Best MMA Moments from 2011
Seems like with each passing year, we find ourselves sharing the same sentiments, but 2011 was truly the most lucrative year that mixed martial arts has had.
Organizations like Bellator, Dream, Strikeforce and the UFC produced some tantalizing, controversial but otherwise memorable moments that have only helped move the sport in the right direction.
Here, we will take a look at the biggest and greatest moments that happened in 2011.
Anderson Silva's Front Kick KO
There must be nothing sweeter than being able to kick an ex-teammate in the face.
Anderson Silva was able to exact a bit of revenge on former friend Vitor Belfort, as he stopped his fellow countryman inside of the first round in their 2011 February tilt with a front kick to the dome.
It which sent Belfort crashing to the mat where some ground-and-pound blows sealed the "Knockout of the Year" finish.
Lyoto Machida's Front Kick KO
Everything's not always better when it's done a second time, but that's not the case here.
Just two months after fellow Black House fighter Anderson Silva delivered a crushing foot to the face of Belfort, Lyoto Machida did the same, as the Karate specialist dismantled UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture with the impressive maneuver.
Steven Seagal is legend.
Bibiano Fernandes Earns Second GP Title
After claiming the promotion's featherweight title in their initial Grand Prix, Bibiano Fernandes duplicated his success when he entered the Dream Bantamweight GP.
There, Fernandes bested a field of eight men, which included a knockout victory over WEC and UFC veteran Antonio Banuelos in the finals.
The Brazilian made history, as he claimed his second championship in the promotion, in two different weight classes.
Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard II
In what's been regarded as 2011's "Fight of the Year", both Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard put on a memorable show last January, as the two lightweights went to war.
In the early stages of the bout, Maynard had Edgar on the ropes early, landing some heavy leather which wilted the New Jersey fighter to the mat on several occasions.
However, Edgar, being the champion that he was, survived the early onslaught and took the fight into the later rounds, where he fought to a draw with the Xtreme Couture product.
It may not have been the desired outcome that either man wanted, but it was a fitting end to a closely contested bout that had so many memorable moments.
Frankie Edgar Exacts Revenge
Avenging the lone loss of his career, Frankie Edgar sealed his trilogy with Gray Maynard in devastating fashion.
The Ricardo Almeida protege survived again what was a hairy first round with Maynard and eventually sent the Las Vegas fighter on his back with a crushing uppercut in the fourth.
Edgar followed with right hands, finishing off Maynard in a "Knockout of the Night" performance.
UFC Arrives in Brazil
After spending over a decade away, the UFC made a triumphant return to Brazil last August, where stars like Anderson Silva, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Edson Barboza had never shown brighter.
"Minotauro" earned the evening's "Knockout of the Night" with his incredible performance against heavy hitter Brendan Schaub, which elicited the raucous crowd to roar, cry and cheer in triumph.
Silva, meanwhile, deftly defended his middleweight crown for a ninth time when he topped Yushin Okami with a second round barrage of strikes, being the only man in the UFC to stop the Japanese fighter.
The show was an instant success, as was their second endeavor earlier this year.
Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez
The same time Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua were garnering all the attention last November for their light heavyweight tilt, lightweights Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez did battle.
It became an instant classic and arguably the best fight Bellator has put on to date.
The dramatic fight saw the tides turn on several occasions, with Chandler dropping Alvarez with crushing right hands, while the Philly fighter came back in the third with some thunderous strikes of his own.
In the end, Chandler's punching power proved too effective, as the collegiate wrestler knocked Alvarez down to the mat again in the fourth and cinched the rear-naked choke finish.
Wanderlei Silva's Resurgent Victory
After turning in a disappointing 27-second knockout loss to Chris Leben last July, Silva returned just four months later, helping to rebuild some momentum in his career.
Many have called for Silva's retirement, though the former PRIDE champion is not ready to hang them up just yet.
At UFC 139, Silva took on former Strikeforce champion Cung Le. The Sanshou specialist rocked and dropped the Brazilian early with a spinning back fist, though "The Axe Murderer" came storming back in the second.
Silva connected on some crushing knees to the face and some heavy punches, which eventually yielded the TKO finish in a "Fight of the Night" performance which revitalized his career.
Tito Ortiz's Resurgent Victory
Last July, Tito Ortiz was likely on his way out the door.
