Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Best of 2011

As the year draws to a close I think it’s time to review the best fights, knockouts, submissions and all things MMA from the year 2011.

Feud of the Year
Nominees: Frankie Edgar/Gray Maynard, Michael Bisping/Jorge Rivera, Jon Jones/Rampage Jackson
Winner: Frankie Edgar/Gray Maynard
It was tough to pick candidates for Feud of the Year, mainly because the most exciting feuds haven’t actually been contested in a bout. The aftermath of Silva/Sonnen from last year was a huge highlight in the MMA world but it looks like we may have to wait until 2012 to see their second fight. GSP/Diaz is a similar case. The two have exchanged words but have yet to actually get into the Octagon. That left me with two fighters who have had two fights this year, who clearly dislike each other. Words were said, punches were thrown and shocks happened. After their last contest it left their records against each other 1-1. Could we see a rubber match? Let’s hope so.

Breakthrough Fighter of the Year
Nominees: Brian Ebersole, Donald Cerrone, Jake Ellenberger
Winner: Donald Cerrone
Since joining UFC, “Cowboy” has been undefeated - four fights, four wins. Cerrone deserves the title as ‘Breakthrough Fighter of the Year’ because he walked into the Octagon in 2011, without the obvious UFC jitters and smashed each opponent rather comfortably.

Knockout of the Year
Nominees: Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort @ UFC 126, Lyoto Machida vs. Randy Couture @ UFC 129, Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley @ Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley
Winner: Lyoto Machida vs. Randy Couture
A lot of people would have chosen Silva’s KO of Belfort and I don’t blame them. I picked Machida/Couture as the winner however, because it was even more spectacular.
Not only was it the knockout that retired the legend Randy Couture, it was also a jumping crane kick (like from The Karate Kid) and it knocked out one of Couture’s teeth. If you haven’t seen it, get on it right away!

Submission of the Year
Nominees: Chan Sung Jung vs. Leonard Garcia @ UFC Fight Night 24, Tito Ortiz vs. Ryan Bader @ UFC 132, Frank Mir vs. Minotauro Nogueira @ UFC 140
Winner: Frank Mir vs. Minotauro Nogueira
Probably the only submission that has made me gag since Mir broke Tim Sylvia’s arm back in 2004. Mir being the first man to knockout and now tap out the BJJ legend Minotauro Nogueira deserves submission of the century.

International Fighter of the Year
Nominees: Michael Bisping, Alistair Overeem, Dennis Siver
Winner: Michael Bisping
Now I’m not being biased because we’re both British, but Bisping has ended 2011 on a massive high note. He managed to put up with the likes of Mayhem Miller and a house full of crazy bantamweights and featherweights in The Ultimate Fighter 14 and also defeated Jorge Rivera and Mayhem Miller. “The Count” will be going into the new year as Demian Maia’s next opponent set for January 28th.

Fighter of the Year
Nominees: Dan Henderson, Jon Jones, Nick Diaz
Winner: Jon Jones
Do I really need to explain? Okay, I will. A bit.
The youngest champion in UFC, ever, Jones has destroyed Ryan Bader, Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson AND Lyoto Machida. And by destroyed, I mean it. Not that Diaz and Hendo have been slouches themselves by any means.

Comeback of the Year
Nominees: Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Barry @ UFC Live: Kongo vs. Barry, Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard @ UFC 136, Tito Ortiz’s Career
Winner: Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Barry
No massive competition, let’s be honest. Not only is this comeback of the year, it may be the best comeback in MMA. Kongo was on the verge of being knocked out and from nowhere, Barry is knocked out himself. Edge-of-your-seat stuff.

Fight of the Year
Diego Sanchez vs. Martin Kampmann @ UFC Live: Sanchez vs. Kampmann, Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard @ UFC 136, Dan Henderson vs. Shogun Rua @ UFC 139
Winner: Dan Henderson vs. Shogun Rua
All of the nominees are absolute belters. Historical matches in UFC and ones I’ll never forget seeing. Hendo vs. Shogun though had just a little more ‘spice’ if it were.
The two men had never fought each other, despite being in PRIDE for much of their careers and this was the perfect time for them to clash. This fight was probably the best fight I’ve seen, along with Griffin vs. Bonnar. MMA fan or not, you will gob smacked.

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