The 2009 fight year doesn't officially kick off until its first major event, UFC 93 on Jan. 17, so until then, let's celebrate the best of '08 by handing out some awards.
Fighter of the year: Rashad Evans
He not only extended his undefeated record, but he also knocked out two of the top five light-heavyweights in the world, becoming the champion in the process.
Fight of the year: Miguel Torres def. Yoshiro Maeda, WEC 34
A brilliant fight with back-and-forth action taking place both in the standup and ground games. This was a phenomenal exhibition of MMA that you could show to a non-fan as a test. If they can’t appreciate it, they just don’t get it.
KO of the Year: Rashad Evans
Shocking in its finality, Evans quieted his doubters with a one-shot overhand right that knocked former champion Chuck Liddell unconscious and propelled him into a title opportunity.
Submission of the Year: Dustin Hazelett
At the Ultimate Fighter 7 Finale, Hazelett used a whizzer to defend Josh Burkman’s takedown try. The two fell to the mat, but Hazelett held on to the whizzer and stepped over Burkman’s back and into a rolling arm bar in a beautiful display of conceptual jiu-jitsu.
Round of the Year: Donald Cerrone vs. Rob McCullough, Rd. 1 - WEC 36
An absolute war of a round in which both fighters were dropped twice by punches as the momentum took wild, unpredictable swings. Both men appeared on the verge of defeat at times, yet somehow both made it through the whole fight, with Cerrone winning by decision.
Breakout Star of the Year: Brock Lesnar
Not only is he the heavyweight champion after just three fights in the UFC, he also became the company’s undisputed pay-per-view king, drawing over 2 million buys to his three events and giving the company a headliner to bank on.
Upset of the Year: Junior Dos Santos
Some may give the category to Mike Brown for stopping Urijah Faber’s WEC title reign, but Brown was very experienced while Dos Santos was a little-known fighter who knocked out Fabricio Werdum, a fighter on the cusp of a UFC title shot.
Crowd of the Year: Montreal, UFC 83
The UFC set a new attendance record during this event, and the 21,390 were in rare form from start to finish, capping off the night with an ear-splitting roar for hometown hero Georges St. Pierre that completely drowned out the high-decibel voice of ring announcer Bruce Buffer.
Comeback Fighter of the Year: Frank Mir
After his Sept. 2004 motorcycle accident, Mir doubted his ability to return to the top of the UFC’s heavyweight class, but after a rough ’06 and ’07, he found his way back, first handing Brock Lesnar his first loss, then vanquishing his longtime hero Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira to set up a title match with Lesnar.
Story of the Year: The rise and fall of EliteXC
For all the wrong reason, this story captivated MMA fans as the organization blazed through cash, built their franchise on an inexperienced streetfighter, and not surprisingly crashed and burned.
Something from '08 I wish I could wipe from my memory banks: TUF 8’s refrigerator
For those who watched the season, enough said.
Three to watch in '09
Three random predictions for ‘09
Video: MMA from NBC Sports
Cavalcante didn't want fight to stop
After losing his fight with Justin Gaethje due to a deep cut above his left eye, Gesias Cavalcante talks about the decision to stop the fight. Cavalcante says he was ready to continue the fight before the doctors made the call.
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