I legit took the entire weekend to decide before I voted because I think coaches are the linemen of the UFC. They only get recognition when their fighter wins and they get ignored or shit on otherwise; yet, in both cases, the "star" athlete can not perform at the same level with the wrong coach (or lineman). So, after much thought, it didn't actually come down to the fighters and their relative improvements for me, but rather their performances this year. 3: Firas Zahabi - GSP had one fight (after a four year layoff) in which he fought what many people consider to have been the perfect matchup for him. Rory also only fought once and fought a guy who, aside from on the feet, doesn't belong anywhere near a cage with Rory. 2: Duane Ludwig - Dillashaw; what more can I say? That kid has grown leaps and bounds under Duane and it all culminated in him beating former teammate Cody Garbrandt who was coming off of a star-making performance against Dominick Cruz. It's hard not to look at that pairing and vote for Duane alone. Then we consider Matt Brown's absolute melting of Diego Sanchez, and Duane didn't have a bad 2017. 1: Rafael Cordeiro - In the end, it did boil down to this year. It's hard to edge to Duane based on the intangibles when you have RDA, Werdum and Gastelum. In terms of relative improvement, RDA and Werdum have improved by miles under his training. While neither of them improved to the degree that Dillashaw did IMHO, between the two of them it's enough to draw the race closer. However, RDA's 2017 is the reason I'm giving it to him. For him to go up in weight and absolutely lay waste to everyone he's seen, including a complete dismantling of Robbie Lawler is insane. The intangibles are how I eliminated Firas and what made it hard to decide between Duane and Rafael. However, I can't edge it to Duane on the strength of 1.5 wins and one fighter's dramatic growth when Rafael has a year of fine performances to fall back on and the growth RDA and Werdum have both shown. Rafael by split decision.