LastWordOnSports 2011 MMA Awards
While the 2011 MMA year has not officially closed out yet, I think it is safe to say that this has been one of the strangest years in recent history. Many story lines didn’t play out the way they expected, and we were treated to a number of surprises. Here is my take on the winners and losers from 2011:
Fighter of the Year: Jon Jones. Probably the easiest of all these awards to hand out. Jones had a fantastic year, going from young up-and-comer to finishing the year as one of the best in the sport. Victories over Ryan Bader, Shogun Rua, Quinton Jackson and Lyoto Machida with two title defences interlaced in there make JJ the fighter of the year, and the one to watch.
Fight of the Year: Henderson vs. Shogun. This was not only fight of the year, but potentially best fight ever. Both fighters showed such heart and determination during the course of this fight that I don’t really think you can really label either as the loser… although, Shogun was the clear loser.
Surprise Fighter of the Year: Frankie Edgar. I’d never really thought much of Frankie Edgar as a top-level fighter, but I have to admit he did change my mind this year! I thought his first win over BJ was due to a poorly trained BJ, even the second win I wrote off as a lack of determination on BJ’s part. This being said, his comebacks against Maynard in both fights helped the guy earn my respect. Is he top P4P? No… at least not yet.
“Watch-Out This Guy is Coming” Fighter of the Year: Ben Henderson. A lot of people didn’t really know much about “Smooth”/”Bendo” prior to this year – but, I think the former WEC Lightweight champ showed people what the future of this sport is really all about. Not necessarily a finisher, the guy still always puts on an exciting and dominant performance. I predict he has the best chance to take Edgar’s belt in 2012. An honourable mention goes to Cerrone on this – but, I still think he has some time until he’s really there.
Submission of the Year: Nogueira vs. Mir. Watching Frank Mir snap Minotauro’s arm in two was one of those jaw dropping moments that is seared into the memory of any MMA fan who watched it. However, what was more impressive was watching Mir hold onto the kimura versus one of the best BJJ practioners in the sport; I think very few people give Mir the respect that is deserved for the feat that he accomplished.
Knock-Out of the Year: Sliva v. Belfort. If you haven’t had a chance to see this knockout look it up online somewhere and try to watch it in slow motion. I am not sure what was more shocking: watching Belfort crumble to the mat, or the laissez-faire manner in which Silva threw the kick.
Comeback of the Year: Cheick Kongo. Kongo looked to be the future of the HW division a few years back, but a few crushing losses left him on the fringes of the division. After an impressive KO victory over Pat Barry, Kongo definitely put the division on notice that he’s back!
Disappointing Fighter of the Year Fedor Emlianenko. Very sad to see one of the best fighters in the history of the sport fall so dramatically. In a year that many legends fell, this one struck a chord with me the loudest.
Best Event of the Year: UFC 134 in Brazil. This card was stacked top to bottom, and every fight on the card was awesome to watch.
Last Word on Sports MMA “Man of the Year”: Dana White. The man at the top of the UFC ranks continued to grow the sport and take it to new levels. Dana expanded the sport to a myriad of new markets, acquired Strikeforce and took the sport to mainstream audiences (re: UFC on FOX 1). I don’t know if anyone that is a fan of the sport of MMA could really argue that Dana was not deserving of this title.
… and that is the last word.