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Midyear MMA awards: Top fighters and moments of 2024 so far


With half the year in the books, theScore hands out the gongs to the best of the best in mixed martial arts across five categories.

Male Fighter of the Half-Year

Winner: Alex Pereira

Cooper Neill / UFC / Getty

The reigning UFC light heavyweight champion, Pereira has had one of the best six-month runs in promotion history. He knocked out Jamahal Hill in the first round of the UFC 300 main event in April to cement himself as the top 205-pound fighter in the world. And then Pereira left no doubt in a rematch with Jiri Prochazka at International Fight Week in June, knocking him out with a head kick and punches in the second round. Pereira's first win over Prochazka last November was arguably an early stoppage, but this one was devastating and clear-cut. What "Poatan" has achieved in the UFC since 2021 is nothing short of remarkable, and the first half of 2024 was huge in lifting his legend and star power to new heights.

Honorable mentions: Ilia Topuria, Sean O'Malley

Female Fighter of the Half-Year

Winner: Kayla Harrison

Jeff Bottari / UFC / Getty

The majority of the top names in women's MMA - including the three UFC champions, Zhang Weili, Alexa Grasso, and Raquel Pennington - have either fought just once or have remained outside of the cage so far this year. So our vote goes to Harrison, the former two-time PFL champion who shook up the women's bantamweight division when she made her long-awaited UFC debut at UFC 300. The American Top Team product handled ex-champ Holly Holm with ease, submitting her in the second round. With that win, many consider Harrison the uncrowned champ at 135 pounds. It may be just a matter of time before she rules over the division.

Honorable mentions: Raquel Pennington, Zhang Weili

Knockout of the Half-Year

Winner: Max Holloway's last-second KO of Justin Gaethje

It'll take something out of this world to trump Holloway's epic, gutsy win over Gaethje at UFC 300 for Fight of the Year in December. The knockout was one of the most thrilling and unexpected highlights in MMA history. Holloway was up on the scorecards and just seconds away from capturing the BMF title in calculated fashion. But instead of playing it safe, Holloway pointed to the ground and began throwing down with his dangerous foe. In the midst of the wild exchange, Holloway uncorked a massive right hand that floored Gaethje with one second left in the fight. That's what being the BMF is all about.

Honorable mentions: Ilia Topuria's title-snatching KO of Alexander Volkanovski, Vinicius Oliveira's flying-knee KO of Benardo Sopaj

Submission of the Half-Year

Winner: Islam Makhachev taps Dustin Poirier with a D'Arce choke

Throughout the first 22 minutes of the UFC 302 lightweight title bout in June, Poirier hung tough with Makhachev as a major underdog. He was competitive on the feet as expected but also defended well on the ground. Makhachev, though, wanted to make a statement and remind the world why he was the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC. Rather than let the fight go the distance, he masterfully dragged Poirier to the mat with an ankle pick in the fifth round and secured a D'Arce choke that not even "The Diamond" could fend off.

Honorable mention: Brian Ortega def. Yair Rodriguez with an arm-triangle choke

Fight of the Half-Year

Winner: Dustin Poirier vs. Benoit Saint Denis

Chris Unger / UFC / Getty

The fact that Poirier was involved in two Fight of the Year candidates by July speaks volumes about the kind of fighter he is. Poirier took on a rising lightweight contender in France's Saint Denis at UFC 299 in March, and he got into a bit of trouble early on. Saint Denis set a frenetic pace, landed hard punches, and put the pressure on Poirier in Round 1 before flattening him out on the ground in Round 2. But Poirier leaned on his patented toughness to stay in the fight. He escaped the position and then knocked Saint Denis unconscious with an ice-cold right hook. Poirier-Saint Denis was back and forth for all the seven-and-a-half minutes it lasted, and it's the best fight of 2024 so far.

Honorable mentions: Max Holloway vs. Justin Gaethje, Islam Makhachev vs. Dustin Poirier

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