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The Complete 5 Oz. 2009 MMA Awards would like to formally extend all of you loyal mixed martial arts fans and dedicated 5 Oz. readers a very happy new year.

2009 was another year to remember for this beautifully violent sport we have all come to understand, follow, love, and for some, obsess over, and while there’s no telling what 2010 will bring as we approach the first major event of the year,  if it’s half as good as 2009, very few will be disappointed.

Here’s to another amazing year of MMA, and we’ll see you guys right back here, same place, same time, in 2011.

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Fighter of the Year

1. Lyoto Machida: “The Dragon” became the number one contender, captured the championship and defended his light heavyweight title against three of the toughest fighters 205 pounds has to offer, all in the span of a single year. Agree with the decision or not, Lyoto most recently captured a victory over a top notch Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, knocked out Rashad Evans for the strap, and started out the year with a brutal knockout over Thiago Silva.

2. Gilbert Melendez: There is virtually no possible way that “El Nino” could have had any better of a year as the Cesar Gracie trained lightweight had in 2009. Melendez started out things with a bang, knocking Rodrigo Damm senseless in a 5 Oz. Knockout of the Year honorable mention before he avenged the only two defeats in his professional career; stopping Mitsuhiro Ishida via TKO before pulling out the decision over Josh Thomson to unify the Strikeforce lightweight crown in the 5 Oz. Fight of the Year.

3. Jose Aldo: Although three of Aldo’s victims this year can’t really be considered top notch competition, an eye dazzling eight second flying knee knockout of Cub Swanson and a thorough beatdown of Mike Brown, who many considered to be a top ten pound for pound fighter at the time, to earn the WEC featherweight title made this twenty-three year old phenom an easy choice for the top five.

4. Georges St. Pierre: St. Pierre only fought twice this year, but in true GSP fashion the UFC welterweight champion made them count with landslide victories over the likes of B.J. Penn and Thiago Alves.

5. B.J. Penn: It’s definitely surprising to see a fighter with a loss make the top five this time around, but Penn’s complete domination of Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez at his natural weight can not go ignored.

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

Benson Henderson

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

Jake Shields

Eddie Alvarez

Dan Hardy

Fedor Emelianenko

Nate Marquardt

Marius Zaromskis

Gegard Mousasi

Bibiano Fernandes

Anderson Silva

Cain Velasquez

Vitor Belfort

Fight of the Year

1. Gilbert Melendez vs. Josh Thomson II – Strikeforce: Evolution

2. Benson Henderson vs. Donald Cerrone – WEC 43

3. Randy Couture vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira – UFC 102

4. Miguel Torres vs. Takeya Mizugaki – WEC 40

5. Nate Quarry vs. Tim Credeur – UFC Fight Night: Diaz vs. Guillard

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

Diego Sanchez vs. Clay Guida – The Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale

Martin Kampmann vs. Carlos Condit – UFC Fight Night 18

Fedor Emelianenko vs. Brett Rogers – Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers

Pat Barry vs. Antoni Hardonk – UFC 104

Rich Franklin vs. Wanderlei Silva – UFC 99

Scott Jorgensen vs. Takeya Mizugaki – WEC 45

Carlos Condit vs. Jake Ellenberger – UFC Fight Night: Diaz vs. Guillard

Scott Smith vs. Benji Radach – Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Diaz

Jorge Gurgel vs. Conor Heun – Strikeforce Challengers: Cyborg vs. Villasenor

Jamie Varner vs. Donald Cerrone – WEC 38

Hideo Tokoro vs. Abel Cullum – DREAM 9

Scott Smith vs. Cung Le – Strikeforce: Evolution

Donald Cerrone vs. Ed Ratcliff – WEC 45

Breakthrough Fighter of the Year

1. Jose Aldo – Aldo went on an absolute berserker rampage through WEC’s featherweight division during 2009; racking up a series of four brutal TKO victories, grabbing two “Knockout of the Night” nods, and capturing the WEC 145 pound title in the process. The kid prodigy from Brazil started out 2009 with a bang, literally, earning “KOTN” during a first round beatdown over Rolando Perez in January. From there Aldo went on to pummel Chris Mickle in March before capturing yet another “KOTN” bonus while turning Cub Swanson into a human highlight reel in June with a flying knee that would have made Ong Bak proud, just eight seconds into the bout. Most notably, Jose’s November trouncing of a fighter many believed to be a top ten pound-for-pound fighter in Mike Brown cemented the just twenty-three year old champion as’s Breakthrough Fighter of 2009.

