Sure, it may be a different .com, but it’s the same staff. And we are more than happy to continue the tradition started 5 years ago over at HOV-MMA right here inside of the FightBooth. Welcome to our 6th annual year-end MMA award extravaganza. Let’s start right at the top.
Fighter of the Year – Robbie Lawler
It was a storybook year for the “Ruthless” one. After losing a hard-fought five round title fight to Johny Hendricks for the strap vacated by Georges St. Pierre, Lawler fought his way back to a title shot with wins over Jake Ellenberger and Matt Brown. In the final PPV of 2014 he would bring the welterweight title back to AKA by beating Hendricks in another close fight. Lawler turned the volume up to 11 in the final sequence of the fight completing one of the greatest comeback stories in MMA history with an exclamation point. Hearing the words “UFC Champion Robbie Lawler” in the year 2014 was quite the pinch me moment.
Fight of the Year – Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes 2 (UFC 179)
This rematch happened the right way. Mendes earned it the hard way winning five consecutive fights after being knocked senseless by Aldo back at UFC 142. This time around he went the distance, but the result was the same. King Aldo got his hand raised once again while Prince Mendes gained even more respect in defeat than he ever has in victory.
KO of the Year – Ronda Rousey’s 16-second obliteration of Alexis Davis
Because armbars are so 2013.
Submission of the Year – Anthony Pettis guillotines Gilbert Melendez
There were plenty of incredible submissions in 2014: St. Preux, Rockhold’s kimura on Boetsch, Benavidez’s Joa Constrictor, and Oliveira’s Peruvian are just a few of the pleasing to the eye variety that immediately come to mind. Pettis’ takes the honors this year though for being the most important and unexpected.
After six consecutive losses, Roxanne Modafferi needed a victory in the worst way. In her Invicta FC debut, we witnessed a “Happy Warrior” reborn. A completely reinvented Modafferi was able to best fellow women’s MMA pioneer Tara LaRosa to go up 2-1 in what has to be the best WMMA trilogy to date. She followed it up by teaching the extremely talented and dangerous Andrea “KGB” Lee in December to position herself as a legit contender for a rematch with Barb Honchak’s (for the Invicta FC title this time) in 2015.
Comeback of the Year (Performance) – Cathal Pendred (UFC Fight Night: Dublin)
Holy mackerel. If you missed Pendred’s comeback performance against Mike King (who it turns out was all juiced up mind you) at UFC Dublin I suggest you go back and watch it on Fight Pass….NOW. This was one for the ages folks. Since King did end up popping positive for PED’s, Pendred would be awarded his half of the fight of the night bonus as well. What did Pendred do with that extra $50K? Proving that the good guy truly did win, Pendred donated a portion of King’s bonus to a Children’s Hospital in Dublin.
Upset of the Year: Herica Tiburcio defeats Michelle Waterson (Invicta FC 10)
Like Yasuko Tamada before her, Herica Tiburcio was expected to be another albeit talented, virtually unknown import to make “The Karate Hottie” look good. Instead, the 4’11” Brazilian atomweight prospect became a champion on a December night in Houston, Texas. Her victory over Waterson was just as moving as it was surprising. The shallowness of the division easily warrants an immediate rematch between the new champion and the newest chosen face of the company. Tiburcio-Waterson sits right near the top of our list of 2015 fights to watch for.
Most Vulgar Display of Power: Michelle Waterson abuses Yasuko Tamada at Invicta FC 8
After watching the fight between Michelle Waterson and Yasuko Tamada for the Invicta FC atomweight title at Invicta FC 8 I fully expected Waterson to be escorted off the premises in handcuffs with yellow caution tape surrounding the cage.
Performance of the Year – T.J. Dillashaw upsets Renan Barao to become UFC Bantamweight Champion
A runner up to upset of the year, Dillashaw’s masterful performance at UFC 173 was quite the revelation. Depending on what site you frequent, Dillashaw entered the contest as the +700 dog who clearly had no business ending Renan Barao’s 33-fight unbeaten streak. Dillashaw’s performance on this night would be one that had fans and media alike uttering the words “holy sh*t” out loud and in their minds for a good 20+ minutes. UFC color man Joe Rogan called it the best performance he had ever seen, and he’s seen plenty. While I don’t agree with everything Joe says, this one is tough to disagree with. It certainly was without question the best performance of 2014 in all of sports.
Event of the Year – UFC 175: Weidman vs. Machida
A fight of the year contender in the main event, our KO of the year in the co-main, some unfortunate live drama that saw a heavyweight fight scrapped, Uriah Hall’s toe, and plenty more from a cast of supporting players like Urijah Faber and Rob Font made certain that the UFC’s 3rd annual International Fight Week offering provided fireworks from start to finish.
Brandon who? The Cal-State Bakersfield wrestling standout entered 2014 as a 5-0 MMA prospect poised to make an impact in Bellator’s season 10 middleweight tournament. After winning the tourney, Halsey would end Alexander Shlemenko’s 13-fight win streak inside of the middleweight division in just 35-seconds to become Bellator’s middleweight champion. Halsey joins the likes of previous breakout fighter of the year winners Anthony Pettis, Daniel Cormier, Nick Newell, and Conor McGregor. Just saying, you may want to keep an eye on this one.
Staredown of the Year: Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier
While the fight didn’t materialize in 2014, one would be hard pressed to find a better “staredown” than the one that happened when these two shook up the world inside of the MGM Grand on August 4th.
Rivalry of the Year: Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler
Not every great rivalry in the fight game requires in your face antics and pre-fight smack talk. The 10 rounds of pain that took place between now former UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks and current champ Robbie Lawler certainly cemented these two fiery competitors as strange bedfellows for life. With their trilogy bout recently scrapped, one can only thank the UFC Gods for letting this ongoing battle linger on a little longer. There’s no need to match these two men up again straight away; the damage they did to one another in 2014 mentally and physically was immeasurable. Next up for Hendricks will be the tough as nails Matt Brown at UFC 185 in Texas. For the new champ and 2014 FOTY Robbie Lawler you can expect a well deserved resting period in the immediate future.