2011 MMA Awards: Best Fighter, Fight, KO, Surprises

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It’s the dog days of summer, so that must mean it’s time to hand out some hardware in the form of the Mid-Year MMA Awards.  These coveted little awards were voted on by me and the results kept secret by me until I alone was ready to present them to the men and women deserving of such adulation and admiration.

Fighter of the Half-Year

Jon Jones took down unbeaten Ryan Bader and then stepped in to face Champion Shogun Rua when Rashad found himself injured.  Jon Jones seemingly had little problem is dismantling Shogun and becoming the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion at age 23.  His next test comes in the form of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in September.

2nd:  Nick Diaz is having a solid year as well.  He defeated Cyborg Santos in a slugfest and then had the fight of the year so far in his clash with Paul “Semtex” Daley.  If that wasn’t enough, Diaz signed a new deal with Zuffa that allows him to fight in the UFC.  His next fight is with MMA Poster Child and Welterweight champion, Georges St Pierre.  All of those facts together have made it a great 2011 for the brash Stockton fighter.

Fight of the Half-Year

When Paul Daley and Nick Diaz stepped into the Strikeforce cage to determine the Welterweight Championship people expected a war.  People got that and more.  Daley and Diaz came out throwing haymakers and absolutely acted like human wrecking balls until Diaz halted Daley with strikes to retain his championship.  It was an amazing war and both fighters wanted to destroy their opponent.  It was a grudge match where the prefight intensity was matched in the cage.  It was a rare prize of a fight.

2nd:  Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard put together 25 minutes of pure frenetic action en route to a draw back on New Years Day at UFC 125.  It was a tremendous fight and people are chomping at the bit to see it for the third time in October.

Honorable Mention: Diego Sanchez vs. Martin Kampmann & Jose Aldo vs. Mark Hominick

KO of the Half-Year

Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort had words leading up to their epic clash at UFC .  Anderson Silva was upset and he spoke out against Vitor.  Anderson scares me when he’s smiling at me, when he’s angry, I’d run for the hills.  Belfort was brave and chose to stay and fight it out.  What was the result?  Knockout of the year.  Anderson Silva front kicked Vitor in the face and that was a wrap! Amazing kick by Anderson Silva, said to be inspired by Steven Segal, who also inspired this article.

2nd – Cheick Kongo Zombie KO of Pat Barry was amazing because it happened moments after Barry dropped Kongo multiple times with hellacious shots.  It was honestly like a zombie knock out because Kongo came back from the edge to deliver it.  Amazing.

“Holy Shit” Moment of the Half-Year

Cheick Kongo Zombie KO makes another appearance as it had everyone at home, in the arena and on twitter dropping the holy shit bomb at the same time.  Absolutely amazing come from behind knock out.  Kongo will next face Matt Mitrione in what should cause the “Holy Shit” moment of the second half of the year.

2nd:  Tito Ortiz drops and submits Ryan Bader.  Everyone thought it was a forgone conclusion that Tito would be roughed up and sent packing when he stepped in against Bader.  Not so fast, Ortiz dropped Bader with a short right and then attacked his neck, submitting Bader in less than two minutes.  The win had everyone simultaneously screaming “Holy shit!”

Blunder of the Half-Year

There are always a handful of bad decisions to gripe about and this year is no different.  However, the biggest blunder this year so far was by a referee named Chip Snider who missed one of the most blatant illegal knees in the history of MMA while refereeing the fight between Charles Oliveira and Nik Lentz.  To make issues worse, during a separate fight on the same card he kept yelling at the busy fighters to get busy etc.  It was a night to forget if you’re Chip Snider.

2nd – One of those horrible decisions, let’s just use any of them.  They are shockingly plentiful and awful.  When I think of 2011 bad decisions I think of Nick Ring’s “victory” over Riki Fukuda in Riki’s UFC debut.  Riki controlled the entire fight with takedowns and control, but inexplicably the judges all gave Nick Ring the first two rounds.  It was a disaster and part of an all too familiar problem in MMA.

