MMA: The 25 Most Exciting Fights of 2011 so Far

Andrew MahlmannCorrespondent IJuly 1, 2011

MMA: The 25 Most Exciting Fights of 2011 so Far

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    We are plowing through the summer season and as we eventually move through fall and towards the end of the year, we are going to see a plethora of important fights.

    For now, we take a look back and check out some of the best action that we have seen so far in 2011.

    Whether glory is on the line or not, exciting fights are what make this sport great.   

Dishonorable Mention: Overeem vs Werdum

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    zzzzzzzzzzzzzz...huh?  what? Oh, the Dutch guy did win.

25. Clay Guida vs Takanori Gomi

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    Clay Guida's movement has always thrown his opponents off, but against Takanori Gomi, Guida was on a whole new level.

    One of the best lightweights in the history of the sport, Takanori Gomi had no answer for Guida's cracked-out bunny routine.

    Guida succeeded in picking his shots and wearing Gomi down, leading to a second-round guillotine victory.

24. Brian Stann vs Chris Leben

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    Chris Leben is always in exciting fights. This time, he was on the losing end of the deal.

    Brian Stann hit Leben with some shots that would have dropped an elephant, and Leben still kept coming forward.

    For all of Leben's admirable resolve, he could not withstand the onslaught, and Stann picked up his most impressive victory to date.

23. Michael Chandler vs Patricky Freire

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    Patricky Freire is one badass dude. He knocked Rob McCullough out and then Toby Imada after that.

    For the Bellator lightweight tournament final, however, Michael Chandler was the star, as he blitzed Freire for three straight rounds. Add three groin kicks for good measure.

22. Brendan Schaub vs Mirko Filipovic

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    Brendan Schaub felt that he was ready to take on a legend like Mirko Filipovic, and he really stepped up to the plate.

    Although Mirko battered Schaub with some brilliant short elbows from inside, it was Schaub who took the fight to Filipovic throughout.

    In the third round, Schaub's prediction came true: "Right hand- 'knockout of the night.'"

21. Chad Griggs vs Gianpiero Villante

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    Even though he beat Bobby Lashley, we were not really sure if Chad Griggs was just some bum off the streets until he beat up former NFL prospect Villante.

    These two "smaller" heavyweights both rocked each other pretty good before Griggs' toughness showed through and beat Villante down just past the halfway mark of the first round.

20. Dustin Poirier vs Josh Grispi

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    There was a time when Josh Grispi was the No. 1 contender for the featherweight crown.

    Due to injuries, Grispi instead made his UFC debut against former lightweight Dustin Poirier.

    Poirier pushed forward the entire team beating Grispi around from pillar to post. Grispi threatened occasionally with his grappling, but Poirier dominated with his exciting non-stop striking assault. 

19. Nick Diaz vs Evangelista Santos

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    I dare Nick Diaz to be in a boring fight. I'll bet my life savings he cannot do it.

    Diaz played Santos's stand-up game for the first round and a half and after his range and boxing skills had worn Santos down enough, Santos dove in for a takedown.

    Big mistake. Diaz finished his opponent off with a perfunctory armbar.

18. Yves Edwards vs Cody McKenzie

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    Cody Mckenzie's pattented McKenzietine (guillotine) was an unstoppable force until he ran into veteran Yves Edwards.

    These two scrappy dudes fought hard and fast for nearly two rounds, and it was the veteran who came out on top securing a fight-ending rear-naked choke.

17. Gilbert Melendez vs Tatsuya Kawajiri

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    Kawajiri is one of the toughest lightweight fighters of the past decade, but Strikeforce champion Melendez came out and steamrolled him.

    After dropping Kawajiri and putting him on his back, Melendez finished the fight by redefining the term "hellbows."

16. Jon Jones vs Mauricio Rua

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    There was no feeling-out process as Mauricio Rua and Jon Jones clashed for the light heavyweight championship.

    Rua and Jones were like two freight trains headed straight for each other, but in the end, Rua was the one that gave way, eventually breaking down in the third round.

15. Alexander Gustafsson vs James Te-Huna

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    Te-Huna came out like a man possessed, performing in front of a stadium full of his fellow Aussies. He did his best "hulk smash" impression and really had Gustafsson "on the ropes" to start out the fight.

    Despite the explosive start, Te-Huna could not finish Gustafsson, and Gustafsson stormed back to get the rear-naked choke late in the first round.

