2007 Inside Fights Awards

MMA Fighter of the Year
Gesias Calvancante (K-1)
Randy Couture (UFC)
Forrest Griffin (UFC)
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (UFC)
Anderson Silva (UFC)

Calvancante was Inside Fights’ 2006 Breakthrough MMA Fighter of the Year, largely due to winning the K-1 Hero’s Middleweight tournament. Calvancante won the tournament yet again in 2007 but pulled out of a December fight due to injury. Randy Couture defied reason by wrestling the UFC Heavyweight title from Tim Sylvia while Forrest Griffin shocked the world by taking down Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Rampage went undefeated in 2007 and became UFC Light Heavyweight champion while Anderson Silva continued his dominance of UFC Middleweights in going 3-0.

And the winner is…

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson

It came down to Rampage and Anderson Silva and the winner was only separated by one vote. Both were 3-0 for the year but Rampage did it against better competition, although Silva can’t do too much about his weak division. Mike Nichols best describes Rampage’s year with “I mean, the guy beat Eastman, Chuck, and Hendo in a 365-day span.” Plain and simple there.

MMA Fight of the Year
Gomi-Diaz (Pride 33)
Frank Edgar-Tyson Griffin (UFC 67)
Leonard Garcia-Roger Huerta (UFC 69)
Tyson Griffin-Clay Guida (UFC 72)
Chuck Liddell-Wanderlei Silva (UFC 79)

If you like lightweights then 2007 was the year for you. Four of the five nominees were at 160 lbs while the other was a grudge match seven years in the making that featured one of the best rounds of the year.

And the winner is…

Takanori Gomi vs. Nick Diaz (Pride 33)

It was the first fight to emerge as a Fight of the Year candidate and held off all the competition. It was a back and forth brawl that ended with an unusual submission. Forget that Diaz was hopped up on the drugs, changing the result to a no contest. It was all action with a dramatic finish, all the makings of a great fight.

Breakthrough MMA Fighter of the Year
Urijah Faber (WEC)
Paulo Filho (WEC)
Jon Fitch (UFC)
Gabriel Gonzaga (UFC)
Roger Huerta (UFC)

It was difficult just narrowing this list down to five nominees, let alone selecting a winner. Faber and Filho combined for a 6-0 record in the WEC. Jon Fitch remained undefeated in the UFC and finished out the year with a win over Diego Sanchez. Gonzaga shocked CroCop on his way to earning a heavyweight title shot. Roger Huerta won five UFC fights in 2007 and graced the cover of Sports Illustrated.

And the winner is…

Urijah Faber

From Kevin Wong: “Possibly the best thing that Zuffa did this year was resurrect the WEC as the place for lighter weight fighters. We’ve seen how exciting the 155 lb fighters have been, and thanks to Zuffa’s commitment, we’ve got a showcase for people fighting at 145, and Urijah Faber is leading the charge. If Roger Huerta is the poster boy for the UFC, then Faber is the equivalent for the brother promotion WEC. At this point, he’s arguably the most recognizable face on VS (do they show a lot of Penguins games?) and I can’t say the same about Huerta on Spike despite his SI cover shot (I mean, can you name the most recent Swimsuit Edition cover model?), so let’s go with Faber.”

MMA Story of the Year
UFC Buys Pride
EliteXC Launches
Sean Sherk Steroids
Couture Quits UFC
Fedor Turns Down UFC

There were a lot of big stories this year. UFC bought its main competitor in Pride but that opened the door for EliteXC to debut. Steroids ruled all the sports headlines in 2007 and MMA was no different. Try as he may, Dana White could not sign Fedor Emelianenko to the UFC which in turn prompted Randy Couture to surprisingly quit the UFC.

And the winner is…

UFC Buys Pride

Mike Nichols says this is the “biggest story in MMA history, hands down.” The purchase enabled many dream matches to come to fruition with more still in the works.

