2010 MMA Awards (Part 3): Breakout Fighter, Best Comeback, Best Event

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2010 MMA Awards (Part 3): Breakout Fighter, Best Comeback, Best Event
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

2010 was another banner year in mixed martial arts around the globe. Without further ado, here is the end of the year hardware (continued):

Breakout Fighter: Anthony Pettis

When 2010 began the then 22-year-old Pettis was coming off his first career loss.

Consequently, he was thrown back into the pack in the WEC lightweight division to restart at the proverbial drawing board.

What a difference a year makes.

His career defining campaign began with a swift, thunderous head kick knockout of Danny Castillo in March. He then followed with submission victories over Alex Karalexis and Shane Roller.

The win over Roller earned him a title shot against Ben Henderson.

In the meantime, he was profiled on the MTV show “World of Jenks” in which the show’s star Andrew Jenks shadowed Pettis for a few days leading up to the aforementioned Castillo fight.

The exposure gained from appearing on the show exacerbated his popularity overnight.

16-year-old girls in flyover states now know who Anthony Pettis is.

Then WEC 53 happened.

After a back-and-forth war with the aforementioned Henderson for four rounds, the fifth would be for all the marbles.

Pettis was in control of the final stanza, but put the icing on the cake the instant he landed what is now known as the “Showtime kick,” a reference to Pettis’ nickname.

The kick looked liked something straight out of a martial arts movie with Pettis springing off the cage and landing a roundhouse to the head of Henderson.

It was an instant YouTube sensation and was also featured as one of the top plays on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”

The win earned Pettis a shiny new WEC championship belt and No. 1 contendership in the UFC lightweight division due to the promotional merger.

Honorable Mention (in no particular order): Jon Jones, Ben Askren, Marlon Sandro, Maximo Blanco, Pat Curran, Rafael Cavalcante, Joe Warren, Marloes Coenen, Ronaldo Souza, Ryan Bader, George Sotiropoulos, Luke Rockhold, Tyron Woodley, Tarec Saffiedine, Daniel Cormier, Justin Wilcox, Miesha Tate, Ovince St. Preux, Phil Davis, Cole Konrad, Zach Makovsky, Zoila Frausto, Rick Story.

Best Comeback – Anderson Silva over Chael Sonnen (UFC 117)

After much build up leading up to the UFC 117 event, mostly due to Sonnen talking the talk, the main event did not disappoint.

For essentially four and a half rounds Sonnen was unexpectedly backing up his rhetoric and walking the walk.

He had clearly won the first four rounds and was in full control of the fight heading into the fifth and final round.

It appeared as if we were well on our way to an enormous upset and a new UFC middleweight champion.

Sonnen was dominating arguably the best MMA fighter on the planet with his superior wrestling. He was executing takedowns, controlling Silva on the mat and doing damage with ground-and-pound.

Then everything changed in an instant.

In a miraculous sequence late in the fifth round, Silva threw up his legs fishing for a triangle choke submission, a move Sonnen had been susceptible to in the past.

Silva was able to secure the choke and forced Sonnen to tap. Referee Josh Rosenthal stepped in to separate the pair and it was all over.

The great Anderson Silva somehow found a way to retain his title and remain undefeated inside the octagon.

Honorable Mention (in no particular order): Robbie Lawler over Melvin Manhoef (Strikeforce: Miami), Aaron Simpson over Tom Lawlor (UFC Fight Night 20), Mike Russow over Todd Duffee (UFC 114), Carlos Condit over Rory MacDonald (UFC 115), Jake Shields over Dan Henderson (Strikeforce: Nashville), Mark Munoz over Kendall Grove (UFC 112), Joe Warren over Patricio Freire (Bellator 23), Chris Leben over Yoshihiro Akiyama (UFC 116), Brock Lesnar over Shane Carwin (UFC 116), Stefan Struve over Christian Morecraft (UFC 117), Joe Warren over Joe Soto (Bellator 27), Houston Alexander over Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (Shark Fights 13), Antonio Silva over Mike Kyle (Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu 2).

Best Event – UFC 116

Fourth of July weekend marked a memorable fight card headlined by heavyweight giants Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar.

They would square off with Lesnar’s belt on the line, but not before an exciting undercard of fights that ramped up to the main attraction.

Gerald Harris’ slam knockout of Dave Branch highlighted the early lineup. A replay was shown on the Spike TV broadcast.

The main televised card kicked off with George Sotiropoulos’ continued evolution as he defeated Kurt Pellegrino via unanimous decision.

Stephan Bonnar defeated Krzysztof Soszynski in an anticipated rematch via knockout. Chris Lytle followed with a nifty mounted triangle/straight armbar submission victory over Matt Brown in another rematch.

Then came the righteous war between Chris Leben and Yoshihiro Akiyama in which Leben pulled off a third round triangle choke submission after an early firefight with Akiyama to cap off one of the best scraps of the year.

It was the perfect lead into one of the most anticipated matchups of the year in Lesnar vs. Carwin.

Carwin dominated Lesnar in the first round. He dropped him with strikes and did massive damage with his ground-and-pound.

Referee Josh Rosenthal was very close to stopping the fight, but Lesnar did just enough to defend himself and survive to see the next round.

In the second, a visibly fresher Lesnar secured a takedown early and the ending soon followed.

Lesnar progressed from half guard to mount and then locked in an arm triangle choke. The exhausted Carwin was forced to tap.

It was an impressive comeback and a fitting end to a quality event.

The card ended up garnering the second highest number of pay-per-view buys in the history of the UFC at 1.16 million. The mark is second only to the historic UFC 100.

Honorable Mention (in no particular order): UFC 115, UFC 116, UFC 117, UFC 124, WEC 47, WEC 48, WEC 49, WEC 51, WEC 53, Strikeforce: Miami, Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum, Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu 2.

*** Part 1 featured Best Fighter, Best Fight and Best Knockout. Click here for a link. ***

*** Part 2 featured Best Submission, Worst Decision and Biggest Upset. Click here for a link. ***

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Derek Bolender is a freelance MMA writer who has contributed to outlets such as CBSSports.com, FIGHT! Magazine, and MMAmania.com (in addition to BleacherReport.com). Follow him on Twitter at @DerekBolender.

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