14. Melvin Guillard vs Evan Dunham

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    Evan Dunham was supposed to be on a different level than Melvin Guillard, but then Guillard started punching Dunham.

    Guillard swarmed over his hurt opponent and was able to become the only man to ever put away Evan Dunham.

13. Jeremy Stephens vs Marcus Davis

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    For the first two rounds, Marcus Davis was getting the better of Jeremy Stephens due to his technical boxing skills.

    In the third round, however, Stephens cracked Davis with a haymaker from outer-orbit to flat-line Davis and knock him out of the UFC.

12. Dave Herman vs Jon Olav Einemo

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    Jon Olav Einemo had packed on a lot of weight since we last saw him five years ago, and he sure used that weight to go head-hunting and looking for the knockout.

    Einemo also tried to use his vaunted grappling abilities, but despite being aggressive, he could not outlast the athleticism of Herman.

    Both men landed punches that would have put lesser men to sleep, but it was Herman who piled on enough punches to finally put Einemo away in the second round.

11. Jose Aldo vs Mark Hominick

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    He came in perfect condition, but it was still not enough for Mark Hominick to wrest the featherweight title away from Jose Aldo.

    These two slugged it out with some of the best striking in the sport, but we also got to see some great ground work, momentum swings, blood and a massive hematoma.  

10. Charles Oliveira vs Nik Lentz

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    Charles Oliveira wanted this win really bad and came out red hot.

    Nik Lentz is as game as they come and they put on a real show, exchanging strikes, positions, and submission attempts.

    Unfortunately, Oliveira was just a little too eager and delivered a brutal illegal knee that led to a "no contest."

    Whatever, the fight itself was awesome.

9. Michael McDonald vs Edwin Figueroa

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    It was their UFC debuts and these two guys put it all on the line in an exhilarating three-round affair.

    On a card with the likes of Dan Hardy, Johny Hendricks, Rogerio Nogueira, Anthony Johnson, Leonard Garcia, and The Korean Zombie, it was this pair of young bantamweights who stole the show and earned "fight of the night" honors.

8. Anthony Njokuani vs Edson Barboza

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    What did you think was going to happen throwing two of the best lightweight kickboxers in the cage together?

    Quick KO? Long, drawn-out feeling out processes?

    How about three straight rounds of beating the tar out of each other?  Sweet MMA goodness.

7. Brian Ebersole vs Chris Lytle

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    Lytle was originally supposed to fight Carlos Condit in a dynamite match-up, but thankfully Condit was replaced by someone who happened to be just as dynamite.

    The man even uses cartwheel kicks to great effect. As a heavy underdog, Ebersole mixed everything up brilliantly to keep Lytle guessing.

    Ebersole landed a knee that would have knocked a silverback unconscious, but thankfully, Lytle kept trucking on like a fighting machine for our viewing pleasure.

6. Waachiim Spiritwolf vs Jaime Jara

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    Bellator FC treated us to one of the sweatiest and bloodiest all-out wars that we had seen in a long time as Jaime Jara took on the P4P greatest name in MMA.

    Check out some of the highlights here.

5. Martin Kampmann vs Diego Sanchez

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    Martin Kampmann boxed Diego Sanchez up something fierce and Sanchez just willed himself to victory anyways.

    He headbutted Kampmann's hand until it was broken (both his face and Kampmann's hand), and kept charging forward regardless of the physical consequences.

    I am definitely down for a rematch someday.

4. Anderson Silva vs Vitor Belfort

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    "Oh no!  They're just circling each other...."

    "Oh sweet, nice flurry, things are starting to get interesting....."

    "HOLY SH******T!!!!!"

3. Cheick Kongo vs Pat Barry

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    When the UFC announced that Pat Barry would be fighting Cheick Kongo, fans immediately expected the fight to produce fireworks.

    No one could have imagined what would actually happen.

    (It just happened, so it better still be fresh in your mind. Go find out on your own if you're clueless. Trust me, it's better that way anyways.)

2. Frankie Edgar vs Gray Maynard

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    What's more exciting than a bully kicking the crap out some little dude?

    The little dude dusting himself off and then proceeding to teach the bully what champions are made of for the next 20 minutes. Go get 'em, little guy! 

1. Nick Diaz vs Paul Daley

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    Paul Daley is one of the most feared strikers in the entire sport. Nick Diaz don't care. Nick Diaz smack the #@%$ out of him.

    (Nick Diaz is the honey badger in this scenario. Daley, the cobra)

    But seriously, this might be the greatest back-and-forth one-round title fight in history.