Early 2013 UFC Awards

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2013

Early 2013 UFC Awards

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    We're only five months deep in the 2013 campaign and already the UFC has produced the most entertaining, high-octane, balls-to-the-wall action in mixed martial arts.

    Whether it's been devilish knockouts, bone-crushing submissions, surprising upsets, back-and-forth exchanges or one-sided beatdowns, the Octagon action seen thus far has been near-perfect.

    So in accordance to keeping it real and being fair, here are the early-year awards for the UFC and its elite occupants.

Statement of the Year

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    Roy Nelson's knockout of Cheick Kongo this past month not only solidified his spot just outside of the heavyweight division's top 5, but it proved "Big Country" is one of the best one-punch finishers in the sport.

    He has now finished each and every one of his victories since 2007 by way of his heavy hands.  That's an astonishing statistic and one that should only increase his value as a contender moving forward.

Debut of the Year

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    Sure Tyron Woodley, Josh Thomson and Pat Healy all made impressively smooth transitions from Strikeforce to the UFC, but it's 24-year-old Conor McGregor that captures Debut of the Year.

    Now, while his 67-second finish of Marcus Brimage was a task in itself, it was the Irishman's ability to rise to the occasion during a spotlighted promotional entrance that puts him just above the rest.

Injury of the Year

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    Nothing speaks more volume than a piggy with no home.  That's exactly how Jon Jones' big toe, better known as the foot's commander and chief, looked while barely hanging on following a quick first-round victory over Chael Sonnen a few weeks ago.

    It was one of the most gruesome injuries every seen inside the cage and one that wasn't brought to the champ's attention until Joe Rogan commented on the podiatric mess during his post-fight interview.

Quote of the Year

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    Chael Sonnen is always good for a quote, or a thousand.  He's the most witty, outspoken and timely trash talkers in the sport today.

    So it shouldn't have come as a big surprise when the light heavyweight title challenger opened his mouth yet again to blurt out, "Jon Jones, beat me, if you can."

    That was before the fight.  During the fight, Sonnen was forcefully fed those words by Jones' brutal ground-and-pound.

Meltdown of the Year

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    In what was supposed to be Georges St-Pierre's greatest test to date, challenger Nick Diaz absolutely flubbed his chance to capture UFC gold at UFC 158.

    The defending champ took Diaz down with ease time after time and made him look disinterested as the fight drew on.

    It was GSP's best effort in a long time and one of Diaz's worst offensive performances of his lengthy career.

Biggest Divisional Impact of the Year

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    There have been a ton of divisional shape shifters making noise over the past five months, including Frankie Edgar and TJ Grant, but it's the smothering Demian Maia who has created more buzz within his weight class than anyone else.

    Maia's destruction over Jon Fitch at UFC 156 not only launched him up the welterweight ladder, but it consequently forced the UFC to cut ties with Fitch and let him test the free agent market.

    That's a pretty big splash for a guy like Maia who was competing in only his third divisional fight.

Upset of the Year

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    From spinning back kicks to one-punch knockouts, Uriah Hall was a beast during his time on The Ultimate Fighter.

    The only problem was that Hall was unable to translate that success to the season finale when he took on Kelvin Gastelum for Octagon supremacy.

    The young Gastelum worked his way to a victory and derailed one of the most hyped fighters to come along in the past few years.

Beatdown of the Year

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    Ricardo Lamas didn't hesitate to lay waste to Erik Koch on national television when the two met back in January at UFC on FOX 6.

    On the back of a vicious top game and the persistence to finish the 24-year-old Koch as soon as he could, Lamas captured a very bloody, yet satisfying, stoppage in the middle of the second round.

    It was truly a sight to see and one that could land Lamas a title shot if he beats Chan-Sung Jung later this year.

Comeback Fighter of the Year

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    After losing via split-decision to Demetrious "Might Mouse" Johnson back at UFC 152, many people were worried about how the UFC would utilize Joseph Benavidez.

    He was too good to fight down in the flyweight division, but had just lost his chance at the belt.

    So it was fulfilling to see Benavidez rack off two victories in such a short period of time this year, including a second-round finish over Darren Uyenoyama.

    He's one of the only fighters in the UFC with two victories under his 2013 belt and looks like he's shaken off the championship loss in hopes of receiving another shot.

Breakout Fighter of the Year

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    People have been waiting for T.J. Dillashaw to cash in on his naturally potent talent and it finally looks like the Team Alpha Male standout has done just that.

    Through two fights this year, Dillashaw has practically ran over his opponents, securing a second-round flying knee knockout and a first-round TKO victory.

    The 27-year-old's recent success suggests his striking is finally starting to come along and that he's ready for a serious step up in competition.

Most Disappointing Fight of the Year

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    Lyoto Machida and Dan Henderson.  Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida.

    Either way you put it, their fight at UFC 157 was one of the most lackluster, disappointing fights in UFC light heavyweight history.

    It was ultimately supposed to be a matchup between one of the best counter-strikers in the sport today against one of the most offensively potent punchers of all time.

    Unluckily for fans, it turned out to be none of that.

Submission of the Year

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    I know what you're thinking, "Why isn't Ronda Rousey here?"

    Well, even though Rousey secured yet another first-round armbar to capture the first ever UFC victory for a woman, she was suppose to win that way.

    But unlike the champ, Pat Healy, a former Strikeforce standout, was not looked at as a guy that was going to stop the formidably tough Jim Miller with a third-round rear naked choke at UFC 159.

    He gets the nod, for now.

Knockout of the Year

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    While you could put Wanderlei Silva, Mark Hunt, Josh Thomson or Travis Browne here, Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva takes home Knockout of the Year over Alistair Overeem simply based on shock value.

    Coming into that fight nobody expected to see Overeem flop around like a fish out of water following the Brazilian's third-round barrage.

    It ended Overeem's reign as a potential title threat and launched Silva into the upper echelon of the division.  Besides maybe Hunt, no other knockout in 2013 possessed such ramifications.

Fight of the Year

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    This is always the most difficult award.  People tend to like fights based on tactical exchanges, shifty transitions, great wrestling, submission defense or just a good old barn burner.

    So it's really tough to single one fight out above the rest.  But based on length, implications and the names involved, Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar produced the best Octagon action so far this year.

    Sorry, Dennis Bermudez, Matt Grice, Demetrious Johnson, John Dodson, Wanderlei Silva, Brian Stann, Johny Hendricks, Carlos Condit, Cat Zingano, Miesha Tate, Pat Healy and Jim Miller.

    Your time will come.

Fighter of the Year

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    Obviously it would be acceptable to chose any of the UFC champions who successfully defended their titles over the last five months, but where's the fun in that?

    The fact of the matter is that Urijah Faber sits alone as the only fighter in the UFC this year to win two bouts by way of submission.  Not to mention the former No. 1 contender did so against some of the toughest names in the bantamweight division.

    In any case, Faber looks primed and focused to make another run at the belt.  So while he may not stand out as much as a Jon Jones or Jose Aldo, "The California Kid" is having more Octagon success in 2013 than any other fighter.

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