By :Jonathan Kirschner
Everybody likes awards. Whether it is best of the best or worst of the worst, it is always important to identify what one event stood above the rest.
2011 was a memorable year for many reasons. Dan Henderson and Shogun Rua easily had the best fight of the year with their five round war at UFC 139. Jon Jones walked away with the UFC Light Heavyweight Title and four victories over tough opponents, earning himself the moniker of “Fighter of the 2011”. That was last year, though. 2012 is a new year with more fights, fighters and events than ever before.
With more submissions, knockouts and fights to consider for the number one spot in each category for the bigger year end awards, it is going to be difficult to take everything into consideration. To make things easier, BJPenn.com will be breaking them down into thirds, or trimesters. Trimester One will take place from January-April, Trimester Two will be May-August and Trimester Three will factor in September-December. The result will be one of the most solid, thorough UFC Year End Award columns in January 2013.
What better way to kick off the Best of 2012 (so far) than the best knockout.
Best Knockout of 2012 (January-April) | UFC 142: Edson Barboza vs. Terry Etim
Late in December of 2011, there was a series of fantastic knockouts in promotions outside of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Mainstream companies like Strikeforce and Bellator both saw great knockouts, but there was one that stood above the rest in a lesser known MMA promotion. Just a month earlier in BRFC, Cairo Rocha executed a beautiful capoeira influenced spinning heel kick that sent Francisco Neves crashing to the ground, lights out before he even landed. Many fans considered it the knockout of the year and it set the bar high for knockouts in the months ahead. The fact that somebody would top that knockout a mere 14 days into January was unexpected, though.
On January 14th, the UFC went to Brazil and put on a show that made the native fans proud. Five out of five Brazilians on the main card emerged victorious and the audience was electrified by the pride of the nation that was being represented that night. However, nothing set the crowd, referees and even Joe Rogan on fire like Edson Barboza’s knockout over Terry Etim in the third round of their fight.
Barboza and Etim opened the card with an exciting bout that displayed what is necessary to be an elite striker in the UFC. Barboza threw lighting fast combinations that often ended with a brutal leg kick, and Etim stayed fully aware and avoided Barboza’s barrages and landed good counter strikes. It seemed as if the bout was going to end with a decision when all of the sudden, Barboza threw a spinning heel kick that put Cairo Rocha’s to shame. Just after Etim had fought off a three strike combo from Barboza, he was backing up toward the cage to get some space between himself and Barboza. Before he even knew it, Barboza broke the pace the two had going and pulled off an incredible spinning heel kick knockout. Everything about it was prettier than Rocha’s; Barboza kept his composure and simply walked away, knowing he had the fight in the bag.
Best Submission of 2012 (January-April) | UFC 142: Rousimar Palhares vs. Mike Massenzio
Rousimar Palhares is one of the most menacing figures in the UFC Middleweight Division today. His nickname, “Toquinho” (tree stump), describes his short, strong and heavily muscled body build. Hindsight is 20/20, but looking back on his fight with Palhares at UFC 142, I bet Mike Massenzio wished he had trained a little more on his leglock defense.
The bout started with a fast pace and just within a minute, Palhares landed a vicious transition into a leg lock while he was on his back. Massenzio realized he was right where Palhares wanted him and tired to escape the lock by attempting to run away but in doing so he turned his back, which let Palhares have another upper hand. With it only being so early on in the fight, there was no sweat for Massenzio to use to his advantage so he could slip out of Palhares’ grasp and all it did was cinch it in even further. 1 minute and 3 seconds into the first round was all Palhares needed to add another leg to his leglock collection.
Factoring in that his last two victories were in his home of Brazil, Palhares’ popularity skyrocketed. When Demian Maia’s opponent at UFC on FOX 2 replaced an injured fighter higher up on the card, Maia was left without an opponent. The fans “Twitter Bombed” Dana White demanding that Palhares be Maia’s new opponent, but Palhares politely declined. He will be fighting Alan Belcher this Saturday at UFC on FOX 3.
Best Fight of 2012 (January-April) | UFC 144: Ben Henderson vs. Frankie Edgar
Even before Frankie Edgar stepped into the octagon to defend his UFC Lightweight Title against Ben Henderson, UFC 144 was a great card. Consider the fact that Edgar and Henderson are two of the most exciting fighters in their weight class and everybody knew that this fight could potentially set the card over the top— and it did.
Edgar and Henderson put on a spectacle that brought the always quiet (out of respect) Japanese crowd to their feet, roaring along each time a heavy strike was landed with a thud. Henderson kept pressing the action and never showed any signs of fatigue, landing combinations and solid shots at will. Edgar landed just as many leg and body kicks, but never really had the chance to capitalize on the damage they were doing. The fight went five full rounds and the judges awarded Ben Henderson the victory, adding yet another lightweight title to his trophy case.
The bout was so close and exciting that fans on Twitter and internet message boards were clamoring for an immediate rematch. Just this week it was rumored that the two will be squaring off in a highly anticipated rematch in Denver, Colorado at UFC 150. Edgar is no stranger to rematches. This is the third time in a row that Frankie Edgar is having an immediate rematch. However, unlike his initial bouts with Penn and Edgar that called for immediate rematches, Edgar lost fair and square to Henderson. Will history repeat itself yet again or is Frankie Edgar’s learning curve too strong?
Did we get it right, or did we snub someone else who should have gotten the award? Let us know in the comments below!