There’s a feeling MMA fans get just a few times per year. The fight is over, the athletes and their trainers are leaving the cage, everyone in the stands has returned to their seats and you turn to your friend, or you think to yourself, ‘now that’s going to go down in history’.
Here are those moments from 2011.
Frank Mir submits Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira with a kimura – UFC 140
Forget the fact that everyone wrote Mir’s first win over Big Nog off as a fluke, forget that Mir was badly rocked moments before the submission, forget the fact that these men are both high-level BJJ black belts and just zero in on this. Big Nog had never been submitted in his MMA career and was widely considered the best BJJ player in the heavyweight division and in the top tier of the sport. He is a legend, an icon, an ‘un-submittable’ hero. Frank Mir took all those accolades and snapped them in half with the most significant submission win in his career and one of the greatest in the history of the sport.
Tito Ortiz guillotines Ryan Bader – UFC 132
One final grave-digging routine when all the odds were against him. Gorgeous.
Chan Sung Jung’s twister win over Leonard Garcia – Ultimate Fight Night 24
The beauty of MMA is that it’s always evolving.
Diego Brandao submits Dennis Bermudez with an armbar – TUF 14 Finale
Brutal. Unexpected. Jaw-dropping. He is the Ultimate Fighter…until next season.
Jon Jones chokes out Lyoto Machida – UFC 140
Classless move to drop him to the mat, but one hell of a way to finish the fight.
Anderson Silva front-kicks Vitor Belfort into unconsciousness – UFC 126
Vitor might be rethinking that whole foot fetish thing after this one. What preceded this insane moment, was three minutes of staring and a fever pitch crowd growing restless. Afterwards? Shock. Awe. Pandemonium. If it weren’t for the cameras no one would have believed it actually happened. The craziest part? Silva claims Steven Seagal taught him the technique.
Lyoto Machida crane kicks Randy Couture – UFC 129
Karate is back!
Cheick Kongo crumples Pat Barry – UFC LIVE
An unbelievable, career-saving comeback for the Frenchman.
Frankie Edgar finally stops Gray Maynard – UFC 136
It wasn’t pretty, but it was so relieving after 9 rounds of hotly debated MMA. Who says Frankie doesn’t hit hard?
Carlos Condit destroys Dong Hyun Kim – UFC 132
An amazing display of beautiful violence.
Fight of the Year
Shogun Rua vs. Dan Henderson – UFC 139
To be honest, the Chandler vs. Alvarez fight in Bellator that happened on the same night might actually be a more exciting fight but we’re focusing on the UFC here and within the Octagon this was the match-up that made the history books in 2011. It had it all: two legends of the sport, top contender status on the line, submission attempts, near-knockouts, top-level BJJ and wrestling, momentum swings, a desperate comeback, buckets of blood and that wonderful moment before Bruce Buffer reads the judges’ decision where the entire MMA world leans forward in anticipation like children listening to a storybook. Henderson rightfully won the fight but Shogun was not a loser in the eyes of anyone watching.
Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard II & III – UFC 125, 136
It all felt like one fight really, the way the first title bout ended in a draw. Despite having two of what were perceived to be the most boring fighters at 155 in the Octagon, this was the most exciting grudge match(es) in years.
Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber – UFC 132
Speaking of grudge matches, this one lived up to the hype. Faber came closer than anyone yet to dethroning the bantamweight champ.
Diego Sanchez vs. Martin Kampmann – UFC LIVE
Say what you want about the decision but this was a bloody war that you couldn’t look away from.
Jose Aldo vs. Mark Hominick – UFC 129
It wasn’t too exciting until that final round, but if you’ve ever doubted the power of home-crowd advantage, watch this fight and try to deny that Hominick wasn’t running solely off the spirit of the fans.
- Sam Stilson