2017 has come and gone, leaving us with some very difficult year-end decisions. To whom do we give all of this hardware when there are so many men and women who are beyond deserving of it? Welcome to the 9th annual Fight Booth MMA Awards folks. Check out this year’s winners below and be sure share any questions, concerns and/or insults with us on social media @FightBooth.
Fighter of the Year: Max Holloway
In 2017, Holloway defeated former featherweight king, Jose Aldo, on his home soil to unify the world titles. You could hear a pin drop in Rio on that night. Six months later, he’d batter Aldo again in Detroit to solidify himself as the greatest featherweight of all-time. He did this after enjoying a full week of Detroit’s culture, thus earning a new Midwestern fan base in the process.
Holloway is having just as much fun inside of the cage as he is outside of it and it shows; he has an addictive personality that has made him a fan favorite across the globe, not unlike a former 2- division champion and UFC Hall of Famer out of Hawaii. The UFC would be doing a disservice to both Holloway and “The Aloha State” by not bringing an event there in 2018. It’s time.
Honorable Mentions: Francis Ngannou, Rose Namajunas, Robert Whittaker, Demetrious Johnson
Fight of the Year: Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje (UFC 218)
The fight for the title of UFC’s “Most Violent Man” took place in Detroit—of all places—and it boy did it deliver. I may be a little biased since I was there live, but this was easily the most captivating fight I’ve witnessed in person. If you saw this fight take place in a movie you would deem it too unrealistic due to the sheer amount of punishment these two men took. This was the very definition of a “Last Man Standing” fight if there ever was one.
Alvarez put on a virtuoso performance here, landing to the body early while somehow keeping himself upright after eating a steady diet of Gaethje’s traumatizing leg kicks. This war of attrition continued in the second with Alvarez wearing down Gaethje with more body work while he used his superior boxing and head movement as these two violent warriors left fans asking themselves, “how are these two still standing?”
In the third and final round, Alvarez, whose left leg was about to give out due to Gaethje’s thunderous kicks, ate some massive uppercuts from his opponent which would prompt him to shake his fingers like Dikembe Mutombo to the crowd. The two continued to battle like a couple of drunks on roller skates until Alvarez landed a monstrous knee to the face of Gaethje that finally sealed the deal. Gaethje’s face spurted blood as he fell to the canvas; it was like watching one Terminator temporarily turn the lights off of another. Gaethje still wanted to fight after eating 155 strikes that were all designed to put him down for the very first time in his career. What a night—what a fight. These two deserve some kind of award for this one. Am I right?
Honorable Mentions: Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Johnson (TUF 25 Finale), Yancy Medeiros vs. Alex Oliveira (UFC 218), Jim Miller vs Dustin Poirier (UFC 208), Angela Hill vs. Jessica Andrade (Fight Night 104)
KO of the Year: Francis Ngannou KO’s Alistair Overeem with an “Uppercut from Hell” (UFC 218)
Francis Ngannou holds the world record for the hardest punch. Being hit by Ngannou is the equivalent of 96 horsepower; it’s like being hit by a Ford Escort that’s going as fast as it can go according to UFC President Dana White. It’s also more powerful than getting smashed by a 12-pound sledgehammer from overhead.
Ngannou landed the cleanest left uppercut you will ever see just one minute and forty-two seconds into his #1 contender’s bout with Alistair Overeem, earning himself a title shot against 2016’s fighter of the year, Stipe Miocic, just a little over month later in Boston. This wasn’t just the best KO of 2017, it was the greatest uppercut KO in the history of the sport.
Honorable Mentions: Matt Brown KO’s Diego Sanchez via sadistic elbow (Fight Night 120), Francis Ngannou KO’s Andrei Arlovksi (UFC on FOX 23), Paul Daley’s flying knee KO of Brennan Ward (Bellator 170), Tyron Claxton flying knee KO’s Jonny Bonilla-Bowman (Bellator 186), Edson Barboa flying knee KO of Beneil Dariush (Fight Night 106), Holly Holm’s head-kick KO of Bethe Correia (Fight Night 111)
Submission of the Year: Demetrious Johnson’s flying suplex armbar (UFC 216)
Truly a sight to behold, one of the slickest submissions you’ll ever witness in this sport. DJ is just toying with his opponents at this point. He’s a video game come to life.
Honorable Mentions: Oleksiy Olyinik scores the first Ezekiel choke in UFC history (Fight Night 103), Brian Ortega guillotines Cub Swanson (Fight Night 123)
MVP: Georges St. Pierre
It was no coincidence that the UFC was unable to put on an event that would garner a million PPV buys for the first time since 2014 last year. It was the first year since 2014 that Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor did not go to battle inside of the Octagon. It was also the first time since 2013 that Georges St. Pierre did.
After four years away from the game, St. Pierre proved that he’s still a valuable PPV player during a year that was in desperate need of some star power. UFC 217 ‘Bisping vs. St. Pierre’ earned a reported 875,000 buys, which was more than any other event in 2017 and more than UFC 208, UFC 212, UFC 213, UFC 215 and UFC 216 combined. Aside from UFC 214 ‘Cormier vs. Jones II’, it was the only event to do over 300,000 buys.