2. Dan Hardy – Having fought the majority of his career in smaller promotions in the UK, Dan Hardy came into 2009 with just a single UFC fight under his belt, and left with a 4-0 record and an upcoming shot at the UFC welterweight championship. “The Outlaw” first began to turn the heads of the masses following his back and forth war with Marcus Davis which he most recently followed up with a decisive victory over the highly regarded Mike Swick.

3. Benson Henderson – Henderson entered 2009 coming off of appearances in the MFC and EVO MMA promotions, and left it with three victories in the WEC and an interim lightweight title around his waist. Henderson exploded onto the WEC lightweight scene with a first round TKO over Shane Roller in April before edging out Donald Cerrone in October to set up a showdown with fellow title holder Jamie Varner in January.

4. Cain Velasquez – Coming into this year with a record of 4-0, Velasquez was widely touted as a heavyweight to watch in the future, but all of that was just talk at the time. Cain solidified his position near the top of the UFC heavyweight ladder in 2009 with a “KOTN” performance over Denis Stojnic, along with big wins over Cheick Kongo and Ben Rothwell.

5. Jon Jones – “Bones” had fought once in the UFC prior to the beginning over this year, but it was his impressive 2009 victories over Stephan Bonnar and Jake O’Brien, combined with a thorough beatdown of Matt Hamill in the twenty-two year old Jones’ only career “loss” that have fast-tracked this fast rising light heavyweight talent into the limelight.

6. Brian Bowles – Big things come in small packages. Bowles only fought one time in 2009, but the newly crowned WEC bantamweight title holder made it count, knocking one of the highest regarded champions of the sport senseless in the opening round and handing Miguel Torres his first defeat in more than five years in the process.

7. Paulo Thiago – Who was Paulo Thiago before he sent Josh Koscheck sailing to the canvas in February? I’ll tell you who he was; Paulo was an undefeated prospect fighting out of the Jungle Fight promotion. Since his groundbreaking performance over Kos at UFC 95, Thiago has gone on to prove himself in the UFC’s welterweight division with a decision loss to Jon Fitch and a recent victory over the previously undefeated Jacob Volkmann.

8. Paul Daley – “Semtex” got off to a rocky start this year dropping a unanimous decision at the hands of Nick Thompson, but came back in a big way with three consecutive victories, the last of which being a first round blowout of Martin Kampmann at UFC 103.

9. Shane Carwin – It’s not exactly like big Shane was a secret going into 2009, but it was his thrilling come from behind knockout over Gabriel Gonzaga in March that served to turn the massive heavyweight into an instant title challenger, and one of the most talked about big men in the game in the process.

10. Gegard Mousasi – Much like Carwin, Mousasi was no secret to most MMA fans going into 2009, but it was his signing with Strikeforce, combined with impressive performances on Showtime and CBS that has made Gegard a clear-cut breakthrough fighter of 2009.

Female Fighter of the Year

1. Cris Cyborg Santos – She is the winner of the biggest fight on the biggest stage. Santo’s has rattled off 8 straight vicotries on her way to the first ever STRIKEFORCE women’s 145 belt. On sheer exposure for female MMA captured alone, Santo’s gets the nod as Womens fighter of the year.

2. Megumi Fujii – at 19-0 with 3 wins in 2009, Fujii is possibly the best women’s fighter you have never heard of. You fight this 115 lb monster and chances are you will lose an arm with 11 victories of her 19 coming via armbar.

3. Miku Matsumoto – Adding 3 top notch victories to her record in 2009, and now riding a 12 fight win streak. Deep’s “Supernova” appears all but unstoppable. With an impressive win over Lisa Ward ( the last woman to defeat her) Matsumoto had one of the best years in women’s MMA.

