2006 Inside Fights Awards

MMA Fighter of the Year

Yoshihiro Akiyama (K-1)
Josh “The Babyface Assassin” Barnett (Pride)
Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic (Pride)
Chuck “Iceman” Liddell (UFC)
Georges “Rush” St. Pierre (UFC)

Akiyama was 6-0 this year stopping each of his opponents. He won the Light Heavyweight tournament at K-1 Hero’s 7 and defeated Kazushi Sakuraba at the year-end event. Josh Barnett started out strong in 2006 with four straight wins including a submission of Mark Hunt and a split decision over Minotauro but lost two of his final three bouts of the year. Cro Cop was 4-0 on the year including wins over Wanderlei Silva and Minotauro to win the Pride Open Weight Tournament. Chuck Liddell finished out the year with a win over Tito Ortiz but also stopped Randy Couture and Babalu in 2006. St. Pierre scored exciting wins over BJ Penn and Matt Hughes to become UFC Middleweight champion.

And the winner is…

Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic

Mirko Filipovic started his year in May with a TKO of Ikuhisa Minowa and followed that with a win over Hidehiko Yoshida in July. Cro Cop rounded out the year by winning the open weight tournament. He shockingly knocked out Wanderlei Silva and then went on to overwhelm Josh Barnett in the finals. The next year may be even bigger for Filipovic as he has signed to fight for the UFC in 2007. His first fight will be in February and will surely be put on a fast track to take the belt off of Tim Sylvia.

MMA Fight of the Year

Diego Sanchez vs. Karo “The Heat” Parisyan (UFN 6)
Matt Hughes vs. BJ Penn (UFC 63)
Josh Barnett vs. Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira (Pride Final Conflict Absolute)
Georges St. Pierre vs. BJ Penn (UFC 58)
Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic vs. Josh Barnett (Pride Final Conflict Absolute)

Sanchez/Parisyan delivered the goods on free TV while viewers had to pay to see the classic bouts on Pride Final Conflict Absolute. Barnett and Minotauro may have stolen the show in the open-weight semi-finals if it weren’t for the finals matchup between Cro Cop and Barnett. BJ Penn was involved in two incredible fights this year. One was against current welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and the other against the former champion Matt Hughes. Penn lost both contests but not without putting up a fight on his own behalf.

And the winner is…

Matt Hughes vs. BJ Penn II (UFC 63)

Hughes had built the reputation as a monster in the welterweight division. Up to this fight, Hughes had won 18 of his last 19 fights with his only loss coming to BJ Penn. Penn seemed in control in the early rounds of the fight but Hughes rallied back to avenge his earlier loss. Hughes was saved by the bell during a Penn submission attempt and closed the show during the next round when he gained superior position over the tired Penn and rained punches until the bout was stopped.

Breakthrough MMA Fighter of the Year

Gesias “JZ” Calvancanti (K-1 Hero’s)
Denis Kang (Pride-Bushido)
Anderson ” The Spider” Silva (UFC)
Mike “Quick” Swick (UFC)
Brandon ” The Truth” Vera (UFC)

Gesias Calvancanti was undefeated in 2006 which includes winning the middleweight championship tournament at K-1 Hero’s 7. Denis Kang was 5-1 last year with his only loss coming in the finals of the welterweight Grand Prix. Anderson Silva made a huge impact in his domination of Rich Franklin as well as a win over Chris Leben. Mike Swick is making sure his loss during the Ultimate Fighter will be his last. He went 3-0 during 2006 with wins over Joe Riggs and David Loiseau. Brandon Vera also had an impressive year with the UFC. He also went 3-0 and had impressive wins over Frank Mir Assuerio Silva.

And the winner is…

Gesias “JZ” Calvancanti

Much like Cro Cop, Calvancanti made a lot of noise by winning a tournament. JZ defeated fellow up-and-comer Rani Yahya at K-1 Hero’s 7 and went on to defeat Caol Uno later in the evening to become the welterweight champion. It was Uno’s only loss of the year. After an impressive 2006, the sky is the limit for this Brazilian in 2007.

MMA Story of the Year

Pride FC Loses TV Deal
IFL Kicks Off
Pride Holds Event in USA
Pride Negotiates With WWE

All news items were important and with the exception of Pride losing their TV deal they all intended to help in the growth of mixed martial arts. It’s surprising that when four of the five nominees deal with growth that our winner is the one that hurt MMA.

