It’s that time of year for the “best of…” awards. Undoubtedly, you’ve run across quite a few of these lists in the past few weeks, and for the most part they’re pretty much the same—Fighter of the Year, Fight of the Year, KO of the Year, etc.. So instead of doing the same old thing, we’re including some of those and making up a bunch of awards that’s basically—for better or worse—a list of the most memorable moments of the 2008.
If you feel we’ve left anything out or chose the wrong winner, let us know in the comments. Hell, even make up your own award if you want. Check back, I may add more.
Without further adieu…
Warrior of the Year
Gegard Mousasi cut through the DREAM Middleweight Grand Prix like a hot knife through butter. Mousasi took out Denis Kang, Dong Sik Yoon, Melvin Manhoef and Jacare while hardly breaking a sweat on his way to being crowned the DREAM Middleweight Grand Prix Champion. Add in a win at the beginning of the year and an absolutely dominant and destructive K-1 win over Musashi for good measure, and you’re looking at our pick for Warrior of the Year.
Rashad Evans – No one predicted at the beginning of the year that Rashad Evans would be known for his devastating knockouts come 2009, let alone that he would hold the most prestigious title in mixed martial arts. Our hats off to Rashad for knocking out the UFC’s KO King and finishing one of it’s toughest customers.
Warrior of the Year (Pre-NYE) – I was all ready to give Eddie Alvarez our Warrior of the Year award, that was until yesterday when the grappling wizard in the spandex pants got a hold of his leg. Oh well, Eddie, it was a one hell of a year. You participated in two of the most epic battles of 2008, you’ve secured yourself a spot in at least the top ten of most people’s rankings, and we can’t wait to see what you bring in 2009.
Female Warrior of the Year
Tie: Gina Carano & Cris Cyborg – No one can deny the incredible performances Gina put on in 2008 and the impact she made on the sport. No one can also deny the absolute beatdowns Cris Cyborg dealt to her opponents. Cyborg is a scary competitor in the women’s division, and quite honestly, I’d be willing to bet she would give quite a few of the men an ass whoopin’ too. Looking forward to Gina and Cyborg battling it out in ’09.
Epic Battle of the Year
Eddie Alvarez vs. Joachim Hansen
This one had it all. Striking, knockdowns, recoveries, submission attempts, submission escapes, back-and-forth action, you name it. In the end, all Alvarez and Hansen could do was kneel down and give each other respect. Alvarez was awarded the decision, but there wasn’t any doubt that both competitors left it all in the ring that night.
Eddie Alvarez vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri – Eddie’s other epic fight of 2009 was against Tatsuya Kawajiri. A ton of back-and-forth striking with multiple knockdowns and amazing recoveries.
Cung Le vs. Frank Shamrock – Le vs. Shamrock not only had to be the most fun fight of 2009, it also served notice to the MMA community that Cung Le is for real (well, at least if he ever decides to fight again)
Miguel Torres vs. Yoshiro Maeda – It was the WEC’s Epic Battle of the Year and included everything from dueling leg locks to phenomenal stand-up action.
Forrest Griffin vs. Rampage Jackson – This one was so close, everyone can claim they picked the winner right.
The “Can You See Me Now?” Award
The award, named after his infamous victory speech at UFC 87, for Breakthrough Fighter of the Year has to go to Brock Lesnar. Not only did no one, and I mean no one, predict he would be holding the UFC Heavyweight title at the end of ’08, he also broke through as the biggest pay-per-view draw this sport has seen since Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz.
Yes, Brock, we can see you. How the hell could we ever miss you?
Eddie Alvarez – Gosh, we just love Eddie Alvarez around here don’t we? We sure do. So why not acknowledge him for another award? I don’t know, why the hell not? His performances raised many eyebrows this year from people who never paid much attention to him. Now, he’s easily a top ten lightweight. Sounds “Can you see me now?” worthy to me.
Face Breaker of the Year
Rashad Evans – The knockout punch Rashad Evans delivered to Chuck Liddell was a thing of beauty. Whenever you’ve imagined knocking someone out, that’s exactly what it looks like in your head.
Brock Lesnar for literally breaking Heath Herring’s face
Shaun Parker and Tyler Bryan Double Knockout – Double KO, what else needs to be said?
Jeremy Stephens blacks out Rafael dos Anjos with a wicked uppercut
Wanderlei Silva’s rape-choke drubbing of Keith Jardine – This one sent my head through the roof
Rampage Jackson’s one-punch revenge of Wanderlei Silva – This one put my stomach in knots for days…wait…yep…still in knots.
Cro Cop of the Year
Kevin Burns put his fingers in Anthony Johnson’s eye. Anthony Johnson put his foot in Kevin Burns’ mouth.
HM: Rory Markham decides kicking Brodie Farber in the head is better than getting punched in the face
Nut Shot of the Year
Alistair Overeeem vs Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic
Alistair Overeem annihilates Cro Cop’s groin with his knees – A report came in that Cro Cop’s left nut was pushed up and lodged inside his body. Ding ding, we have a winner!
Dueling Nut Shots of the Year
Cheick Kongo vs. Mostapha Al Turk – Was payback really necessary Kongo?
