MMA: The Top 5 Events of 2013
It's no secret by now that plenty of people are considering 2013 to be a banner year for MMA.
In the cage, that's definitely true.
The sport has seen a changing of the guard in losing Georges St-Pierre and likely Anderson Silva, but there's no question that plenty of great athletes are coming up to take their place.
As those individuals make their way up the ranks, some remarkable fights will take place.
A few such fights occurred in 2013, and helped to create some absolutely spectacular events.
These are the top five.
5. UFC Fight Night 26: Sonnen vs. Shogun
Dana White might have overshot it when he said that this card would be the biggest the UFC had ever done on free television, considering most of the world enjoyed a light heavyweight unification bout for free in 2007, but it was bar none the best they did in 2013.
The debut show on Fox Sports 1 was packed from top to bottom with big names and good fights, as guys like Alistair Overeem, Urijah Faber, Chael Sonnen and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua mixed it up on a hot New England night.
There were plenty of surprises as well, with Travis Browne beating Overeem via front kick, Sonnen winning by submission and underdogs like John Howard and Michael Johnson finding success.
The prelims were packed as well, with Michael McDonald and Brad Pickett going to war, and Conor McGregor adopting Boston as his hometown for a night.
Overall, it was a great way for the UFC and Fox Sports 1 to begin their marriage, and one of the best shows of the year.
4. UFC 168: Weidman vs. Silva 2
Sometimes things looks great on paper and don't work out.
That was definitely not the case for UFC 168, headlined by a double bill of rematches in Rousey-Tate II and Weidman-Silva II, and chocked full of fun on the undercard.
The main event ended in a mix of sadness and disappointment after Anderson Silva broke his leg, but up to that point the night was absolute pandemonium. Rousey and Tate put on a barnburner, Travis Browne crushed Josh Barnett, Jim Miller had an underrated contender for submission of the year and Dustin Poirier trounced Diego Brandao inside one round.
The prelims delivered as well, with three stoppages and a couple of entertaining decisions, which is all one can ask for from a night of MMA action.
Don't underestimate the ability of a show to live up to otherworldly hype. Delivering under those circumstances makes a show even more impressive.
3. UFC 160: Velasquez vs. Bigfoot 2
Unlikely heavyweight title contender Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva got a second chance at Cain Velasquez in May, nearly a year to the day after fighting him the first time.
That one was a hideous demolition at the hands of the ASU wrestling standout, and UFC 160 was painfully similar.
While Velasquez romped in the main event, Junior dos Santos won with a spectacular wheel kick against Mark Hunt, and both Glover Teixeira and TJ Grant scored spectacular finishes of their own. The only fight to go the distance on the main card was Donald Cerrone and KJ Noons, which was enjoyable insomuch as it reminded the world of how good Cerrone can be when he's on.
Names like Jeremy Stephens, George Roop, and Khabib Nurmagomedov all picked up wins on the prelims, contributing to a great night of action that was the best of the first half of 2013.
2. UFC 166: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos III
Velasquez again headlined a great card in his next bout, completing a trilogy with dos Santos and announcing himself as the first can't-miss heavyweight since Brock Lesnar, with grossly more in-cage fury to justify the excitement.
He obliterated dos Santos, finishing him in the fifth round after a streak of 10 straight rounds of the purest domination heavyweight MMA has ever seen at a high level.
Before those two finished their feud, Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez provided a serious contender for fight of the year, pounding each other senseless for 15 minutes and bringing the Houston crowd to a frenzy. Gabriel Gonzaga and John Dodson provided exciting KO finishes as well, while Daniel Cormier showed steady improvement in an easy dismantling of Roy Nelson.
The prelims saw five finishes in eight fights, including Adlan Amagov announcing his relevance to the world, while Sarah Kaufman and Jessica Eye offered up a show-stealing war before Hector Lombard erased Nate Marquardt from contendership.
Dana White's pick for card of the year on the night that it happened, a choice he got plenty of support for.
1. UFC 164: Henderson vs. Pettis
The back half of 2013 was easily the best six-month run in the history of the UFC, but the crown jewel came at the end of August with the sneakily good UFC 164.
Anthony Pettis rematched Benson Henderson in front of his home fans, and he didn't disappoint. It took him only four-and-a-half minutes to erase Henderson's largely uninspiring 553-day reign with an armbar.
On the undercard, people were getting finished. Josh Barnett returned to the UFC and bulldozed Frank Mir. Chad Mendes flattened Clay Guida. Ben Rothwell went full-blown crazy in the seconds before he mauled Brandon Vera. Young guns Dustin Poirier and Erik Koch also put on a great tilt to open the pay-per-view part of the night, with Poirier getting the nod in hostile territory.
The prelims included underrated bouts between lightweights Gleison Tibau and Jamie Varner, and flyweights Tim Elliott and Louis Gaudinot. It also marked the end of the line for the Coutures in the UFC, with Ryan Couture's loss to Al Iaquinta. In addition, the night saw a couple of big-time stoppages from Hyun Gyu Lim and Soa Paleilei.
In a year where nearly everything the UFC did in the cage was worthy of praise, UFC 164 was the best of the best, and that's saying something.
Honorable Mentions: UFC 156, UFC on Fuel TV: Silva vs. Stann, Invicta FC 5, Bellator 98