Here we are again. It’s that time of year where I toss on my finest tuxedo t-shirt and reminisce on the year that was in this wacky sport we call mixed martial arts. Was it a banner year for dude’s fighting in cages? No, not even close. As 2014 comes to a close, (with some serious litigation in the near future) the sport’s largest organization seems to be on wobbly legs for the first time in years.
Now, let’s forget about all that dense lawyer-speak and celebrate the good times we had in the eight sided cage this year. What was your favorite fight of the year? Who had the best year once the bell sounded? And as always, I’ll down a 40 ounce bottle of malt liquor and make some bold predictions for 2015! First, we have to dust off that crystal ball and see how well prophecies held up these last 12 months.
ALar’s Bold Predictions for MMA in 2014 (Written in December 2013):
First up, my thoughts on the champs at year’s end 2014:
Women’s Strawweight: Carla Esparza (1/1. Boom! Good job, me!)
Women’s Bantamweight: Ronda Rousey (Duh. The sun also sets in the west…)
Flyweight: John Dodson (Too bad, we never got to see the rematch. JD’s knee will keep him out of action until early 2015.)
Bantamweight: Urijah Faber (My 2014 Fighter of the Year got his title shot in February, but suffered an odd early TKO loss. His homie TJ Dillashaw avenged his loss later in the year. I get half credit for at least picking a Team Alpha Male guy, right?)
Featherweight: Chad Mendes (Aldo vacates to fight Pettis at 155) (Who knows what would have happened if Pettis was healthy… Mendes gave Aldo all he could handle in October, but it just wasn’t enough to dethrone the king.)
Lightweight: Anthony Pettis (Genius, ALar, genius…)
Welterweight: Johny Hendricks (Debatable, but it looks like he may get another crack at the strap…)
Middleweight: Chris Weidman (Anderson wins at 168, promptly retires) (What was I smoking with that addendum? Still, another point for the good guy!)
Light Heavyweight: Daniel Cormier (Defeats Jones. Jones then moves up to Heavyweight, gets immediate title shot) (If only UFC 182 was a few weeks earlier I could add another tally in the win column!)
Heavyweight: Jon Jones (Cain Velasquez hasn’t fought since Bush was in office. That’s H.W., if you’re wondering…)
4/10 ain’t too bad in a year where it seems every champion spent most of the time cheering on contenders from the first row while nursing some sort of ailment.
The ‘Year of the Superfight’ moniker proves to have come about a year too early. We see Pettis/Aldo and Jones/Velasquez in the second half of 2014. (Injuries stink.)
Nick Diaz comes out of retirement and faces Carlos Condit. And wins. (Wrong again, but I am GEEKED out for UFC 183. Don’t be scared, homie!)
BJ Penn defeats Frankie Edgar at 145. Announces move back to 155 and faces Nate Diaz. (Woof. BJ Penn looked like an old-timey saloon brawler in that tilt. Had nothing left to offer. Sad, but still one of the greatest to ever do it.)
Chael Sonnen retires from MMA and becomes full-time analyst at FOX Sports 1. (Replace retires with “Kicked out of the sport for being on every PED known to man” and FOX Sports 1 with “ESPN”.)
After all the trash talk, Ben Askren loses his second fight in ONE FC. (Nope. But who is Nobutatsu Suzuki, anyway?)
The UFC’s digital distribution network’s price point proves to be a detriment to sales. $9.99/Month price tag is dropped to $7.99/Month by mid-year. (Wishful thinking…)
Bellator folds. (No, but I get half credit for the Rebney regime coming to an end right? Hail Coker!)
Now, on to the awards. Get your champagne ready!
Fight of the Year
There are some popular choices out there:
Matt Brown v. Erick Silva
Johny Hendricks v. Robbie Lawler I or II (I was better…)
Jose Aldo v. Chad Mendes
But there can only be one winner!
2014 Fight of the Year: Chris Weidman v. Lyoto Machida from UFC 175
Sure, Chris Weidman was the Middleweight Champion entering 2014, but had we really seen him tested? Much of the MMA community wrote of his two shocking defeats of Anderson Silva as “flukes” and thought the elusive, slimmed down Dragon could really jar the Champ’s chops.
And boy, did he! Weidman and Machida demonstrated a masterclass on movement, MMA wrestling, and striking in the 25 minutes they were locked in the cage. As the fight closed, the two combatants engaged in a furious exchange that surely would see the Dragon strike down the clumsy American wrassler, right? Wrong! Weidman bobbed and weaved his way through Machida’s strikes and answered each and every one with a stinging straight or bludgeoning hook. Post fight, we all realized that Chris Weidman just stood toe to toe with one of the greatest strikers the history of the sport. He was legitimized as our reigning Middleweight king, and therefore Weidman/Machida was my pick of FOTY in 2014.