4. Sarah Kaufmann – With wins over Meisha Tate, Shayna Baszler, and Sara Schneider, Kaufmann remains unbeaten at 10-0 and certainly qualifies as a top female fighter of 2009. Quality wins over tough competition are a premium for the ladies, and no one can argue Kaufmann had a big year.

5. Tara Larosa – It’s hard to make a list, any list, regarding women’s MMA and not mention Tara Larosa. The sometimes outspoken, and always dangerous Larosa had another big year, adding 3 wins to her overall record of 18-1.

Trash Talker of the Year

1. Frank Mir: From running his mouth like Jackie Joyner Kersie leading up to his UFC 100 beatdown at the hands of Brock Lesnar, to making fun of the way Cheick Kongo spoke English, to wanting to rip Brock Lesnar’s arm off and retire him while the champion is still recovering from a nasty intestinal infection, Mir showed that he can spew hate with the best of them. It seems like he has toned it down since his recent first round submission victory over Kongo, along with an upcoming interim title bout with Shane Carwin expected for the near future, but Mir had an absolutely epic year as far as talking trash goes in 2009.

“I’ve never hated a human being as much as I hate [Brock]. It’s never driven me to the points of insanity that it has driven me to now. I want to rip Cheick Kongo’s arm off and make a statement, and it’s just because I want to scare the s*** out of Brock. I want him to know that he will never be the same human being after I get out of that cage with him. I will detrimentally affect his physical life forever and scar him on a mental level.” – Frank Mir, 2009

2. Brock Lesnar: Lesnar’s illness in the end of 2009 caused a huge drop off in the trash talk department for the UFC’s heavyweight champion, but Brock made up for it by leaps and bounds with some of the most potent trash talk the game has ever seen following his second round demolition of Frank Mir at UFC 100

“Frank Mir had a horseshoe up his ass. I told him that a year ago. I pulled that son of a bitch out and I beat him over the head with it, whooo!! ….. I’m gonna go home tonight, and I’m gonna drink a Coors Lite.. that’s a Coors Lite because Bud Lite won’t pay me nothing. I’m gonna sit down with my friends and family, and hell, I might even get on top of my wife tonight.” – Brock Lesnar, 2009

3. Dan Hardy: Hardy came out in 2009 with both his fists and mouth swinging for the fences in bouts with Marcus Davis and Mike Swick, earning himself a welterweight title shot and establishing himself as one of the sport’s most talented talkers in the business in the process.

“The thing I’ve realized about Josh Koscheck is that he’s kind of like a turd that won’t flush away. He kind of wins a fight, and you think he’s doing alright. Then he loses a fight and you think he’s done, and then he wins a fight. He’s always kind of floating around and he never really does anything.” – Dan Hardy, 2009

4. Josh Koscheck: From some of the best smack talk in a UFC Countdown show this year leading into his welterweight beatdown of Frank Trigg, Kos went on to throw his own teammate Mike Swick under the bus by claiming the title challenger had never fought anyone worth a lick to get his shot.

“U haters can suck my d***! Haha love this Twitter sh*t talking. A faker never gets up and doesn’t fight after that a eye poker……. But what the f*ck do I care!!! 140k in fight of the night and tapout of the night!! so keep hate’n.” – Josh Koscheck (Twitter), 2009

5. Dana White: The UFC President has long been one of the best talkers in the game, and 2009 was far from an exception. White pulled no punches this year while addressing topics such as Strikeforce, Fedor Emelianenko, Karo Parisyan, and so much more.