Beatdown of the Year
Ben Saunders vs Brandon Wolff
Ben Saunders channeled his inner-Anderson Silva and dealt Brandon Wolff the worst beating we saw all year.
Anthony Joshnson vs Tommy Speer – The fight that left Tommy Speer unconscious against the cage with his eyes wide-open. It ultimately led to Tommy deciding being a farmer is a much better life than being a fighter.
The “Holy Shit, That Guy’s Really Really Good” Award
From Joe Lauzon to Roger Huerta to Joe Stevenson, Kenny Florian blazed through his competition in 2008 with perfect technical execution of nearly every move he made to the point where some even think he has a shot at beating BJ Penn. Give him his shot BJ!
Thiago Alves – If Thiago Alves proved anything this year, it’s that he’s a monster! From his TKO of Karo Parisyan to the flying knee he planted in Matt Hughes head to his domination of Josh Kocheck, Thiago put the world’s welterweights on notice that his sick Muay Thai combined with his middleweight power and ironclad take down defense is a force to be reckoned with. GSP/BJ Penn, watch out for this one.
Breaks Granite Like It’s Glass Award
Manhoef knocked out Mark Hunt, a man who’s only been knocked out twice in 50 fights and outweighed him by 80+lbs. That’s scary power.
Glass Jaw of the Year
It only took Seth Petruzelli 14 seconds to deliver the weakest looking knockout punch of the year that not only collapsed Kimbo Slice, but also collapsed the house of cards formerly known as EliteXC.
Grappling Wizard of the Year
Demian Maia pulled in more dough from Submission of the Night bonuses in 2008 than most of us make in four years. From his triangle choke/gnp of Ed Herman to his rear naked chokes of Jason MacDonald and Nate Quarry, Demian Maia has made it clear that you need to avoid being on the ground with him at all costs. Maia’s one to watch out for in 2009.
Magic Trick of the Year
Shinya Aoki invented the Aokiplata against Katsuhiko Nagata when he choked out Nagata with his shin from mount at DREAM.4. If you’re inventing submissions that even Bas Rutten hasn’t seen, you’re winning awards here.
Dustin Hazelett’s whizzer turned armbar of Josh Burkman
The Kimbo Slice “Tapping Out Is For Bitches” Award
For letting Steve Cantwell pop his elbow in the other direction.
The “Did that just happen?” Award
Frank Mir vs Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
No one, not even Frank Mir himself, thought he had a chance in hell against Minotauro Nogueira. Big Nog was better at everything, right? Yeah, that’s what we all thought. That was until Mir decided he knew how to strike. Mir dominated Nogueira on Dec. 27 dispatching a living legend like no else ever has.
The Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk Award
No talked more trash in 2008 than Alistair Overeem. He literally spent the second half of 2008 talking shit about Mirko Cro Cop in the media. When they finally met, Overeem put a beating on Mirko until he landed several illegal blows to Cro Cop’s groin ending the fight in anti-climatic fashion. Overeem was supposed to rematch Cro Cop on NYE, but FEG decided putting him in the ring with Badr Hari would finally shut him up. Instead, Overeem beat down Hari like his red-headed stepchild. Watch out for Alistair Overeem in 2009, he’s one we’ll be talking about, and not because he can’t keep his mouth shut.
The Talk the Talk Award
Tito Ortiz – Tito Ortiz cried wolf several times in 2008 when he said he was super close to signing with Affliction and EliteXC. Neither ever happened, yet every month or so we are treated to another “hey guys, look at me” interview. Just re-sign with the UFC, Tito. We all know it’s inevitable.
Circus Act of the Year
Bob Sapp vs Animated Drawing
Ok, so Bob actually fought someone who at least knew how to wrestle, but funny enough, it was the dude’s stupid cartoon mask that was responsible for him getting knocked silly and losing the fight.
EliteXC making Kimbo Slice the headliner for anything.
The “Mama, I’m Coming Home” Award
For his not-so-triumphant return to the Octagon.
Big John McCarthy – For returning to the profession that made him a star. Welcome back John, we needed you.
Worst Ref of the Year
The dude that reffed Gray Maynard vs. Rich Clementi
This guy was so awful for yelling at Maynard and Clementi to fight while they were actually fighting, that I seriously wanted Gray to sit up and tell the ref to STFU!
The ref that stood up Roy Nelson and Andrei Arlovski while Nelson was in side mount.
Scumbag(s) of the Year
Burning $55 million in two years resulting in your employees being out of work, your shareholders out of money, and your pockets lined. Yeah, this one was easy.
KJ Noons’ Dad – Trying to beat up a kid your son’s age inside the cage and talking shit about it afterwards. Not cool.
Steroid Abuser of the Year
The average person produces 2ng/ml of Nandrolone. Sean Sherk tested for 12ng/ml. Royce Gracie’s positive test of 50ng/ml was considered off the charts. Edwin Dewees had a “wonder it didn’t kill him” 499ng/ml in his system.
Antonio Silva – Who knows if he’s actually guilty, but he did admit to taking a supplement that basically produces the same effects as steroids and is known for triggering false positives. What were you expecting Bigfoot?
