The 15 best fights, feuds, and fists-in-the-face from another kick-ass year in mixed martial arts.
Knockout Of The Year: Vitor Belfot Defeats Luke Rockhold Via Knockout (Spinning Back Kick) – Round 1 (2:32) - May 18, Jaragua Do Sul, Santa Catarina, Brazil
Vitor Belfort wowed his native Brazil with three knockouts in 2013: He starched perennial contender Michael Bisping to open the year, and became the first man to knock out 42-year-old legend Dan Henderson to end it. “The Phenom” still takes out opponents with breathtaking speed and ferocity at 36-years-old, and it’s best showcased in the way he cut down former Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold with a spinning back kick KO.
Fight Of The Year: Jon Jones Defeats Alexander Gustaffson Via Unanimous Decision – UFC 165 – Sept. 21 – Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Jon Jones had to fight to the bitter end to retain his 205-pound title. Earning the judges’ approval versus “The Mauler” Gustaffson, this fight notched Jones his divisional record sixth title defense, while demonstrating the champ’s ability to handle adversity against a sizable - and elite - rival. The Swedish challenger went home without the gold, but Jones’ bloody face was the badge of honor Gustaffson claimed in defeat.
Submission Of The Year: Anthony Pettis Defeats Benson Henderson Via Submission (Armbar) – Round 1 (4:31) – UFC 164 – Aug. 31, Milwaukee, Wis.
When Anthony Pettis stopped Benson Henderson from a record-breaking fourth UFC lightweight title defense with a first-round armbar off his back, it was downright shocking. Remember, Pettis once spring-boarded off the cage and to clock Henderson with a roundhouse kick, and even that couldn’t stop “Smooth.” Still, “Showtime” lived up to his name, shaving roughly 20 minutes off the time he required to beat Henderson three years prior in the WEC. Pettis definitely has Henderson’s number - he’s the only man to beat him in the last six years.
Fighter Of The Year: Demetrious Johnson
The flyweight champion “Mighty Mouse” isn’t about saving the day; he’s about ruining it for his opponents. Demetrious Johnson flashed his video game-style post-fight celebrations three times this year: First, he outpaced John Dodson’s power game. Then, he scored an awesome submission with an armbar on John Moraga. Finally, he punctuated 2013 by not only becoming the first man to knock out Joseph Benavidez in 23 contests, but doing so with the fastest KO ever seen in the UFC’s 125-pound history. This KO saw him taking the belt home to Washington – as well-deserved win as we’ve ever seen.
Epic Moment Of The Year: Chris Weidman Defeats Anderson Silva Via Knockout (Punches) – UFC 162 – July 6, Las Vegas. Nev.
Chris Weidman claimed he’d topple the mythical Brazilian champion from the 185-pound throne and pound-for-pound supremacy. He wasn’t lying - the “All-American” New Yorker knocked Silva out with a left hook that ended Silva’s record breaking consecutive UFC win streak (16) and title defenses (10) all at once. To attain greatness, one must seize it, and Weidman is the year’s most outstanding example - the 29-year-old pretty much nailed down a lifetime achievement award in just his fourth year as a pro fighter.
Story Of The Year: Georges St-Pierre Retires
Arguably the greatest fighter ever, Georges St-Pierre closed the books on his legendary 11-year career following a split decision against Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks at UFC 167 on Nov. 16 in Las Vegas, Nevada. “Rush” retired as the welterweight record titleholder, with eight consecutive defenses (second all-time to middleweight Anderson Silva). He avenged both career losses soundly. Hendricks gave him all he could handle, so “GSP,” 32-years-old, hung up the gloves after a record amount of title cage time (longer than the three-hour Godfather running time), leaving the sport as its all-time biggest star, a record-breaking headliner that once brought out 55,000-plus fans to watch him defend his belt.