St. Pierre would score a third round rear-naked choke victory in the contest to become the fourth man in UFC history to earn a title in two divisions. It was his first fight at middleweight and his first finish in nearly a decade. The Canadian hero would eventually vacate the title leaving his UFC future in doubt once again due to colitis.
Honorable Mentions: Daniel Cormier, Michael Bisping
Comeback of the Year (Performance): Darren Elkins (UFC 209)
The undefeated Misrad Bektic entered this fight as high as a -700 favorite on some betting sets with to come back on Elkins being +550. And the fight played out as advertised—for the first two rounds. I’ll be completely honest with you guys, I was talking to the referee through my television during this one—I would’ve stopped this fight. After what was likely a 10-8 first round and another dominant second, Elkins scored the shocking head kick KO at the 3:19 marker of the third, proving that we should never count him out until his lights are completely turned off.
Comeback of the Year (Career): Georges St. Pierre
To come back after a four-year layoff and move up a weight class to win a world title is basically unheard of at this level. Georges St. Pierre is beyond special when it comes to the fight game and I truly hope we see him again if and when he’s ready.
Upset of the Year: Rose Namajunas KO’s Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UFC 217)
For the third consecutive year, the upset of the year involved a title change due to a vicious knockout. In 2015, it was Holly Holm knocking out Ronda Rousey in Sydney to secure the UFC women’s bantamweight championship. Last year, we’d see Michael Bisping shock the world by separating Luke Rockhold for consciousness to become the middleweight champion of the world. This year, we’d witness another disturbance in the force when Rose Namajunas dropped the now former 5-time defending champ with a left hook after already knocking her down earlier in the fight; this time it would be for good. Namajunas would seal the deal with some more shots to her downed opponent, forcing a champion who was once thought of as invincible to tap to strikes as the referee waved it off.
Honorable Mentions: Darren Elkins defeats Misrad Bektic, John Moraga defeats Magomed Bibulatov
Most Vulgar Display of Power: Matt Brown elbows Diego Sanchez into oblivion (UFC Fight Night 120)
This was just as beautiful as it was disturbing. A storybook ending to one of the most violently entertaining careers in UFC history.
Honorable Mention: Ngannou KO’s Overeem
Performance of the Year: Robert Whittaker defeats Yoel Romero to capture the UFC interim middleweight title (UFC 213)
Whittaker suffered a grade two medial ligament injury to his left knee during the first round of his interim title bout with Yoel Romero at UFC 213. We certainly didn’t know the extent of the injury during the fight, we just knew that he was in obvious pain and he wasn’t likely going to finish this fight unless Romero finished it for him. Boy were we wrong.
Whittaker’s heart was on full display here as he toughed it out to defeat Romero via unanimous decision to capture the UFC interim title. He’d be promoted to undisputed champion after Georges St. Pierre vacated his title while he recuperated from his injury. “The Reaper” will be back to make the first defense of his world title in his home country of Australia next month.
Event of the Year: UFC 217 ‘Bisping vs. St. Pierre’
Three title fights, three title changes. An absolutely unprecedented event that delivered on all sorts of levels. Not since UFC 116 ‘Lesnar vs. Carwin’ and UFC 117 ‘Silva vs Sonnen’ have there been two better back-to-back events than UFC 217 and UFC 218.
Honorable Mention: UFC 218 ‘Holloway vs. Aldo II’
Breakout Fighter of the Year: Nicco Montano
Montano beat Lauren Murphy, Montana Stewart, Barb Honchak and Roxanne Modafferi to become the inaugural UFC women’s flyweight champion. Not bad for a fighter who came into the TUF house with a 3-2 record and was the number 14 pick out of 16 fighters.
Honorable Mention: Cynthia Calvillo
Rivalry of the Year: Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier
Even though this would be soured due to Jones testing positive for steroids, Jones and Cormier gave us another compelling build to what was a fantastic fight that would end up being erased from the record books. Jones’ head-kick KO was not eligible for any other awards this year, but the troubled former champ still gets to share this award with Cormier. I can’t imagine how depressing this whole situation must be to both fighters. It’ll make for one heck of a ESPN ’30 for 30′ sometime in the future.
Honorable Mention: Cody Garbrandt vs. TJ Dillashaw, Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee
Lady Violence: Rose Namajunas
I still get chills when I think of Rose reciting the Lord’s Prayer while Jedrzejczyk mouthed off to her for the final time before Namajunas sent her to the canvas at UFC 217. The final result had to have been the feel good moment of 2017.
‘Thug’ Rose would also score a rear-naked choke submission against Michelle Waterson back in April after landing a head-kick to earn that title shot against Joanna. It’s been an absolute joy to watch the evolution of Rose Namajunas. She’s finished her opponents in six out of seven fights and at just 25-years-old, the UFC strawweight champ is only going to get better.
Honorable Mentions: Cris Cyborg, Megan Anderson, llima-Lei Macfarlane, Jessica Andrade, Julia Budd
King of Violence: Eddie Alvarez
When you win the UFC’s ‘Most Violent Man’ title by becoming the first man to defeat Justin Gaethje, it only makes sense that you’d win the 2017 King of Violence award. Alvarez becomes the first 2-time King of Violence winner since this award was first introduced in 2011.
Honorable Mentions: Justin Gaethje, Francis Ngannou, Matt Brown, Max Holloway