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Midseason MMA Awards: Top Fight Card

In theory, a midseason awards selection would preclude anything that happened after June 30, but let's be informal and grant this awards column a four-day waiver so I can name UFC 116 as the fight card of the year thus far.

Perhaps because it is the freshest of events in our minds, it seems like the obvious winner, but even a closer look confirms what we knew. It was an event that had a little bit of everything you'd want in a night of action, from highlight reel finishes (Gerald Harris' slam KO over Dave Branch) to brilliant technique (Chris Lytle's finishing reverse triangle/armbar sequence) to a blistering main event between Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin in what is rapidly becoming the sport's glamour division.

The event even featured one of the best bouts of the year, the co-main event that saw Chris Leben come from behind to tap out Yoshihiro Akiyama with a late triangle.


Taking place on July 3 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, UFC 116 was thought by many to be a "one-fight card," meaning everything below Lesnar-Carwin was discounted as meaningless. Prior to the event, almost all of the attention went to Lesnar, the well-known champion who was coming back from a career-threatening bout with diverticulitis. In the days leading up to the event, the mainstream media showed major interest in the storyline, and Lesnar landed interviews with ESPN to push the date.

Apparently it worked. Early trending patterns suggest the the event sold over 1 million buys on pay-per-view, and when final receipts come in, it could prove to be the second-largest selling event in the company's history, behind UFC 100, which also starred Lesnar.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the main event: UFC 116 delivered a rollicking good time. By the time the two heavyweight behemoths were making their way to the cage, most people probably already felt like they got their money's worth. In addition to the aformentioned highlights, Brendan Schaub scored an electric knockout over Chris Tuchscherer while Stephan Bonnar and Krzysztof Soszynski fought a hotly contested rematch, with Bonnar winning via TKO and then delivering the classic line, "I've spilled pints and pints of blood for you guys, and it's thoroughly been my pleasure."

The main event didn't disappoint either. Carwin came thisclose to stopping Lesnar in the first before the champ mirrored his true-life comeback, rallying in the second round to earn a submission win before a frenzied crowd. Making sure he wasn't outdone even on the mic, Lesnar told the audience of millions watching, "I stand before you a humbled champion, but still the toughest SOB around, baby!"

2. UFC 114

While Lesnar-Carwin might have had more at stake, no main event in 2010 had as much pre-fight buzz as the Rashad Evans vs. Quinton Jackson grudge match, which headlined a card that was flush with stunners like John Hathaway routing Diego Sanchez, Mike Russow knocking out Todd Duffee with a punch from out of nowhere, and Jason Brilz nearly upsetting Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.

But Jackson-Evans was, at least for those in attendance, theater. While not the most exciting bout, the fans were so emotionally invested in the contest that any little movement or momentum switch seemed to provide a jolt of electricity to the sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena. Evans authored a thrilling moment with an early knockdown of Jackson, and "Rampage" returned the favor in the third, providing a few moments of suspense in a match that had otherwise seemed decided.

3. WEC 48

For the first time on pay-per-view, the WEC could not have possibly asked for a better event that this one, which saw Jose Aldo retain his belt with a systematic beating of Urijah Faber in the main event, Ben Henderson choke out Donald Cerrone in a long-awaited rematch, and Manny Gamburyan shockedMike Brown with a first-round knockout.

And of course, it also had the Korean Zombie vs. Leonard Garcia epic. Enough said.

4. Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum

The event must be included if for no other reason, because of the historical significance of Fedor Emelianenko's first legitimate, undisputed loss. And even if you were going by the record books, it was still his first defeat in almost 10 years, so though it doesn't take away from his legacy, in some ways it marks the end of an era.

But Fabricio Werdum's victory aside, you also had a fantastic lightweight matchup that almost saw Josh Thomson upset by Pat Healey, while Cung Le found revenge on Scott Smith for a previous loss. Throw in another masterful performance from Cris "Cyborg" Santos, and that's a pretty entertaining evening.

Honorable Mention

UFC 113
UFC - Ultimate Fight Night 20

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