“If I wanted Dan Henderson, I could’ve signed him. For the money he wanted, he’s not worth it. He’s not a big pay-per-view star, he’s not a big attraction, and he’s not going to sell out arenas. He wants way too much and he doesn’t bring anything to the table. Here’s the reality: If I wanted him, he’d be in the UFC. It’s not like, ‘F***, Strikeforce beat me out.’ He’s been a free agent for a long time. If I wanted him, I would have signed him by now.” – Dana White, 2009

Upset of the Year

1. Paulo Thiago TKO’s Josh Koscheck during UFC 95 on February 21, 2009.

2. Brian Bowles knocks out Miguel Torres to become the WEC bantamweight champion during WEC 42 on July 9, 2009

3. Brett Rogers knocks out Andrei Arlovski during “Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields” on June 6, 2009

4. Scott Smith knocks out Cung Le during “Strikeforce: Evolution” on December 19, 2009

5. Mackens Semerzier submits Wagnney Fabiano with a triangle choke during WEC 43 on October 10, 2009

6. Paul Daley TKO’s Martin Kampmann during UFC 103 on September 19, 2009

7. Joe Warren defeats Kid Yamamoto via split decision during DREAM 9 on May 26, 2009

8. Michihiro Omigawa defeats L.C. Davis via unanimous decision during Sengoku 7 on March 20, 2009

9. Mark Coleman defeats Stephan Bonnar via unanimous decision during UFC 100 on July 11, 2009

10. Mike Kyle defeats Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante via TKO during “Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields” on June 6, 2009

Knockout of the Year

1. Fedor Emelianenko vs. Andrei Arlovski – Affliction: Day of Reckoning

Arlovski made Fedor look mortal and extremely beatable as the heavy handed former UFC heavyweight champion was absolutely picking “The Last Emperor” apart on the feet before Emelianenko leveled the playing field and Andrei all at once with a miracle right hand that sent the towering beast from Belarus sailing to the canvas, face-first in an unconscious heap.

2. Lyoto Machida vs. Rashad Evans – UFC 98

Not only had “Sugar” Rashad never suffered a defeat inside of the Octagon fencing during his career, Evans had never even come close to being knocked out up until his demolition at the hands of the winner…. and new light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida.

3. Brian Bowles vs. Miguel Torres – WEC 42

Torres was widely regarded as one of the top five pound for pound fighters in the world going into this fight and hadn’t suffered a single defeat in close to six years, but all of that came crashing to an end along with Miguel’s reign as the WEC bantamweight champion as Brian Bowles flattened him with a series of sleep inducing right hands.

4. Dan Henderson vs. Michael Bisping – UFC 100

Bisping showed the world exactly why it’s better to let your fists do the talking as Dan Henderson broke the cocky Brit off with a huge hunk of humble pie in the form of one of the most savage knockouts in the history of man, which was quickly followed up with the coup de grace punch of the year.

5. Shane Carwin vs. Gabriel Gonzaga – UFC 96

It looked like it was all over for Carwin early in the first round after being dropped with a big Gonzaga punch, but somehow the massive heavyweight managed to scrape himself off the canvas and deliver a huge right hand that folded Gonzaga against the cage like a lawn chair. From the brink of defeat at it’s finest right here.

6. Vitor Belfort vs. Matt Lindland – Affliction: Day of Reckoning

Belfort showed exactly how he rolls in the first round of this bout with Lindland when the power punching Brazilian layed out “The Law” with a huge punch before a series of GNP anvils induced the zombie rattle from Lindland’s feet during a few moments that had many scared for the Team Quest fighter’s health.

7. Fedor Emelianenko vs. Brett Rogers - Strikeforce / M-1 Global – Fedor vs. Rogers

One could make the argument that Fedor’s right hand is the hardest single punch in the sport of MMA, as it was this exact weapon that put the feared Russian on this list twice. The shot that exploded against the side of Brett’s head sounded like a watermelon being smacked by a baseball bat.

8. Jose Aldo vs. Cub Swanson – WEC 41

In easily one of the most jaw-dropping knockouts of this year, Aldo needed all of 8 seconds to run across the cage and blast Swanson with this flying knee of doom that would have made Ong-Bak proud.

9. Brett Rogers vs. Andrei Arlovski – Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields

Unfortunately, Arlovski has the dubious distinction of making this list twice…. for being knocked out. There were few that gave Rogers much of a chance against the far more experienced former UFC champion in this one, let alone anyone that expected for Rogers to turn off Andrei’s light switch at just twenty-two seconds into the mugging.