After suffering a career-worst five-fight winless streak, Ortiz had his back against the ropes when he battled against Ryan Bader, the Season 8 winner of The Ultimate Fighter, who at that time had only incurred one loss in his career: a submission defeat to Jon Jones.
In a resounding performance, Ortiz dropped the young lion with a hard right hook, later cinching a tight guillotine choke which earned the first-round finish, injecting some life back into "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy's" career.
Pat Curran Becomes Two-Time Tourney Champ
After making a run in Bellator's lightweight division, which culminated in a championship loss to Eddie Alvarez, Pat Curren dropped down to the featherweight class and has looked very impressive, to say the least.
After submitting Luis Palomino and dominating Ronnie Mann, Curran met the heavy-hitting Marlon Sandro in the finals of the 145-pound tournament.
The Brazilian cinched the first round with his pressure and mounting blows, though Curran connected on a crushing high kick which landed flush, sending Sandro falling to the canvas, out well before he hit the mat.
The emphatic knockout victory was arguably the biggest win of his career, as he deftly defeated a world-renowned fighter, whilst claiming is second tournament title in the process.
Before Ronda Rousey stepped into the Hexagon this year, nobody had ever heard of the name, save for Judo purists and Olympic die hards.
The female dynamo took the MMA world by storm when she submitted both Sarah D'Alellio and Julia Budd in a combined 64 seconds, both via armbar.
It's been a signature move for the Olympic silver medalist, who has recorded all four of her career victories by the same submission.
Now, Rousey will meet Meisha Tate this March for the Strikeforce women's 135-pound title.
Zuffa Purchases Strikeforce
Earlier this year, it was announced that both Strikeforce and the UFC, former rivals, would now be in bed with each other—well, sort of.
Zuffa, the subsidiary of the UFC, purchased the San Jose-based promotion after their initial backers had decided to establish their funds elsewhere. Now, both Strikeforce and the UFC are housed under the same roof.
Fighters like Alistair Overeem, Dan Henderson, Cung Le and Nick Diaz—all Strikeforce transplants—have now found success inside the Octagon in blockbuster battles that before would not have been possible.
Nick Diaz Arrives
After spending over a decade in the sport, Nick Diaz's popularity has never been higher.
The former Strikeforce welterweight champion officially re-entered the UFC last October when he took on former two-time world champ BJ Penn.
Though the two were regarded as comrades, the bout resembled nothing friendly.
Diaz battered and bruised the Hawaiian, thanks to his superior boxing skills which had Penn wilted against the cage on several occasions.
In the end, Diaz earned the spirited decision win, "Fight of the Night" honors and his shot at welterweight gold, where he will meet Carlos Condit next month for the interim title.
Alistair Overeem Arrives
After spending most of his career overseas, Alistair Overeem would finally make his UFC debut last December in arguably the biggest fight of his career.
The Dutchman was half of a heavyweight collision where Brock Lesnar, the former UFC champion, served as his welcoming party.
Many believed that the wrestling skills and overall power of Lesnar would prove to be too much for "The Demolition Man", though Overeem deftly defeated the ex-WWE star with crushing knees to the body and a liver kick, which set up the first-round TKO.
The victory propelled Overeem up the ranks and secured his shot at the UFC title.
Fedor Emelianenko Returns to Japan
Though he is Russian, Fedor Emelianenko is still one of the most popular figures to ever grace the Land of the Rising Sun and in December of last year, "The Last Emperor" made an emphatic return.
Emelianenko had recently endured a career-worst three-fight losing streak; however, he bounced back with a dominant victory over former UFC contender Jeff Monson.
Next, the former PRIDE champion was pitted against Satoshi Ishii under the Dream banner, making a memorable return to Japan, where he knocked out the Olympian inside of the first round.
Urijah Faber vs. Dominick Cruz II
WEC transplants Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz made history last July.
The two bitter rivals became the first two bantamweights to headline a UFC pay-per-view.
In unarguably the most monumental moment of their careers, the two dynamos turned in a "Fight of the Year'" worthy performance, with Faber dropping Cruz on several occasions, who answered with successive takedowns of his own.
The back-and-forth battle had the crowd clamoring for more.
WEC Fighters Prove Their Worth
Often regarded as the "B-Team" of the Zuffa roster, the WEC fighters finally had their chance in the limelight when the organization was merged with the UFC.
Then, many battles took place which helped solidify some of the WEC's best as part of the elite of their respective divisions.
