As 2013 comes to a close, one thing is for sure. This has been, without question, the best year in the history of the UFC. While Water Cooler MMA has only been around for a little less than a month, we have been watching intently all year and have come up with our inaugural list of Water Cooler 'Of The Year' Awards. We'll be covering all the standard stuff and throwing some fun ones in there as well. Let's get right to it.
FIGHT OF THE YEAR
There are a few schools of thought when it comes to 'Fight of the Year' awards. There are those who feel the stakes need to be high in order to achieve such an honor. Those people would likely lean towards the Jones vs. Gustafsson Championship Fight for their selection. Then there are those who feel wild hay makers and tons of blood make for the best fights. Those people would probably lean towards the Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez bout. Personally, I don't care about the stakes and I demand more than wild punches (although I will admit that Gilbert was extremely technical and accurate and deserves full credit for an outstanding fight). For me, there is only one choice for Fight of the Year. The back and forth affair that took place at UFC 157 between Matt Grice and Dennis Bermudez was unparalleled in 2013. Both guys left it all in the cage and put on one of the best back-and-forth affairs I have ever seen. It was a truly inspiring fight and at the end, I no longer cared who won. Props to both fighters on a well deserved honor.
2013 Fight of the Year: Dennis Bermudez vs. Matt Grice (UFC 157)
KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR
I mean come on. The most memorable, the most impressive, the most satisfying. There is only one choice. On July 6th, 2013, An All-American from Long Island shocked the MMA world with one left hook. While the upset wouldn't have been the wildest outcome imaginable, especially for an opponent of Anderson Silva, nobody expected it to go down like this. Many predicted that Weidman was simply Sonnen 2.0 and that he would implement a very similar game plan as what Chael Sonnen did to Anderson back at UFC 117. People thought he would simply take the spider down and execute ground and pound. Perhaps he would find an opening for a submission at some point and end the fight there. And their inkling was correct, more or less, as that's very much how the first round went. But Silva was arrogant. Whether strategy, a lack of respect, an underestimation of power, or all of the above, Silva dropped his hands, like he often does. Silva used head movement to dodge three punches, like he often does. And Silva got caught with a forth punch, dropped to the canvas, and rescued by Herb Dean. Nobody has ever done that. There is no other choice.
SUBMISSION OF THE YEAR
While not as obvious as the 'Knockout of the Year,' this one was pretty clear to me as well. The most highly anticipated rematch of the year, in the lightweight division, was the UFC 164 Championship bout between Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis. The infamous showtime kick, in which Pettis jumped off the cage like a ninja and connected clean with the then-WEC Champion Benson Henderson, had left a sour taste in both fighters mouths. For Henderson, it was a never ending nightmare. For a man who has defeated nearly every opponent before and since Pettis, it is understandable frustrating that the most famous highlight of his career is a moment in which he was kicked in the face, not knocked out, and defeated in decision that Henderson found questionable. For Pettis, the kick has defined him, for better or for worse. While it helped bring his name to the forefront of popularity, it also made a lot of people question of Pettis was anything more than flash. Many believed that Henderson was the better fighter, and had it not been for that one amazing kick, then the judge's decision would have been the opposite. Both men had a lot on the line for the rematch and Pettis delivered. After a number of hard body kicks, Henderson mustered his first real offense of the match by taking down Pettis. Big mistake. Pettis controlled both of Henderson's arms and forced a verbal tap via belly down armbar. Made even sweeter by Henderson's choice of entrance attire (black belt and gi), Pettis became the only many to beat Benson Henderson twice, and the new UFC Lightweight Champion of the World.
2013 Submission of the Year: Anthony Pettis (UFC 164)
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR
The 'Fighter of the Year' award is one of the biggest honors that a mixed martial artist can receive. It's not one big punch or kick. It's not one crafty submission. It's not one night when your opponent was game enough to put on a back-and-forth affair. It's all of the above. It's above the possibility of a fluke. There will always be critics and detractors, but the recipient of this award has proven, to the best of his ability, that he deserves to be associated with greatness. Chris Weidman finished the greatest fighter of all time... twice. Urijah Faber ignored naysayers and won four times in one year, finishing three of his opponents. But there is one man more deserved than them both. Demetrious 'Mighty Mouse' Johnson has had about as close to a perfect year as humanly possible.
He is 3-0 in 2013. The first fight was a five round 'Fight of the Night' war between Mighty Mouse and John Dodson, in which Johnson came away with the unanimous decision victory. Six months later, he took on John Moraga, and after throwing him around at will, Johnson finally finished the fight via armbar. The finish was worth of 'Submission of the Night' honors. Finally, just over two weeks ago, Jonson finished a red hot Joseph Benavidez via devastating knockout in the 1st round, earning 'Knockout of the Night' honors. So for those keeping score at home, Johnson defended the UFC Flyweight champion three times, won three consecutive post-fight bonuses (1 FOTN, 1 SOTN, 1 KOTN), and he did it all in one calender year. Add in the fact that the knockout was the fastest in UFC Flyweight history and the armbar submission was the latest stoppage in UFC history, and the choice becomes impossibly clearer.
2013 Fighter of the Year: Demetrious Johnson
SPECIAL WATER COOLER AWARDS
MOST TALKED ABOUT AT THE WATER COOLER: Ronda Rousey
COMEBACK FIGHTER OF THE YEAR: Robbie Lawler
BEST WITHOUT A BELT: Uriah Faber
COACH OF THE YEAR: Duane Ludwig
QUOTE OF THE YEAR: "Punch a hole in his f*cking chest!"
STORY OF THE YEAR: The Introduction of Women's MMA into the UFC