Is Jon Jones the best fighter of the last year? (Photo: Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE)
Jon Jones and Anderson Silva are two of the most dominant forces the sport of mixed martial arts has ever known, and now they are both up for the 2012 ESPY for "Best Fighter." Joining the two UFC champions are a pair of outstanding boxers in Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Andre Ward. You can cast your vote at the ESPN website.
Assuming this is supposed to stretch back to the ESPY's last July (this year's event is held on July 11), let's take a look at what each man has done to make a case for the award:
Floyd went 2-0 over the stretch, beating a much bigger Victor Ortiz and a kinda-sorta-maybe-a-little-bit-bigger Miguel Cotto. He did win titles at 147 and 154 in this year span.
Ortiz was riding high after beating Andre Berto and did pose some problems via being a huge welterweight. While Mayweather was clearly winning the fight, there was an interesting fight starting to form as Ortiz tried to be a bully. Unfortunately, he's also an insane person who decided to throw a blatant headbutt and then apologize. And apologize. And apologize. And hug. And hug. Only to have Floyd finally get sick of it and knock Ortiz out as he tried to hug him. But the action has been restarted by the ref, making the punches (and KO) legal.
Floyd's May win over Miguel Cotto was his toughest fight in ten years. Cotto won several rounds but Floyd clearly earned the decision victory. More than just winning, Floyd won by going up in weight again and beating the #1 fighter at 154 pounds.
Anderson Silva has only fought once during the time period, a dominant win over Yushin Okami.
The Okami fight was thought to be a potential trap fight by some thanks to Okami's size and wrestling ability. Some felt he may be able to copy the Chael Sonnen blueprint to give Silva some trouble. Instead, Okami was embarrassed by a far better fighter. Okami could do nothing, Silva could do whatever he wanted.
Ward has also only fought once during the time period, winning the Super Six World Boxing Classic and establishing himself as the no-doubt #1 fighter in the super middleweight division.
Ward's win was over Carl Froch. Ward dominated the early going of the fight before seeming to coast late and let Froch back in to the fight on the scorecards. The final cards reflected a closer fight than the one that actually took place. Given the importance of the bout, it was still a good moment for Ward. One should also pay attention to the beating that Froch put on Lucian Bute to appreciate how good Andre Ward really is.
Jon Jones is in the middle of one of the greatest runs in the history of combat sports. He hit the first real trouble he's been in in quite some time when Lyoto Machida had some success with his unique style in their UFC 140 bout. Jones made some simple adjustments that led to a takedown and elbow that split Machida's head open and then a standing guillotine choke that left Lyoto unconscious on the ground.
He then was forced to go to a decision for the first time since fighting Stephan Bonnar at UFC 94 when he stepped in the cage with Rashad Evans. Evans landed some decent strikes in the bout, but Jones convincingly won the fight and shut up his biggest rival in the process.
Edit: Somehow I completely forgot the Rampage fight having taken place during this period. That was one sided as well and makes an even stronger case for Jones. I've edited him in to the opening line of Jones' record.
The Correct Vote
Silva and Ward only fighting once should result in both being crossed off.
It's a contest between Jones and Mayweather for me. I'll take the guy who beat
two three of the greatest fighters his division had ever seen over the guy who beat a great fighter and a weirdo headcase (but won titles in two weight classes).
I'd rank them (again, only for accomplishments since last July) as follows:
1) Jon Jones
2) Floyd Mayweater
3) Andre Ward
4) Anderson Silva