10 Best MMA Fights Through 1st Half of 2014

Sean SmithAnalyst IJune 30, 2014

10 Best MMA Fights Through 1st Half of 2014

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    The UFC has been putting on more fights than ever in 2014. While the uptick in events has had its drawbacks, MMA fans have been treated to a bunch of great fights.

    Following UFC Fight Night 43 and UFC Fight Night 44 on Saturday, the 2014 MMA schedule is half-completed. Before we look forward to a strong finish to the calendar, now is a good time to look back at some of the brightest moments from the past six months.

    Yeah, there have been some duds. However, most fights have delivered and kept us coming back again and again.

    Here are the 10 best fights since the beginning of 2014.

10. Rory MacDonald vs. Demian Maia

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    Following respective losses to Robbie Lawler and Jake Shields, Rory MacDonald and Demian Maia had a chance to get back on track toward a welterweight title shot when they met one another at UFC 170.

    Maia started strong, scoring a takedown in the opening round and controlling MacDonald for multiple minutes. The Brazilian saw the wheels fall off in the second stanza, though.

    Recognizing he needed to shut down Maia's wrestling to avoid a second straight loss, MacDonald stuffed 17 of 18 takedown attempts over the final two rounds. Picking Maia apart with his striking, MacDonald was able to come from behind and returned to the win column.

9. Yoel Romero vs. Derek Brunson

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    An Olympic medalist in wrestling, Yoel Romero seemingly matched up very well against Derek Brunson, whose takedowns were his biggest weapon.

    Surprisingly, Brunson scored three takedowns on Romero within the first two rounds. Way up on the scorecards, Brunson was one more takedown and some top control away from locking up a clear decision win.

    Romero came out looking to finish, though. The Cuban rocked Brunson and finished his opponent with elbows on the ground to complete an impressive comeback.

8. Pat Curran vs. Daniel Straus

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    The best non-UFC fight from the past six months unsurprisingly came from Bellator MMA, a promotion on its way to becoming a UFC competitor with its Viacom backing.

    Despite convincingly losing his title to Daniel Straus at Bellator 106, Pat Curran was surprisingly given an immediate rematch with the American Top Team product.

    Seemingly winning three of the first four rounds, Straus looked to be on his way to a second straight win over Curran. Instead, Paddy Mike locked up a rear-naked choke with seconds remaining in the bout to steal back his featherweight crown.

    Although Curran and Straus have already fought three times, Bellator MMA is going to have a hard time denying Straus another fight with the champion at some point in the future.

    If he gets things turned around quickly, Straus could meet Curran again in 2015.

7. Louis Smolka vs. Alptekin Ozkilic

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    A UFC newcomer at the time, Louis Smolka wasted no time making his presence known in the flyweight division.

    Facing Alptekin Ozkilic at UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Philippou, Smolka unleashed an impressive striking attack en route to a memorable decision win. Smolka's 92 significant strikes were enough to make up for the nine takedowns he surrendered, as he blasted Ozkilic with damaging blows.

    Only 22 years old, Smolka looked to have a very bright future ahead of him following the excellent start to his UFC career.

    While he went on to lose his next fight against Chris Cariaso, the developing Smolka should have a home inside the Octagon for many years.

6. Cub Swanson vs. Jeremy Stephens

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    On Saturday, Cub Swanson and Jeremy Stephens engaged in a competitive bout with potential title shot implications. Both men were surging heading into the weekend, and the winner would have a good case for a crack at the featherweight championship.

    Early on, Stephens was having success landing his power punches on Swanson. When he hurt Swanson in the second round, it looked like he'd be able to deal with the more diverse attack his opponent possessed.

    However, Swanson flipped a switch in the third stanza. The Greg Jackson-coached fighter swept the final three rounds with his volume striking to claim a decision victory.

    With six consecutive wins, Swanson would be more than deserving of a shot at the belt following his impressive win over Stephens.

5. Tarec Saffiedine vs. Hyun Gyu Lim

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    Hyun Gyu Lim might still be paying for the toughness he showed in a January headliner with Tarec Saffiedine.

    The Korean had his legs battered by Saffiedine's kicks over five rounds. Multiple times, Lim was sent to the canvas, unable to stand after absorbing kicks.

    Nonetheless, Lim pressed on and landed some big shots on Saffiedine despite being severely hobbled. In the end, Lim's efforts were for naughtunless he was aiming to be on the losing end of one of 2014's 10 best fights.

4. Alex Caceres vs. Sergio Pettis

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    The brother of UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, Sergio Pettis was expected to rise up the bantamweight ladder quicklyand Alex Caceres was supposed to be a stepping stone on that path.

    Caceres didn't get the memo, though.

    Pettis and Caceres engaged in a very tight contest through two rounds. Both men needed to finish strong to feel confident in their place on the scorecards.

    However, Caceres took the judges out of the equation. With less than one minute remaining, he took Pettis' back and locked up a rear-naked choke to derail the hype train.

3. Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua

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    When they had their rematch in March, Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua had no hope of matching their first meeting, widely regarded as one of the best fights in MMA history.

    They did their best, though.

    Shogun overwhelmed Henderson from the fight's opening, scoring a knockdown in each of the first two rounds. Nearly finished multiple times, Henderson looked to beat bestin for a long evening.

    In a shocking turn, Henderson cracked Rua with a right hand as the fighters broke from a clinch in the third round. The punch broke Rua's nose and led to a stunning knockout finish.

2. Abel Trujillo vs. Jamie Varner

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    At UFC 169, Abel Trujillo and Jamie Varner threw down in a short but sweet lightweight matchup.

    Not many great fights fail to make it out of the second round, but Trujillo and Varner packed a lot of action into their little time inside the Octagon.

    The fight was all Varner early on, as the World Extreme Cagefighting veteran threatened with a submission in the first round and rocked Trujillo early in the second. However, as Varner moved in on Trujillo for the finish, he was cracked with a right hand that sent him flailing to the canvas.

    He's not the most technical fighter, but Trujillo is always one punch away from winning.

1. Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler

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    A pair of heavy hitters with solid chins, Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler were bound to entertain at UFC 171, but they surpassed even the lofty expectations for their matchup.

    For five rounds, Hendricks and Lawler stood in a telephone booth and teed off on one another. The welterweights combined for over 300 significant strikesa record for UFC title fights.

    Ultimately, a takedown sealed the deal for Hendricks. After a controversial loss to Georges St-Pierre, it was a win that finally earned Hendricks the belt he arguably already deserved.

    Luckily, Lawler is one win away from giving MMA fans another bout with Hendricks. Should he beat Matt Brown in July, Dana White told UFC.com that he would be named Hendricks' first title challenger.

    Statistics via FightMetric.com.