Boxer of the Year
Joe Calzaghe
Miguel Cotto
Juan Manuel Marquez
Floyd Mayweather Jr
Kelly Pavlik

Calzaghe continued his super middleweight dominance by unifying the titles against Mikkel Kessler. Cotto had huge wins over Zab Judah and Shane Mosley while Marquez had big wins in his own right over Marco Antonio Barrera and Rocky Juarez. You may have heard about Mayweather’s wins over De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton. Kelly Pavlik scored three knockouts in 2007 with the last one winning him the middleweight championship from Jermain Taylor.

And the winner is…

Floyd Mayweather Jr

It was certainly a big year for boxing in 2007 and Mayweather was at the forefront of the revival. He won the two most watched boxing events of the year and retained his spot atop the list of best pound-for-pound boxers. Floyd may not have a lot of fights left in him but any future bouts will undoubtedly turn into a must-see event.

Boxing Fight of the Year
Miguel Cotto-Zab Judah (6-9-2007)
Rafael Marquez-Israel Vazquez I (3-3-2007)
Marquez-Vazquez II (8-4-2007)
Kelly Pavlik-Jermain Taylor (9-29-2007)
Sakio Bika-Jadion Codrington (11-6-2007)

A lot of great fights in boxing for 2007. Zab Judah showed heart that no one knew he had in his loss to Cotto while Marquez and Vazquez laid into each other not only once, but twice this year. Pavlik got off the deck to KO Taylor while Bika and Codrington put it all on the line in The Contender Finale.

And the winner is…

Rafael Marquez vs. Israel Vazquez II

This vote shouldn’t have been as close as it was. All the nominees were great fights but Marquez-Vazquez II had it all. Cuts, swelling, blood…and that was all by the third round. Vazquez avenged his loss in the first fight by scoring a 6th round TKO in this fight. The two will do battle once more in March 2008 and you can go ahead and mark it down as a nominee for Fight of the Year next year.

Breakthrough Boxer of the Year
Chad Dawson
Juan Diaz
Sultan Ibragimov
Daniel Ponce de Leon
Paul Williams

This was another tough category to pick as all fighters had great years. Dawson captured the world light heavyweight title from Tomasz Adamek early in the year and successfully defended it twice thereafter. Juan Diaz took out Acelino Freitas and Julio Diaz while Sultan Ibragimov dethroned Shannon Briggs and ended the title hopes for Evander Holyfield. Daniel Ponce de Leon seemed to be on every PPV undercard in 2007 but he made the most of it by going 4-0. Paul Williams only fought once in 2007 but it was a big win over Antonio Margarito that placed Williams near the top of the crowded welterweight division.

And the winner is…

Sultan Ibragimov

Ibragimov won all three of his fights in 2007, with the second one earning him the WBO Heavyweight Title. He won a unanimous decision over Shannon Briggs despite giving up more than 50 pounds to the champion. Ibragimov really made a name for himself in his first title defense as he ended the championship bid of Evander Holyfield. Ibragimov is making the most of his 2007 breakthrough as he takes on undisputed heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko in February of 2008.

Boxing Story of the Year
Diego Corrales Dies
De La Hoya-Mayweather PPV Record
Vitali Klitschko Returns
Roy Jones-Felix Trinidad is Signed
Holyfield Comeback Falls Short

The boxing world was hit with sad news early in the year as one of the most exciting boxers to get into a ring, Diego Corrales, died in a motorcycle wreck. Oscar De La Hoya continued his PPV reign as he and Mayweather established a new PPV record. Vitali Klitschko teased a return while the Roy Jones-Felix Trinidad tease finally became a reality. Holyfield tried to make one more run at a world title but fell just short of his goal.

And the winner is…

De La Hoya-Mayweather PPV Record

Oscar set a lofty goal for the buyrate of this fight but with the help of the HBO 24/7 documentary series the fight was able to surpass it and become the most watched boxing event ever. The De La Hoya-Mayweather fight generated approximately 2.15 million buys. The previous non-heavyweight record was 1.4 million set by Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad. The all-time boxing buyrate record was 1.99 million set by Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson. A rematch is being talked about but the fight sucked so cross your fingers for Mayweather-Cotto.

