins inside the Octagon

Polyana Viana successfully submits Mallory Martin via armbar at UFC 258 to register back-to-back wins inside the Octagon

Kamaru Usman's sensational 2021 kicked off in style with a knockout victory over welterweight title challenger Gilbert Burns

Kamaru Usman’s sensational 2021 kicked off in style with a knockout victory over welterweight title challenger Gilbert Burns

The Nigerian Nightmare linked up with decorated coach Trevor Wittman and his striking went up a level throughout the year

The Nigerian Nightmare linked up with decorated coach Trevor Wittman and his striking went up a level throughout the year

MARCH

March started off in controversial fashion after Petr Yan lost his bantamweight title to Aljamain Sterling. 

The Russian was disqualified after illegally kneeing the Jamaican while he was down. Sterling’s inability to continue was the source of widespread debate among fans.

Israel Adesanya’s tilt at the light heavyweight crown did not go according to plan while Francis Ngannou exacted revenge on Stipe Miocic to win the heavyweight title. 

There was controversy in the bantamweight division during Petr Yan's defence of his title against Aljamain Sterling

There was controversy in the bantamweight division during Petr Yan’s defence of his title against Aljamain Sterling

The Russian illegally kneed his rival while he was down, and watches on as the fight is paused to assess the Jamaican

The Russian illegally kneed his rival while he was down, and watches on as the fight is paused to assess the Jamaican

Yan was disqualified from the contest, meaning Sterling was crowned new bantamweight champion in controversial fashion

Yan was disqualified from the contest, meaning Sterling was crowned new bantamweight champion in controversial fashion

Isreal Adesanya shot for the stars but was dealt a reality check during his light heavyweight title fight with Jan Blachowicz

Isreal Adesanya shot for the stars but was dealt a reality check during his light heavyweight title fight with Jan Blachowicz

Francis Ngannou attempted to make it second time lucky in his tilt at the heavyweight title against champion Stipe Miocic

Francis Ngannou attempted to make it second time lucky in his tilt at the heavyweight title against champion Stipe Miocic

Ngannou connected with a huge right hand that felled Miocic and the finish line was in sight for the heavyweight powerhouse

Ngannou connected with a huge right hand that felled Miocic and the finish line was in sight for the heavyweight powerhouse

The Cameroonian did not falter against Miocic in March, with the American unable to contain the title challenger in Vegas

The Cameroonian poses with his new heavyweight title but he went on to endure a frustrating year out of UFC action

The Cameroonian poses with his new heavyweight title but he went on to endure a frustrating year out of UFC action

APRIL

Jake Paul threatened to steal the show at UFC 261 after squaring up to legend and commentator Daniel Cormier, but Usman delivered a Knockout of the Year contender with a crunching right hand that felled Jorge Masvidal.

Chris Weidman suffered a horror leg break while Rose Namajunas returned to the strawweight summit.  

2021 was the year Jake Paul wreaked havoc on the UFC and at UFC 261, legend Daniel Cormier squared up to the YouTuber

2021 was the year Jake Paul wreaked havoc on the UFC and at UFC 261, legend Daniel Cormier squared up to the YouTuber

Usman returned to action at UFC 261 and silenced arch rival Jorge Masvial with a Knockout of the Year contender

Usman returned to action at UFC 261 and silenced arch rival Jorge Masvial with a Knockout of the Year contender

The welterweight champion celebrates with the Jacksonville crowd while referee Herb Dean attended to Gamebred

The welterweight champion celebrates with the Jacksonville crowd while referee Herb Dean attended to Gamebred

Chris Weidman (right) suffered one of the most gruesome injuries of the year after breaking his leg against Uriah Hall (left)

Chris Weidman (right) suffered one of the most gruesome injuries of the year after breaking his leg against Uriah Hall (left)

Rose Namajunas returned to the summit of the strawweight division with a sensational knockout of Zhang Weili of China

Rose Namajunas returned to the summit of the strawweight division with a sensational knockout of Zhang Weili of China

MAY 

The lightweight division finally moved on from the Khabib Nurmagomedov era as Charles Oliveira defeated Michael Chandler to become the new 155-pound champion.

Michael Chandler was moments away from taking the lightweight belt vacated by Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 262

Michael Chandler was moments away from taking the lightweight belt vacated by Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 262

However, Charles Oliveira weathered the storm and rallied to be crowned lightweight champion after 11 years with the UFC

However, Charles Oliveira weathered the storm and rallied to be crowned lightweight champion after 11 years with the UFC

JUNE 

Nate Diaz returned to the Octagon to face welterweight contender Leon Edwards. 

Edwards, from Birmingham, dominated for the duration of the fight until a late rally from Diaz almost saw the contest swing in the veteran’s favour. Edwards won by unanimous points. 