10. Roy Nelson vs. Brendan Schaub – TUF 10 Finale

“Big Country” couldn’t have picked a better moment to earn the biggest knockout of his career. The right hand that flattened Schaub was seen by literally millions and earned Nelson a long future in the UFC in the process.

Honorable Mentions:

Matt Hamill vs. Mark Munoz – UFC 96

Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal vs. Mike Whitehead – Strikeforce: Evolution

Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin – UFC 101

Efrain Escudero vs. Cole Miller – UFC 103

Scott Smith vs. Cung Le – Strikeforce: Evolution

Anthony Johnson vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida – UFC 104

Andre Winner vs. Roli Delgado – UFC 105

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Luiz Cane – UFC 106

Ben Saunders vs. Marcus Davis – UFC 106

Gilbert Melendez vs. Rodrigo Damm – Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Diaz

Marius Zaromskis vs. Hayato Sakurai and Jason High – Dream.10: Welter Weight Grand Prix 2009 Final Round

Dave Herman vs. Jim York – World Victory Road Presents: Sengoku 11

Comeback Fighter 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.

Submission of the Year

1. Toby Imada vs. Jorge Masvidal – Bellator 5 (Inverted Triangle Choke)

2. Masakazu Imanari vs. Justin Cruz – “DEEP: Cage Impact” (Omoplata-Twister of Misery)

3. Shane Del Rosario vs. Brandon Cash – “Strikeforce Challengers: Gurgel vs. Evangelista (Omoplata)

4. Brad Pickett vs. Kyle Dietz – WEC 45 (Peruvian Necktie)

5. Mackens Sermerzier vs. Wagnney Fabiano – WEC 43 (Triangle Choke)

6. Demian Maia vs. Chael Sonnen – UFC 95 (Triangle Choke)

7. B.J. Penn vs. Kenny Florian - UFC 101 (Rear-Naked Choke)

8. Seth Dikun vs. Rolando Perez – WEC 41 (Flying Triangle Choke)

9. Shinya Aoki vs. Joachim Hansen – “DREAM 11: Featherweight Grand Prix 2009 Final Round(Armbar)

10. Satoru Kitaoka vs. Takanori Gomi – “World Victory Road Presents: Sengoku no Ran 2009(Achilles Lock) for Sengoku LW championship

Honorable Mentions (In no particular order):

Ricky Story vs. Brian Foster – UFC 103 (Arm Triangle Choke)

Bibano Fernandes vs. Joe Warren – DREAM.11: Feather Weight Grand Prix 2009 Final Round (Armbar)

Ikuhisa Minowa vs. Hong Man Choi – DREAM.11: Feather Weight Grand Prix 2009 Final Round (Gigantor Heel Hook)

Joe Lauzon vs. Jeremy Stephens – UFC Fight Night 17 (Armbar)

Brock Larson vs. Mike Pyle – UFC 98 (Arm Triangle Choke)

Luke Rockhold vs. Cory Devela – Strikeforce Challengers: Cyborg vs. Villasenor (Rear-Naked Choke)

Luke Rockhold vs. Jesse Taylor – Strikeforce Challengers: Gurgel vs. Evangelista (Rear-Naked Choke)

Mike Brown vs. Leonard Garcia – WEC 39 (Arm Triangle Choke)

Worst Fight of the Year

1. Hong-man Choi submits Jose Canseco with punches during “DREAM 9: Super Hulk Grand Prix 2009 Opening Round

Only in Japan. There’s nothing wrong with a good old fashioned freak show bout, but even the most morbid of fight fans would have trouble enjoying this pummeling of a former baseball diamond legend that never should have been allowed to take place.

2. Anderson Silva defeats Thales Leites via unanimous decision during UFC 97

Time and a highlight reel knockout over Forrest Griffin at light heavyweight have served to erase this atrocious performance by”The Spider” from the memory of most. We can point fingers all day long at who’s fault it was for this bout totally sucking, but it takes two to tango, and neither fighter showed up to fight in what was without a doubt one of the hardest five rounds to watch in the history of the UFC.

