For a son of Latin American immigrants who first made a name for himself fighting in the streets and alleys of Miami in the company of Kimbo Slice, you'd have surely told Jorge Masvidal one year ago today that he could have retired from mixed martial arts without a single reason to hang his head. Particularly after not fighting even once in 2018, "Street Jesus" was who he was -- a wily striker who could do or say anything at any time, but never had that extra bit of class. After all, the dude had never even earned a UFC title shot.
Then, he broke a 16-month Octagon layoff and had himself a rip-roaring year that went straight into the record books. Over a span of eight months, "Gamebred" became a folk hero. And as the page turns to 2020, we're here to recognize him as 12uppercut's Fighter of the Year across combat sports.
Here's what he managed to do in 2019.
March 16: Darren Till Gets Baptized in London
How's that for an extended layoff? Masvidal thumped Darren Till into the canvas so hard that he chased him right out of the welterweight division, crushing him all the way back to the 185-pound class he left five years earlier. It would have been a candidate for knockout of the year, too, if not for...
July 6: Ben Askren Makes the Wrong Kind of History
The card at UFC 239 was stacked, with Jon Jones and Amanda Nunes both making title defenses that night. But when it came time for Masvidal to face off with the undefeated Ben Askren, who had scored a famous submission victory over Robbie Lawler four months earlier, there simply wasn't even time for commentator Jon Anik to read all the necessary promos.
Five seconds. But really, it was three. An MMA chef kiss if there ever was one.
November 2: The Rock Crowns the BMF
The moment was certainly anticlimactic at UFC 244 when the New York State Athletic Commission's doctor ended the "BMF championship" between Masvidal and Nate Diaz early when a cut on the latter's eye was ruled too significant to continue. All told, however, Masvidal was pounding the dude. When the stoppage was issued after three rounds, he was well ahead and in control of the proceedings. And is there a more iconic snapshot in this year in MMA than Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson strapping the BMF belt around the waist of this year's unlikeliest breakout superstar?
BONUS POINTS: Leon Edwards Orders a Three-Piece and a Soda
We can't not include this here. Technically, this means Jorge was 4-0 in 2019.
Honorable mentions are in order for Canelo Alvarez, Israel Adesanya, Katie Taylor, and Errol Spence, all of whom had terrific years in the worlds of boxing and MMA. But now that the dust has settled, there was only one choice we could really make that combined compelling results with irresistible narrative.
In 2019, we're riding with Street Jesus.