Both Benson Henderson and Donald Cerrone shot up the lightweight ranks after their dominant performances against guys like Dennis Siver, Charles Oliveira, Clay Guida and Jim Miller.
Urijah Faber became an instant hit with the fans, thanks to his personable demeanor and overall fighting skills, while Brittney Palmer also joined the fray, becoming a popular ring card girl for the UFC.
Overall, I'd say the WEC'ers have now found their niche on the big stage.
Daniel Cormier Plays Spoiler
In an unprecedented turn of events, budding heavyweight star Daniel Cormier officially stepped into the limelight last September when he took on Antonio Silva.
Cormier served as a late replacement for an injured Alistair Overeem and met Silva in the organization's heavyweight grand prix semi-finals.
The AKA fighter rocked Silva early with some heavy shots, fended off all advances on the ground and eventually stopped "Big Foot" inside of the first round with an impressive knockout.
The victory earned Cormier his spot in the finals, where he now meets former UFC champion Josh Barnett in the most pivotal bout of his career.
Chael Sonnen Returns
He may not be the most beloved or even the most endeared, but Chael Sonnen, pound-for-pound, is the most enigmatic and polarizing figure in the sport today.
The lunatic musings of Sonnen finally made their return to the cage last October, where after serving a year's suspension thanks to alleged steroid use—which was later discovered to be high levels of testosterone produced by TRT treatments—the Team Quest product dominated then-top contender Brian Stann.
In their middleweight affair last October, Sonnen planted Stann on his back time and time again, grinding away at the Greg Jackson fighter before earning the second-round submission via arm-triangle choke.
Shortly thereafter, Sonnen made a wild post-fight speech, calling out rival Anderson Silva yet again.
Last April, the UFC made their first endeavor in Ontario and it proved to be a successful one.
The UFC set an attendance record when it sold out UFC 129, which featured a welterweight headliner pitting champion Georges St-Pierre against former Strikeforce champ Jake Shields.
Though the bout proved to be largely lackluster, the event sold more than 55,000 tickets—a North American attendance record for mixed marital arts.
Showtime Sticks with Strikeforce
Although the prospects of merging all of the Strikeforce talent with the UFC would be ideal, Showtime continuing to plug away in the mixed martial arts field is a powerful alternative nonetheless.
Recently, Strikeforce had run up its contract with the juggernaut television network, however after many of their talents such as Nick Diaz, Cung Le and Alistair Overeem had left the fray, many believed that it would be just a matter of time before the San Jose-based promotion ceased operations.
Former champion "King Mo" likened Strikeforce to a "dying cancer patient", though the organization earned its second wind when they announced a newly struck deal with Showtime, securing their place in the MMA game for years to come.
Viacom Becomes Majority Owner of Bellator
The $15 billion company that is Viacom officially became involved in the MMA industry last October when the media conglomerate purchased Bellator.
With plans to start on Spike TV in 2013 and the backing of a major player like Viacom, there's no telling where Bellator can find themselves in the years to come.
Eike Batista Throws Hat in MMA
Regarded as one of the richest men in the world, Eike Batista is now an MMA fan.
The CEO of EBX—a holding company based out of Brazil—has a net worth of $30 billion and has since sponsored the likes of both of the Nogueira brothers in their most recent endeavors.
More of Batista in the MMA industry in the future is certainly NOT a bad thing.
Frank Mir Submits Nogueira
In a highly anticipated rematch, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira looked well on his way to securing an early knockout at UFC 140.
The Brazilian rocked and dropped Frank Mir early with a hard right hand, though the submission specialist made a pivotal mistake.
Rather than wading in to finish off Mir with strikes, Nogueira gave the Las Vegas fighter the opportunity to recover when he attempted to lock up a fight-ending guillotine choke.
Mir was able to stave off the submission, reverse position and lock up a deep kimura of his own. Nogueira refused to tap and for his actions had his arm broken in the process, which prompted referee Herb Dean to stop the action.
Mir has now become both the first man to finish Nogueira and now the first to submit him.
Junior Dos Santos Claims UFC Title
After compiling a 7-0 streak inside of the Octagon, Junior dos Santos finally earned his shot at the UFC heavyweight title, where he took on Cain Velasquez in a pivotal battle.
The duo became the first to headline a FOX televised event and the Brazilian failed to disappoint as he knocked out the AKA product in just 64 seconds, dethroning Velasquez and earning the belt in the process.
