Brent Brookhouse: Last week we ran a Fight Fix in which Luke Thomas said that his pick for Fight of the Year was Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler. In the comments of that post a debate emerged with many readers saying that for a fight to truly be worthy of Fight of the Year it needs to take place on the biggest stage possible, meaning the UFC.
Does this line of thought hold any weight for you? Even if it isn't the ultimate determining factor, does a fight taking place in the UFC rather than Bellator/DREAM/whatever give it a slight bump over a fight of roughly the same quality?
Tim Burke: While I believe there has to be some significance to the bout, it doesn't necessarily deserve a boost if it's a UFC bout (or the main event of a UFC card). It shouldn't really be considered if it took place at Wild Bill's in Iowa, but it's shouldn't be looked down upon if it took place in Bellator or Dream. It all comes down to how people define a "fight of the year" though, and why people disagree on it all the time. Was Chandler/Alvarez better than Henderson/Shogun? No, I don't believe it was, and I don't believe I would feel any differently if it took place on a bigger stage. I just fundamentally disagree with Luke on this, regardless of the variables involved.
Fraser Coffeen: I wouldn't say it absolutely must be in the UFC, but to me the Fight of the Year does have some extra, intnigble factor beyond just being technically great. Something like Uno vs. Hansen (yep, diggin way into the past there!) may be a technical mavel, but for FOTY, I go with a bigger meaning fight. Why? Because to me, a great fight needs drama, and that drama comes from being invested in the fighters. Good example: I picked Tim Sylvia vs. Randy Couture for FOTY once, which I guess from a technical, back-and-forth standpoint actually wasn't THAT great of a fight - but it had the drama of Couture coming back to try and end the annoying reign of Sylvia, and that's what makes it special. I did love tht Bellator fight, but FOTY? Not for me.
Tim Burke: And that's where me and Fraser differ. I don't judge a fight based on how important it is or the repercussions of the outcome. I just it simply on what happened in the cage/ring. This has been a huge debate between myself and friends of mine, and has been raging for a long time. They thought Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen was fight of the year in 2010 because of the significance and the comeback. Personally, I found the actual fight boring a lot of the time, so there's no way it was fight of the year for me. It didn't even make my top 5.
More after the jump...
Dallas Winston: MMA is MMA. However, as with everything else, the mega-exposure of the UFC will always carry more weight in significance. I think that's salient but not a requirement and, at the end of the day, people are going to choose whatever moved them most.
The Fight of the Year generally needs that heightened level of memorability or mystique that puts it in the unparalleled category. Chandler x Alvarez was a little more dramatic than Hendo x Shogun. It also delivered the pleasing finish, where the scoring of Hendo x Shogun dulls the luster a tad. My personal pick is Kongo x Barry, which is less "significant" than any of the other offerings.
Ben Thapa: I am generally with BeerMonster here: people get too wrapped up in the emotional side of fights and lose track of the technical skills, momentum shifts and heart that both fighters in a Fight of the Year bout display.
Pettis/Henderson was my 2010 Fight of the Year, with Silva/Sonnen and Santiago/Misaki being right behind. Despite these three all being five round title fights, only one of them took place in the UFC and that fight was perhaps the least entertaining of the three. The platform that is the UFC isn't the message, the fight is. I will forever cherish the WEC as a promotion that built itself up to a world-class level, yet it was the amazing fights that took place within its cages that made the WEC so great. The Showtime Kick capped off a legendary night, which was awesome, but the fight itself was a see-saw battle between two soon-to-be elite fighters. Santiago may not have a job with the UFC right now, but that title fight in Sengoku showcased his heart and he got the finish in the end.
I found Chandler/Alvarez to be very entertaining, but that second round in which neither fighter put forth much offense dims its luster in my eyes. Both fighters were missing punches, having their ground game stuffed and there wasn't the clear, crisp technical moments in that round that get the thrills going in my heart. The terrific comeback win by Chandler over the crisper boxing from Alvarez keeps this in my top three fights of the year for sure, but Henderson/Rua had the added benefit of not having a down round at all. Chandler/Alvarez is a fine, fine fight and I greatly look forwards to Bellator's lightweight fights in 2012, but I just can't give it the nod over Hendo/Shogun as the fight of the year.
