I know it's a bit early and I thought about doing a "What I Want for Christmas" piece, but that can wait until next week. Since the rise of the UFC we have become spoiled with the amount of MMA we get to see week in and week out. Some people will never be happy, but I know I am.
I am going to look back at this past year in mixed martial arts and express my gratitude for the men who have made this sport as great as it is. There were so many memorable fights, amazing finishes and shocking turns of events. I'd love to know what you are grateful for as well. This is the time of the year where it is better to give than to receive or so they say!
No matter what this man does it is never enough. He dominates Dan Hardy for five rounds and secures two submissions that most fighters would have succumbed to and fans are still not happy! Then he thoroughly outclasses Josh Koscheck by doing what Koscheck said he would never do; stand and trade with him. Do you realize we are getting the opportunity to watch the Babe Ruth of MMA right now? Every time he fights he is better than the time before. He is an incredible athlete with an unbelievable work ethic who upholds all of the integrity that makes this sport so special.
The WEC-UFC Merger:
I realize it may mean less free MMA on television, but as a true fan of the sport and the men who compete in it, the merger makes sense and will allow the lighter fighters an opportunity to shine and make more money as well. Just look at the past week as the UFC was able to sign Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto and Michihiro Omigawa, two of the world's top featherweights. Being able to make more money and compete inside the Octagon had a lot to do with the organization finally securing these fighters. We will get to watch Urijah Faber, Miguel Torres, Jose Aldo and so many other great fighters fight under the same banner as GSP and Anderson Silva. Well deserved if you ask me.
I've interviewed Velasquez before and he is as humble as they come. Everything that he has accomplished he has busted his ass for. Watching him tear through Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and then Brock Lesnar was simply awesome and I am a fan of both men. Velasquez is the type of fighter who goes about his business the way fighters are supposed to. He works hard, respects his opponents and the sport. It's amazing to see him progress the way he has and he hasn't reached his peak yet. Now that's scary.
Junior Dos Santos:
Dos Santos is another in the long line of brilliant Brazilian fighters. Ever since he shocked the MMA world by dropping Fabricio Werdum with a well placed uppercut at UFC 90 the man has been on a mission. In 2010 alone he has defeated Gilbert Yvel, Gabriel Gonzaga and Roy Nelson. He has the best stand-up in the heavyweight division and while his ground game has yet to be tested, something tells me he will do just fine against Velasquez when they meet sometime in the next few months. Two young guns will battle over the sports most prestigious title. If that doesn't get you excited I don't know what will.
Is this guy an animal or what? No one has been able to touch this guy, he has yet to be tested and I truly don't know if that will happen at 145lbs. The UFC thinks so highly of him that they offered him an opportunity to fight Kenny Florian in January. Not only would it have been his first fight as a lightweight, but he would have been fighting in the UFC for the first time as well. I truly believe that Aldo will be a fighter that goes down in the history books as one of the best pound for pound fighters of all time. How great is it that we are lucky enough to watch him compete?
While many believe his win against BJ Penn at UFC 112 was very controversial, he more than made up for it with his dominant performance against Penn at UFC 118 just four months later. Now that he is champion the division has opened up once again after watching Penn dominate it for the previous two years. Regardless of the outcome of his bout with Grey Maynard next month there are so many fighters waiting in line for a shot at the gold, including the ones who have made their way over from the WEC.
World of Jenks:
For the past few years I have tried in earnest to get my wife to follow MMA more intently, but she just wasn't interested. As soon as she watched the episode of the "World of Jenks" which featured WEC lightweight title competitor Anthony "Showtime" Pettis her interest really started to increase. The show really gave a great look into the life of a mixed martial artist and allowed you to invest yourself into him as a fan. They showed that fighters aren't brute thugs or barbarians; rather they are men of honor and dedicated to their families. Great job by MTV.
If we really have seen the last of Couture inside the Octagon as a competitor then let us all be thankful that he went out on top. In 2010 he defeated Mark Coleman, Brandon Vera and choked out James Toney, the boxer who was hell bent on proving that mixed martial artists couldn't compete with a good boxer. He was the right man for the job as he has represented this sport so well throughout his career. The UFC wouldn't have been the same without "The Natural" aka "Captain America."
Steroids or not this man showed the world that Anderson Silva is human and he also helped Silva show the world that he has a ton of heart. After being taken down at will and beaten up for over four rounds, Silva pulled a submission out of his ass and proved that he could work under pressure. Silva isn't one of the greatest fighters for no reason and for one night in August, Sonnen helped show us that "The Spider" isn't perfect and that he always keeps his composure.