3. Kimbo Slice defeats Houston Alexander via unanimous decision during “The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale

If Silva/Leites was among the worst five rounds to watch in Octagon history, you can be sure this fifteen minute staredown between Kimbo and Houston was among the very worst three. Who would have expected for this fight to be on this list when word first spread about the possible match-up? Few, I’ll tell you that much, very few.

4. Jake Shields defeats Jason “Mayhem” Miller via unanimous decision during “Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers

“Mayhem” went on to accuse Shields of humping his leg and giving him staph infection during this five round grapplefest, and while there’s not proof that the staph came from Shields, there’s no questioning the fact that there was a good amount of leg humping going on in this one. You can thank Fedor and Brett Rogers for saving this card in a major way.

5. Randy Couture defeats Brandon Vera via unanimous decision during UFC 105

Randy had a game plan going into this one, and you could argue that he executed it almost to the tee, but that didn’t make it any less painful to watch.

*Honorable mentions for more than half of the fights that took place during TUF 10

Story of the Year

1. Fedor Emelianenko signs with Strikeforce – The hype and chitter chatter surrounding Fedor Emelianenko and where “The Last Emperor” might end up following the demise of Affliction as a fight promotion has been nearly unprecedented leading up this year. Fedor’s not signing with the UFC and signing with Strikeforce was undoubtedly the biggest story of 2009.

2. Josh Barnett tests positive for steroids/Affliction MMA folds like a lawn chair – The biggest story of the year would never have been possible if it wasn’t for Barnett dealing the sport a sucker punch by testing dirty for performance enhancing drugs in the days leading up to his highly anticipated showdown with Fedor.

3. Dan Henderson signs with Strikeforce – Hendo takes a page out of Fedor’s book following his highly visible stint as a coach on the ninth season of The Ultimate Fighter and embarrassing knockout over Michael Bisping at UFC 100, signing with Strikeforce following a dragged out and highly covered negotiation process with the UFC.

4. Greasegate – Georges St. Pierre’s corner being caught on tape applying Vaseline to the body of the defending welterweight champion on more than one occasion during the pair’s UFC 94 showdown created a shower of accusations to be hurled in the direction of both GSP and his camp following this bout in February of this year.

5. Brock Lesnar sick, return unknown – The news of the biggest draw in the sport falling victim to a nasty intestinal infection and possibly never returning to the cage swept through the MMA community like a wildfire. Luckily, the latest reports concerning Lesnar seep as optimistic as ever about a possible 2010 return for the champ, but as of this writing nothing has been set in stone.

*Honorable Mention for Kimbo’s appearance on The Ultimate Fighter.

Gym of the Year

1. Black House: Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Junior dos Santos, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza

We’ll call this clan of bad ass Brazilians that help each other prepare for one another’s bout Team Black House for the lack of a better term. Silva, the Nogueira brothers and Machida all spend time at separate camps for large chunks of time, but usually come together when it counts and there’s no way this extraordinarily talented group of fighters wasn’t going to get the nod because of politics.

2. American Top Team (Coconut Creek, Florida): Thiago Silva, Ben Saunders, Mike Brown, Mark Bocek, Hector Lombard, Bobby Lashley, Tyron Woodley

3. Arizona Combat Sports: Ryan Bader, C.B. Dollaway, Aaron Simpson, Carlos Condit, Joe Riggs, Jamie Varner, Jesse Forbes, Jacob McClintock, Pat Runez, Elena Reid

4. Xtreme Couture
: Randy Couture, Forrest Griffin, Gray Maynard, Tyson Griffin, Jay Hieron, Vitor Belfort

5. American Kickboxing Academy: Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Cain Velasquez, Mike Swick, Daniel Cormier