I also hope nobody gets brain damage chasing that FOTN bonus. Entertaining us is terrific, but preserve your future career longevity, fighters...
David Castillo: I'd say that yes, absolutely a fight of the year needs to have people invested beyond the fight itself. That's precisely what makes the first viewing so special, and why a big fight with big implications that turns out great seems better than any other fight: because we've exhausted the possibilities, and history has primed our expectations. When those expectations are met and exceeded, like they were in Henderson/Rua fight, it just feelsdifferent. It feels special.
Chandler/Alvarez was a great fight, but there was nothing mysterious about it. We knew we'd get "two dogs going at it", as Rogan would say. But there's something to be said for a fight that leaves you interested after the action, and I can't say Chandler interests me while he's stuck in Bellator. Or at least as much as he could fighting in the UFC, for example. Where does he go moving forward? Don't get it twisted: Chandler's an awesome fighter, and I'll keep my eye on him.
But I'll only ever remember his performance: not the iconic reflections of it. And even then some of that fades, in part by assumptions of Chandler the fighter. He may not ever duplicate his performance, and it's even possible Alvarez wins his title back whereas Shogun and Rua were engaged in an outpouring of fists, and legacy. At least that's how I make sense of it. I personally don't feel like Chandler will be a mainstay at LW, whereras fights that were similar in profile, like Edgar/Griffin in 2007, or Henderson/Pettis in 2010 gave you the sense that the fighters involved would eventually grow to be icons themselves (admittedly, Griffin being a comical refutation of this, but who didn't think these guys were the future back then?). I'm rambling, and possibly off-topic, but I agree with Fraser.
KJ Gould: The size of the stage isn't relevant. Swap both fights around between Bellator and the UFC, Henderson vs Shogun is still better and I believe Luke Thomas' opinion is wrong.
While it can be fairly argued that the Chandler vs Alvarez fight had more on the line in terms of hypothetical divisional ranking, sometimes judging the quality of a fight has to include the build up to it, and not just the process or result. You can argue about the little details between the fights regarding refinement of technique or the capacity to endure, but for many Shogun vs Henderson offered a lot more. It was the rare culmination of two storied careers that some how had yet to include a fight between each other, and when their paths finally did cross in the cage, magic happened. So while Chandler remains undefeated, and beat the highest ranked non-UFC Lightweight in an upset performance, Shogun vs Henderson has the historical impact so few fights these days do.
Fraser Coffeen: Back to Tim - see, and Silva vs. Sonnen was totally my pick for FOTY last year. But then again, I'm one of those guys who still thinks Royce Gracie vs. Kazushi Sakuraba is the best MMA fight of all time, so that should tell you something about where I stand.
I guess for me, it just needs that story behind it to get me interested. I love hearing the stories of fights, and figuring out what makes these two men, fighting this night, so special. Like KJ said, Hendo vs. Shogun had massive history behind it, and delivered (and then some). I guess to me, without stories behind the fights, I just end up feeling a bit hollow.
T.P. Grant: My vote goes hendo/shogun because of all that went into that fight. Pride glory days, strikeforce champ vs former ufc champ, title contender possibly at stake, 5 round non-title fight.
And then it just blew the doors off the place.
A fight I want to mention just because I feel it was a fantastic fight that should be at least mentioned is Aldo/Hominick. Just a gutsy preformance from both guys.
Josh Nason: The stage and ability to actually see the fight totally are relevant. I could say I saw a FOTY candidate on a local event here in New England but unless there's some real steam behind it nationally, no one would consider it because of the limited nature. I think at minimum, a FOTY candidate has to take place in an organization where there's people to see it (UFC, S'force, Bellator) and even the organizations that run on HDNet. Let's be realistic though: people aren't looking past the Big Three for a FOTY these days and most will stick to the UFC because of the brand name.
Fraser Coffeen: I enjoy Bellator, really I do, but there is something about them that always feels so "minor leagues" to me that I can't put it alongside the UFC and SF. Personally, I'd be more likely to pick a Dream fight for FOTY over a Bellator fight.