Slobberknocker Of The Year: Mark Hunt vs. “Bigfoot” Silva – Majority Draw Decision – Dec. 7, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Mark Hunt and “Bigfoot” Silva defied all expectations with their five-round, heavyweight main event classic. There was damage galore as the two fighters took more shots than a frat at an open bar. Despite all the energy-depleting strikes and competitive pace for men near the 265-pound heavyweight limit, they fought valiantly until the final bell. It’s likely the judges got so wrapped up in the fight’s tide-turning drama that they forgot to score it and agreed to call it a draw.
Round Of The Year: Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann Round 1 – UFC on Fuel 8 - March 3, Saitama, Japan
Wanderlei Silva has had his share of classics in his legendary 17-year career. “The Axe Murderer” traded leather with American war hero Brian Stann before adding a 25th knockout to his historic resume. Each fighter outperformed their world-class gun slinging reputations, enough so that Stann said there would be no more prizefighting for him. The first five minutes of this match featured so many fearless flurries that both Silva and Stann appeared to fall as if a carpet was pulled from under them.
Beatdown Of The Year: Josh Barnett Defeats Frank Mir Via TKO (Knee) - Round 1 (1:56) – UFC 164 – Aug. 31, Milwaukee, Wis.
In a battle of former UFC heavyweight champions, Josh Barnett cashed in on an 11-year absence from the octagon with a one-sided thrashing of Frank Mir. The 36-year-old treated Mir to a schoolyard bullying against the cage, leaving him unconscious in less than two minutes. A short night for “The War Master” against a fellow limb ripper was an excellent welcome home.
Comeback Fighter Of The Year: Robbie Lawler
Robbie Lawler punched his ticket to a vacant welterweight title shot in 2014, based on a 3-0 return to the octagon after nine years away. Crumbling Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker with his power, the 31-year-old upset three-to-one favorite Rory MacDonald in a hard-fought decision at UFC 167 to solidify his contender status.
Rookie Of The Year: Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor is a 25-year-old heavy-handed Irishman - the only one in the UFC. McGregor’s first year in the octagon was comprised of a 67-second knockout of Marcus Brimage at his debut, followed shortly thereafter by besting Max Holloway. The five-year veteran kept his profile up through love-me-or-hate-me headlines, setting up an all eyes-on-me 2014 for the young featherweight.
The “Two More Rounds” Award: Johny Hendricks Defeats Carlos Condit Via Unanimous Decision – UFC 158 – March 16, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Johny Hendricks and Carlos Condit went 15 thumping minutes in an all-around wrestler-versus-striker title eliminator. One of the most competitive three round bouts in history, each asserted their elite welterweight worth and sowed the seeds for a rivalry between dangerous, prime competitors for years to come.
The “Friends Don’t Let Friends Miss This Fight” Award: Gilbert Melendez Defeats Diego Sanchez Via Unanimous Decision – UFC 166 – Oct. 19, Houston, Tex.
Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez fought each other like they were forced to don gloves at a rowdy family outing. Melendez dished out more of the damage in their countless stand-up exchanges in the pocket, but the swollen-eyed determination of Sanchez brought out the best in two fighters known for their heart, including a jaw-dropping flash knockdown that threatened to steal the fight from Melendez in the third and final round.
The “Sorry, Buddy” Award: Lyoto Machida Defeats Mark Munoz Via Knockout (Head Kick) – Round 1 (3:10) - UFC Fight Night 30 – Oct. 26, Manchester, England
Friends fighting friends sometimes happens in the octagon. Middleweights Lyoto Machida and Mark Munoz agreed the winner of their short-notice main event clash would buy the loser dinner - Machida’s head kick KO was so unforgivingly accurate; he probably treated Munoz to a buffet big enough to bump Munoz up a weight class.
Best UFC Debut Ever Award: Ronda Rousey Defeats Liz Carmouche Via Submission (Armbar) – Round 1 (4:49) - UFC 157 – Feb. 23, Anaheim, Calif.
Not many people arrive in the UFC with a main event title fight. Former Maxim cover girl Ronda Rousey became the first ever UFC female champion, the first female to win a fight in the octagon, and extended her “Rowdy” first-round armbar streak to seven straight all in one night, tapping out Liz Carmouche after a brief rear-naked choke scare.
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