By Nathan McCarter
2013 was an exciting year in the world of mixed martial arts. There were countless memorable moments and fights in the last 12 months. Looking back at this year in the sport, we at MMA Ratings are picking out particular moments from every month that stand out amongst them all.
The UFC came with another four events in April, but Bellator and Invicta FC only chimed in with one apiece. It was the UFC's month in terms of quantity, but it was Invicta who stole the show with quality. The promotion's 13-fight card in early April was
the card of the month, and produced a Fight of the Year contender that we will get to in just a moment. That fight, while better on almost every level, didn't even win Fight of the Night on the 5th of April. Those honors went to a fantastic scrap between Sarah Kaufman and Leslie Smith. The UFC also featured numerous quality bouts and finishes, but it didn't top the one-night showing from Invicta.
No fools in April of 2013. Just quality MMA action. Here's what stood out:
Fight of the Month: Penne vs. Waterson Thrill the MMA World in Title Classic
Jessica Penne vs. Michelle Waterson, Invicta FC 5
Michelle Waterson entered as a significant underdog in this fight. Jessica Penne was the champion, and the match-up seemed to favor her. Penne's length and ground game looked, on paper, good enough to stymie Waterson's striking attack. Waterson is a competent grappler in her own right, but the advantage was certainly given to Penne in that area.
The tone was set in the first round, and the drama built with each subsequent round. Waterson started strong, and then Penne battled back. It looked like we were heading deep into the championship rounds with the title still up for grabs, and then out of nowhere, the challenger ended the fight with an armbar.
It was a stunning finish that capped off a fight with technical striking, incredible scrambles and some of the most high-level back-and-forth action of 2014. Invicta has put the entire fight on YouTube, and you should watch it if you have never seen it. For my money, it's the Fight of the Year.
Invicta FC 5
• Jessica Penne vs. Michelle Waterson (Atomweight Championship): Michelle Waterson def. Jessica Penne via submission (armbar) at 2:31 of Round 4.
Knockout of the Month: Josh Thomson Jumps Into Title Contention
Nate Diaz vs. Josh Thomson, UFC on Fox 7
There were quicker knockouts in the month of April, but none were more impressive than Josh Thomson's headkick to Nate Diaz.
UFC on Fox 7 played host to what would turn out to be a very significant lightweight tilt. In the second round, Thomson leveled Diaz with the high kick, and then followed up with punches until he was pulled off. It was the first time, and only time to date, that Diaz had been stopped in a fight by knockout.
Thomson shot up the lightweight rankings, and was eventually awarded a title shot against Anthony Pettis. However, an injury sidelined Pettis, and now Thomson will meet Benson Henderson at UFC on Fox 10.
UFC on Fox 7
• Nate Diaz vs. Josh Thomson: Josh Thomson def. Nate Diaz vis TKO (strikes) at 3:44 of Round 2.
Submission of the Month: "ThugRose" Shines at Invicta FC 5
Rose Namajunas vs. Kathina Catron, Invicta FC 5
Urijah Faber had an impressive submission victory over Scott Jorgensen at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale, and there were a couple other nice finishes in the submission department as well. But you have to go to the second bout of Invicta FC 5 to get the best of the month.
The fight was stopped just 12 seconds into the bout. Rose Namajunas leaped, snagged Kathina Catron's arm, and got the tap. A flying armbar immediately from the outset of the fight, incredibly thrilling stuff from the young strawweight.
This was the fight, or rather finish, that put "ThugRose" on the map.
Invicta FC 5
• Rose Namajunas vs. Kathina Catron: Rose Namajunas def. Kathina Catron via submission (flying armbar) at 0:12 of Round 1.
Close Call of the Month: Jon Jones Avoids Losing Title to Sonnen, Maybe
Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen, UFC 159
Jon Jones dominated Chael Sonnen at UFC 159, but people forget just how close he was to losing the title that night.
Jones finished with just 27 seconds left in the first round. However, he suffered a graphic injury to his toe in the fight that likely would have prevented him from continuing on. There is a small possibility that his inability to continue could have resulted in a TKO victory for Sonnen.
The likelihood is that the referee would've ruled the bout a no contest, but it isn't that clear. Need we go back to Corey Hill breaking his leg on a kick to Dale Hartt? That bout was ruled a TKO win for Hartt. The same principle could have been applied here to Sonnen.
We were potentially 27 seconds away from having Chael P. Sonnen holding UFC Light Heavyweight gold.
• Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen (UFC Light Heavyweight Championship): Jon Jones def. Chael Sonnen via TKO (strikes) at 4:33 of Round 1.
Do you agree with these choices for April 2013? Rate these fights and others, and be sure to make your voice heard, so that your favorite fights can be considered for the 2013 Fans' Choice Awards.