And the winner is…

Pride FC Loses TV Deal

When a fight promotion is trying to keep up with the mainstream publicity of the UFC, losing your TV deal is nearly crippling. Pride has still been putting up excellent pay-per-views but regular TV exposure is essential to growth. As the UFC continues to grow Pride will need to act fast if they don’t want to get lost in the shuffle.

Boxer of the Year

Joe Calzaghe
Wladimir Klitschko
Floyd Mayweather Jr
Shane Mosley
Manny Pacquiao

Joe Calzaghe utterly dominated Jeff Lacy early in 2006 to become undisputed super middleweight champion. Wladimir Klitschko made a huge comeback in cementing his name as the top heavyweight in the world with wins over Chris Byrd and Calvin Brock. Pretty Boy Floyd posted wins over Zab Judah and Carlos Baldomir in 2006 while Sugar Shane Mosley defeated Fernando Vargas twice in the year. Manny Pacquiao stopped Erik Morales not only once but twice en route to super featherweight dominance.

And the winner is…

Manny Pacquiao

As good a year as each of the nominees had, this was an easy pick. Manny Pacquiao not only beat Erik Morales but stopped both of their fights early, the first and subsequent second time that Morales had been stopped in his career. Pacquiao also scored a win over the dangerous Oscar Larios in 2006. Pacquiao has been linked to a rematch with Marco Antonio Barrera but if that happens it will not be until the end of 2007. Pacquiao is scheduled to fight in April but an opponent has yet to be named.

Boxing Fight of the Year

Tomasz Adamek vs. Paul Briggs 2 (10-7-06)
Edison Miranda vs. Arthur Abraham (9-23-06)
Manny Pacquiao vs. Erik Morales 2 (1-21-06)
Lamon Brewster vs. Sergei Liakhovich (4-1-06)
Israel Vazquez vs. Jhonny Gonzalez (9-16-06)

Both Adamek/Briggs and Pacquiao/Morales lived up to the precedent set by their previous encounters. Arthur Abraham rallied from a broken jaw in the fourth round to defeat Edison Miranda while Brewster and Liakhovich showed that there is still some life left in the heavyweight division. Vazquez/Gonzalez had back and forth action with multiple knockdowns and a dramatic finish.

And the winner is…

Manny Pacquiao vs. Erik Morales II

This fight occurred early in 2006 and outlasted the competition to reign supreme at the end of the year. Their first bout turned into a bloodbath that saw Erik Morales emerge as the victor. Their second bout was just as thrilling but left no room for controversy as Pacquiao closed the show with a TKO of Morales, the first stoppage of the Mexcian’s career. Pacquiao followed up this performance with another KO of Morales, thus ending and winning their brutal trilogy.

Breakthrough Boxer of the Year

Arthur Abraham
Carlos Baldomir
Joan Guzman
Mikkel Kessler
Nicolai Valuev

Abraham defended his newly won IBF Middleweight title three times in 2006 capped off by his amazing comeback against hard-punching Edison Miranda. Carlos Baldomir defeated Zab Judah and Arturo Gatti on his way to a showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Guzman out-brawled Jorge Barrios to win the WBO Super Featherweight title while Mikkel Kessler made a name for himself by remaining undefeated after a win over Marcus Beyer. Seven-foot Nicolai Valuev made a big impact by defeating Monte Barrett in his introduction the United States.

And the winner is…

Carlos Baldomir

Carlos Baldomir was lost in obscurity as he piled up seventeen straight wins leading up to 2006. He opened the year with an upset win over Zab Judah and proved he was for real when he put a TKO on Arturo Gatti later in the year. He closed out the year getting embarrassed by Floyd Mayweather but no one else began the year as an unknown only to main event a pay-per-view by year’s end.

Boxing Story of the Year

Evander Holyfield Attempts Comeback
Former Russians Capture All Heavyweight Titles
Bernard Hopkins Wins Light Heavyweight Title
Tyson World Tour
Mayweather Announces De La Hoya as Last Fight

Some of the stories in boxing sparked the question of “why?”, like Holyfield’s comeback and the Mike Tyson World Tour while others were historical feats, such as Hopkins winning the light heavyweight title and four former Russians holding the heavyweight titles. Mayweather pulled the shock card when he announced he would retire after fighting De La Hoya but does anyone believe boxing retirements these days?