Best Fight Card
Pride 33: The Second Coming
Coming to Fight (Bernard Hopkins vs Winky Wright)
UFC 68: Uprising
UFC 71: Liddell vs. Jackson
UFC 76: Knockout

Pride 33 was stacked with Sokoudjou-Little Nog, Gomi-Diaz, and the Silva-Henderson main event. Coming to Fight featured a great undercard with Katsidis/Amonsot. UFC 68 featured Randy Couture’s improbable title win. UFC 71 featured a long-awaited rematch while UFC 76 was full of upsets.

And the winner is…

Pride 33: The Second Coming

This fight card seemed to cover all the bases. It had brawls, slick submissions, upsets, and a huge main event as Wanderlei Silva took on Dan Henderson. It even featured a cameo from Ultimate Fighter winner Mac Danzig. Only one of the nine fights went to a decision and none slowed down the momentum building to the big main event.

Most Disappointing Fight
Joel Casamayor-Santa Cruz (11-10-2007)
Michael Bisping-Matt Hamill (UFC 75)
Tim Sylvia-Brandon Vera (UFC 77)
Josh Koscheck-Diego Sanchez (UFC 69)
Andre Arlovski-Fabricio Werdum (UFC 70)

Some of these fights were disappointing in that the action didn’t live up to the expectations while others were disappointing in terms of the decision. No matter the means, these are all fights you won’t ever want to see again.

And the loser is…

Josh Koscheck vs. Diego Sanchez (UFC 69)

Kevin Wong says it better than I can: “This was the one fight that truly was all talk, no action. It was supposed to be one of the best fights of 2007, and ended up being the MMA equivalent of the infamous Gretzky-Tikkanen fight. Sure, Koscheck is known for relying a bit too much on his wrestling, but I’ve always touted him as one of the best pure athletes in MMA. If this was the first time you’d seen Koscheck, you’d never know it, as he took a page out of the Tim Sylvia Community College syllabus – Lazy Jab Your Way To Victory 101. It didn’t help that Diego was recovering from Hep C which left him not fighting with his usual reckless abandon. This truly was not a fight for the ages.”

KO of the Year
Rashad Evans kick to Sean Salmon (UFN 8)
Gabriel Gonzaga kick to CroCop (UFC 70)
Dan Henderson punch to Wanderlei Silva (Pride 33)
Daniel Ponce de Leon over Rey Bautista (Boxing)
Bernard Ackah punch to Johnnie Morton (K1 Dynamite USA)

We’ve got debilitating head kicks with the first two nominees and a shocking KO by Dan Henderson. Ponce De Leon overwhelmed Bautista in Mexico vs. Philippines and Morton ran back to the NFL after getting knocked silly by Ackah.

And the winner is…

Gabriel Gonzaga kick to Cro Cop (UFC 70)

With one kick, Gabriel Gonzaga changed the entire plan for the heavyweight division. Cro Cop won this award last year but this time around he is on the receiving end of the head kick. Everything after the KO was gross. From the way Cro Cop fell to the ankle-doesn’t-bend-that-way positioning of his foot.

Upset of the Year
Matt Serra KO St Pierre (UFC 69)
Couture UD Sylvia (UFC 68)
Sokoudjou KO Little Nog (Pride 33)
Gonzaga KO Cro Cop (UFC 70)
Griffin Sub Shogun (UFC 76)

2007 proved to be the year of the upset. So much so that Inside Fights had to shift last year’s Surprise Moment category strictly to upsets. Just about all the fights would record biggest upset status in a normal year but as I said before, this was the year of the upset.

And the winner is…

Matt Serra KO Georges St. Pierre (UFC 69)

Bring us home Kevin, “2007 will probably go down as the year of the upset, but there was no bigger one than Matt Serra taking down Georges St. Pierre – a man many consider to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Matt earned his title shot thanks to his performance in The Ultimate Fighter 4 (where he also showed that he’s a great trainer/cornerman as well), and he definitely made the most of it. But the true yardstick for measuring this upset is seeing how dominant GSP has been since the loss (seeing as how Serra hasn’t fought since then and all). Given that Josh Koscheck and Matt Hughes didn’t come close to beating the Canadian, how much bigger does Serra’s victory look?”

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