Adesanya put to one side his light heavyweight disappointment to retain his middleweight title after beating Italian challenger Marvin Vettori, while Brandon Moreno became the UFC’s first champion from Mexico. 

Nate Diaz made his return to the Octagon and the UFC fan-favourite did not disappoint against Leon Edwards in Arizona

Nate Diaz made his return to the Octagon and the UFC fan-favourite did not disappoint against Leon Edwards in Arizona

The British star dominated for much of the contest but was rocked late and survived a Diaz onslaught to win on points

The British star dominated for much of the contest but was rocked late and survived a Diaz onslaught to win on points

Brandon Moreno made history after becoming the first UFC champion from Mexico after beating Deiveson Figueiredo

Brandon Moreno made history after becoming the first UFC champion from Mexico after beating Deiveson Figueiredo

Israel Adesanya returned to middleweight after his light heavyweight exploits and defeated challenger Marvin Vettori

Israel Adesanya returned to middleweight after his light heavyweight exploits and defeated challenger Marvin Vettori

JULY 

Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier did battle once again at UFC 264, this time with none of the platitudes that preceded their clash in Abu Dhabi. 

The Diamond dominated the first round before McGregor broke his leg to hand the American victory.

Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor got it on again in a hostile trilogy bout to headline UFC 264 in Las Vegas this summer

Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor got it on again in a hostile trilogy bout to headline UFC 264 in Las Vegas this summer

Conor McGregor lost again after breaking his leg and unleashed a vitriolic rant at Poirier after his second straight defeat

Conor McGregor lost again after breaking his leg and unleashed a vitriolic rant at Poirier after his second straight defeat

The former two-weight world champion speaks to commentator and podcaster Joe Rogan while sat with his back to the fence

The former two-weight world champion speaks to commentator and podcaster Joe Rogan while sat with his back to the fence

McGregor said Poirier would leave on a stretcher, but it was the Irishman who was wheeled out of the Octagon in July

McGregor said Poirier would leave on a stretcher, but it was the Irishman who was wheeled out of the Octagon in July

Rodolfo Vieira bounced back from his defeat at UFC 258 to submit Dustin Stoltzfus at UFC Fight Night at the Apex

Rodolfo Vieira bounced back from his defeat at UFC 258 to submit Dustin Stoltzfus at UFC Fight Night at the Apex

AUGUST

A new challenger jumped to the front of the queue to contest Francis Ngannou’s heavyweight title after Ciryl Gane was crowned interim champion following his victory over Derrick Lewis at UFC 265. 

Rafael Fiziev lands a crunching elbow on lightweight rival Bobby Green during their scrap at UFC 265 in Houston, Texas

Rafael Fiziev lands a crunching elbow on lightweight rival Bobby Green during their scrap at UFC 265 in Houston, Texas

Ciryl Gane looks at his interim heavyweight belt after announcing himself as the next challenger to Ngannou's title

Ciryl Gane looks at his interim heavyweight belt after announcing himself as the next challenger to Ngannou’s title

Bruce Buffer (left) and Michael Chiesa (right) let their emotions go ahead of his welterweight fight against Vincente Luque

Bruce Buffer (left) and Michael Chiesa (right) let their emotions go ahead of his welterweight fight against Vincente Luque

SEPTEMBER

Alexander Volkanovski defied logic by escaping two submissions from Brian Ortega in incredible scenes at UFC 266. The Australian rallied to defeat his American rival by unanimous decision in Las Vegas.

Nick Diaz made a surprise return to the Octagon in a throwback clash with Robbie Lawlor. This time, he suffered defeat and looked a shadow of the man revered by the UFC masses. 

Brian Ortega and Alex Volkanovski provided a Fight of the Year contender as the Aussie escaped two tight submissions

Brian Ortega and Alex Volkanovski provided a Fight of the Year contender as the Aussie escaped two tight submissions

The former rugby league star somehow escaped this choke to see out a unanimous decision victory over the American

The former rugby league star somehow escaped this choke to see out a unanimous decision victory over the American

Nick Diaz made a surprise return to the Octagon in a throwback clash with Robbie Lawlor, but came out on the losing side

Nick Diaz made a surprise return to the Octagon in a throwback clash with Robbie Lawlor, but came out on the losing side

OCTOBER 

Glover Teixeira made history on Fight Island by becoming the second-oldest UFC champion in the sport’s history after defeating Jan Blachowicz for the light heavyweight title at the age of 41.

Khamzat Chimaev sent a warning message to the welterweight division after storming past Li Jingliang.  

Glover Teixeira made history at UFC 267 after becoming the second oldest champion at the age of 41 on Fight Island

Glover Teixeira made history at UFC 267 after becoming the second oldest champion at the age of 41 on Fight Island

The Brazilian holds his arms aloft as UFC president Dana White wraps the light heavyweight title to the veteran's waist

The Brazilian holds his arms aloft as UFC president Dana White wraps the light heavyweight title to the veteran’s waist

Khamzat Chimaev came back from his Covid-inflicted absence to send a warning message to the welterweight division

Khamzat Chimaev came back from his Covid-inflicted absence to send a warning message to the welterweight division

NOVEMBER

Usman and Colby Covington did battle once again, two years on from their war in Las Vegas.