Kudos to a referee for having the balls to allow a champion the chance to fight out of danger. His decision was validated just a few minutes later when Brock Lesnar choked out Shane Carwin in the 2nd round of their heavyweight title fight back in July. Carwin was unloading all types of heavy artillery on the befallen Lesnar, but Rosenthal made sure he was in the right position to see that Lesnar was still competent and defending himself. Good job ref!
The talent that Thiago Alves has is hardly a secret as he has been regarded one of the top three welterweights in the world for some time now, but it has been his inability to maintain his weight which as caused him to miss the 170lb limit on a few occasions. Dana White had enough and was looking to force Alves to compete as a middleweight. Thankfully cooler heads prevailed and Alves hooked up with Dolce. The result was a fantastic outing by Alves at UFC 124 against John Howard. Not only did Alves make weight, but he looked to be in prime condition, mixing in some takedowns with his always dangerous striking. The best days are ahead for Alves.
Not to toot my own horn, but I was telling everyone when Sotiropoulos was on The Ultimate Fighter that this guy was something special. I don't know what it was, but after watching him destroy Roman Mitichyan back in April of 2008, I felt that a drop to the lightweight division would be a huge boost to his career. Lo and behold he has won five straight as a lightweight including wins over Joe Stevenson, Kurt Pellegrino and Joe Lauzon. Watching him progress these past 12 months has been so gratifying.
Along with Ryan Bader the UFC has three potential studs in their light heavyweight division and they are all under the age of 27. They have a combined record of 31-1 with the only loss being suffered by Jones and that loss was against Matt Hamill via DQ in a bout that Jones was absolutely dominating. Jones and Bader will be meeting in February at UFC 126 in a bout that may determine the next number one contender for the light heavyweight championship. These are three guys who will be staples of the division well into the next decade.
Whether you love him or you hate him, the man exemplifies what a fighter is all about. After handing Aaron Simpson his first loss on June 19th and earning the knockout of the night bonus, Leben bails the UFC out of a jam by returning to face Japanese sensation Yoshihiro Akiyama just three weeks later at UFC 116. The two waged a war for the better part of three rounds before Leben locked in a triangle choke with just 20 seconds left in the fight. The two men earned fight of the night for their troubles. I don't know too many fighters who would have the balls to fight Simpson and Akiyama in the span of a few months let alone 3 weeks.
This kid can fight and despite the fact that he was robbed against Sean Sherk at UFC 119 in September he was still offered a main event spot opposite Kenny Florian on the UFC: Fight for the Troops card that is scheduled for January. Florian is out because of an injury, but Dunham will face Melvin Guillard instead. In 2010 Dunham burst on to the scene with wins over Efrain Escudero, Tyson Griffin and technically Sean Sherk. He will be a big part of the UFC's lightweight division for years to come.
What makes MMA so great is the amount of inspirational stories that we hear about the fighters who compete in this great sport. Whether it's a guy who came from a broken home and started wrestling to stay off the streets or a fighter whose friends were into drug dealing and he wanted something better, the stories are abundant and always interesting. McGee came out of nowhere to win The Ultimate Fighter season 11. After losing in the preliminary round, McGee was chosen to come back and he made the most of the opportunity. He defeated Kris McCray in the live finale. After winning via second round submission McGee gave an emotional speech about his past problems with drugs and showed the world that with hard work anything is possible.
The little promotion that could will soon enter its fourth season. If you haven't watched a Bellator event live then do yourselves a favor and get to a show as soon as possible. Their matchmaking is spectacular and very rarely disappoints. I really like the tournaments they run and having Eddie Alvarez as your lightweight champion only helps. He is one of the top 155lb fighters in the world and recently dispatched of Roger Huerta this past October. They have secured a television deal with FX and do a great job of showcasing local talent everywhere they go.
There you have it, I know that there are no Strikeforce fighters on here, but to be honest the only things I can appreciate from Strikeforce are Nick Diaz and Gilbert Melendez. That doesn't mean I don't like any of their other fighters, but the promotion as a whole just doesn't seem to get it. Stop focusing so much on Fedor and allowing him to dictate when, where and who he fights. The same can be said for their heavyweight "champion" Alistair Overeem. One title defense in three years is ridiculous. It's time to move on and take control back.