Fighter of the Year: Jon Jones
Whether you love him for his in-cage brilliance, or hate him for his incessant arrogance, Jones is the definitive choice for the award. He finished his four fights in 2011, three of them against legends (“Rampage” Jackson, “Lyoto” Machida, and “Shogun” Rua), and the other against the then undefeated Ryan Bader. Like his freakish reach, Jones’ potential seems unlimited.
Notable Mention: Dan Henderson for capturing the Strikeforce Light-Heavyweight Title, knocking out Fedor, and then edging out a war of attrition against “Shogun.”
Fight of the Year: “Shogun” Rua vs. Dan Henderson
Midway through the second round of “MMA’s version of Ali/Frazier III” I gave up on trying to score the fight because there was no way it was actually going to a decision. Three and a half rounds later I was happily proven wrong. This fight told the story of two all-time greats leaving every ounce of heart they had in the cage: Henderson’s atomic right hand couldn’t finish off the “Shogun” in the early rounds; Rua’s submission attempts came up short against a tired and wily “Hendo” in the fight’s last minutes. They make bad action movies about fights this good.
Notable Mention: Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler for their Pro-Wrestling like back and forth barnburner.
Talker of the Year: Josh Barnett
The “Warmaster” himself wasn’t even able to take all of what he said seriously, cracking a smile in an interview the same night he submitted Brett Rogers. When Barnett was not outclassing his opponents on the ground, he was ranting about the tearing of human flesh, putting defeated opponent’s head’s on pike’s, and the spoils of war. Did it make literal sense? No. Was it hilarious, and worthy of the nickname “Warmaster?” I think so.
Notable Mention: Chael Sonnen for shit-talkin’ Anderson Silva and the entire country of Brazil to the point the UFC was concerned there would have been riots if he came to UFC 134 in Brazil.
Jesus Didn’t Tap Award: Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira
When Frank Mir catches you in a kimura, you have two choices: tap-out or wait for the break…Big Nog decided on the latter. It may not have been the best career move, but Nog built his legacy on surmounting the insurmountable. Unfortunately, it didn’t work this time.
Knockout of the Year: Lyoto Machida (Front-Kick)
Randy Couture may be “Captain America,” but he couldn’t defend a crane-kick from the “Karate Kid.” The fight started out slowly but ended dramatically, with MMA fans saying to themselves: “That shit really works?”
Notable Mention: Dan Henderson’s sneaky uppercut that felled Fedor.
Submission of the Year: Chang Sung Jung (Twister)
In his first fight against Leonard Garcia the “Korean Zombie” showed the depth of his heart. In their second fight, Jung showed he’s an ace on the ground. I’m not going to attempt to describe it.
Notable Mention: Frank Mir for subbing a legend and making the entire UFC 140 audience collectively turn away, and then look back, and then turn away…