What a year 2010 was. We saw the rise and fall of Chael Sonnen, the return of Brock Lesnar, Chuck Liddell’s last fight, the long awaited UFC-WEC merger and the end of The Last Emperor’s reign just to name a few. Rather than view this as just another awards list, I like to think of it as the most memorable moments of 2010. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments below.
Without further adieu…
Fighter of the Year
This was a tough one. To me, it was a toss up between Frankie Edgar and Cain Velasquez. Both fighters turned in stellar performances. Both fighters became UFC champions. The difference: Frankie Edgar wasn’t supposed to beat BJ Penn once, let alone twice.
Female Fighter of the Year
Miesha Tate – Miesha Tate took out Zoila Frausto who went on to win the Bellator women’s tournament, and topped Maiju Kujala and Hitomi Akano in one night to win her own mini-tournament at Strikeforce Challengers 10. Frausto had an impressive year too, but Tate gets the award with the win.
Fight of the Year
Jorge Santiago vs. Kazuo Misaki
When I think of Fight of the Year, I look for a fight that has a little bit of everything and that’s exactly what Santiago vs. Misaki had. Punches, kicks, flying knees, knockdowns, takedowns, mounts, sweeps, reversals, submission attempts, near finishes and a dramatic ending. This fight had it all.
Leonard Garcia vs. The Korean Zombie – It wasn’t the most technically sound fight you’ve ever seen, but my god, was it fun to watch.
Worst Fight of the Year
Frank Mir vs. Cro Cop – No fight made me want to beat my head against the wall quite like Mir vs. Cro Cop. Mir’s fight ending knee didn’t save the fight, it put us all out of our misery.
Worst Performance of the Year
Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia – Silva-Maia was definitely a contender for worst fight of the year, but that wouldn’t really be fair to Demian Maia who at least tried to make it fight. Anderson Silva on the other hand thought he was at a dance recital in the middle of the Abu Dhabi desert. It was the most mind-boggling thing we saw inside a cage all year.
Breakout Fighter of the Year
Raise your hand if you knew who Anthony Pettis was at the beginning of 2010. Raise your hand if you know who Anthony Pettis is now. Exactly.
Comeback Fighter of the Year
Everyone had pretty much written Chris Leben off at the beginning of 2010. He hadn’t won a fight since March of 2008, but then he goes on a two week run that resulted in two wins, one of which against the very talented Yoshihiro Akiyama. Of course, it fell apart again when he got a DUI and Brian Stann knocked him out at UFC 125, but he at least got people saying good things about him again, even if it was only for a little while.
Beatdown of the Year
The REEM demolishes Brett Rogers
Heading into his first Strikeforce heavyweight title defense in two years, many fans were betting Brett Rogers would knock him out and take his belt. Alistair Overeem shut those same fans up when he demolished Rogers in arguably the most one-sided beatdown we saw all year. Ubereem tossed Rogers on the mat like a rag doll and launched a scud missile attack on Rogers’ cranium until Big John saved him from inevitable brain trauma.
Come From Behind Performance of the Year
Anderson Silva waits until the last minute to submit Chael Sonnen
Anderson Silva took a 22-minute beatdown from Chael Sonnen only to pull off one of the most spectacular come from behind finishes the sport has ever seen. In terms of in-cage drama (and out of cage drama for that matter), nothing in 2010 topped Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen.
Mike Russow – I’m not sure Mike Russow landed a single punch for two and a half round before landing the right hand that knocked Duffee out.
Knockout of the Year
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua takes what’s his, knocks out Lyoto Machida to become UFC light heavyweight champ
It wasn’t the prettiest by far, but there wasn’t a more satisfying knockout in 2010 than Mauricio “Shogun” Rua dropping Lyoto Machida and taking the belt the judges stole from him eight months before.
Robbie Lawler- It may not have had quite the sheer force impact other knockouts had in 2010, but no other knockout made my jaw drop quite like Robbie Lawler’s come from behind KO against Melvin Manhoef. Manhoef chopped Lawler down like a tree for three and half minutes, then BOOM, one right hook and Melvin was laying unconscious on the canvas.
Rich Franklin ended Chuck Liddell’s career with a short right hook to the mouth.
The Cro Cop Award
George Roop channeled his inner Cro Cop and did what Leonard Garcia couldn’t do with his fists. He knocked out the iron chinned Korean Zombie with a left kick to the head.
Submission of the Year
Fabricio Werdum triangle chokes Fedor Emelianenko
Fabricio Werdum made Fedor Emelianenko say matay. ‘Nuff said.
Upset of the Year
Fabricio Werdum dethrones the heavyweight king
Yeah, Fabricio Werdum wins this one too. No one outside of Werdum’s camp and Scott Coker (so he said) thought Werdum had any chance of beating Fedor Emelianenko. He did it in 69 seconds.
Event of the Year
UFC Presents WEC 48 “Aldo vs. Faber”
From Leonard Garcia’s epic battle with the Korean Zombie to the Jose Aldo’s leg kick clinic on Urijah Faber, WEC 48 was action packed from top to bottom. It was the WEC’s one and only pay-per-view and it was worth every penny.
Story of the Year
The rise and fall of Chael Sonnen
Chael Sonnen turned himself from just another middle of the pack middleweight into the most talked about fighter in mixed martial arts in 2010. He turned himself into a walking soundbite and nearly won the UFC middleweight championship. It all went downhill though the moment he tapped out in Anderson Silva’s triangle. He tested positive for PED’s for that fight and has plead guilty to federal money laundering charges since. Sonnen had the potential to become one of the UFC’s biggest draws, but that’s all on hold now as puts fighting aside to get his life back in order.
Disappointment of the Year
Strikeforce put on some good fights last year, but that was about it. From a solid roster of heavyweights they couldn’t get in the cage to a promised middleweight tournament they couldn’t deliver to a disastrous showing on CBS, Strikeforce just couldn’t put it together in 2010. They’re attempting to turn it around with a promising heavyweight grand prix in 2011, but it remains to be seen if they can climb out of the hole they dug in 2010.
Freak Show of the Year
James Toney talks his way into the UFC
If James Toney was half as good at wrestling as he was a talking trash he might have stood a chance against Randy Couture. Instead, Randy took him down with a move so ineffective in MMA, Randy hadn’t used it since his old college wrestling days. The icing on the cake: The IRS took every penny of Toney’s half a million dollar fight purse.
HOLY SH*T!!! Moment of the Year
Anthony Pettis’ Showtime Kick
Anthony Pettis made the entire MMA community jump out of their chairs and yell HOLY SH*T!!! when he landed the greatest kick in the history of the sport. It was a fitting end to the promotion that consistently put on the sport’s most exciting fights.