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2010 Fightmania Awards, Part 2

By on January 16, 2011

In part two of our 2010 MMA awards, we’ll discuss the biggest categories remaining. Who was the top fighter of the year? Who had the best knockout? What was the slickest submission? And of course, I will also pick 2010’s best fight from some very good nominees, as well.

Let’s get things going with what is always a tough decision to make: which fighter had the best year in 2010?

Fighter of the Year– Jose Aldo

To me, there are three great candidates and one compelling underdog for this one: Jose Aldo, Georges St. Pierre, Cain Velasquez, and Anthony Pettis.

Pettis has the advantage of having won four fights in 2010, as many other top fighters (especially title holders) have only a couple of fights per year, especially when taking into account how many top fighters in MMA have had injury troubles over the last few years. He also finished three out of four of them, which is a rarity in his weight class.

When Pettis concluded his successful run at the WEC Lightweight Championship with a ridiculous highlight-reel kick against a top ten opponent, it really seemed to be the perfect end to a fantastic year. He may take this award in years to come, too. But thus far, the competition that he faced in the WEC hasn’t allowed him to put together the kind of resume that these other fighters have.

GSP had a good year by any estimation, fighting two top ten challengers and not losing a single round to either man. St. Pierre first beat Dan Hardy with a stifling ground game and unstoppable takedowns, and may have submitted an opponent without the great will to continue that Hardy showed by not tapping out to a couple of painful submissions. He followed it up with a jab-heavy performance that saw him outstriking and outwrestling Josh Koscheck for five rounds.

Velasquez was the popular choice for many other MMA websites, and it’s hard to argue with it. He defeated two top ten opponents in 2010, finishing both of them. He beat the number one heavyweight in the sport to take the sport’s most important heavyweight title, too. However, when you get to this level of performance, you have to nitpick, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is not what he used to be at this point. If you’re going to take a divisional champion who won two fights against top opponents in 2010, there’s a better option.

That option is Jose Aldo. Aldo absolutely dominated an immensely talented opponent in Urijah Faber, then easily finished a top five challenger in Manny Gamburyan during 2010. Those who scoff at this selection simply do not understand that the WEC’s featherweight division was the best collection of talent at 145 pounds in the sport.

Fight of the Year– Henderson vs. Pettis, WEC 53

Every year brings great fights, but what was so special about 2010 was the number of excellent title fights. In years past, when a title fight went five rounds it was often because one fighter just couldn’t put the other away, or both combatants were too worn out to mount any serious offense in the later rounds. Now, we’re seeing not only great, back-and-forth fights, but also bouts that still have a high pace in the championship rounds.

You’ve got title bouts like Edgar-Maynard, even Lesnar-Carwin where the champion survived a brutal onslaught to mount a comeback. There was Silva-Sonnen and Santiago-Misaki, where the champion came up big in the closing minutes of what would have been a losing effort. Then there are great slugfests like Garcia-Jung that always make for a memorable experience.

My pick for fight of the year, however, is none of the above fights. Instead, I’ve chosen the WEC Lightweight Championship bout between Ben Henderson and Anthony Pettis. In the final WEC fight ever, these two fought their hearts out for five rounds. It wasn’t an all-out brawl like Garcia-Jung, but it featured a level of technical expertise that that fight didn’t. Furthermore, the fight showcased every area of mixed martial arts, from great wrestling to submission attempts and escapes, as well as some superb striking. Having the best highlight reel move in MMA history in the final round to help Pettis seal the deal and get the decision victory was just icing on the cake.

Knockout of the Year– Robbie Lawler against Melvin Manhoef, Strikeforce: Miami

This is easily the hardest award to decide. In the other categories, something almost immediately jumps out at you, but in this one, you get several that come to mind, and the more you think about it, the more remarkable knockouts you remember.

There are different levels of knockouts, to be sure. There are knockouts that are notable for the pure athleticism or viciousness of the knockout itself, such as Pablo Garza’s scary knee on Fredson Paixao that left Paixao prone for several minutes at TUF 12’s finale, Hector Lombard’s manhandling of Jay Silva at Bellator 18, or Marlon Sandro’s swarming of Tomonari Kanomata at Sengoku 12.

Then there are knockouts that are more notable for who the victim is, such as BJ Penn’s knockout of Matt Hughes at UFC 123, Takanori Gomi’s surprising KO of Tyson Griffin on the UFC’s second Versus event or Mauricio “Shogun” Rua’s starching of the once-invincible Lyoto Machida at UFC 113.

The best knockouts contain both elements, as do a couple of my favorites. Robbie Lawler had a ridiculous knockout against an admittedly-aged Matt Lindland, stunning Lindland with an uppercut before coming over the top with a perfectly-placed right hand and finally following it up with a diving shot to seal the deal. Then there was another one of my honorable mentions, Gerald Harris’s brilliant slam KO of David Branch at UFC 116 (Sarah Kaufman’s Rampage-esque slam against Roxanne Modafferi also earns a mention here). Despite my dislike for his antics, there were few KOs that made my jaw drop quite the way that Paul Daley’s shellacking of Scott Smith did. The sound that the shot made as Smith came forward aggressively before falling flat on his face was unforgettable.

For the best knockout though, my pick is Robbie Lawler’s knockout of Melvin Manhoef. Manhoef has a sturdy chin and was absolutely destroying Lawler to that point, landing leg kicks and body kicks that had Lawler visibly wobbled. When Lawler landed a huge overhand right out of nowhere, and followed up with a falling shot to his downed opponent (which Lawler does better than anyone in the sport, by the way), it was the “jump off the couch” KO moment of the year, in my book.

Submission of the Year– Fabricio Werdum against Fedor Emelianenko, Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum

Most years, some crazy submission such as Toby Imada’s inverted triangle choke on a standing Jorge Masvidal will take the cake for submission of the year. This year, there were no shortage of “what was that?!?” submissions, from Nick Pace’s “Pace choke” on Will Campuzano at the TUF 12 Finale to Shuichiro Katsumura’s absolutely awesome “ninja choke” against Masakatsu Ueda that definitely ranks as my runner-up this year.

There was also the absolutely brutal guillotine choke that Scott Jorgensen slapped on Chad George, choking him unconscious and then nonchalantly dropping him to the mat at the fight’s conclusion. However, this was also a year where textbook submissions took on great importance, such as Anderson Silva’s last-minute triangle choke/armbar against Chael Sonnen that kept him from losing his title in the fifth round of their bout.

Still, when someone submits the top heavyweight in the world in just over a minute after the man hadn’t lost in over a decade (and even then, only due to a cut), it’s hard to overlook it. For that reason, Fabricio Werdum’s technically-sound triangle choke/armbar combination takes the cake. Fedor isn’t exactly a newbie on the mat, and even though Werdum had already threatened with an armbar previously, he was able to trap Fedor and keep him from escaping while tightening the hold until Fedor had no option but to tap out for the first time in his illustrious career.

Thanks for checking out the 2010 Fightmania MMA Awards! Agree? Disagree? Just want to get your say in? E-mail me with your thoughts.

E-Mail Jon Hartley

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