Over the next few days, Bloody Elbow is going to ask for your opinion on some of the best things that have happened in the MMA world over the first half of 2011. There will be a total of eight different categories you'll be asked to vote on. For simplicity's sake we're going to stick with high-level and relevant MMA stuff in these posts. While I'm sure there was a ludicrous knockout in an unscheduled MMA event at The Lumberyard strip club in Des Moines, or an insane pancreas lock submission on an obscure ZST! card in Japan, let's just stick to stuff a lot of us have seen, okay? And yes, we'll count UFC 132 in this despite it being on July 2nd, since I'm getting a late start on it.
It's pretty simple. I'll post 10 options in a category, you vote for what you think was the best. If you think I left something really important off my list, post it in the comments and we can add it to the poll if it's deemed worthy. I can almost guarantee you won't like all my suggestions, but narrowing down these lists to 10 is tough.
Now that we've got that out of the way, let's get onto the sixth poll - the best fighter of the first half of 2011. Some guys went out and delivered in the biggest fights of their careers. Some were given late opportunities and made the most of them. And a whole bunch of others lost, which is why they won't be making this list.
Here we go, in no particular order:
Clay Guida - Guida started off 2011 with a decisive submission win over former Pride lightweight champion Takanori Gomi at UFC 125. When the UFC lightweight title situation was kept in limbo after the Edgar/Maynard draw on the same card, Anthony Pettis was given a fight with Guida to prove he belonged in the title picture. "The Carpenter" grinded Pettis out in very impressive fashion, taking a unanimous decision win and putting himself into the elite of the division instead.
Nick Diaz - Diaz defended his Strikeforce welterweight twice in the first half of 2011, defeated Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos by submission in January, then finishing Paul Daley with three seconds left in the first round in a thrilling fight in April. Diaz then vacated his title to go to the UFC and will face champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 137. Fighting your way right into a title fight in a different organization is pretty impressive.
Melvin Guillard - Some kid named Evan was on the fast track to the top, despite a (terrible) decision loss to Sean Sherk. Guillard stopped Dunham in his tracks though, hurting him with the first punch of the fight and derailing that particular hype train a few minutes later. He returned against Shane Roller and totally dominated him, eventually turning out his lights in under three minutes. Melvin is no prospect any more, but he might be the fastest-rising star at lightweight right now.
Patricio Freire - Pitbull had an excellent spring, defeating three opponents in two months to claim Bellator's season four featherweight tournament. Bellator guys might not get much love, but Freire has to be commended for rolling though some tough competition in a short amount of time. And he looked extremely impressive doing it.
Mark Munoz -Munoz was matched up with C.B. Dollaway at UFC on Versus 3, but the battle between wrestlers was over quickly when Munoz knocked out his opponent in just 54 seconds. This earned him a shot at consensus top 5 fighter Demian Maia at UFC 131. It was a close affair, but Munoz pulled out the biggest victory of his career and has entered the discussion of who might fight for the middleweight title in the near future. His friendship with Anderson Silvawill make that an interesting situation.
There are five more options after the jump, plus the poll.
Jon Jones - Jones handed Ryan Bader his first career defeat at UFC 126, and made it look easy. And just six weeks later, after teammate (at the time) Rashad Evans had been forced out with an injury, Jones completely dominated UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio Rua and took his belt. The phenom had finally arrived at the top.
Brian Stann - Stann started his year off by upsetting Chris Leben in dramatic fashion, handing Leben just the second TKO loss of his career. He followed that up with the destruction of top-10-ranked Jorge Santiago. Stann's rise into the middleweight elite has been swift and somewhat surprising. He'll face Chael Sonnen at UFC 136.
Jordan Mein - Who? I know you're all going to savage me for this, but there are too many UFC guys on here. Mein was the only guy I can think of offhand that went 4-0 over the course of the last six months, and he defeated two UFC veterans (Josh Burkman, Joe Riggs) and the Dream welterweight champion (Marius Zaromskis) along the way. Not bad for a 21-year-old. Come on, give him a shot. Think outside the box guys! No, we're not related.
Dennis Siver - The German kickboxer kicked off his 2011 campaign with one of the biggest upsets of the year when he defeated George Sotiropoulos at UFC 127 by decision. Siver rejuvenated his title hopes even more with a close decision win over Matt Wiman in a very good fight at UFC 132. Suddenly lightweights are calling him out from all over the place, which means he's definitely arrived.
Demetrious Johnson - Mighty Mouse made his UFC debut against former pound-for-pound great Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto and made Kid look pretty bad with his superior wrestling, taking a one-sided decision at UFC 126. He returned to face former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres at UFC 130, and despite fracturing his leg in the fight pulled out a very close decision win to possibly get the next shot at bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.
You can vote on previous polls at the following links: