2010 was a fascinating year in MMA and the UFC. The Fedor Emilanenko puzzle was finally solved, Chuck Liddell likely fought his last fight, after finally winning over MMA fans Brock Lesnar has more critics than ever and one of the greatest fights in MMA history was tainted by a positive drug test.
In my opinion, 2010 was one of the most exciting years for MMA than the last several. Going into 2010, the UFC was struggling to find a main event due to the biggest rash of injuries in the history of the company. The UFC was also battling a public perception of controversial judging due to several questionable calls at the end of the year. Wrapping up 2010 everyone looks relatively healthy, most decisions were without controversy over the year, and the UFC looks stronger than ever.
With that said, let’s take a look back at 2010 MMA specifics. If you agree or disagree with my picks, leave a comment and let’s fight it out. Otherwise sit back and enjoy the 2010 MMA Year in Review.
[adinserter name=”366 right”]2010 MMA Fight of the Year – Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen UFC 117 August 7, 2010. There were a lot of great fights in 2010 but to me there were none better than Silva vs. Sonnen UFC 117. This fight had everything going into it from Silva’s terrible performance at UFC 112 against Demian Maia, to his indestructible record, to Chael Sonnen’s pro wrestling style interviews. Most grudge matches turn out like Rashad Evans vs. Rampage Jackson and rarely live up to the hype. This one not only lived up to the hype, but exceeded it.
This is what I wrote about the fight in my original post UFC 117 blog. “The fight was about as one-sided as the UFC 117 odds indicated it would be. The only difference was that it was Chael Sonnen dominating. Sonnen was just brutal, but Anderson Silva never stopped coming. Silva is just not human. The punishment he took would have killed a regular man. At one point Sonnen was slapping the temple of Silva with open hands and yet Silva hung on. Silva could barely even walk as he left the octagon. Silva put on the gutsiest performance you will ever see in combat sports.”
This fight was brutal, nasty, and Chael Sonnen’s to lose. Sonnen found a way to lose after tapping in the fifth in final round. Unfortunately as great as this fight was it is tainted. Since the fight it has come out that not only was Anderson Silva’s ribs severely injured going into the fight, but Chael Sonnen also failed a PED test. Even with the taints I still think that not only was this the greatest MMA fight of 2010, it is arguably the greatest fight in UFC history.
2010 MMA Upset of the Year – Fabricio Werdum defeats Fedor Emilanenko Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum. I cannot think of another upset anywhere as big as Fedor tapping out to Werdum on live television. Fedor Emilanenko was a living MMA legend going into the fight. As a matter of a fact, Fedor was such a heavy favorite going in that there was less interest in the match than there probably should have been. Most thought it would be Fedor walking through Werdum on the way to a title match against Alistair Overeem. Those people were proven wrong in less than 90 seconds.
This is what I wrote about the fight in the post fight blog. “Fedor Emelianenko engaged Fabricio Werdum and hit him with a flurry of strikes. Fabricio went down and Fedor went after him. I immediately thought that this was a terrible move for Fedor. The story going into the fight was that Fabricio had the superior BJJ game and if it went to the ground, Fedor could be in trouble. It went to the ground and Fedor was in trouble. Fabricio immediately caught him in a triangle, trapped Fedor, and tapped the Last Emperor for the first loss of his career (unless you count the blood stoppage in 2000).”
Even if Fedor comes back and defeats Fabricio Werdum in a rematch, no MMA fan will forget the impact that this fight had. Sadly for most casual MMA fans it was likely their first time seeing Fedor. Those fans would be unable to appreciate the magnitude of such a loss. Even if Fedor were to lose again, no loss will be as shocking as this one. What most people forget is that Fedor was in complete control until he got caught. He knocked down Fabricio and looked like he was going in for the knockout. I remember thinking to myself as he went in for the kill, “I don’t know if I’d do that Fedor.” It was undoubtedly the biggest tactical mistake of his career. No upset in 2010 will beat this and I can’t imagine any kind of upset in the next few years coming close.
2010 MMA Breakout Star of the Year – Jon “Bones” Jones. The pet project of the Fertitta brothers and Dana White in the UFC is now a household name. Even casual MMA fans are now familiar with Jon Jones. “Bones” Jones at the age of 23 is slowly breaking out into becoming one of the top UFC drawing cards. Jones went undefeated in 2010 ending both of his matches in the first round. He has only one loss on his MMA record which was a controversial disqualification loss in 2009 to Matt Hamill. Dana White has already said that “Bones” Jones will be tested in 2011. His first test comes at UFC 126. A win here depending upon injuries and other situations could put him either next in line for a UFC light heavyweight title shot or one win away from fighting the champion.
2010 MMA Event of the Year – UFC 116: Lesnar vs. Carwin July 3, 2010. For me, this was one of the harder decisions to make in the MMA year end roundup. I was torn between UFC 116 and Strikeforce St. Louis but at the end of the day UFC 116 was just bigger, more exciting, and will have more of a legacy in the history of MMA than a random Strikeforce show with three knockouts.
Whether you like him or not there is no doubt that Brock Lesnar was the biggest MMA superstar of 2010. There was just something different in the air about his fights as compared to anyone else in MMA or even boxing. This fight in particular, Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin was arguably the most anticipated UFC heavyweight title match in history. It was a classic throwback to the big time heavyweight boxing championship matches where you expected heavy hands, blood, and an exciting knockout. The fight came close to delivering all three. The fight lived up to expectations with the most exciting round of the year up to that point in Round 1 when Shane Carwin manhandled the seemingly indestructible Brock Lesnar. Lesnar’s comeback in Round 2, winning with a submission capped off the most exciting night of the year.
In addition to the superstar heavyweight collision, Chris Leben vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama made their bid for fight of the year. Leben’s win, coming only a few weeks after his last fight propelled him to a level of popularity I never expected from a guy who urinated on another fighter’s bed on national television.
In addition to the two above mentioned fights, the entire card was full of great fight after great fight. To me, the high drama of Chris Leben vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama and Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin are more memorable than three quick knockouts in a row in St. Louis. To me, UFC 116 Lesnar vs. Carwin was the 2010 MMA Event of the Year.
[adinserter name=”366 left”]2010 MMA Fighter of the Year – Cain Velasquez. This was a tough one as I went back and forth between UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. I leaned towards Velasquez for two reasons. One, the level of competition he fought in 2010 I think was slightly more competitive than GSP (on paper anyway). Two, both of his wins in 2010 came in dominant fashion with TKO stoppages in Round 1 as opposed to Georges St. Pierre who didn’t finish anyone in 2010 yet did dominate both of his opponents.
I don’t think what Velasquez did was as impressive as some people think it was. On paper he really should have beaten Brock Lesnar. Most MMA fighters picked Velasquez all along noting his faster and better stand up against Lesnar. But to destroy both Brock Lesnar and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, in the same year is really impressive to me. Not only did he beat them both, but he ended both fights in the first round and won the UFC heavyweight championship. I can’t think of many other MMA fighters that fought such high level competition in 2010 and dominated them with first round wins.
Again, I can definitely see an argument for Georges St. Pierre. The competition he faced against Josh Koschek was stiffer than the competition Velasquez got from either Minotauro or Brock Lesnar. But he didn’t finish him or Dan Hardy which is where I gave Cain Velasquez the edge.
2010 MMA Comeback of the Year – Rashad Evans. The former UFC light heavyweight champion and The Ultimate Fighter winner came back strong after suffering his first MMA loss. Evans came into 2010 looking to prove a lot of critics wrong who said he had an easy path to the UFC light heavyweight title. A lesser fighter would have struggled to recover from such a brutal one sided loss but not Evans. Evans not only came back, but came back strong.
Evans two wins in 2010 came against perennial top contender Thiago Silva and former UFC light heavyweight champion and rival Rampage Jackson. Both wins were unanimous decisions, although I wouldn’t call Evans’ win over Silva dominating. If there was a category for Strangest MMA Moment of 2010 it would go to Silva for having Evans on the ropes seconds away from a knock out and then immediately backing off to mock Evans, allowing Evans to recover. If not for the stupidity of Silva, he would probably be next in line for a title shot against Mauricio Shogun Rua.
Rashad Evans win over Rampage Jackson was huge for Evans. After a season of trash talking by both men on The Ultimate Fighter Season 10, Evans had a lot to prove. Jackson called him a fraud for most of the season and repeatedly pointed out his devastating knockout loss to Lyoto Machida. A loss here could have made Evans look like a phony or fraud. Instead he dominated the former champion with a tactical game of grappling that was practically flawless for three rounds. To come back from such a beating and then win two big fights in a row is enough to me to give Rashad Evans 2010 MMA Comeback of the Year.
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