Technically, we're about a month over the half-year mark, but with live MMA on TV every other minute, it's hard to fit something like this in when you have to cover the non-stop facepunching. Tim Burke used to run the Bloody Elbow half-year and year-end MMA awards, but he stepped down from the site to focus on selling expensive real estate in New York City.
The Bloody Elbow staff compiled a massive list of some of the top MMA moments thus far in 2014, which you'll be able to vote on through our polls, which are open for 6 days starting from publish of each article. Today, we're focusing on the best event, which is the final category of this week-long series. The results will be posted in full on Monday, August 18th.
As to keep up with the format that Tim had used, I've selected 8 entries per category, but since this year's "half-year" awards is in August, I've moved the cutoff date to July 26th, which stands as the most recent UFC event (UFC on Fox 12). All of our choices are based on major MMA promotions only (UFC, Bellator, WSOF, etc.), so that doesn't include kickboxing, boxing, Metamoris, or anything else of the sort. This was fairly difficult to sift through, so don't be angry if there's any of your favorites that have been left out.
Let's take a look at our finalists, which are in no particular order:
UFC 172. The Baltimore card started off with Chris Beal's electrifying flying knee KO of Patrick Williams, which proved to be the starting point for a night filled with entertaining fights and/or finishes. On the prelims, Takanori Gomi went to war with Isaac Vallie-Flagg and won a unanimous decision, while on the main card there were 3 straight submission finishes, including Luke Rockhold's inverted triangle kimura vs. Tim Boetsch. The co-main event saw Anthony Johnson return to the UFC and dispatch Phil Davis, while Jon Jones put on another sterling performance, dominating Glover Teixeira to once again defend his light heavyweight title.
UFC on FOX 12. For the most part, the Fox cards have been a consistent source of great MMA, and this San Jose event was no different. While the prelims consisted mostly of decisions, some of the gems included Patrick Cummins getting a 30-24 card in his favor vs. Kyle Kingsbury, Brian Ortega choking out Mike de la Torre, and Jorge Masvidal rallying from a huge opening round knockdown to beat Daron Cruickshank. The main card sported an emotional upset victory for Bobby Green over Josh Thomson. Additionally, Dennis Bermudez looked outstandingi n stopping Clay Guida, while Anthony Johnson tore apart the remnants of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in just 46 seconds. Robbie Lawler versus Matt Brown wasn't the all-time classic as hoped pre-fight, but it was a damn good scrap with Lawler beating a tough-as-ever Brown by unanimous decision to earn a rematch with Johny Hendricks.
UFC Fight Night: Cerrone vs. Miller. Only 2 of 11 fights went the distance, and even those bouts (Tibau vs. Healy and Gadelha vs. Lahdemaki) were far from boring. This was an action-packed card that featured outstanding knockouts, and an emphasis on wicked body shots. Young bantamweight prospect Aljamain Sterling shined against Hugo Viana, and Leslie Smith, this time with a full camp behind her, destroyed Jessamyn Duke. Edson Barboza won via body kick TKO against Evan Dunham, John Lineker and Alptekin Ozkilic engaged in an all-out brawl, and Donald Cerrone became the first man to KO Jim Miller after he put him away with a head kick. Cerrone had poured the pressure on after badly hurting Miller with body shots. Atlantic City may no longer be a destination for the UFC after this year -- this goes double for gamblers at the rate the AC casinos are going down the tubes -- but if that's their last show in that area in the foreseeable future, then they were treated to one hell of a card.
UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Brandao. The UFC's return to Ireland after a 5+ year absence was definitely a memorable one. Just the atmosphere alone made a run-of-the-mill Fight Pass card sound like the FIFA World Cup final. Patrick Holohan kicked things off with a shock submission of Josh Sampo in the flyweight division, and the Irish faithful were also treated to preliminary card wins by Cathal Pendred and Neil Seery. Ilir Latifi also wiped out Chris Dempsey, which in hindsight, should've been enough for me to shoehorn him into the conversation for Best Fighter. The main card was electric, with Norman Parke stuffing Naoyuki Kotani, Ian McCall beating Brad Pickett, Gunnar Nelson slickly submitting Zak Cummings, and then Conor McGregor wiping out Diego Brandao in the main event. The first round TKO by McGregor sets him up for a big match-up with Dustin Poirier in September.
Bellator 120. Don't laugh at me for including this, because when you look past the tedious and stupidly run pacing of the card, the fights themselves weren't bad at all. Bellator's first PPV proved to be a good one, as welterweight striker and habitual showboater Michael Page did whatever he pleased against Ricky Rainey. Alexander Volkov earned a rematch with Vitaly Minakov after submitting Blagoi Ivanov in the HW tournament final. Tito Ortiz upset Alexander Shlemenko and brought out the grave digger routine afterward. The co-main event saw Will Brooks controversially defeat Michael Chandler by split decision to become Bellator's interim LW champion. In the main event, Quinton Jackson edged out Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision to win the LHW tournament, and while the fight wasn't memorable, the post-fight tirade by King Mo definitely was. Let's just say that Mo doesn't have to deal with Bjorn Rebney "dick riding" Rampage anymore.
UFC Fight Night: Gustafsson vs. Manuwa. The 2nd Fight Pass show to feature on this list took place in London, England, and a great atmosphere was witness to a very solid night of fights. Ilir Latifi capped off the prelims by giving Cyrille Diabate a crushing choke to end the Frenchman's career. The main card was superb, as Gunnar Nelson finished Omari Akhmedov, Brad Pickett and Neil Seery surprisingly had a back-and-forth thriller, Michael Johnson beat a rather disappointing Melvin Guillard, and Alexander Gustafsson knocked out Jimi Manuwa in the main event. The only sour point on the card was that turgid Brad Scott vs. Claudio Silva farce (GIF).
UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. Khabilov. On paper, it looked like one of the better shows on Fox Sports 1, and it delivered. The preliminary card featured Scott Jorgensen and Danny Martinez in a FOTN outing, plus Jon Tuck forcing a bizarre tapout via heel kick to the body. While the prelims didn't have much in the way of excitement, the main card produced 5 finishes, including an upset win for Bryan Caraway over Erik Perez, a knockout by Rafael dos Anjos against Jason High, and a 4th round submission for Ben Henderson against Rustam Khabilov in the main event. Of course, what stands out above the rest in Albuquerque was that absurd decision to score Diego Sanchez versus Ross Pearson for Sanchez, something that two judges at cageside managed to do on purpose.
World Series of Fighting 8: Gaethje vs. Patishnock. Luis Palomino opened the NBC Sports Network main card with a KO over Jorge Patino, while Jessica Aguilar submitted Alida Gray to become the first (and so far only) WSOF women's strawweight champion. Cody Bollinger won a clear decision over Tyson Nam in the only real dud of the main card. Anthony Johnson stamped his ticket back to the UFC by KOing Mike Kyle, and in the main event, lightweight phenom Justin Gaethje dispatched Rich Patishnock to become their first lightweight champion. (GIFs)