Fighter of the Year
The typical pick across the MMA blogosphere for this award has been the UFC Welterweight Champion Robbie Lawler. Now, don’t get me wrong, Mr. Ruthless’ 2014 was astonishing. The guy was no doubt one of the most prolific fighters within the sport’s premiere organization, but I am going to take a right turn with this one.
My choice? Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone.
Why? Well, if you watched the UFC’s self-produced Year in Review, Cowboy was all over that thing like flies on horse dung. He kicked off the year with a jaw-shattering KO of Adriano Martins and followed that up with a shocking submission of the uber-talented Edson Barboza. Oh, dang? He can knock your teeth out or out grapple BJJ purple belts? This Cowboy character might have something going for him!
Next up, in his first UFC headlining tilt, Cowboy walked into Jim Miller’s turf in the Dirty Jerz and straight up smacked him silly with another thunderous leg kick. Still, Cowboy saved his best performance for the year’s biggest card. He welcomed the highly touted Eddie Alvarez to the UFC with a beating that a big brother would give to a smaller, slower little brother.
With a win at UFC 182 over Myles Jury, Cowboy could be just a shot and a beer away from a UFC title shot. Did I mention Cerrone put together a 4-0 2014 while incessantly swigging Budweiser, wakeboarding, and generally living out the definition of American Bad Ass? All in all, he wins the Fighter of the Year award, and rightfully so.
WTF Moment of the Year
If you remember last year, my WTF Moment of the Year was Vitor Belfort’s general existence. As for this year, I had plenty of options to choose from:
CM Punk and HIS general existence
Rampage’s return made a late run…
The UFC Champions and their “injury bug”
But one thing stands head and shoulders above the rest… CHRIS CARIASO’S SUIT at UFC 178 is my WTF Moment of the Year. Did this guy waltz into a Marshall’s and grab the first suit he saw? Did he not realize he was going to be in front of a flash enabled camera for the entire week leading up to his HEADLINING fight on one of the biggest cards of the year? The guy could have been holding UFC gold at the end of the night and he was walking around in the same suit he wore to his cousin’s wedding six years ago.
With Conor McGregor stylin’ and profilin’ on that stage and Dana White wearing a black on black ensemble that likely cost more than my 2009 Toyota Corolla, no one could throw a style tip to Chris Cariaso? The guy looked like a deer frozen in a set of oncoming headlights leading up to the event, but good God, his mimicry of a part-time valet at a Cracker Barrel didn’t help his career advancement. Let’s hope that suit doesn’t make another appearance anytime soon…
Alright, now let’s get down to the nitty gritty… 2015 prediction time!
We’ll start with the year end champions:
Women’s Strawweight: Carla Esparza. PVZ isn’t ready yet.
Women’s Bantamweight: Ronda Rousey. Cyborg isn’t coming around any time soon.
Flyweight: John Dodson. Get that belt, man!
Bantamweight: TJ Dillashaw.
Featherweight: Conor McGregor?!?! Loses to Aldo in April. Aldo moves up to fight Pettis. McGregor faces Mendes or Edgar at the year end show.
Lightweight: Anthony Pettis. Takes out Aldo.
Welterweight: Rory MacDonald. Pains me to type that…
Middleweight: Jacare Souza. Why not? A Weidman/Jacare Trilogy is the stuff of dreams.
Light Heavyweight: Daniel Cormier. That’s right!
Heavyweight: Jon Jones. What?!?!?!
Bold and Beer Fueled Predictions for 2015!
CM Punk loses his first UFC fight.
Brock Lesnar joins the UFC. Defeats Alistair Overeem and is granted a title shot.
Anderson Silva defeats Nick Diaz, asks for GSP fight when speaking with Joe Rogan.
Dan Henderson, both Nogueiras, Shogun Rua, and Josh Barnett retire from the sport.
Though, one of the above listed will first welcome Rampage Jackson back to the UFC.
The lawsuit against the UFC stalls and no major movements are made by either party.
Massive backlash against the Reebok design team leads to Dana White having to make a public statement about individual fighter branding. One fighter will be cut due to a kerfuffle about the uniform.
Joe Rogan announces plans to leave the UFC broadcasting gig. Hopefully Brian Stann is groomed as his successor.
Two Champions will fight, with belts on the line.
Fighter pay will still be an issue heading in to 2016…
Happy New Year, fools! Let’s hope for a 2015 filled with fantastic fights and entertaining antics. See you on the other side!