As 2013 winds down in the world of mixed martial arts we at MMAInsider.net have compiled our results for the inaugural “Of The Year” awards. The polls are now closed and thanks to a massive amount of participation from our user base we have been able to declare winners in all categories. Some were close, others were pretty clear cut results, and some surprised but in the best of ways. Without further ado let’s take a look at the first winners for the MMAInsider.net Annual Year End Awards.
Fighter of the Year – Demetrious Johnson
Few can argue with the results DJ put forth this year as he defended his UFC Flyweight Championship three times over 2013. With all three of those fights taking place on Fox, in the main event of each card, there’s a very real possibility he was the most seen mixed martial artist this past year. He also “fought for the cycle” as I’ve come to call it, earning a Fight of the Night, Submission of the Night, and Knockout of the Night over those three bouts. He also showcased some amazing new wrinkles in his overall game with none being more impressive than his most recent performance ending in a brutal first round knockout of Joseph Benavidez, a man who was expected to not only be his stiffest test (even though it was a rematch of a fight he had won the first time), but was also pegged as the one who would win the fight via knockout. Johnson silenced anyone doubting the ability of himself, and the entire flyweight division in the process.
Fight of the Year – Jones vs Gustafsson
Leading into this bout many were saying Gustafsson’s reach would neutralize Jones’ and in doing so would somehow prove the only reason the Champion had been so successful over his career thus far was due to his usual amazing advantage in that area. As it turned out that statement wasn’t entirely incorrect. For five rounds these two men took the fight to one another in an instant classic that had fight fans on the edge of their seats for the full twenty five minute affair. Ultimately Jones retained his title in a hotly contested and highly entertaining scrap as the judges declared the Champ had done enough to keep his belt. Many felt they got it wrong and there was talk of an immediate rematch, with even Dana White saying as much. Gustafsson had done what no other had been able too, excluding the brief time Belfort had Jones locked in a very deep armbar, and put ‘Bones’ in danger on multiple occasions. While the rematch has been postponed as of this time, there is little doubt in my mind it will happen at some point in the future, hopefully in the 2014 calendar year.
Knockout of the Year – Chris Weidman knocks out Anderson Silva
Upset of the Year – Chris Weidman knocks out Anderson Silva
There’s something about Team Serra-Longo being able to pull off amazing upsets, and in amazing fashion. No one had Matt Serra pegged as the man to defeat Georges St. Pierre, especially via devastating knockout. Fast forward a little better than six years to UFC 162 and another Team Serra-Longo product entered the cage to challenge for the UFC Middleweight Championship against the greatest fighter in the history of the sport. Even though people were giving Weidman a much better chance at capturing the title that night no one could have predicted it would also be via a brutal second round knockout. In a fraction of a second history was made as Weidman capitalized on Anderson dropping his hands and pretending to be hurt by pushing forward and landing a left hand to take both Silva’s consciousness and his title from him. The result of this fight will forever be etched into the minds of fight fans and has earned three of our end of year awards.
Submission of the Year – Anthony Pettis submits Benson Henderson
In sports, especially combat sports, there are times when one athlete seems to have anothers number, and no matter when they meet one man always seems to come away victorious. That has been the case for former UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson when it comes to current UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis. These two first collided at WEC 53 and engaged in the 2010 Fight of the Year. When the dust, and the Showtime Kick, settled Pettis walked away from the bout as the new, and last, WEC Lightweight Champion. Almost three years later the two squared off again in an eerily similar circumstance as Pettis was again challenging Henderson for a title. This time Anthony wouldn’t need the full five rounds to show who the better fighter was. He didn’t even need five full minutes. He slapped on an armbar that was so lightening fast that most in attendance, or watching at home on pay-per view didn’t even see Henderson tap. But the fight was over nevertheless and a new UFC Lightweight Champion had been crowned.
Best Comeback of the Year – Travis Browne comes back and knocks out Alistair Overeem
After making a successful UFC debut by knocking out former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar at the halfway point of the first round people were expecting big things from the recently imported Overeem. However, a failed drug test saw the K1, Strikeforce, and Dream Heavyweight Champion suspended for a year and put the squash on his run at the UFC Heavyweight Championship. He came back to face Bigfoot Silva in a fight many saw as a “tune up” fight for ‘The Reem’ but Bigfoot had other ideas as he came back in the third round to knockout the dangerous man from Amsterdam. That fight was also nominated for this award but came up just short against Alistair’s loss to Browne. Bigfoot was able to come back in that fight but the absolute beating Travis took for the better part of the first half of the first round against Overeem would have ended a lesser mans night, but Brown showed amazing resilience that night as he was able to weather that storm long enough to ultimately land a front kick to Overeem’s jaw dropping him to the canvas where the Hawaiian followed with more punches to earn the knockout and the Knockout of the Night in the process.
