Welcome to the first annual (hopefully) Washington Sportsjam year-end awards! Alright, so I know this is very late, but I watched a lot of MMA in 2011 and think I have a good perspective on the year. Let’s look at the best fights and best fighters of last year.
Fight of the Year: Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Hua at UFC 139
This is the one of the best fights I’ve ever seen. Henderson dominated the first two rounds, tagging Hua multiple times. Somehow, Shogun was able to stay conscious and continue fighting. Hendo won the third round and landed even more shots, but it wasn’t as lopsided as the first two rounds. Then Hua came on and dominated the last two rounds, ironically out-wrestling the All-American and landing a few shots of his own. In the end Henderson won on the cards, but both fighters left it all in the ring.
KO of the Year: Anderson Silva vs Vitor Belfort at UFC 126
With one swift leg kick to the head, Silva KO’d Belfort. Belfort is known for his standup game, but watching this KO, it looked as if Anderson could have ended the fight at any time he chose.
Runner-Up: Lyoto Machida vs. Randy Couture at UFC 129
Submission of the Year: Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueria at UFC 140
This was one of the sickest submissions I’ve ever seen. After Nogueria had rocked Mir with shots, Mir was able to get him to the ground and get a hold on him. Mir kept rolling Nogueria over, making the kimura tighter and tighter, until Big Nog’s arm literally snapped. It was gross and violent in a way that reminded you how dangerous MMA can be.
Comeback of the Year: Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard at UFC 136
Two times in 2011, Gray Maynard almost finished Frankie Edgar in Round 1 of a title fight. Maynard wasn’t able to finish Edgar either time. On the 1st occasion Edgar forced a decision draw, but in the comeback of the year he came back and TKO’d Maynard.
In Round 1 Maynard rocked Edgar with an uppercut and Edgar struggled just to survive the round. Round 2 was very close, really hard to say who the judges picked. However, Maynard let Edgar recover in Round 2. By Round 3 Edgar had regained confidence in his boxing and was slipping-and-ripping effectively. By the 4th round Edgar connected enough to TKO Maynard. It was one of the best comebacks ever in MMA and an incredible show of a champion’s heart.
Fighter of the Year: Jon Jones UFC Light Heavyweight Champion
This was the easiest decision. Jones was unstoppable in 2011 winning all four of his with stoppages. The first was a contender matchup, the second was a title fight, and the last two were title defenses. During that stretch he dispatched three MMA legends violently. His domination was unmatched in 2011.
Newcomer of the Year: Douglas Lima Bellator Welterweight
Before 2011, Lima has never fought in Bellator. By the end of 2011 he was the Bellator Welterweight Tournament Winner and had a title shot lined up. In the tournament final he had an impressive KO win against UFC vet Ben Saunders.
Runner-Up: Benson Henderson UFC Lightweight
Comeback Fighter of the Year: Josh Koscheck UFC Welterweight
In 2010, Koscheck failed miserably in his title-shot against welterweight king Georges St-Pierre. For five consecutive rounds, GSP punished Koscheck’s face with jabs, eventually breaking his orbital bone. He looked like a broken man after that fight and was out for a long recovery.
At UFC 135 in September he faced UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes. Hughes went for the same eye GSP did with jabs, but Koscheck was able to outbox Hughes, and KO’d him with one second left in Round 1. Though he was clearly the superior standup fighter, it still took guts to stand there and risk taking another beating.
So, those are awards for 2011. Agree, disagree, did I overlook something? Let me know in the comments section.
I apologize that these rankings are late, but I thought it was necessary for a separate December and January rankings with the recent and upcoming fights. There is also some movement in the top five again. Jon Jones goes up to number two with his second title defense and Georges St-Pierre loses a place because of inactivity. Later this month Jose Aldo defends his featherweight title against unbeaten Chad Mendes, which may have an effect on this list.
1. Anderson Silva (UFC Middleweight Champion, Record 29-4)
In the Yushin Okami fight Silva avenged his most recent loss and extended his title-defense streak to an astounding nine times. He beat one of his most qualified challengers yet, both mentally and physically. His in-ring mind-games showed how he can force an opponent into his gameplan. Unfortunately, it also showed why he is losing fans despite his massive talent. Love him or hate him, he’s the most dominant fighter in the world right now.
Next Fight – TBA
2. Jon Jones ↑ (UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Record 15-1)
In his title defense against Lyoto Machida, Jones had his biggest challenge yet. For the first time in his UFC career, he lost a round and had his chin tested. He didn’t shrink away from contact though; instead he thoroughly dominated his opponent in all aspects in Round Two before finishing Machida with a choke.