Their scrap in New York lived up to the drama of the first fight as the welterweight champion earned a tight points victory.

Edgar’s year went from bad to worse after losing to Marlon Vera while Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler put on a Fight of the Year contender. 

Two years after their terrific initial contest, Usman and Colby Covington did battle once again at Madison Square Garden

Two years after their terrific initial contest, Usman and Colby Covington did battle once again at Madison Square Garden

The Nigerian Nightmare connects with an overhand right during his five-round war with the loudmouth American

The Nigerian Nightmare connects with an overhand right during his five-round war with the loudmouth American

The welterweight champion had the No 1 contender in trouble before the bell saved Chaos from further punishment

The welterweight champion had the No 1 contender in trouble before the bell saved Chaos from further punishment

After years of back and forth, both fighters shared kind words for each other at the end of the fifth round in New York

After years of back and forth, both fighters shared kind words for each other at the end of the fifth round in New York

Frankie Edgar's year went from bad to worse after the UFC veteran lost in his bantamweight bout against Marlon Vera

Frankie Edgar’s year went from bad to worse after the UFC veteran lost in his bantamweight bout against Marlon Vera

Justin Gaethje (right) and Michael Chandler (left) shared a contender for Fight of the Year with a three-round war

Justin Gaethje (right) and Michael Chandler (left) shared a contender for Fight of the Year with a three-round war

Gaethje remonstrates with referee Mike Beltran after the second round due to the official's inability to pause the action

Gaethje remonstrates with referee Mike Beltran after the second round due to the official’s inability to pause the action

Former Bellator champion Chandler sports a nasty gash above his right eye as he lost via close points decision

Former Bellator champion Chandler sports a nasty gash above his right eye as he lost via close points decision

DECEMBER

Jose Aldo made it three wins on the trot after defeating Rob Font as the Brazilian veteran continued his charge up the bantamweight ranks.

Poirier was unable to win UFC gold at the second time of asking after losing out to Oliveira, while Julianna Pena pulled off one of the biggest upsets in UFC history by beating the all-conquering Amanda Nunes. 

Jose Aldo made it three wins on the bounce after beating Rob Font during a Fight Night event at the UFC Apex in December

Jose Aldo made it three wins on the bounce after beating Rob Font during a Fight Night event at the UFC Apex in December

Charles Oliveira smiles at Dustin Poirier as the Brazilian emphatically stated he is not moving from the lightweight summit

Charles Oliveira smiles at Dustin Poirier as the Brazilian emphatically stated he is not moving from the lightweight summit

Oliveira celebrates with his lightweight belt after defying the doubters to defeat the in-form Poirier at UFC 269 in Vegas

Oliveira celebrates with his lightweight belt after defying the doubters to defeat the in-form Poirier at UFC 269 in Vegas

The Diamond watches on as he sees his second tilt at the lightweight championship slip away from him once again

The Diamond watches on as he sees his second tilt at the lightweight championship slip away from him once again

Julianna Pena shocked the world with a sensational victory over the all-conquering two-weight champion Amanda Nunes

Julianna Pena shocked the world with a sensational victory over the all-conquering two-weight champion Amanda Nunes

Pena takes the Brazilian's back and moments later she submitted the bantamweight champion to send shockwaves all over

Pena takes the Brazilian’s back and moments later she submitted the bantamweight champion to send shockwaves all over

Referee Marc Goddard watches closely as Pena moves in for the kill against Nunes in UFC 269's co-main event in Las Vegas

Referee Marc Goddard watches closely as Pena moves in for the kill against Nunes in UFC 269’s co-main event in Las Vegas

Pena, a massive betting underdog, lets out a roar of jubilation after upsetting the odds to become the bantamweight champ

Pena, a massive betting underdog, lets out a roar of jubilation after upsetting the odds to become the bantamweight champ

Cody Garbrandt learn that there is no refuge in the flyweight division after losing in his 125-pound debut to Kai Kara-France

Cody Garbrandt learn that there is no refuge in the flyweight division after losing in his 125-pound debut to Kai Kara-France

Sean O'Malley continued to trailblaze in the bantamweight division after knocking out Raulian Paiva on the main card

Sean O’Malley continued to trailblaze in the bantamweight division after knocking out Raulian Paiva on the main card

Australian heavyweight Tai Tuivasa performs his customary shoey celebration after defeating g Augusto Sakai of Brazil

Australian heavyweight Tai Tuivasa performs his customary shoey celebration after defeating g Augusto Sakai of Brazil

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