World MMA Awards: Who Should Win, Who Will Win
It's that time of year once again: the time when we sit back, eat a ton of food, drink a ton of beer (or soda, if that's your thing) and think back to all of the awesome face-punching we saw over the past 12 months. That's what Thanksgiving is all about, right? Turkey and face-punching? I thought so.
Today, I'm taking a look at some of the major categories for the World MMA Awards. I'll tell you what SHOULD win (if you're a smart voter, you'll simply use my picks when you fill out your ballot) and I'll tell you what WILL win.
Let's get started.
Oh, and by the way: the nominating time frame for these awards is from the middle of November to the middle of November. Which means that UFC 139 last year falls into the correct time frame.
Fighter of the Year
WHO SHOULD WIN: Jon Jones
WHO WILL WIN: Jon Jones
This one should be another landslide, because it's a no-brainer. During the nominating period, Jon Jones has fought three times and won each fight handily.
Last December, Jones submitted Lyoto Machida like a boss and walked away. He followed that up with a five-round beating of Rashad Evans in Atlanta, then capped off his year by submitting black belt Vitor Belfort.
Jones may not be the best fighter on the planet, but he's close to it, and he turned in a second excellent year in a row. He'll win this easily, and rightly so.
Female Fighter of the Year
WHO SHOULD WIN: Ronda Rousey
WHO WILL WIN: Ronda Rousey
This is a no-brainer. There are plenty of fantastic female fighters plying their trade out there, but only one of them is almost single-handedly pushing women's mixed martial arts into the mainstream. Or, at least as close to the mainstream as it can get at this point.
Rousey fought twice during the voting period, winning both with her trademark armbar. But her accomplishments in the cage pale in comparison to what she accomplished outside of it this year, and for that, she's the female fighter of the year and a pretty close runner-up to the Fighter of the Year award.
Breakthrough Fighter of the Year
WHO SHOULD WIN: Chris Weidman
WHO WILL WIN: Ronda Rousey
Rousey's ultra-popular public figure (and that fact that she's a hot female fighter in a world where the voters are 1) mostly male and 2) live on the Internet) will help her win this award, but the honors should go to Chris Weidman, the breakout middleweight who went from zero to title contender in just 12 short months.
Weidman scored wins over Demian Maia and Mark Munoz to launch himself up the middleweight ladder, and he'll finish out the year with a title-eliminator bout against Tim Boetsch in December. By this time next year, we may be discussing Weidman's name in the Fighter of the Year category rather than Breakout Fighter. Nothing would surprise me less.
International Fighter of the Year
WHO SHOULD WIN: Stefan Struve
WHO WILL WIN: Michael Bisping
Struve fought 3 times during the voting window, with finishes over Dave Herman, Lavar Johnson and Stipe Miocic. He's rebounded admirably since losing to Travis Browne last summer and is edging ever-closer to contender status in the heavyweight division.
It'll all be for nothing, though, because this award is Michael Bisping's to lose. And it's not because he deserves it; he went 2-1 during the voting period with wins over Mayhem Miller and Brian Stann coupled with a loss to Chael Sonnen. But he'll still get the win, because this set of awards is moderated by British rag Fighter's Only magazine. I'm not saying they'll fix the votes, but I am saying that it's very likely Bisping wins this category.
Fight of the Year
WHAT SHOULD WIN: Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua, UFC 139
WHAT WILL WIN: Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua, UFC 139
Over the course of my career covering the UFC and MMA, I've seen a lot of live fights. But I've never seen a better live fight than Henderson vs. Shogun last November in San Jose.
I'll never forget walking back to my hotel in the freezing rain, marveling at the brutality of the war that Henderson and Rua had just put themselves through. I don't remember caring who won the fight, because it didn't matter; at that point, it was already starting to become an entity all its own, something special that we'd remember forever.
There may have been better technical fights this year, but none matched UFC 139's main event for drama.
Knockout of the Year
WHAT SHOULD WIN: Edson Barboza KO's Terry Etim
WHAT WILL WIN: Edson Barboza KO's Terry Etim
There were actually many great knockouts this year, even including last weekend's World Series of Fighting event. But they aren't included in the nominations, so we'll have to go with the best of the rest.
And really, nothing tops Edson Barboza's wheel-kick knockout of Terry Etim from UFC: Rio in terms of sheer violence and wow factor, so it will take home this category with flying colors.
Submission of the Year
WHAT SHOULD WIN: Charles Oliveira d. Eric Wisely by calf slicer
WHAT WILL WIN: Frank Mir d. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira by kimura
Frank Mir's submission win over the legendary Nogueira was striking and brutal, and that's why voters will likely choose it as the winner in this category.
But for sheer awesomeness, it's tough to imagine anything better than Charles Oliveira's awesome calf-slicer submission over Eric Wisely, mostly because the calf slicer is one of the rarest submissions in the world. It's like a unicorn; at first, you're just stunned that you're actually seeing it, and then you start to appreciate how beautiful it is.
Yeah, this is getting weird. I apologize. No more unicorn talk.