As the year continues to wind down, it is time to look back and show our appreciation to a few of the fighters who sacrificed so much to entertain fans all over the world.
2010 would be the year of the first ever UFC featherweight and bantamweight champions, two tremendous fights by two warriors in the light-heavyweight division, an amazing upset of B.J. Penn in the lightweight division to crown a new champion, two emerging light-heavyweights, and the first Mexican title holder in UFC history.
Krzysztof “The Polish Experiment” Soszynski and Stephan “The American Psycho” Bonnar, were involved in two amazing fights this year. UFC 110 played host to the first contest, where both fighters engaged in a toe-to-toe war with Soszynski getting the TKO (Doctor Stoppage) win. Six pay-per-view events later, the world was once again treated to another spectacular fight between these two amazing fighters and Bonnar tied the series up 1-1 with a TKO (Strikes) win of his own. In addition to the incredible performance that both men put on in those contest, each man then went on to his next fight. Soszynski put a beating on Goran Reljic last month at UFC 122 to earn the Decision nod and Bonnar dominated Igor Pokrajac at the TUF 12 Finale. One thing you can count on, is that when “The Polish Experiment” and “The American Psycho” step foot inside of the Octagon they will not disappoint.
A four-time Division one All-American and national champion wrestler in college, Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis was expected to excel in the sport, but the question was how good would he be? The answer came this year as Davis won his organizational debut against Brian Stann by Unanimous Decision at UFC 109 by utilizing his elite wrestling. He would then move on to Alexander Gustaffson (Who is now a teammate of Davis’) and defeat him in impressive fashion by Anaconda Choke in the first round of their fight at UFC 112. A short notice fight against Rodney Wallace four months later would be next for the former Division I standout and just like the others, he was no match for Davis. The Alliance trained light-heavyweight ended his undefeated year thoroughly beating Tim Boetsch last month at UFC 123 and Davis showed vastly improved striking to go along with his marvelous ground skills. 2010 was indeed a good year for “Mr. Wonderful” who is definitely a fighter to keep your eye on in the UFC’s 205 lb. division.
WEC and now UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, went from a contender when he faced then champion Brian Bowles at WEC 47. Soon after stepping in the cage, the challenger became the champion as Cruz displayed amazing footwork and speed to dictate the fight and dethrone Bowles as the bantamweight title holder. Cruz would go on to defend his title in a rematch against Joseph Benavidez at WEC 50 and although the fight was much closer than the first one, Cruz would once again defeat the challenger and earn his first successful title defense. Two title fights would not be enough for the Alliance trained champion though, as he most recently dispatched top contender Scott Jorgensen at WEC 53 this past Thursday. Cruz uses phenomenal footwork and speed to out-strike his opponents and set up his perfectly timed takedowns, and that he is the inaugural UFC bantamweight champion his stock should continue to rise.
UFC lightweight champion Frankie “The Answer” Edgar, entered 2010 much like the aforementioned Dominick Cruz, as he was set to challenge for a title. B.J. Penn had been dominant in the lightweight division as he successfully defended his title against the likes of Diego Sanchez, Kenny Florian and Sean Sherk. Enter Edgar, who had also defeated Sherk, but also took out Hermes Franca and Matt Veach to earn three wins in a row. However, Edgar entered the championship fight against Penn a huge underdog, but the world would soon see that Edgar had “The Answer” to Penn’s dominance. He used slick footwork and executed a perfect gameplan to dethrone Penn and shock the world to become the 155lb. champion of the UFC. Next up, a rematch against Penn, but this time around Edgar looked nearly unstoppable as he once again claimed all five rounds on the judges scorecards to retain his title. Both championship performances helped Edgar to receive an ESPY nomination for upset of the year and he is now set to rematch the only man to beat him in his professional career, Gray Maynard at UFC 125 on New Years Day.
Jon “Bones” Jones, a true phenom of the sport entered 2010 off a disqualification loss (Illegal Downward Elbows) to Matt Hamill in December of 2009. The ending to the bout was unfortunate as Jones had manhandled Hamill and was well on his way to keeping his undefeated record intact. Brandon Vera would be the first light-heavyweight to challenge Jones in the year and Jones was sensational. He quickly put Vera on his back and landed a ferocious elbow that broke Vera’s orbital bone and put a halt to the fight. Former IFL champion and holder of 24 professional victories Vladimir Matyushenko would be Jones next opponent. The outcome, well, was not much different as Jones previous opponents as he dropped Matyushenko to the canvas where he then preceded to show superior technique in stopping the veteran by technical knockout at 1:52 of the first round. His decision to join the Jackson-Winkeljohn camp in Albuquerque was a wise one, as he has developed into a force to be reckoned with at 205 lbs.
UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, entered the year as the 145 lb. title holder in the WEC. The 24-year-old fighter from Brazil, made his first title defense of 2010 at the WEC’s first and only pay-per-view. He headlined the event that took place in Sacramento, California, which just so happened to be the hometown of his challenger, former champion Urijah Faber. Aldo used precise leg kicks to badly hurt the hometown favorite and when the action hit the mat, the champion dominated there as well. Five rounds later, the Brazilian retained his title in impressive fashion and left Faber with a battered lead leg. A featherweight who also was successful at WEC 48 would be next for the champion, as Manvel Gamburyan would attempt to dethrone him at WEC 51. However, Aldo was once again on top of his game as he avoided everything the challenger threw his way and once again showed his devastating knockout power by dropping Manvel with a devastating right uppercut. Now, with a successful 2010 campaign in the record books for the inaugural 145 lb. champion of the UFC, Aldo will look to continue his dominant ways in 2011.
Standing 6’2 and coming in at 240 pounds is American Kickboxing Academy’s own, UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. The former Division one wrestling champion, entered the organization in 2008 with a record of 2-0. Over that span of time Velasquez has grown before our eyes, going from a bright young prospect to knocking out Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (UFC 110) and putting a vicious beating on Brock Lesnar in 2010. Cain has shown crisp striking, excellent wrestling, and never ending conditioning to become the number one heavyweight champion in the world. As it stands now, his first title defense will come against knockout artist Junior Dos Santos in the first quarter of 2011 in Canada.