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Bloody Elbow 2014 half-year MMA awards: Best fighter

Make your pick for the best MMA fighter from the first half of 2014 in Bloody Elbow's Half Year Awards.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

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 continue his GIF making over at Deadspin.

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 fighter, but over the weekend we'll also have best comeback and best event.

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.

* - Except for this one, which only has 6 because there's no great reason to justify more than that. Additionally, for a fighter to qualify for best fighter (s)he would have had to have fought at least once this year.

T.J. Dillashaw. This is pretty self-explanatory. He already impressed by beating up an almost hapless-looking Mike Easton, but his wire-to-wire destruction of the heavily favored Renan Barao to capture the UFC bantamweight title was completely unexpected and is probably one of the greatest ever showings ever from a challenger vs. champion. He will rematch Barao at UFC 177 in August.

Donald Cerrone. "Cowboy" is one of only a handful of UFC fighters with 3 bouts already, and he's won them all. He started 2014 with a head kick KO of Adriano Martins, then dropped Edson Barboza before sinking in a fight-ending RNC for another win, and completed his hat-trick of finishes with a head kick stoppage of Jim Miller, who had previously never been knocked out before. There are rumors abound that his 4th (and surely final?) fight of the year would be against Bellator LW champ Eddie Alvarez.

Anthony Johnson. "Rumble" found his way back inside the Octagon via his outstanding showings in World Series of Fighting. He started the year in WSOF, plastering Mike Kyle in 2 minutes for his 4th straight win at light heavyweight. When brought back to the UFC, he schooled Phil Davis en route to a clear unanimous decision win in the co-main event of UFC 172. Just two weeks ago he obliterated whatever's left of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in 46 seconds. One more win probably gets him a title shot.

Ronda Rousey. There's really no surprise in Ronda Rousey totally destroying her opposition, but we hadn't seen her win by anything other than an armbar prior to this year. That all changed when she stopped Sara McMann with a knee to the body, and then she KO'd Alexis Davis in just 16 seconds for her 4th successful UFC title defense. It's unlikely she fights again until 2015, likely against Gina Carano, but it's another year of pure dominance from Rousey.

Robbie Lawler. The only fighter on this list with a loss, Lawler fought a classic against Johny Hendricks at UFC 171 and lost a 48-47 (x3) decision for the vacant welterweight title. It may have been a losing performance but it was certainly a great showing put forth by MMA's premier comeback story. A TKO win over Jake Ellenberger just two months later was then followed up with a thrilling decision win over Matt Brown to take his record to 2-1, and a rematch with Hendricks will be targeted for early 2015.

Yoel Romero. Arguably down 2 rounds to nil against Derek Brunson, hulk-smashing middleweight Romero sparked a massive comeback and a dramatic TKO win that was accompanied with a possible moment of visible defecation. His breakthrough fight on Fox saw him treat Brad Tavares like a chew toy in a convincing decision win that puts him among the list of contenders at 185 lbs. The Cuban is scheduled to fight Tim Kennedy at UFC 178 in what is a hugely important fight for both men.

Tomorrow's category: Best comeback

You can still vote for: Best KO, best submission, best fight, biggest upset

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