Next Fight – TBA
3. Georges St-Pierre ↓ (UFC Welterweight Champion, Record 22-2)
Since his title defense against Jake Shields in April of 2011, GSP has had to pull out of two events because of injuries. The UFC is scheduling an interim title fight and St-Pierre will meet the winner when healthy. It’s unfortunate that GSP will lose a year in his prime because of his health. It remains to be seen if he comes back the same fighter.
Next Fight – TBA
4. Dominick Cruz (UFC Bantamweight Champion, Record 19-1)
The “Dominator” continues to control the bantamweight division. In July, Cruz avenged his only career loss by outpointing Uriah Faber. In October he held off Demetrious Johnson, the only fighter with more speed at his weight class. Cruz’s critics complain his style is boring, but no one can accuse him of not working. He fights at a breakneck pace. That combined with his odd stand-up movement, his excellent takedowns, and complete ground game makes him a tough nut to crack. He’s also just a few more fights away from cleaning out the division of contenders.
Next Fight – TBA vs. Urijah Faber.
5. Junior Dos Santos (UFC Heavyweight Champion, Record 14-1)
In just over one minute Cigano stopped the previously undefeated Cain Velasquez and took his belt. He avoided Velasquez’s takedown attempt and rocked him with a heavy shot. Dos Santos is always a threat to knock someone out and is undefeated in the UFC. After easily beating the most complete fighter in the division it’s hard to imagine him giving up the belt anytime soon.
Next Fight – TBA vs Alistair Overeem
Other fighters in consideration: Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar, Cole Konrad, Hector Lombard, Gilbert Melendez
The experiment continues! This is the second of the test podcasts I’ll be doing in the next few weeks. Reminder that you can download the first one the Tennis Tangent here. This is Mark’s MMA Corner and it concentrates on MMA. My main topics are going to be the UFC,Strikeforce, and Bellator. I got a little behind on this test schedule because I got sick. We’ll be recording two podcasts soon as well so it may be a while for the last batch. Podcasts on the United and Sports Videogaming are coming. As always let me know what you think and what podcast you’d like to see become a mainstay.
Episode 1 Topics
UFC 129 Preview
Strikeforce Diaz vs. Daley Recap
Bellator Tournament recap and finals preview
Update 5/6/11: Check out Mark’s MMA Corner on iTunes!
The last two UFC main events have ended on judge’s scorecards and the decisions were controversial. Last night at UFC 105, Randy Couture beat Brandon Vera by unanimous decision and at UFC 104 Lyoto Machida defended his light heavyweight belt with a unanimous decision over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. To many fans at home these looked the wrong decisions.
Last night, Couture controlled the pace of the fight well throughout, but Vera appeared to do more damage than Couture did throughout the fight. At one point Vera rocked Couture with a strike, Couture fell to the ground and turned his back as if retreating. Watching from home it appeared that Couture won the first round, Vera won the second, and Vera won the third. Both the second and third rounds were close but Vera got the lone takedown of the night in the third round. Couture’s win was not as much of a surprise as the unanimous decision. The fact that Couture retreated from combat and yet still won does not sit well.
The title fight in UFC 104 was rather uneventful, with not much happening in the five rounds. No fighter appeared to have a distinct advantage on the scorecards. Rua attacked, while Machida was content to defend and never really pressed much of an offense. It could be argued that Machida showed better technique, but he showed less fighting all around.
UFC President Dana White cannot be happy with the way his last two Main Events have gone. White has clashed with fighters he thought did not bring enough a show to Octagon. He took more than a few shots at former heavyweight champion Tim Slyvia, who he thought was too timid in his title defenses. For fights to end the way White wants them to, there might have to be a change to the rules.
Right now the UFC uses the Unified Rules for Mixed Martial Arts. This rule set is a 10-Point Must System were the winner of a round is awarded ten points and the loser is awarded nine or less. The points are awarded based on “effective striking, effective grappling, control of the fighting area, effective aggressiveness and defense. ” That kind of rule set works fine if there is a consistent pace of action. But there does not seem to be enough incentive for all the fighters to push the pace. A belt-holder knows that they can hang back; there may be more of a risk in losing the belt by engaging the opponent.
There is a thought that you have to take the belt away from a champion and that a veteran will receive a more favorable decision than an up-and-comer. While those sentiments make sense, they are not fair and they do not always make for good fights. The UFC needs to modify the rules to fit the style of fights the fans want. There needs to be points deducted from a fighter who does not engage or retreats during a fight (Timidity is a foul but that does not seem to cover plain tentativeness). Punishing fighters who retreated or refused to meaningfully engage would force the action of a fight to continue and turn snooze fests like Rua vs. Machida into actual entertainment.
The NHL and the NFL made changes in recent years to increase the offense in their games. While some purists complain about the bastardization of hockey and football most fans are happier than ever with those sports. If Dana White wants the UFC to continue to grow he needs to make sure the fight by decisions we have been seeing recently stop happening.
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