Beatdown of the Year

1. Matt Brown vs. Pete SellUFC 96: Ten seconds into what ended up being one of the most barbaric beatings ever caught on film, Brown sent a blinding superman punch crashing into the chin of Sell and things started to spiral out of control really fast. Immediately after the initial strike, it was a huge head kick that was blocked but still nearly collapsed Sell to the canvas, and then a big right hand from Brown leveled the wounded fighter. This is the point when referee Yves Lavigne made arguably one of the worst calls in the history of the sport, moving in to stop the fight, but for some unknown reason, stepping back and telling Brown to “Keep going! Go, go,go,go,go!!!”. Brown looked at him like he was crazy because it was apparent that Sell was a done-dada, but went right ahead and did just that, he kept going. A couple of hard knees to the ribcage drops Sell yet again and Matt Brown climbs on top of him and tees off on the side of Pete’s face while the semi-conscious fighter has a “WTF” expression pinned to his face. After that it’s a little strangulation action as Sell gets trapped in a guillotine trying to stand up, and when they separate a couple well placed elbows in the clinch from “The Immortal” send the Pete’s mouthpiece to the Octagon canvas. It doesn’t stop there folks; Sell backs up, OBVIOUSLY hurt, and Brown tees off on his face with big knee strikes, pleading with Lavigne to call a halt to the contest. Finally it’s a few well placed punches on the fallen and bewildered Sell that brought to a halt a mugging that should have been stopped at the twenty second mark

2. Brock Lesnar vs. Frank MirUFC 100: Lesnar turned Mir’s body into a human pancake in this hard to watch beatdown, pummeling his carcass and face with a series of lunch boxes from the prison domination position on his way to transforming Frank’s face into ground hamburger and unifying the UFC heavyweight crown in the same night.

3. Cris “Cyborg” Santos vs. Gina CaranoStrikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg: I don’t know if it’s just a little harder for everyone else to watch a woman be beaten as mercifully as MMA’s sweetheart was on this fateful evening, but this lesson in humility ranks among the worst beatings of the year regardless of the circumstances. You could say that Cyborg “just wanted to destroy something that was beautiful”.

4. B.J. Penn vs. Diego SanchezUFC 107: Although Sanchez made it a point to go out fighting, all the heart in the world couldn’t have stopped this from being considered a beatdown in the truest sense of the term. The numbers don’t lie; B.J. Penn’s 150 strikes to Diego’s 8 combined with one of the gnarliest cuts to the forehead in the history of the game equals a one sided beating.

5. Nick Diaz vs. Frank ShamrockStrikeforce: Shamrock vs. Diaz: I don’t remember the exact number of strikes Diaz ended up nailing Shamrock with in the last hailstorm of fists that brought a conclusion to this pummeling, but I’m pretty sure it was right around the fifty-something mark. Shamrock just couldn’t seem to get it going on this night, but Diaz sure could.

6. Kerry Vera vs. Kim CoutureStrikeforce Challengers: Woodley vs. Bears: I think the reason for the high amount of female bouts on this list has to be the fact that the sport is still developing for the females, and this leads to mismatches more often than would normally happen. With that said, it takes nothing away from the fact that Kerry Vera’s beating of Kim Couture was another of the hardest to watch fights of the year.

7. Mike Brown vs. Leonard GarciaWEC 39: Most people expected for the heavy handed Garcia to at least keep it competitive for as long as the fight stayed on the feet, but a huge punch from Brown in the opening moments of the WEC featherweight title fight changed those preconceptions in a flash. From there it was all bad for Garcia as a series of strikes was followed up with an excruciating looking choke to seal the deal.

8. Cain Velasquez vs. Ben RothwellUFC 104: It doesn’t get much more one sided than this. Cain actually won the exchanges standing (something many didn’t expect) and then proceeded to make the massive Rothwell look like an amateur as he scooped him up and battered his face with punches over, and over, and over, and over, and over…..

9. Jon Jones vs. Matt HammillThe Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale: Jones may have suffered a defeat on paper in this bout, but Hammill’s face and spirit following this display of violence painted an entirely different picture. Jones ended up landing somewhere near forty strikes while in the mount position before this fight finally met it’s end.

10. Cris “Cyborg” Santos vs. Hitomi Akano - Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Diaz: Cyborg has an uncanny ability to make her opponents look WAY out of their league. This “fight” was no exception. The end of this one looked like a bad case of domestic violence.

