2016 may have been one of the best years in MMA and UFC history. More people than ever are watching the sport and the product in the cage is at the highest level it has ever been.
To celebrate the end of the year, here on isportsweb.com, I will be handing out the year end awards to recognize the best this year had to offer. Our esteemed voting panel of myself and no one else had a tough time this year. There were so many great performances and great fighters, but alas, only the very best will be taking home awards. Without further ado, it is time start the first annual Isportsweb.com MMA awards.
KO of the Year: Lando Vannata’s wheel kick KO of John Makdessi
This was a tough category. So many guys had crazy good knockouts this year. Guys like Yair Rodriguez and Yoel Romero both had KO’s that would win them this award in any other year. Unfortunately, they both happened to have their best KO’s in the year that Lando Vannata burst onto the scene. In his prelim fight against John Makdessi, Lando pulled off a perfectly placed wheel kick that sent Makdessi to the shadow realm. The way Lando threw it was so smooth and effortless, which is really hard to do when you throw a spinning kick like that. Not since Edson Barboza’s KO of Terry Etim in 2012 have I seen such a beautiful wheel kick.
Submission of the Year: Meisha Tate’s rear naked choke on Holly Holm
There were few moments this year that actually made me jump up and down and scream like a little girl. This moment was one of them. Coming into this fight, Holm was looked at as the untouchable monster that almost killed Ronda Rousey and Meisha was supposed to just be the next step in her quest for world domination. This fight was going Holm’s way until late in the fifth when Tate showed a sense of urgency and just went all out trying to get the choke on Holm. While I was watching it I was thinking, “There’s no way Tate is going to lock this sub up, her game plan is way too obvious.” To my surprise though, Tate actually took her back and when that happened I knew this could be trouble. When she locked up the choke I was full on cheering for her, jumping up and down and yelling her name like a mad man. A few moments after the choke was locked up, Holm went to sleep and Tate scored one of the biggest wins of 2016, as well as a spot on every top submission article in the world.
Event of the Year: UFC 199
This may be a controversial pick, but after a long discussion with the other esteemed members of this panel, we/I thought this was the most fun event of the year. Some honorable mentions go out to UFC 202, UFC 205, and RIZIN 4, not because it was good, but because it blessed us with one of the greatest fights of all time, we’ll talk more about that later. UFC 199 was bananas from start to finish. The main card started off with Dustin Poirier knocking out the smack talking Bobby Green in one of the finest examples of karma, then after that, Dan Henderson who is like 70 years old put Hector Lombard in a coma with a nasty elbow, which was one of the best KO’s of the year. The third fight was an awesome scrap between Max Holloway and Ricardo Lamas, which gave us one of the best moments of the year when Max pointed at the ground with like 10 seconds left in the fight and invited Lamas to throw down. What followed was an extremely reckless, but awesome 10 seconds of wildly swinging in the center of the octagon. The co-main was a decent fight between Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber. The best part honestly was the buildup which was fueled by the their mutual hate for each other. The thing that made this the event of the year though was how it ended. When I saw that Luke Rockhold would be defending his middleweight title against a short notice version of Micheal Bisping I assumed that Luke would murder him. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Somehow, someway, Bisping knocked out Rockhold in the first round to become the new champion in one of the most shocking moments I have ever seen. That was the icing on the cake that made this the best event of the year.
Worst Event of the Year: UFC 200
I won’t spend much time on this event because the less I have to think about it the better. The reason this event sucked is all because Jon Jones. If he wouldn’t have gotten taken off of this card for his love of male enhancement we would have gotten a great fight between him and Daniel Cormier. Instead we got Cormier laying on top of Anderson Silva for 15 minutes. The only good thing this show produced was Amanda Nunes squashing Miesha Tate’s face like a tomato.
The Stephen Thompson Award for Perseverance: Stephen Thompson at UFC 205
Stephen Thompson’s performance at UFC 205 was so good that I created an award and named it after him just so I could give it to him. When he fought Tyron Woodley at UFC 205 I honestly thought that the fight was over on like seven different occasions. He got tagged a couple of times and in round four he got hit hard a bunch of times and it looked like he was going to go down, yet somehow he did not and then it looked like he was out on his feet, yet somehow he kept his hands up and the fight kept going. After it looked like he had survived possibly getting KO’d, Woodley locked in a TIGHT guillotine choke and that was when I gave up hope for Thompson. I figured he was either going to pass out or tap out. Somehow though, through sheer will and perseverance, he survived and didn’t tap or pass out. Even after all of that he still fought really well in the fifth round and the fight ended in a draw. It is because of this historic performance that this award exists.
