Fighter of the Year: UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman (11-0 MMA 7-0): The man is undefeated and has two unarguable victories over the greatest of all time mixed martial artist, Anderson Silva. How did you NOT see this coming? He’s not without fine company however.
Honorable Mentions – Renan Barao, Demetrious Johnson, Ronda Rousey, and Cain Velasquez
Knockout of the Year: Chris Weidman – Knockouts are the ultimate closure of a fight. Whether or not Anderson Silva was clowning around in the cage, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Chris knocked his head into the next life at UFC 162.
Honorable Mentions – Demetrious Johnson over Joseph Benavidez 2 (UFC on Fox 9); Travis Browne over Josh Barnett (UFC 168); Jacare Souza over Yushin Okami (UFC Fight Night 28); Vitor Belfort over Luke Rockhold (UFC on FX 8)
Submission of the Year: UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis (17-2 MMA 4-1 UFC) – Maybe I’ll take heat for this. However, Pettis was simply a blue belt when he faced Benson Henderson at UFC 164, a well pronounced brazilian jiu jitsu black belt. Henderson verbally submitted to a 1st Round armbar, transferring the UFC Lightweight Title from Henderson to Pettis. A feeling Henderson is all too familiar with.
Honorable Mentions – Chael Sonnen over Mauricio Rua (UFC Fight Night 26); Renan Barao over Michael McDonald (UFC on Fuel TV 7); Josh Burkman over Jon Fitch (WSOF 3); Michael Chandler over Rick Hawn (Bellator 85)
Fight of the Year – UFC 165: Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustaffson
Honorable Mentions – Bermudez vs. Grice (UFC 157); Melendez vs. Sanchez (UFC 166); Alvarez vs. Chandler 2 (Bellator 106); Hunt vs. “Bigfoot” Silva (UFC Fight Night 33)
WMMA Fighter of the Year: UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey (8-0 MMA 2-0) – This pretty much goes without saying? After a season of unfavorable editing on the 18th installment of the Ultimate Fighter, Rousey had to deal with the pressure of the boo’ing crowd, scrutiny, and flat out degrading remarks from alleged fans. You know that brown nosing kid that starts crap with you when the teacher isn’t looking? Yeah, that’s what Rousey’s had to deal with. Still, she came to the octagon on December 28th to successfully defend her title with highly improved striking and, of course, finishing Miesha Tate with her signature armbar.
WMMA’s Comeback Fighter of the Year: Invicta FC Featherweight Champion Cristaine “Cyborg” Justin0 (12-1, 1NC MMA 2-0 Invicta) – After a long lay off, Cyborg came back to win the Invicta Featherweight Title. Much like Rousey, Cyborg has been the butt end of cruel jokes and humiliating criticism. Even today, she has to deal with the ignorant comments of fans (and the occassional annoucer) who refuse to let the past be the past. It doesn’t appear that it will be a short reign as champion, as Cyborg was crowned Champ July 2013 over the highly touted Marlos Coenen. No one seems to have an answer for her.
WMMA’s Breakthrough Fighter of the Year: UFC Bantamweight Jessica Eye (11-1 MMA 1-0 UFC) – People are going to call me biased on this one, but if you look at it from an objective level, no way. Eye was a heavy underdog coming into her UFC 166 debut against former Strikeforce Bantamweight Champion Sarah Kaufman. She did exactly what no one thought she was capable of doing. Maybe it was easy for those unknown to her to underestimate her because she was trapped in a WMMA purgatory until finally being released. Eye beat Kaufman on the feet for Rounds 1 and 2 earning herself a split decision, wiping the smirk off Kaufman’s face.
Breakthrough Fighter of the Year: Travis Browne – After tearing his hamstring late 2012 and taking a TKO loss to Antonio Silva in the same fight, Browne had questions looming around him from high end critics. He answered the call to those critics with knockout wins over Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett in 2013. Both of which who would’ve received eith a title shot or #1 contender’s match immediately after.
Comeback Fighter of the Year: Eddie Alvarez (25-3) – In 2011 Alvarez lost his title to Michael Chandler, he stormed back in 2012 with 2 KO victories over Shinya Aoki and Patricky Freire. Then after some garbage Bellator pulled on him in contract lingo, Alvarez sat on the shelf for 13 months, most of 2013. However, Alvarez gave his “F-you” to Bellator in the form of dominance. Alvarez defeated Chandler decisively in the most exhilarating bout in Bellator history.
Coach of the Year: Duane “Bang” Ludwig – Since his arrival to Team Alpha Male, Ludwigs fighters have gone 15-4 in 2013. None of them have suffered back to back losses. Urijah Faber just went 4-0 on the year and Chad Mendes went 3-0 on the year with wins on UFC on Fox this December. Their teammate Joseph Benavidez also on the card, unfortunately who lost the title fight later that evening. Despite that note, it’s hard to put any coach in that class with Ludwig this year.
Gym of the Year: Team Alpha Male – Wasn’t sure if it was possible, but it is so. Along with my choice for Coach of the Year, Duane Ludwig’s presence made such an impact on this gym, that not only did the gym feel it, but the opposing gyms and MMA community felt it as well.
Ringcard Girl of the Year: Natasha Wicks – Her parents should’ve middle named her “Dedication”. It seems everything she’s involved in, is indirectly related to what she does as a Phoenix Girl for Invicta Fighting Championship. Whether it’s modeling, rolling in jiu jitsu, or being an accomplished distance runner, Natasha makes it look easy to keep that beautiful skin suit she wears fit and eye candy esque.
MMA Organization of the Year: Ultimate Fighting Championship – It seems like they raise the bar every year. They couldn’t do it without great fighters and a great staff. On top of all the candidates for Fight of the Year the UFC has put out, now they’ve made their fights more viewable. December 28, 2013, to close off the year, the UFC announced the unveiling of their digital network “Fight Pass.” Subscribers around the world will have access to more than 1,000 archived fights from the UFC library, Affliction, WEC, Strikeforce, and EliteXC.
Breakthrough MMA Organization of the Year: MMA World Series of Fighting – The promotion started 2013 off with WSOF 2 headlining a fantastic main event showdown between Andrei Arlovski vs. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. Since then, they’ve rattled off 5 more events for the MMA fans and have purchased an organization in Nicaragau, now named World Series of Fighting: Central America. Also, along with WSOF Central America, WSOF purchased an organization in Canada now named World Series of Fighting: Canada. With organizational President Ray Sefo, Executive Vice President/Matchmaker Ali Abdelaziz, and Vice President of Operations Kevin Ariles running the show, WSOF has moved passed Bellator this year with ease. Tell me this, what other organization has gone global in their first 18 months of its infancy?
Breakthrough MMA Commentary of the Year: Jon Anik – I used to tease him. I used to tag him with YouTube video of Jim Carey doing his impression of the most annoying sound in the world “Dumb and Dumber”. Having said that, it’s been an absolute pleasure watching Jon grow from the new guy, to a commentary that most of us are eager to listen to. Well done, Jon.