Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time! It has been an extraordinary year of ups and down for all of those involved in the rapidly growing world of mixed martial arts, but all things must come to an end, and it’s time for FiveOuncesofPain.com to dish out our official year end awards for the crazy year that was 2009.
We’ll be diving headfirst into a series of fifteen end of the year awards, with a new award being distributed every single day through December 31 with a special two part New Years Eve year-end award extravaganza.
In this edition we have FiveOuncesofPain’s top five fighters that made the biggest turn-arounds with their careers, along with how they were generally viewed by the masses since the beginning of the year:
1. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua: Despite suffering a “defeat” in his championship bid, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua had a career defining year in 2009. Shogun seemed to be a victim of the circumstances heading into this year. The first of which being a serious knee injury that plagued him before and after his UFC debut loss at the hands of Forrest Griffin. It was this defeat that caused many that didn’t know any better to proclaim that the twenty-something phenom was all but finished. There were many that firmly believed Mauricio would never be the same fighter he was in PRIDE. Then it was his “Fight of the Night” victory over an aging Mark Coleman. Many of Shogun’s critics pointed to this win as somehow being another sign that Rua was not the same dominant fighter he once was. Of course, this was well before Coleman shocked many by toppling the much younger Stephan Bonnar. Shogun began to turn heads and opinions in 2009 after his first round demolition of Chuck Liddell, but it wasn’t until his hard-fought “loss” at the hands of Lyoto Machida that Mauricio was finally given the credit and recognition he deserves as being one of the best pound for pound fighters in the sport.
2. Roy “Big Country” Nelson: While he was widely viewed as the favorite going into The Ultimate Fighter house for the series’ tenth season, many don’t realize that “Big Country” was 0-2 in his previous two bouts heading into the show. Nelson bounced back from a duo of losses to Andrei Arlovski and Jeff Monson by notching wins over Kimbo Slice, Justin Wren and James McSweeney in the house before knocking Brendan Schaub senseless for the TUF 10 championship and six-figure UFC contract.
3. Michihiro Omigawa: Entering 2009 Omigawa was sporting a less than impressive record of 4-7. Many of you old school fans will vaguely remember Michihiro as the Japanese Judoka that was knocked out with an Aaron Riley head kick at PRIDE Bushido 7, or perhaps for his unanimous decision defeats at the hands of Thiago Tavares and Matt Wiman in the UFC. That’s why it came as such a huge shock when the weathered veteran notched consecutive victories over the likes of L.C. Davis, Nam Phan and Marlon Sandro on his way to the Sengoku Featherweight GP Finals. Omigawa further went on to close out 2009 with another impressive victory over the favored Hatsu Hioki.
4. Mark Coleman: Coleman hadn’t fought in well over two years going into his UFC 93 TKO defeat at the hands of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, but it was the 45 year old veteran’s unanimous decision victory over the much younger and favored Stephan Bonnar that made “The Hammer” a no-brainer for this list.
5. Josh Koscheck: Kos showed exactly how you pick yourself up from an unexpected defeat in 2009 as the AKA trained fighter bounced back from an upset loss to Paulo Thiago by blowing through highly respected fighters such as Frank Trigg and Anthony Johnson to place himself right back into the title picture at 170 pounds in the UFC.