The MMA year that was 2011 will be remembered for a lot of big news events, great fights, a little controversy and always plenty to talk about. This kicks off our series looking back month-by-month at what happened, who did what and what was to come.
Fittingly, the year kicked off with a UFC event, headlined by a quietly built and non buzzworthy rematch between Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard at UFC 125. Nothing much was made of the fight going in, but a Fight Of The Year candidate came out of it even thought it went to a draw.
There was plenty of immediate post-fight chatter about a rematch, but initially UFC President Dana White was hesitant and insistent that WEC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis was going to get his promised opportunity. Within hours, however, that changed and White made the call for Edgar/Maynard III.
Also of note on that card, Thiago Silva's destruction of Brandon Vera, Clay Guida's submission win over Takanori Gomi, Brian Stann's big knockout of Chris Leben and two well-known fighters competing for what would be their last time in the UFC in Phil Baroni and Marcus Davis.
The bizarre year for Chael Sonnen began to take shape as he pleaded guilty to federal money laundering charges and would plea bargain down to a fine and probation with no jail time. While he avoided going behind bars, he didn't escape the punishment of the UFC who temporarily suspended Sonnen so he could get his life back in order. This put off a rumored bout against Yoshihiro Akiyama and any immediate hope of a rematch with 185-pound champion Anderson Silva.
What would turn out to be the most-attended event in UFC history began to take shape as it was confirmed that Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre would face Jake Shields while Randy Couture would meet Lyoto Machida in a battle of former UFC Light Heavyweight Champions at UFC 129 in Toronto.
There was plenty of chatter about the Strikeforce Grand Prix tournament and whether the world's No.2 promotion had leapfrogged the UFC with their heavyweights. The promotion ended the month with an event featuring a fun scrap between Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz and Evangelista Santos and Herschel Walker's decimation of Scott Carson.
In general, there was a lot of buzz and positivity about Strikeforce. There was talk of a lightweight Grand Prix and their announce team was called the best in the business. In a few months, the landscape would drastically change.
Other Stuff That Happened
UFC fighter Jacob Volkmann called out President Obama after a win and then was questioned by Secret Service…Fedor Emelianenko vs. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva and Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum were booked for the Grand Prix...UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Mauricio Rua vs. Rashad Evans was made official for UFC 128.
Brock Lesnar released his autobiography and was announced as one of the coaches on season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter opposite Junior dos Santos with a fight to come at some point...the UFC aired their first ever Facebook fights on their Fight For The Troops 2 event. On that show, Melvin Guillard destroyed Evan Dunham in the headliner...St. Pierre split with his longtime manager.