Even though there’s about a billion other people with more valuable opinions on end of year awards I thought I would provide my views on who I think deserves recognition for accomplishments in 2010 anyway. First up, the fighter of the year.
Picking the fighter of the year for 2010 is a little tricky, as most top fighters only fought twice in the year, and didn’t necessarily show off anything particularly outstanding. Georges St Pierre cruised to two safety-first decisions over fighters he should have beaten, Frankie Edgar beat BJ Penn twice, but got a gift decision in the first fight, Anderson Silva danced with Damien Maia in April instead of Fighting him, and although Shogun and Fabricio Werdum notched up impressive wins, they only fought once. Cain Velasquez fought twice, scored two knockouts over top-10 opposition and won the UFC heavyweight championship.
At the start of the year, he decimated Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the first round with lightning speed for a heavyweight athlete, and pin point shots to ‘Minotauro’s’ chin, finally bringing fans to conclude that he might not be cut out to fight the sport’s elite any more. Then, in October he unleashed a considerable beatdown on the sport’s biggest name, Brock Lesnar. The discourse from many going into the fight was that Lesnar was simply too big and powerful for Velasquez, putting him on his arse, keeping him there and keeping his right fist in close acquaintance with Cain’s face for 5 rounds. I did not share this opinion, thinking Cain would be able to get up if he was taken down, and then use superior striking to win the fight on the feet. Sure enough, Cain weathered the early storm, and made Brock look stupid, beating him up standing, sending him spinning across the cage as he looked for a way out, before taking him down, and a relentless, but controlled ground and pound assault until Herb Dean ended the night’s proceedings
Credit for all of these excellent pictures goes to Esther Lin of Fanhouse,
Although some may want to down-play Velasquez’s victories, dismissing them as wins against an over the hill veteran and a 5-1 ex-pro wrestler, both were legitimate fighters, with recent wins over relevant opposition, and possessing skill sets that could give most top heavyweights problems. Nogueira had been knocked-out before, but never in such devastating fashion, and when he was 100% healthy. Lesnar too had never been handles so easily. His first loss had been down to a rookie mistake in his second fight against a former UFC champion, and he had shown he could come back from adversity in his previous fight after a first round onslaught from Shane Carwin. Velasquez’s performed a measured, precise bludgeoning of everyone’s favourite xenophobe that there was no way back from.
As much as a fighter of the year award should be based on achievement, it should also take into account the impact that has been made on the sport. The sport’s premier flyweight Jussier Da Silva can continue to go undefeated beating quality fighters, but everyone is still going to continue to not give a shit. Cain also won the biggest prize in the sport by beating its recognisable fighter with the biggest crossover appeal, in front of one of the biggest pay-per view audiences of the year. The win was perhaps not the most impressive of 2010, but it was dramatic and seen by hardcore and casual fans alike. For example, after a training session recently, one of the lads described the fight as the best he’d seen recently. He can’t have seen many really, given the plethora of considerably better fights (Jung/Garcia, Leben/Akiyama, any WEC fight) that had been contested. It goes to show the impact, excitement and visibility of the fight. By beating such a big name in such a high stakes match up, Cain Velasquez secured star status, fame and popularity. So for that, along with his championship victory is why I think he is the 2010 fighter of the year.