We’re six months into 2013, and now it’s time for MMARatings.net to take a look back at the first half of the year and give out our awards to the fighters who earned them. Here are mine:
Fighter of the Half Year: TJ Grant
My pick for the best fighter of the first half of 2013 is none other than TJ Grant, who skyrocketed from the middle of the pack at 155 pounds and into a title shot against incumbent UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson at UFC 164.
Although he’s been in the UFC since 2009, Grant was never able to make a real name for himself until now, four years later in 2013. As a welterweight, Grant was ok, but nothing special, but since making the drop to 155 it’s clear that Grant is one of the best in the world in his weight class, something he’s proven with two victories so far in 2013.
Back in January at UFC on FOX 6, Grant took on one of the most durable fighters in the UFC lightweight division, Matt Wiman, and finished him off in minutes. Then, at UFC 160, Grant took on former top contender Gray Maynard and, with a title shot on the line, rose to the occasion by stopping Maynard with a first-round knockout.
With two brutal KO wins on the big stage and against top-level competition, Grant is my pick for the best fighter of the first half of 2013, and if he beats Henderson in August, he will jump into the frontrunner position for fighter of the year as well.
Event of the Half Year: UFC 160
UFC 160, which took place in Las Vegas during Memorial Day weekend back in May.
The event featured one of the top knockouts of the year, the shocking spinning wheel kick KO by Junior dos Santos on Mark Hunt, one of the biggest upsets of the year when TJ Grant took out Gray Maynard, and also featured another TKO destruction by Cain Velasquez on Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva.
In addition, the undercard featured a batch of excellent finishes, including George Roop’s comeback KO on Brian Bowles and Robert Whittaker’s KO of TUF winner Colton Smith, and I haven’t even mentioned Glover Teixeira’s submission win over James Te Huna or Khabib Nurmagomdeov’s dominant win over Abel Trujilo, in which he set a UFC record for most takedowns in a three-round fight..
UFC 160 was one of the best UFC events in a very long time and definitely my pick for not only the best PPV so far in 2013, but also the best overall event.
Fight of the Half Year: Johny Hendricks vs. Carlos Condit, UFC 158
My pick for the best fight of the first half of 2013 was the “Fight of the Night” back at UFC 158, and of course I’m referring to the three-round welterweight fight between Johny Hendricks and Carlos Condit, a fight which won Hendricks a title shot.
This was an incredible mixed martial arts bout because it took place on both the feet and on the ground, and wherever it took place, both fighters displayed elite techniques, and both proved they are compete fighters, fighting as competitively as two fighters can for three rounds.
At the end of 15 minutes, Hendricks’ hand was raised, but Condit also came out a winner in the mind of anyone who watched the fight. I’ve been to a lot of fights in my life, but nothing matched the atmosphere at the end of the first round of this match, as the fans in Montreal got exactly what they wanted when they paid their hard-earned money for tickets to UFC 158 – that is, they got to see the fight of the year.
Knockout of the Half Year: Vitor Belfort knocks out Luke Rockhold
My pick for the knockout of the half year so far was surprisingly easy to make given the number of awesome finishes we’ve been treated to, but it really wasn’t much of a competition once I really thought about it for a minute.
I know Belfort is on TRT, and that’s not cool, but this was a sick knockout and will live on in the history books as one of the best of all time.
Submission of the Half Year: Reza Madadi submits Michael Johnson
My pick for the submission of the year in the first half of 2013 came at UFC on FUEL TV 9 when Reza Madadi finished Michael Johnson with a rare D’arce choke in the third round, a victory that earned Madadi a big bonus cheque for “Submission of the Night.”
The win was so surprising because Madadi had nearly been finished in the first round by a Johnson high kick and it looked like he was on the way to losing a decision before he was able to get a dominant position on Johnson and sink in the D’arce.
It was a huge win for Madadi in front of his hometown fans in Sweden, but since the fight he’s gotten into some legal troubles. Therefore, it’s unlikely that we’ll see him compete again this year, which is disappointing considering how exciting the fight with Johnson was, and how amazing the submission was.
Robbery of the Half Year: Evan Dunham vs. Rafael dos Anjos, UFC on FX 8
My pick for the robbery of the half year so far took place in Brazil at UFC on FX 8, when Evan Dunham was screwed by the judges and ripped off of a decision win, as the judges sided with the hometown fighter Rafael dos Anjos.
Yes, this was a competitive fight, but two rounds clearly went to Dunham, and it’s arguable he won all three of them. Instead, all three of the judges gave two of three rounds to dos Anjos, and Dunham was badly screwed out of a decision win for the second time, as the same thing happened to him against Sean Sherk at UFC 119.
Sure, Dunham left the fight in the hands of the judges, and after that Sherk fight he should know better than anyone that you have to finish fights to guarantee your hand gets raised. But still, these judges have a job to do, and they didn’t do their job that May night, as they robbed Dunham of a win bonus and a big win over a ranked fighter like dos Anjos.
This fight captured everything that is wrong about MMA judging, but sadly it wasn’t the only bad decision so far this year. If I had to list them all, this article would be 20 pages deep, but the fact is these judges need to do a better job, because fighters’ careers are on the line and in their hands, and they just don’t seem to realize it.