Freak show of the Year: Gabi Garcia vs. Hotta
I teased this earlier and now it is time to talk about the greatest fight I have ever seen. At RIZIN Four, nine time jiu-jitsu world champion, 31 year old, Gabi Garcia fought 49 year old, Yumiko Hotta, who is a pro wrestler and is like six inches shorter and out weighed by like 100 pounds. To say that this fight was a slaughter would be an understatement, but I loved every second of it. For some horrible reason, Hotta began the fight by running and bouncing off the ropes of the ring like it was a pro wrestling bout. Unfortunately for her, it wasn’t. After her third bounce Gabi smacked her in the face which looked like it hurt really bad. Gabi then landed a couple more shots and Hotta’s only defense was to turn around and show her back to Garcia and try to run away. This obviously didn’t work and Garcia just held onto her head and hit her more. Hotta did show a little promise though as she managed to get away from Garcia and circle a little, but my confidence was quickly shattered as Garcia hit her with a huge knee in the stomach which literally sent Hotta flying like five feet into the ropes. I guess the fight gods hadn’t seen enough violence because when she hit the ropes she went flying back towards Garcia who laid even more of a beat down on her. The fight ended a few seconds later when the ref had seen enough, but honestly he could have ended the fight when Hotta stepped into the ring. All in all the fight only lasted 41 seconds, but the memories will last forever.
Fight of the Year: Marco Pollo Reyes vs. Dong Hyun Kim
I know, many of you reading this are probably like, “Who are these people?” but hear me out. This fight was one of the most insane things I have ever seen. I hate to be anti-climatic, but I don’t even really think I can describe it. You really just have to watch it for yourself. Just imagine if two rock em sock em robots came to life and joined the UFC. These two guys spent three rounds just throwing non stop shots at each other. It may not be a well known fight, but it was one of the craziest of the year and well deserving of this award.
Female Fighter of the Year: Amanda Nunes
Although I think that Joanna Jedrzejczyk is a better fighter right now, I think Amanda had the bigger year. Amanda Nunes started off this year as an unknown name in MMA, but she is ending the year as one of the biggest. She started off the year with a huge win over Valentina Schevchenko who is one of the most talented fighters in the women’s bantamweight division. Then four months later she ended up headlining UFC 200 one of the biggest shows in UFC history because Jon Jones couldn’t keep off the male enhancement pills. On that night she fought Miesha Tate, rearranged her face, and became the new women’s 135 pound champion. As if headlining one of the biggest shows of the year wasn’t enough, on the last day of the year she was chosen as the person to welcome Ronda Rousey back into the octagon. Once again Nunes was in the main event of one of the year’s best selling PPV’s. The fight, if you can call it that, was a coming out party for Nunes. She destroyed Ronda and showed millions of people that she was the baddest woman on the planet, a title I think she could hold for a while.
Male Fighter of the Year: Stipe Miocic
Stipe had one of the best year’s of any fighter I can think of. It is probably the best year by any heavyweight ever. In three fights this year, Stipe has three first round knockouts, and it’s not like he is fighting nobodies, he is fighting people that are top five in the heavyweight division. His first KO this year was against veteran Andrei Arlovski, but his second was one of the biggest of the year. In May, Stipe fought Fabricio Werdum in his home country of Brazil, for his heavyweight championship. Fabricio came into the fight looking like one of the top fighters in the world, add that to the fact he was fighting in front of a whole nation of people cheering for him and it seemed like it was impossible for him to lose the belt. Stipe didn’t seem bothered by any of that though, as he went out there in front of the pro Werdum crowd and out him to sleep with a killer right hand. Seeing Stipe sprint over to his corner and embrace than while he screamed that he was the champ was one of the best moments of the year. To follow up his title winning performance, he defended his newly acquired title against Allistair Overeem, this time in his home city of Cleveland, Ohio. This fight was crazy. Early in the first it looked like Allistair was about to KO Miocic, but Stipe showed great heart and defended himself well, recovered and KO’d Allistair moments later. Stipe is one of the best fighters in the world today and if he keeps up these performances, this won’t be his first fighter of the year.