The first week of 2012 has arrived, and though 2011 may not have delivered on the public’s long-standing dream of flying cars and laser-blasters it was certainly a period filled with memorable months from a Mixed Martial Arts viewpoint. We witnessed champions fall in dramatic fashion, prospects rise from the ranks to become divisional kings, and numerous fighters emerge victorious by the skin of their teeth. We saw shocking signings and ridiculous releases; countless classics and numerous nod-offers; moves in the ring unlike any other before and some hopefully never seen again.
With the close of the year, Five Ounces of Pain is bringing you our annual awards as we wind things down and get ready for the adventures the coming twelve months will undoubtedly bring.
Today we’ve arrived as the “meat and potatoes” otherwise know as Knockout of the Year, Submission of the Year, Fight of the Year, and Fighter of the Year. As always, 5 Oz. invites our readers to offer their own opinions in the “Comments” section on who should have taken home the hardware (or in this case digital love). We would not be here without you, and rest assured the Staff not only appreciates your contributions from a “page view” standpoint, but genuinely enjoys reading our community’s take on topics.
And HAPPY NEW YEAR!
- Knockout of the Year -
Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort: “OHHHHHHHHH, HE FRONT KICKED HIM IN THE FACE!” – Joe Rogan.
For once, the commentating crew’s blatant stating of the obvious was forgivable, as there simply was nothing else Rogan could have said in that instant to describe what had just happened.
After spending the better part of three minutes engaging in a staring contest, Silva and Belfort remembered they were in a fight. “The Phenom” was the first to draw blood by scoring with a one-two, but it was a combo that seemed to have awakened the beast. After a quick takedown, both fighters regained their feet, where Silva somehow had the audacity to drop his hands while standing in front of one of the most feared strikers in MMA history. Seconds later, Belfort found himself staring at the ceiling courtesy of a front kick to the jaw. From there, Silva nonchalantly walked over, threw his compatriot’s legs to the side, and finished him off with a couple of extra punches.
It was truly one of the most amazing displays of technique, speed, timing, distancing and creativity you’re ever going to see in this sport.
- Submission of the Year -
Frank Mir’s Kimura of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira: There were other contenders to be sure but no tap-out had the drama of Mir’s stomach-turning submission of “Minotauro” at UFC 140. Leading up to the fight there was a bit of animosity between the two stemming from Nogueira’s excuses about losing their first encounter. Shortly after action started in the second scrap it seemed apparent Nogueira would win, dropping Mir and nearly pounding him out before making the ill-fated decision to go for a Guillotine Choke instead. As fate would reveal, Mir then rolled out of it while procuring a Kimura he ultimately broke the Brazilian’s arm with based on the veteran’s refusal to tap. In the process Mir, often overlooked as one of MMA’s greats, not only solidified a likely 2012 shot at winning the title but also became the first man to submit Nogueira (while already being the first to TKO him).
- Fight of the Year -
Mike Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez (Bellator 58): Alvarez was considered to be a top five, if not top three, lightweight in the world when he stepped into the cage on November 19 while Chandler was just a prospect who was in over his head at this point in his career. Alvarez was the long reigning Bellator champion and the poster boy of the organization while Chandler was just another fight who Eddie could put on a show against. The only problem was, nobody told Chandler that it wasn’t supposed to be his time to shine, and the result made for the best fight of the year.
From the opening bell, Chandler wanted to prove that he wasn’t impressed with Alvarez’s accomplishments by immediately charging out and throwing a barrage of punches that had the champion on the defensive and nearly out of the fight. Alvarez managed to survive the early flurry though, compose himself, and get back into the fight before getting dropped again at the end of the first round. It was a round that proved Chandler wouldn’t be backing down despite the experience difference and told Alvarez that he was in for the toughest fight of his life.
The one minute break between rounds served Alvarez well as he found his rhythm in the second round and started to get the better of the young challenger with his hands. It looked as if Chandler may have blown himself up in the first round as he dramatically slowed down in the second round, but still kept things competitive with his wrestling.