Promotion of the Half-Year

This one is pretty basic.  The UFC purchased Strikeforce and widened the gap between them and whoever is currently in second place.  They have had a ton of really solid shows this year and continue to set the pace for MMA in America.   The UFC wins this in a walk.

2nd goes to Bellator.  There are a host of other shows out there that have quality fighters and fights, but what Bellator has done this year in terms of running weekly shows to a national TV audience is very impressive.  They have set themselves apart from other promotions, and in doing so have placed themselves on Zuffa’s hit list.

Fighter to Watch in the Year to Come

This category consists of one fighter that I am very impressed by and think will have an awesome second half of 2011 and be a household name very soon.  That fighter is Muay Thai specialist  Lorenz Larkin.  He’s undefeated and has been looking very solid this year with wins over Mike Cook, Scott Lighty and Gian Villante.  He has amazing kicks and should get a high profile fight in his next outing.  Watch out for him, he’s going to do big things.

Breakthrough Fighter of the Half-Year

Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson has had a hell of a 2011 so far.  After WEC fighters were folded into the UFC, Demetrious saw his debut in the form of Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, one of the best and most respected Featherweights in the world.  After winning that fight, he took on former Champion Miguel Torres and defeated him as well.  It’s been a huge 2011 so far for “Mighty Mouse.” 

2nd:  Brian Stann has been around and isn’t new to the MMA scene.  He’s a former WEC Light Heavyweight Champion for goodness sakes.  However, he’s certainly had a breakthrough year so far and he’s likely on the verge of the most talked about fight of the year with Chael Sonnen doing most the talking.  Stann started his 2011 by Knocking Out Chris Leben and cooling Leben’s unbelievable hot streak.  He then decided another KO would be fun and finished the very durable Jorge Santiago at UFC 130.  At UFC 136 in October he’ll face off with the least popular man in MMA, Chael Sonnen.  If Stann can take Sonnen out, he’ll become one of the biggest stars in the sport and receive a title shot.  It’s been one heck of a year for Brian Stann.

Innovation of the Half-Year

UFC Prelims on Facebook are a Godsend and far and away MMA’s crowning achievement in 2011.  Ok, I might have overstated that a touch, but they are a very welcome addition to the UFC family.  Being able to watch the entire card has not only been a welcome change as a fan of fights, but as a non-credentialed member of the media, it allows those of us not in the arena to better cover the sport for our readers.

2nd California has been quietly testing a new scoring system for the sport of MMA.  Normally I don’t trust California’s Commission to do anything right, but this is a positive step.  The system uses half points as well as set point placement for takedowns, reversals, attempted submissions and escapes that would take the subjectivity away from judges who in many cases don’t know the different between a wristlock and a wristwatch (thanks Bobby Heenan.)

Story of the Half-Year

There are three stories vying for the award this year, Zuffa purchasing Strikeforce, Nate Marquardt’s UFC 132 firing and Mark Millers succesul return from Heart Surgery to compete and win by 5 Second KO.  Let’s face it; Strikeforce being purchased will have the longest and most dramatic effect on the sport.

Nate Marquardt’s firing the day before he was supposed to headline an event was amazing news at the time, everyone was glued to their computers trying to figure out the burning question; Why was Nate fired?  Well, when it all came to pass, it was pretty silly and Nate most likely shouldn’t have been fired at all.  At least that is if what he has said is true.  The Pennsylvania Commission has already reinstated him and the whole ordeal seems like a mistake on Nate’s part and an overreaction on Dana’s part.  Shocking, right?

Why not go with the feel good story?  Mark Miller underwent valve replacement surgery in 2007 and after that lost his father, mother and brother all in a years’ time.  His marriage ended, he required a second surgery to fix an injured knee and the hopes of once again fighting seemed pretty far away.  Most people, hell, damn near all people would have curled up, and withered away but Mark kept marching towards the goal of again fighting professionally.  He did just that on May 28th, facing very tough Nikolaj Falin (30-8) and knocked him out with the first rand hand he threw, some five seconds into the fight.  It’s one of those stories that Hollywood couldn’t write, but will certainly make and Miller is a deserving recipient of this award without question.


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