A team of writers at Inside Fights has worked together to decide upon this year’s awards for the individuals and organizations in the sport of mixed martial arts that went above and beyond the competition. Categories include Fighter of the Year, Knockout of the Year, Submission of the Year, and several other important awards to give credit where credit is due.
The series will be broken down into four parts, with this section following up Pt. 1 with “Fight Card of the Year” and “Story of the Year”.
Fight Card of the Year
The fight card that went above and beyond the expectations held by the mixed martial arts community.
Winner: UFC 107
While UFC 100 was the card breaking all of the pay-per-view records in 2009, UFC 107 was the card from this year that went above and beyond all of the expectations that was held for it, which was quite the feat after the UFC and the Memphis event lost its biggest trump card, Quinton “Ramage” Jackson, to the silver screen.
The card was headlined by a lightweight championship bout between the challenger Diego “Nightmare” Sanchez and the champion BJ Penn that ended with a technical knockout due to a doctor’s stoppage after Penn dominated Sanchez for over four rounds. Also on the card, Frank Mir desolated Cheick Kongo with a first round guillotine submission that shut Kongo’s lights out and had commentator Joe Rogan shouting in excitement.
However, Mir and Penn were not the only ones to finish fights in convincing and devastating fashion. Former lightweight top contender Kenny Florian faced off against the always entertaining Clay Guida in a 155-pound bout that saw “Ken-Flo” finish Guida via submission in the second round.
While Penn, Florian, and Mir put on impressive performances from the evening’s main card, what made this event the best one of the year was the under card that entertained the Memphis crowd for several hours before the main card began.
The preliminary card featured a total of six bouts, including an exciting match up between Alan Belcher and Wilson Gouveia. Belcher obliterated Gouveia in the very first round and won him Knockout of the Night honors. Along with that technical knockout, the under card had three other stoppages, including Damarques Johnson’s slick triangle choke against Edgar Garcia.
While the UFC’s Dec. card may not have received the attention of UFC 100, the fact that seven out of the eleven fights did not need the judges’ scorecards is a huge factor in making UFC 107 the fight card of the year. The card featured exciting knockouts, slick submissions, and several brutal wars that went to the a decision. For the 600,000 people that purchased the pay-per-view, it is hard to imagine they were disappointed after UFC 107 soared well above any expectations the Memphis card was given.
Story of the Year
The story that was the most prominent headline from the 2009 fight-year.
Winner: Strikeforce’s Rise in MMA
In sports such as professional football and baseball in the United States of America, there is one organization that runs the show. Football has the NFL, while baseball has the MLB. The case was very similar in mixed martial arts with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The UFC has survived through the tumultuous storms, while many mixed martial arts organizations have fallen on the wayside. However, one organization, while it is still not in the same league as the UFC, is a viable organization that has survived when many thought it would not.
The California-based promotion Strikeforce has been promoting MMA fights since 2006. However, it was not until three years later in 2009 when Strikeforce finally made their mark as a legitimate mixed martial arts promotion in the U.S.A.
While promotions such as Elite XC and Affliction crumbled in a short period of time, the UFC and Strikeforce remained to pick up all of the pieces. However, it was Strikeforce that made the biggest move when they signed Fedor Emelianenko to a fight contract after the UFC failed to lock down “The Last Emperor”.
Strikeforce unveiled Emelianenko live on CBS on Nov. 7 of this year, and the experiment was a resounding success. American fans endeared themselves to the Russian, as Emelianenko knocked out Brett Rogers in the second round of the evening’s main event.
However, Strikeforce not only has the greatest heavyweight in the world under contract, but they have also taken their weak divisional competition and brought in the firepower necessary to have legitimate weight classes. In fact, the Strikeforce middleweight division, while no member could beat Anderson Silva, is a very strong division in terms of competition. The lightweight and heavyweight divisions are the same way, while the light heavyweight division is really the only weak point.
And if that was not enough, like it or not, Strikeforce has brought women’s mixed martial arts into the mainstream, mainly due to the highly promoted women’s lightweight championship between Gina Carano and Cris “Cyborg” Santos last August.
Strikeforce will never be a threat to the Ultimate Fighting Championship in any big way, but in 2009, with additions such as Fedor Emelianenko and Dan Henderson, the San Jose Promotion is looking more and more like it is hear to stay. While the UFC is still obviously the “big show”, Strikeforce has become a notable organization in a sport where so many organizations have failed in trying to gain what Scott Coker and his humble promotion have.
Stay tuned to Inside Fights for Part 3 and 4 of our award series for 2009. And in case you missed Part 1, check it out here.
Tags: alan belcher, B.J. Penn, Brett Rogers, Cris Cyborg Santos, diego sanchez, Fedor Emelianenko, Frank Mir, Gina Carano, Kenny Florian, Mixed Martial Arts, MMA Rankings, scott coker, Strikeforce, UFC, ufc 107