The third round was seemingly the turning point of the fight as Alvarez really turned up the pressure and nearly put Chandler away with a variety of combinations and shots to the chin and body. At one point, Chandler reached down to check his foot after throwing a kick, a sign that he was hurt and was moments away from being done. Despite looking completely gassed out and getting hit with every punch in the book, Chandler never once went down, but did look out on his feet for the majority of the round.
Alvarez appeared to be in complete control heading into the championship rounds, but like the champion did between rounds one and two, the challenger used the one minute break between rounds three and four to refocus himself and get an extra wind. All of a sudden, Chandler looked like he was back in the first round, pressing Alvarez and forcing the champ to fight his fight. The end came when Chandler dropped Alvarez with an overhand right, got on top, improved his position, got the back, and sunk in a rear naked choke for the tap out.
This fight had everything. Dramatic momentum swings in both directions, both fighters showing a ton of heart, striking, wresting, grappling, a title on the line, and a conclusive finish. Alvarez vs. Chandler is truly what MMA is all about.
Make sure to check out the bottom of this article for complete video of the 5 OZ Fight of the Year!
- Fighter of the Year -
Jon Jones: Was there really any other choice?
Jeremy Lambert: “Bones” Jones not only had the best year of any fighter in 2011, he may have had the best year of any fighter ever. He won four fights, one man was undefeated at the time, the other three were former champions, and he finished all four opponents. In a year where he was supposed to just be built up as the next contender in the division, he immediately jumped into the title picture thanks to a Rashad Evans injury and never looked back. The way he handled top lightweights such as “Shogun” Rua, Quinton Jackson, and Machida was once in a lifetime beauty. He absolutely destroyed Rua, turning him into his personal punching bag. He made Jackson look like a one-dimensional amateur. And, facing a bit of adversity for the first time in his career, he choked out Machida with a Standing Guillotine Choke, which is an extremely difficult hold to finish against a top level fighter like “The Dragon”
Think of all the great years fighters like Chuck Liddell, Georges St. Pierre, Fedor Emelianeko, Wanderlei Silva, “Spider” Silva, and Kazushi Sakuraba put together when they were at their best. None of those years compare to what Jones did in 2011. It’s rare that a top guy fights four times a year, it’s even more rare that he looks as impressive as Jones, especially considering the level of talent he faced.
Samer Kadi: When 2011 began, Jones was widely regarded as the hottest prospect in MMA, and many tipped him to be the next ruler in the heavyweight division. However, few could have imagined it would happen as early as it did. In fact, Jones himself couldn’t have possibly anticipated such overwhelming success in a calendar year. A lucky break saw former teammate and now bitter rival Evans pull out of his scheduled bout with champion “Shogun” Rua, and Jones was called upon to serve as a replacement.
Just five weeks after his handling of Ryan Bader, Jones turned in the performance of his career and a violent beatdown of the much more experienced Rua, eventually stopping him with strikes in the third round in what was a brutal display of domination from start to finish. From there, Jones cemented his status as one of the absolute best fighters on the planet by out-classing “Rampage” Jackson four three-and-a-half rounds before submitting Machida inside two rounds to cap off what could well be the most sensational year in MMA history for a single fighter.
Brendhan Conlan: There’s not much to be said beyond what Lambert/Kadi have mentioned but a few points to further demonstrate why Jones’ 2011 was so impressive. 1.) He out-wrestled Bader, a NCAA wrestling champion, 2.) He was the first person to finish Jackson in more than five years, 3.) He was the first person to submit Jackson in a decade, 3.) He was the first person to ever stop Rua with strikes, and 4.) He was the first person to ever stop Machida via submission. Jones’ 2011 was akin to the greatest feats in any sport and unquestionably made him the year’s top fighter.
As a special treat, courtesy of Bellator, you can re-live Alvarez vs. Chandler below: