The UFC, Bellator, Invicta FC and more have given us a fantastic year of fights, and it's not over yet.
We have seen ground battles, upsets, knockouts and wars of attrition since January. The process of narrowing down the list has become increasingly difficult as we see fight after fight.
It took multiple views to construct this list. Sometimes we can be prisoners of the moment after an exciting bout and forget about others. How do you determine if a fight is worthy of this praise? In general, it is a gut feeling; however, you must consider all the aspects of MMA in utilizing sound judgement.
2013 is not over yet, but it has already delivered exciting fight after exciting fight. As we are already a third of the way through December, let's look at the current shortlist for Fight of the Year.
Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson (UFC on Fox 6)
2013 started with a fantastic flyweight title bout. Dodson nearly captured the title in the early rounds, but the champion showed resolve. Johnson battled back with a variety of attacks to take a decision over Dodson.
It was an exciting five-round battle that saw Dodson come up just short.
Matt Grice vs. Dennis Bermudez (UFC 157)
Another early Fight of the Year candidate was the absolute war between Grice and Bermudez. Each fighter hurt the other, and each man somehow stayed on his feet to continue the battle.
As the year went on, it fell spot by spot, but it's still worthy of a mention in the race.
Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez II (Bellator 106)
Sequels are rarely as good as originals, but this one nearly managed to do it.
Alvarez and Chandler fought valiantly for five rounds. This time, Alvarez got his hand raised. The fight set up a trilogy bout that we will see some time in 2014.
Georges St. Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks (UFC 167)
GSP was finally tested when Hendricks stepped into the Octagon. Some would say that Hendricks even got robbed by the judges; however, results aside, this was a fantastic fight.
Between GSP and Hendricks, we got to see a well-rounded struggle between the two premiere welterweights in the sport. If the fight had a bit more tempo and urgency, it could have landed in the top five.
Mark Hunt vs. Antonio Silva (UFC Fight Night 33)
After this fight concluded, many were calling it the Fight of the Year, but most of those people were prisoners of the moment. It was a very fun fight and one of the most exciting heavyweight battles of all-time; however, when stacked against the rest of the field, it doesn't hold up.
It may have been a bit sloppy, and both men were gassed by the middle of the fight, but the action is worthy of a mention.
Event: UFC 158
Official Result: Johny Hendricks defeats Carlos Condit by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Bruce Buffer accidentally called this fight the main event, but perhaps he knew what we were in store for. The co-main event from UFC 158 shined and stole the show.
When Carlos Condit is drawn into a fight like this, it always seems to turn out special. He brings out the best in his opponents because they know they have to push all their chips into the center of the table to take the victory.
Hendricks did just that.
It was an interesting fight on the feet with both men landing, but the difference was in Hendricks' takedowns. When he felt threatened, he was able to put Condit on his back, albeit, not for very long. Condit's ability to get back to his feet made it even more exciting.
Unfortunately, the fight was only a three-round scrap. We would have loved to see two more.
Event: UFC on Fuel TV 8
Official Result: Wanderlei Silva defeats Brian Stann by KO at 4:08 of the second round.
This was not a pretty fight. Simply put, Wanderlei Silva and Brian Stann stepped inside the Octagon and threw down.
Silva returned to the Saitama Super Arena, and magic struck once more. The opening five minutes of action are at the top of the charts for round of the year. It was hard to stay seated during the action. Stann dropped Silva twice in the first round, and Silva put Stann down once in return.
They took their time at the beginning of round two, but that may have been just to catch their breaths. Soon, the match went back into the all-out brawl that the first round was.
Silva got the better of the exchanges in the second frame and knocked Stann out. There was something special about this fight, and it continues to maintain a spot on the Fight of the Year shortlist.
Event: UFC 166
Result: Gilbert Melendez defeats Diego Sanchez by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28).
There was virtually no way this fight was not going to be Fight of the Night at UFC 166. Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez both have a history of putting on exciting fights. They may be the two most reliable fighters of the last decade in terms of pure excitement.
Pitting them against one another was booking genius.
Melendez was—and is—a top contender in the division. Sanchez is not. Thus, there was not a lot on the line other than pride, but that was plenty.
For 15 minutes they brutalized each other, with Melendez getting the better of Sanchez for the majority of the time. When they hurt their opponent, they couldn't find a way to get the finish. The fight set Houston on fire.
Where heavyweights would gas and become lethargic, these two lightweights maintained a fast pace of grueling action. It made for a Fight of the Year contender.
Event: UFC 165
Result: Jon Jones defeats Alexander Gustafsson by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46).
Jon Jones has been absolutely dominant in his UFC career. It has been remarkably impressive because he has not been fed any cans to crush. Jones has destroyed the elitest of the elite during his run. It seemed like Alexander Gustafsson would be another chance for dominance for the champion.
Many fans and pundits, yours truly included, laughed at the promotion of the fight. They were selling it based purely on Gustafsson's size. Sure, he matched up well physically with Jones, but he needed to bring more to the table that that. And he did.
Gustafsson surprised everyone—including Jones—early in the fight with a takedown. Coupled with his striking and takedown defense, Gustafsson showed that he was every bit Jones' equal early on. There was a special feeling growing in Toronto.
A few rounds were razor thin and could have went in either direction. Either man could have nabbed the decision, but the champion got the nod on all three cards in a close fight after battling against a challenger who stepped up to the occasion.
It was the first time we have seen Jones in this kind of trouble, and he wore the fight on his face. The exciting action brought nearly all of MMA to the table. Both fighters were winners in the eyes of the fans. It was a marvelous fight.
Event: Invicta FC 5
When I published this Fight of the Year article in the past, I purposely left off the result of this fight, and I will continue to do so. Why? Because not many have gotten the opportunity to watch this fight, and I don't want to spoil the action.
Instead, let me break it down for you.
Jessica Penne is the Invicta FC Atomweight Champion, and the No. 1-ranked 105-pound fighter in the world. Her length gives her an incredible advantage in this division, and she brings in a top-quality ground game as well.
Michelle Waterson, the challenger, is primarily a striker. She continues to develop a well-rounded skill set, but she is known as the "Karate Hottie" for a reason. She likes to utilize a variety of striking attacks more than going to the ground.
Why is this the Fight of the Year?
It is five-star quality MMA. It's not a sloppy brawl between two fighters who gas out early. It's not a one-dimensional battle that, while exciting, isolates only one facet of the game.
No, this fight excelled in all areas. It was striking and grappling, with submissions, grit, heart, determination, high-stakes drama and more. It was the total package.
This fight is the apex of mixed martial arts. Take a half-hour to watch this extraordinary battle between two high-level athletes in a championship match.