Jon Jones' 2011
At the beginning of 2011, Jon Jones was regarded as a budding contender who was still largely unproven against the upper echelon of the light heavyweight class.
That all changed last February when Jones submitted the then-undefeated Ryan Bader with a second-round guillotine choke.
The victory helped propel Jones to the top, where he was granted a shot at then-champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua for UFC 128, serving as a late replacement for an injured Rashad Evans.
Jones dominated the Brazilian from start to finish, earning a third-round TKO and cinching the belt in the process. Since then, "Bones' Jones has defended his belt on two occasions, stopping both Quinton Jackson and Lyoto Machida via submission.
UFC Strikes Deal with FOX
After spending years relegated to Spike TV, the UFC finally branched out and has struck a major network television deal with a juggernaut sports commodity in FOX.
The UFC has already reaped the rewards, as a heavyweight tilt featuring Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez garnered nearly 9 million views, a record for mixed martial arts programming in North America.
Bellator-Spike TV Connection
Once the UFC opted to venture to FOX, we have now seen Spike TV take a more integral role with Bellator.
Both are housed under the MTV banner, though Spike has been seen on site during events and is currently featuring all preliminary battles on their website.
Could a reality show be in the works? Why yes, it already is. Though it is said that the program will not be completely derivative of The Ultimate Fighter, it will mirror the show in some respects.
UFC Announces Flyweight Division
Late last year, the UFC finally caved in and announced the inclusion of the flyweight division.
The public will get the first taste of the new division come this March, when a four-man tournament kicks off at the Allphones Arena in Sydney, Australia.
Consensus No. 1 flyweight stud Ian McCall will be making his UFC debut against Demetrious Johnson, while Joseph Benavidez takes on the world-renowned Yasuhiro Urishitani, where the winners of these respective will meet in a championship affair.
The winner will be dubbed the first-ever 125-pound champion in the UFC.
TUF Turns to the Little Guys
For the first time in the organization's history, the UFC featured a featherweight and bantamweight field of hopefuls on The Ultimate Fighter, where Diego Brandao and John Dodson emerged victorious.
The two combatants wowed the public with their fast-paced, aesthetically pleasing performances, which will ensure the future of both divisions.
Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber Announced as TUF 15 Coaches
In addition to all the little guys taking over the mixed martial arts world, the UFC announced last December that bitter rivals Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz will dance once again.
After a close and spirited decision win earned by Cruz, the Californian will now meet with the former featherweight kingpin once again in a 135-pound title affair later this year; that is, after the two serve as coaches for Season 15 of The Ultimate Fighter, which begins this March.
Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort Named Coaches for TUF Brazil
Last December, the UFC announced that another pair of rivals will serve as coaches for an upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter.
The "TUF: Brazil" show will have an all-Brazilian cast, which will feature both middleweights and featherweights.
They will be coached by legendary figures Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva—two pioneers of the sport who originally met in 1998, with "The Phenom" earning a 44-second knockout.
Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua
It's a fight that could have likely taken place some years ago under the PRIDE banner, but luckily enough, it finally took shape inside the Octagon last November.
Former world champions Dan Henderson and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua engaged in back-and-forth, rollicking five-round non-title bout which saw both men gain the upper hand on several occasions.
In the end, Henderson did just enough to clinch the decision win, though both men have been regarded as the participants for arguably the greatest fight in mixed martial arts history, for which their "Fight of the Night" performance is evidence.
Now that the MMA landscape has gotten a little bit bigger over the years, it's become increasingly more difficult to house all the best fighters under the same roof, though the UFC is making strides.
After Zuffa purchased Strikeforce, many of the San Jose-based promotion's elite have since ventured inside the Octagon, where many pivotal super fights have since taken shape.
Dan Henderson Continues to Solidify Legend
After dropping a lackluster decision to then-middleweight champion Jake Shields, Dan Henderson has since re-emerged as one of the elite of the 205-pound class.
Henderson took on Renato Sobral in December 2010, knocking out the former world champ with a first-round barrage, which earned the Team Quest product a shot at Strikeforce titleholder Rafael Cavalcante.
The Brazilian proved formidable early, though he too wilted from the powerful blows of Henderson, who secured the third-round finish.
With the win, Henderson, at the age of 40, earned his third world title, continuing to solidify himself as one of the greatest of all time.