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 ten most exciting fighters of 2009:
1. Donald Cerrone: “Cowboy” gave as good as he got in 2009, winning two and dropping two, but one thing that is for certain is the fact that Cerrone clearly established himself as one of mixed martial arts’ most exciting fighters to watch in a year to be remembered for the athlete/entertainer from Albuquerque. Cerrone took part in three of the best fights of 2009 as he dropped a technical split decision at the hands of Jamie Varner, went to war in a bout he lost by decision to Benson Henderson, and submitted Ed Ratcliff with a rear naked choke in a bout with no shortage of fireworks. On top of his back and forth tussles with the previously mentioned fighters, Donald also notched a first round submission over James Krause to his belt at WEC 41.
2. Scott Smith: Scott Smith only knows one style of fighting, and that’s Kamikaze Style. The appropriately nicknamed “Hand of Steel” came back from the brink of defeat in two separate bouts this year against Benji Radach and Cung Le, as well as losing a hard-fought three round tussle to Nick Diaz.
Come from behind victories have long been a cornerstone of any athletic competition since the dawn of time, but I can think of no other sport where a team could come back from such a huge defficiency on the scoreboards in the blink of an eye as in MMA. For example; in baseball if a team enters the ninth inning with a 15 point lead, they can come back, but it’s going to take a while. And in football, if you’re down by twenty points or more with a minute to go, there’s no miracle bomb you can throw to make up for that kind of deficit. Perhaps that’s what makes fighting the greatest sport in the world. You can come back from a twenty point deficit with a minute to go in the fourth quarter with a single punch to the chin. This is what makes Smith’s ability to continuously notch together these type of compelling performances all the more impressive.
3. Gilbert Melendez: “El Nino” went from being one of the most talented but hard to watch fighters to one of the most consistently memorable fighters the sport has to offer in the space of a single year. Six of Melendez’ previous seven bouts had gone to the judges scorecards leading up to 2008 where the Cesar Gracie trained lightweight put Rodrigo Damm to sleep with a huge punch, avenged a previous defeat at the hands of Mitsuhiro Ishida via TKO and avenged the only other loss in his career while unifying the Strikeforce 155 pound crown in a potential fight of the year against Josh Thomson at “Strikeforce: Evolution”.
4. Jose Aldo: Four wins, four brutal TKO’s this year; That’s how Jose Aldo rolls. There weren’t many keeping tabs on this phenom from Brazil heading into 2009, but Aldo changed all of that with his eight second death by flying knee destruction of Cub Swanson and utter domination of Mike Brown to capture the WEC featherweight title.
5. Alan Belcher: Alan Belcher said that he wanted to be on the main portion of the UFC cards he fought on in the future, and in 2009 he sent a direct message to the UFC with two separate fight of the night performances against the likes of Yoshihiro Akiyama and Wilson Gouveia with a submission of the night over Denis Kang just for good measure.
6. Marius Zaromskis: The only way you had heard of Zaromskis going into 2009 would be if you lived in Lithuania or were a big fan of the UK based Cage Rage promotion, but Marius changed all of that this year as he booted everyone in the face that crossed his path, wining three bouts via coconut kick, four overall, and capturing the DREAM welterweight GP title in the process. If you haven’t began to get excited for an upcoming showdown between Zaromskis and Nick Diaz in Strikeforce, go ahead and do so now.
7. Fedor Emelianenko: Fedor may have thrown down just twice this year, but in true Emelianenko fashion, “The Last Emperor” took part in two of the most memorable bouts of the year in separate heavyweight wars against Andrei Arlovski and Brett Rogers.
8. Chris Lytle: “Lights Out” threw down for his town just twice in 2009, but true to form, Lytle grabbed fight of the night honors with the UFC on both occasions. Lytle came out on the losing end of a split decision to Marcus Davis this year but later rebounded with a unanimous decision nod over Kevin Burns in two of the most exciting fights of the year.
9. Brett Rogers: “Grim” guaranteed two things in 2009, and that was plenty of pain and plenty of action. A guarantee the 6’5″, 260+ Rogers delivered on with a brutal mugging of Abongo Humphrey, a shocking blowout of former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski and a scrap to remember against the best fighter in the business on CBS in one of the most watched fights of the year.
10. Eddie Alvarez: Alvarez just basically freaked out and started choking people this year. The heavy handed lightweight normally known for his knockout ability went on a strangulation rampage through the Bellator lightweight tournament to win it’s crown before slapping a choke on Katsunori Kikuno during DREAM 12 for his fourth asphyxiation submission victory of 2009.