Event of the Year

1. UFC 103 – September 19, 2009

Vitor Belfort defeats Rich Franklin via knockout (punches) at 3:02 of round 1

Junior dos Santos defeats Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic via submission (punch) at 2:00 of round 3

Paul Daley defeats Martin Kampmann via TKO (punches) at 2:31 of round 1

Josh Koscheck defeats Frank Trigg via TKO (punches) at 1:25 of round 1

Tyson Griffin defeats Hermes Franca via TKO (punches) at 3:26 of round 2

Efrain Escudero defeats Cole Miller via knockout (punch) at 3:36 of round 1

Tomasz Drwal defeats Drew McFedries via submission (rear naked choke) at 1:03 of round 2

Jim Miller defeats Steve Lopez via TKO (injury) at 0:48 of round 2

Nik Lentz defeats Rafaello Oliveira via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

Ricky Story defeats Brian Foster via submission (arm triangle choke) at 1:09 of round 2

Rafael dos Anjos defeats Rob Emerson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

2. UFC 95 – February 21, 2009

Diego Sanchez defeats Joe Stevenson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

Dan Hardy defeats Rory Markham via knockout (punch) at 1:09 of round 1

Nate Marquardt defeats Wilson Gouveia via TKO (strikes) at 3:10 of round 3

Demian Maia defeats Chael Sonnen via submission (triangle choke) at 2:37 of round 1

Paulo Thiago defeats Josh Koscheck via TKO (uppercut) at 3:29 of round 1

Terry Etim defeats Brian Cobb via TKO (strikes) at 0:10 of round 2

Junior dos Santos defeats Stefan Struve via TKO (punches) at 0:54 of round 1

Evan Dunham defeats Per Eklund via TKO (punches) at 2:14 of round 1

Mke Ciesnolevicz defeats Neil Grove via submission (heel hook) at 1:03 of round 1

Paul Kelly defeats Troy Mandaloniz via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-28)

3. Strikeforce: Evolution – December 19, 2009

Scott Smith defeats Cung Le via knockout (punches) at 3:25 of round 3

Gilbert Melendez defeats Josh Thomson via unanimous decision (48-47, 49-46, 49-46) to unify the Strikeforce lightweight title

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza defeats Matt Lindland via submission (arm triangle choke) at 4:18 of round 1

Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal defeats Mike Whitehead via knockout (punches) at 3:08 of round 1

4. WEC 45 – December 19, 2009

Donald Cerrone defeats Ed Ratcliff via submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:47 of Round 3

Brad Pickett defeats Kyle Dietz via submission (Peruvian necktie) at 4:36 of Round 2

Anthony Njokuani defeats Chris Horodecki via TKO (strikes) at 3:33 of Round 1

Brandon Visher defeats Courtney Buck via knockout (punches) at 4:45 of Round 1

Joseph Benavidez defeats Rani Yahya via TKO (strikes) at 1:35 of Round 1

Scott Jorgensen defeats Takeya Mizugaki via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

5. Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Diaz – April 11, 2009

Nick Diaz defeats Frank Shamrock via TKO (punches) at 3:57 of round 2

Gilbert Melendez defeats Rodrigo Damm via knockout (punches) at 2:02 of round 2

Scott Smith defeats Benji Radach via knockout (punch) at 3:24 of round 3

Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos defeats Hitomi Akano via TKO (punches) at 0:35 of round 3

Brett Rogers defeats Abongo Humphrey via TKO (strikes) at 1:38 of round 2

*Honorable Mention: Strikeforce: Woodley vs. Bears – November 20, 2009

Tyron Woodley defeats Rudy Bears via submission (arm-triangle choke) at 2:52 of round 1

Kerry Vera defeats Kim Couture via TKO (punches) at 3:35 of round 1

Bobby Voelker defeats Erik Apple via TKO (strikes) at 1:23 of round 2

Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante defeats Aaron Rosa via TKO (strikes) at 3:25 of round 2

Kevin Casey defeats Chad Vance via submission (rear-naked choke) at 1:41 of round 1

Most Exciting Fighter of the Year

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.

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