2010 was a fantastic year for fans of really great fights. Let us reflect upon them and bestow upon them arbitrary awards!
The Fight of the Year: Ben Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis (WEC 53)
World Extreme Cagefighting had a fantastic reputation for putting on great fights. When it was announced that they would be folded into the Ultimate Fighting Championship at the end of 2010, fans rejoiced. After all, the top-to-bottom quality of fight cards was about to go way up . Nevertheless, it was a bit of a bittersweet announcement. That was until the final two cards were fought. Instead of a sad limp to the finish, WEC went out the way it lived – with some really great fights. The topper? The final WEC bout, a Lightweight Championship encounter between Ben “Smooth” Henderson and Anthony “Showtime” Pettis. After five rounds of back and forth war, Pettis leapt off the cage with an insane kick that commentator Stephan Bonnar described as “Hey just leapt off the cage like a ninja!” The kick clinched the fight – and the title, and eventual UFC title bout – for Pettis. It was also a fitting final chapter to a great 2010.
The Cecil Peoples Award for Questionable Judging: Nam Phan vs. Leonard Garcia (Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale)
Phan and Garcia went toe-to-toe over a three round war, with Phan controlling more of the action and doing more damage. Garcia won via split decision, prompting the crowd at the Palms to completely turn on him, booing his post-fight interview and chanting “Bullshit.” Ironically, Phan became a bigger star with a loss than he could’ve become with a win.
The “Barncat” Award for Submission of the Year: Phil Davis’ armbar finish of Tim Boetsch (UFC 123)
Slightly more impressive than Anderson Silva’s triangle victory over Chael Sonnen, in that Davis invented a new submission to beat Boetsch.
The Knockout of the Year: Paul Daley obliterates Scott Smith (Strikeforce: St. Louis)
After testing his chin a few times, Daley absolutely clobbered Smith with a shot that sent him falling flat on his face. A devastating shot in a fight full of big knockouts.
The Jon Fitch Award for Dullest Fight of the Year: Matt Hughes vs. Renzo Gracie (UFC 112)
I went with this in July and I’m staying with it. Other fights were “worse,” but this was a hugely hyped battled between two legends that just sort of fell completely flat.
The Fabricio Werdum Award for Shock of the Year: Werdum submits Fedor Emelianenko with a triangle (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum)
Rookie of the Year: Phil Davis
Four wins over the year to kick off his UFC tenure, including two submission wins. “Mr. Wonderful” needs to face stiffer competition in 2011.
Fighter of the Year: Frank Edgar
Beat up B.J. Penn at UFC 112, effectively stealing the title. Then had the sack to defend against Penn – who wouldn’t be caught off-guard in a rematch – and then pummeled him again at UFC 117 to retain.