Breakthrough Fighter of the Year – Robbie Lawler
And new UFC Welterweight Champion…Robbie Lawler. That statement is a real possibility in 2014 and I don’t think anyone could have predicted the Cinderella story ‘Ruthless’ became in 2013. After posting a 3-5 record during his tenure with Strikeforce, going 1-3 over his most previous four bouts, Lawler was brought back to the UFC when Zuffa folded the promotion. With the promotional move Lawler also decided to make a weight change as well, dropping back to welterweight. Both things saw the fighter reborn. In his return to the Octagon he knocked out longtime UFC welterweight, and former title challenger, Josh Koschek, and followed that up with another knock out win over Bobby Voelker. The back to back wins put Lawler in a fight for an arguable #1 contender spot against surging Canadian welterweight Rory MacDonald. In a back and forth fight with his younger counter-part Lawler showcased his overall mixed martial arsenal earning himself the split decision win. Little did he know Georges St. Pierre was planning to vacate his title and step away from the sport just a few weeks later. That decision now sees Lawler squaring off against Johny Hendricks for the vacant UFC Welterweight Championship on March 15th, 2014 at UFC 171.
Best UFC Newcomer – Conor McGregor
It takes a fair amount of talent to enter the UFC and almost immediately be labeled a title contender. It also takes a fair amount of media and PR understanding to know how to market yourself to the masses. Conor McGregor is one of the rare breeds who happens to possess both of those things. The talented Irish fighter, a former two division Cage Warriors Fighting Championship Champion (at Featherweight and Lightweight), has certainly made a splash in the UFC since signing with company in February of 2013. He made short work of his first opponent as he knocked Marcus Brimage out in just over a minute and followed that up with a dominant win over Max Holloway. A fight in which he badly damaged his knee early on but was able to adapt his game plan and still earn a unanimous decision victory. Unfortunately his knee injury would require surgery and put McGregor out of action for close to a year. There was perhaps no other fighter more spoken about in the media as Conor has proven to be an outspoken athlete who isn’t afraid to hype himself up during pre-fight promotion. He even found himself to be the most Googled person on the Irish site of the search engine.
Fight Camp of the Year – Team Alpha Male
Few camps had the success Team Alpha Male enjoyed over 2013. They ended the year having gone 15-3 inside the UFC Octagon, seeing one team member, Joesph Benavidez, challenge for a UFC title, and currently have two #1 contenders in Chad Mendes and Urijah Faber. Debate rages on over the difference Duane Ludwig has made to the team but results can’t be argued with, and the style in which Team Alpha Male fighters have been winning fights has certainly been impressive since the addition of the man they call ‘Bang.’ Having been known mostly as a gifted wrestling based camp Ludwig was able to add the missing piece of the puzzle and now team members have been seeing themselves earn multiple knockout victories. Something that was largely missing before his addition. The camp is poised for big things, or as Faber might say Big Thangz, in 2014 and it should prove to be an interesting year for the camp as they find themselves on the cusp of earning their first UFC Championship.
Event of the Year – UFC 166
A war between KJ Noons and George Sotiropoulos, a close fight in the women’s division as Jessica Eye decisioned Sarah Kaufman, a brutal knockout of Nate Marquardt by Hector Lombard, all taken place on the under card, setup a main card that delivered just as much action on the night. John Dodson kicked things off bouncing back into the win column with a first round knockout of Darrell Montague. Next up Gabriel Gonzaga one upped ‘The Magician’ scoring a knockout of his own in just one minute thirty three seconds over Shawn Jordan. Deciding it would be a better idea to give fans a full fifteen minute performance we saw Gilbert Melendez decision Diego Sanchez in a Fight of the Year nominated tilt. Daniel Cormier and Roy Nelson briefly stalled the action in their bout but current UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez upped the ante as he defeated his biggest rival via technical knockout in the fifth round and proved his utter dominance of Junior dos Santos in their second fight was no fluke. This card delivered on so many levels it’s no wonder it won this award.
Fighter to watch in 2014 – Khabib Nurmagomedov
With a perfect 21-0 overall MMA record one might think Khabib should have earned this award earlier in his career, and maybe that is true, but after going 3-0 in the UFC in 2013, pushing his UFC record to 5-0 overall, with wins over Thiago Tavares, Abel Trujillo, and Pat Healy he has proven he is worthy of now truly being known as the MMAInsider.net Fighter to Watch in 2014. He is expected to next face off against former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez at UFC 170 so there is no doubt he is poised to have a big year should be be able to emerge victorious over the talented Melendez. One would almost expect to see him challenge for the UFC Lightweight Championship with a win in that bout.
Lifetime Achievement Award – Dana White
Few men, if any, have made a larger contribution to the sport of MMA. Love him or hate him the man possesses a passion for our sport second to none and that passion is largely responsible for the current popularity MMA is enjoying. The brash speaking “everyman” often gets himself in hot water due to some of things he says, or even due to how he says them. That same reason is also responsible for the love he enjoys from fighters and fans alike. There’s no doubt in my mind there’s no single other person who would have been able to take the sport from the bare knuckle brawls or “human cockfighting” darkness it had found itself labeled as to the current success it is enjoying as a legit sport being broadcast to millions of homes around the world between their Fox deal, PPV access, and their newly announced digital channel.
That’s a wrap for our inaugural Annual End of Year awards. We’d like to extend a HUGE thanks to all of our users for having taken part in the voting process and also to all our friends in the MMA community. 2013 proved to be a big year for the staff here at MMAInsider.net and we are excited to continue riding that into the coming year. Happy New Year to you all and I hope you continue to enjoy the coverage we provide well into the coming years!