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Midseason MMA Awards: Best Fight

Midway through the calendar, we've already seen hundreds of fights across the MMA landscape, from old reliables like the UFC to upstarts like Moosin and organizations trying to get to the next level like Bellator.

During that time, we've seen our fair share of clunkers and adrenaline pumpers, but as far as the best goes, one stands out from the crowd.

Chan Sung Jung vs. Leonard Garcia at WEC 48 is the easy pick for the best fight of 2010 so far, and it really isn't even close. Some people have suggested that the fight deserved to be downgraded because it lacked, shall we say, artistic merit. It wasn't a technical masterpiece, with both men resorting to bombs-away haymakers at several points, but what it lacked in textbook application, it more than made up for in raw grit and heart.

And what is the reason we watch MMA, anyway? If the hope is solely to witness perfect technique, there are plenty of instructional videos to do the trick. We watch to see the practical application, and the fight business is often times messy. After all, at every turn, there is someone trying to stop you from doing what you want to do. The masters like Anderson Silva who can completely overwhelm their opponent and own the action are few and far between.


There is something to be said for the moments when all the pretense and spotlight gets stripped away, and it's all about the two men (or women) putting it all on the line. Jung vs. Garcia was that kind of fight. It was primal and violent, and at the same time, thrillingly fraternal. During the few moments of inactivity, Garcia and Jung would smile and wink at each other, well aware of the classic they were authoring, yet firmly caught in the moment.

The reason the fight struck a chord with so many fans was its intensity. There was very little jabbing, minimal time spent jockeying for positions and scarcely a moment to take a breath. By the time it was over, each man had landed 70 power strikes, according to Compustrike, a nearly unheard of number for a three-round fight. The football equivalent would be like throwing a downfield bomb on every play.

In the end, Garcia was awarded a split-decision victory, and while most observers seemed to believe Jung deserved the nod, it almost didn't matter. The "Korean Zombie" nickname had been awarded to Jung already, but now, American MMA fans knew exactly what it meant.

2. Chris Leben vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama, UFC 116

There was a moment in this fight that encapsulates the entire bout. Just prior to the third, Leben rose off his stool, and the sellout crowd rose to their feet to shower both fighters with a standing ovation for an already-brilliant 10 minute stretch of action. As the applause level grew, Leben's eyes rose from the mat to the crowd. Holding his arms outstretched, he looked to both sides of the arena, suddenly glaring with intensity as he nodded. Suddenly, he looked possessed. And then, he transferred that energy to the cage. Trailing Akiyama late in the third of the grueling bout, he locked in a fight-clinching triangle choke for the win with just 20 seconds left.

3. Carlos Condit vs. Rory MacDonald, UFC 115

Like Leben-Akiyama, this one featured a brilliant third-round comeback. This time, the 20-year-old MacDonald was seemingly outclassing the veteran Condit with takedowns and groundwork, but Condit turned the tide early in the third by stuffing a takedown and working MacDonald over from the top. After brutalizing MacDonald with a steady diet of elbows and right hands, less than 20 seconds remained, and Condit knew he needed a stoppage to win. In a frantic finish, he continued the onslaught and forced the referee to stop the action with just seven seconds remaining.

4. Jared Hamman vs. Rodney Wallace, UFC 111

This one didn't get nearly the ink it deserved, probably because it was a prelim fight with minimal divisional importance and didn't air until after the main event of UFC 111, but Hamman and Wallace came to scrap, putting on the Fight of the Night in the March event. Wallace had Hamman in trouble early before tide was turned on a head kick. It was just the first of a series of momentum shifts that marked the entire three-round affair, which Hamman won by decision.

5. Wilson Reis vs. Shad Lierley, Bellator 14
Here's one for the grapplers. After a largely stand-up first round, Reis and Lierley put on a ground-game clinic, with enough submission attempts, escapes and reversals to fill a textbook. Finally, after an eternity of holding off the submission wizard Reis, Lierley succumbed to a rear naked choke with less than 90 seconds left in the bout.

Honorable Mention
Josh Thomson vs. Pat Healey, Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum
Tom Lawlor vs. Aaron Simpson, UFC Fight Night 20
Yves Edwards vs. Mike Campbell, Moosin: God of Martial Arts
Evan Dunham vs. Efrain Escudero, UFC Fight Night 20
Roger Bowling vs. Bobby Voelker, Strikeforce: Lindland vs. Casey

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