And the winner is…

Former Russians Capture All Heavyweight Titles

This did more for the heavyweight division than the presence of any American heavyweight could have done. It allowed boxing to get some media attention for its heavyweight division without ear biting. Nicolai Valuev started things off by capturing a title in December of 2005. Sergei Liakhovich followed with an April title victory while Wladimir Klitschko captured another later in that month. Oleg Maskaev completed the superfecta when he knocked Hasim Rahman out in August. Their reign would be short-lived as Liakhovich would lose his title to American Shannon Briggs in November but the European stamp was certainly left on the heavyweight division.

Best Fight Card

Pride FC Shockwave 2006
UFC 66: Liddell vs. Ortiz 2
K-1 Hero’s 7
Pride FC: Final Conflict Absolute
UFC 58: USA vs. Canada

All of these fight cards were outstanding and if you would like to know more about each event then click on the links provided above.

And the winner is…

Pride FC: Final Conflict Absolute

This was a big night for Pride that featured a lot of amazing fights, two of which were nominated for MMA Fight of the Year. It wasn’t all just exciting fights that didn’t mean anything. The Open-Weight Grand Prix Tournament reached its conclusion as the semi-finals and finals were held.

Most Disappointing Fight of the Year

Tim Sylvia vs. Andre Arlovski 3 (UFC 61)
Acelino Freitas vs. Zahir Raheem (Boxing)
Rashad Evans vs. Sam Hoger (UFN 4)
Luis Castillo vs. Rolando Reyes (Boxing)
Dan Christinson vs. Frank Mir (UFC 61)

These fights did not just live up to expectations, they fell horribly short. Whether it was inactivity or sheer unwillingness to fight, these fights left a bad taste in the mouths of fight fans.

And the loser is…

Rashad Evans vs. Sam Hoger (UFN 4)

As our own Kevin Wong puts it, “Overall, Rashad has been disappointing. You see the potential, then you see him humping yet another opponent. He’s the Linda Miles of The Ultimate Fighter.” I would have gone for a Missy Hyatt joke there.

Knockout of the Year

Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic vs. Wanderlei Silva
Calvin Brock vs. Zuri Lawrence
Anderson Silva vs. Tony Fryklund
Scott Smith vs. Pete Sell
Melvin Guillard vs. Rick Davis

You’ve got just about everything you need covered here. Kicks to the head, a brutal boxing KO, an elbow to the head and a simultaneous knockout.

And the winner is…

Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic vs. Wanderlei Silva

Not only was it a devastating knockout, it also came in a huge fight. Wanderlei isn’t known for losing and certainly not by knockout. Filipovic showed his dominance with this knockout victory over the tough Silva in the semi-finals of the Open Weight GP.

Surprise Moment of the Year

Mayweather/Judah melee in ring
St. Pierre TKO of Hughes
Silva TKO of Franklin
Erik Morales KO’d for first time in career
Hammer House/Chute Boxe brawl at Pride 31

The nominees range from shocking wins to impromptu brawls in the ring. Well, I guess that’s all that is represented so there isn’t really a range. Judah went low on Pretty Boy Floyd and all hell broke loose when both corners spilled into the ring. Hammer House and Chute Boxe at least waited until the end of the Coleman/Rua fight to come to blows with each other but it was equally surprising. St. Pierre and Silva won their titles in dominant fashion and Erik Morales was knocked out for the first time in his illustrious career.

And the winner is…

Mayweather/Judah melee in the ring

Floyd Mayweather Jr had taken control of his welterweight title fight with Zab Judah and was coasting to a victory. Round number ten wasn’t going to be as easy as Floyd thought it was going to be. Zab landed a one-two combination to the nads and the back of Floyd’s head and that brought Floyd’s trainer/uncle in the ring. He came at Zab but was cut off by Zab’s father/trainer. Zab pulled the okey-doke and landed a cheap shot on Floyd’s trainer. It’s a little strange that this won the award because I’m not surprised by anything Zab Judah does anymore.

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