The “Please, We’re Begging You To Hang It Up” Award
Ken Shamrock isn’t just getting finished early in fights, he’s now getting finished BEFORE fights!
Embarrassment of the Year
For his WWE-style ring entrance on mixed martial arts network television debut. It took all I had to get my friends who thought MMA was the UFC to watch EliteXC on May 31. Then Phil Baroni walks out dancing in his sparkling robe which is taking off him by a bunch of “dancers” at the beginning of the show. He was knocked out only a few moments later. Yeah, I never did come back from that one.
EliteXC – For just everything.
The “Drank Too Much” Award
When people drink too much, wake up, and don’t know where they are, they’re usually at a friend’s house. Not Shonie Carter. He drank too much, passed out in a private jet, and woke up half way across the world in Istanbul! No ride back, no passport, nothing. Classic. Never did find out if he made it back…
The Needs New Management Award
KJ Noons’ manager, Mark Dion, put the cart before the horse when he decided fighting on network television wasn’t the best career move for his client. The young and impressionable KJ bought into it and never did make it on any of the CBS shows. With EliteXC dead, maybe it won’t turn into the worst career move ever, but Dion’s still his manager and KJ’s still young, so there’s still time to pull off an epic career blunder.
The “We Put One Over On You” Award
EliteXC & Kimbo Slice
EliteXC marketed Kimbo Slice as a backyard brawling T-1000. He was supposed to hit like a Mack Truck but turned out to hit more like a Tonka Trunk when he failed to knockout James Thompson, a man famous for his weak chin. Those in the know knew what was up, but EliteXC still had the general public fooled. That was until Oct. 4 when Seth dropped Kimbo into a vat of molten metal.
Double Bird of the Year
Coming into his fight with Tim Sylvia, Fedor Emelianenko had more doubters than Sarah Palin. However, after he shot his 30 second commercial with Big Tim, they showed Fedor in the middle of the ring, smiling, and doing post-fight interviews. What they didn’t show was Fedor giving press row the universal sign for “fuck you.”
Nate Diaz & Spike TV – For actually showing Nate Diaz waving his middle fingers in the air once he locked in the triangle on Kurt Pelegrino. Usually live television is shown on a few second delay for situations just like that, but not Spike, they aired it with pride.
The “He Didn’t Know It Was Just For Show” Award
EliteXC & Nick Diaz
Following KJ Noons victory over Yves Edwards, the geniuses at EliteXC thought putting Nick Diaz in the cage to promote their upcoming bout (that never happened) was a good idea. Problem was they never told Nick Diaz it wasn’t real (or maybe they did, you know Nick). A near brawl broke out inside the cage with the Diaz boys escaping the clutches of Noons Sr. and exiting stage left all while waving the double bird like it was their flag.
The Event That Was Supposed To Suck But Didn’t Award
UFC 91 “Couture vs Lesnar”
On paper, UFC 91 looked terrible. It was headlined by Brock Lesnar and Randy Couture, so the UFC really had no other incentive to book any other big fights on the card, and they didn’t. The fights they did book turned out to be spectacular though. Dustin Hazelett put on a jiu-jitsu clinic against Tamdan McCrory, Gabriel Gonzaga blasted Josh Hendricks, Demian Maia tapped out Nate Quarry quicker than it took Quarry to walk to the cage, Jeremy Stephens lit Rafael dos Anjos up like a Xmas tree, Kenny Florian stamped his ticket to a lightweight title shot beating Joe Stevenson like he was a rookie, and, of course, Brock Lesnar took home UFC gold.
Image of the Year
T-Shirt of the Year
You Wished It Was Photoshopped Award
The Name Dropping Award
Anderson Silva’s name was mentioned 9,753,269 times, 4,512,902 times more than any other fighter, by the MMA community in 2008. Ok, I just made that up, but seriously, who was talked about more in 2008 than Anderson Silva?
The Left Hand Doesn’t Know What The Right Hand Is Doing Award
Whether it was between Tom Atencio and one of Affliction’s “partners” or just Tom Atencio by himself, Affliction literally contradicted themselves every time they spoke to the media.
The “That Shit Can’t Happen” Award
No reason to rehash what’s already been said a million times.
Worst Investigation of the Year
Florida State Boxing Commission – For investigating StandGate like the police investigate a stolen bicycle.
Interrogator of the Year
Ariel Helwani put himself and MMA Rated on the map this year with his awesome video interviews. He was never afraid to ask the tough questions, which ultimately led him to be responsible for the “How’s Taste My Big Pee Pee?” movement. MMA Rated fell victim to the shitty economy, thus putting the best interrogator in the business out of a job. He’ll be back better than ever in 2009 though, we’re sure of it.
The Printing Press Award
To all the men and women (if there are any) at MMA Junkie for pumping out hard news, radio appearance notices and fight announcements day in and day out like they’re machines. If I had to write like that, I’d probably throw myself out a window. Bless your hearts for doing it, but seriously, how do you?
And the Oscar goes to…
Ghengis Con – The Domino Effect
Happy New Year!!