The UFC will be back to live action for the first time in 2020 with the return of Conor McGregor as he faces Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone in the main event of UFC 246.  Before the Octagon heats up on January 18 in Las Vegas, TSN.ca takes a look back at some of the biggest UFC stories from 2019.

Canadian MMA legend Georges St-Pierre says goodbye

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Canadian MMA legend Georges St-Pierre announced his retirement on February 21, bringing to an end one of the greatest careers in the history of the sport.

The 38-year-old had returned to the Octagon in November of 2017 to capture the UFC’s middleweight title with a submission victory over Michael Bisping at UFC 217 before subsequently relinquishing the belt rather than holding up the division after suffering from ulcerative colitis following the win.

St-Pierre decided to call it a career after a fight with undefeated lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov could not be negotiated with the promotion.

Helwani on GSP: He truly seems at peace and in a state of relief

ESPN's Ariel Helwani joins Jay and Dan to explain how long it took Georges St-Pierre to come to the decision to retire, share his thoughts on his legacy, and discuss why the UFC wouldn't want a fight between GSP and Khabib Nurmagomedov.

"There's no tears, I'm very happy to do it," St-Pierre said at his retirement press conference.  "It takes a lot of discipline though to retire on top. It was a long process in my mind, but it's time to do it.  I always said that I want to retire on my own and not be told to retire."

St-Pierre finished his career with a 26-2 professional record with his last loss coming against Matt Serra at UFC 69 on April 7, 2007.  He would go on to avenge that loss and reclaim the welterweight title he lost that night at UFC 83 in Montreal on April 19, 2008, the first UFC event to be held in Canada.

"For me, it's just au revoir,” said St-Pierre.  “It's just goodbye. I'm not dead. I'm always going to be training. I see a lot of athletes when they retire, they become fat and out of shape.  It ain't going to happen to me."

The Canadian legend did not totally rule out a return to the Octagon and many fighters, including current welterweight champion Kamaru Usman have expressed interest in welcoming the former two-division champion back to the Octagon.

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Listen to the TSN MMA Show's End of Year Roundtable:
 

TSN MMA Show: 2019 Year-End Roundtable

Aaron is joined in-studio by Alexander K. Lee of MMA Fighting, Adam Martin of BJPenn.com and MMA Oddsbreaker, Nick Baldwin of theScore and Chamatkar Sandhu from the PFL for a year end roundtable to recap 2019 and make predictions for 2020.

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Jorge Masvidal highlight reels the year

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Three fights and three victories thrust Jorge Masvidal into the UFC's brightest spotlight in 2019. 

After posting a 1-2 mark in 2017 and not fighting at all in 2018, Masvidal went to London on March 16 and scored a second round KO victory over Darren Till, snapping his losing streak and setting the stage for a massive 2019.

Not satisfied with his in-Octagon victory, Masvidal got into a confrontation with Leon Edwards backstage at the event and landed what he would later go on to describe as the “Three piece with the soda.”

The 35-year-old would then engage in a war of words with Ben Askren, who was undefeated at the time, which culminated in the pair fighting at UFC 239.

In what now lives in the record books as the fastest knockout in UFC history, Masvidal strode across the cage and hit Askren with a flying knee, instantly rendering him unconscious, before landing two more punches as the referee jumped in to stop the fight.

When the clock was stopped, the official time of the fight was five seconds and Masvidal had another highlight reel KO for his resume.

The Miami native’s year reached its apex at UFC 244 where he met Nate Diaz for the BMF belt, a title created after the two fighters called themselves the last two true fighters left in the game.

Masvidal would go on to have the belt wrapped around his waist by The Rock after beating Stockton’s finest via doctor’s stoppage after the third round.

His next bout could very well be for a title, but Masvidal put together one of the greatest self-made success stories in 2019.

Henry Cejudo joins the ranks of two-division champions

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Thanks to an impressive victory over Demetrious Johnson in 2018 to win the flyweight title, Henry Cejudo finally put his name among the elites in the game.  Turns out he was only getting started.

His first fight in 2019 was against bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw, who dropped down in weight to challenge Cejudo in his first title defence at 125 pounds.

Not only did the defending champion turn away his gold carrying challenger, he did it with a swift 32-second first round TKO.

Later it would be revealed that Dillashaw tested positive for erythropoietin and he was forced to vacate his bantamweight belt and serve a two-year suspension.

Cejudo was booked into a bout with Marlon Moraes for the vacant bantamweight title at UFC 238 and he was successful via a third-round TKO, becoming the UFC’s fourth simultaneous two-division title holder.

“It’s no more champ-champ, there’s too many of those, I’m ‘Triple C’,” Cejudo said after capturing his second belt. “I’ve always been a champ, Olympic champ, flyweight champ and now bantamweight champion of the world.”

A shoulder injury would force the 32-year-old to the sidelines and in December he would relinquish the flyweight title, but a title defence and a successful title win is more than enough of a positive stamp on 2019. 

UFC 245 lives up to the hype

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It was the final pay-per-view of the year and with three title fights on the marquee, there were a lot of expectations heading into UFC 245.  The Las Vegas event delivered on the promise, setting the stage for the promotion heading into 2020.

In the main event, welterweight champion Kamaru Usman won his grudge match against challenger Colby Covington via fifth-round TKO.

The bout brought to an end an entire year of public verbal battles between the two fighters that got both nasty and personal along the way.

In the end, it was Usman who wore down and overwhelmed his opponent to enjoy the spoils of victory in the final match of the event.

“This one is not just for me,” Usman said after the successful title defence. “This is for the whole entire world right now.”

Amanda Nunes, another of the UFC’s simultaneous two-division champions, successfully defended her bantamweight belt against former featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie, earning a unanimous decision victory.

The 31-year-old continues to stake her claim as the greatest women’s MMA fighter of all-time as she has defeated a laundry list of the biggest names ever to grace the Octagon.

Nunes has won 10 consecutive fights, with victories over Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Cris Cyborg, Holly Holm and a pair of wins against current flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko on her resume.

The only challenger to leave UFC 245 with new gold was Australian fighter Alexander Volkanovski, who brought Max Holloway’s impressive run as featherweight champion to an end with a unanimous decision victory.

Holloway had been champion since unifying the belts in Rio de Janeiro against Jose Aldo at UFC 212 on June 3, 2017.

Volkanovski victory is the crowning achievement in an 18-fight winning streak that stretches back to 2013.  He is 8-0 since joining the UFC.

Other notable title changes in 2019

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Weili Zhang defeated UFC strawweight champion Jessica Andrade in 42 seconds at Fight Night Shenzhen on August 31 to become the promotion’s first ever title holder from China.

The 30-year-old is undefeated since joining the UFC and has won 20 straight fights since opening her professional MMA career with a loss in 2013.

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Israel Adesanya completed his undefeated rise to UFC gold with a second-round KO victory over middleweight champion Robert Whittaker at UFC 243 on October 6.

The 30-year-old improved to 18-0 with the victory, his third win of the year after defeating legend Anderson Silva and earning the interim middleweight title with a victory over Kelvin Gastelum.

"I'm a dancer, I'm an entertainer, I have to give them a show and set the tone," Adesanya said after his victory. "There's no one like me. No one."

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Stipe Miocic reclaimed the UFC’s heavyweight belt on August 17 when he earned a fourth round TKO victory over Daniel Cormier at UFC 241.

The victory avenged Miocic’s loss to Cormier at UFC 226 the previous July.

The 37-year-old remains the only man to successfully defend the UFC heavyweight title three consecutive times.