This past year was yet another really good one for the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. The UFC introduced the women’s bantamweight division, Champions fell while stars began to rise and promotions like, Bellator, Invicta FC, WSOF and the XFC continued to grow.
As good as 2013 was it made it very difficult to narrow things down for this year’s MMA Valor year-end awards but after some deliberation amongst the staff things began to fall into place. We are proud to bring you our year-end awards for the second year and hope that you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed doing them. Thanks for all your support this year and HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Fighter of the Year: Chris Weidman
Beating the fighter most considered the greatest of all time not once but twice is something special. Chris Weidman followed up his knockout of Anderson Silva at UFC 162 with a TKO victory at last weekend’s UFC 168. While some may still question him due to antics of the first fight and the nasty injury of their second, but he was winning both fights before either of those occurrences.
Honorable Mention: Demetrious Johnson
Female Fighter of the Year: Ronda Rousey
- Ronda Rousey almost gets this award by default being that she was the first UFC women’s champion and is doing it on the sports biggest stage. This is not to take away from here 2013 year in which she defended her title twice, coached on The Ultimate Fighter and filmed two movies. Rousey is by far the biggest, most popular female fighter in the sport today but with the UFC adding a 115 lbs. division in 2014 and Invicta FC continuing to grow the competition will only get tougher.
Fight of the Year: Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165
The build up for this fight made it seem impossible to live up to but their five round back and forth war actually surpassed the hype. Alexander Gustafsson took the champion Jon Jones to places he’d never been to in a UFC fight yet the champ rebounded like a true champion and by the thinness of margins retained his title.
Honorable Mention: Mark Hunt vs. Antonio Silva at UFC Fight Night 33
Round of the Year: Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez at UFC 166, Round 3
Many might put this bout on their short list for fight of the year but it was the third and final round that made this fight what it is. Gilbert Melendez was winning the fight heading into the last round and Diego Sanchez knew this, which is why he went threw caution to the wind and went for the finish. Often times fighters are told they need a finish but cannot flip that switch, not Sanchez though, he flipped the switch to new heights and nearly pulled out a walk off home run.
Knockout of the Year: Shogun Rua vs. James Te-Huna at UFC Fight Night 33
While the MMA world was writing Shogun’s epitaph as he headed into the cage with James Te-Huna, Shogun was busy limbering up his fists for what he knew was a quality beat down. Rua threw fire early, and when Te-Huna went with an uppercut, Rua’s short left hook came in like a wrecking ball. Te-Huna was out cold before he hit the ground and Rua took the honors for best KO late in the year.
Honorable Mention: Uriah Hall vs. Adam Cella during TUF 17
Submission of the Year: Josh Burkman vs Jon Fitch at WSOF 3
The Josh Burkman vs Jon Fitch bout at WSOF 3 was possibly the biggest fight to date for the World Series of Fighting. What Josh Burkman did to Jon Fitch was a thing of beauty and the first walk off submission I’d ever seen. Burkman grabbed the neck of Fitch, squeezed and then dropped the out cold fighter like a sack of potatoes.
Honorable Mention: Kenny Robertson vs. Brock Jardin at UFC 157
Chin of the Year: Diego Sanchez
The fact Sanchez could take a beating wasn’t lost on anyone to this point, but his effort against former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez was a surprise just the same. Melendez technical boxing prowess was on display for all the good it did, as punch after punch bounced off Sanchez jawline. Not only did Sanchez not go down, it was actually a looping shot from Sanchez that nearly took Melendez out late in this fight, showing he could not only take a beating, but had the sense to fire back in the process.
Comeback Fighter: Robbie Lawler
If you told me Lawler would be competing for the UFC Welterweight title in 2003, I might have believed you. If you told me he’d be fighting for the title in 2010, I’d have laughed in your face. Yet a crushing win over Josh Kosheck and Bobby Voelker, and a raw tactical performance against Rory MacDonald sees him standing opposite Johny Hendricks for the belt. Just goes to show that some fighters are like a fine wine.
On paper, this didn’t seem like it would pan out to be anything more than a good way to spend a Saturday night, yet something just clicked about this event. Stephens brutalized Payan, Roop crushed Bowles, Thompson, Nurmagomedov and Cerrone dazzled, and those aren’t even the good fights. It was the epic battles like Bermudez vs Holloway, Pyle vs Story and the lopsided massacre of JDS vs Hunt that showed us what quality violence was all about. Top to bottom, there wasn’t a dud on the entire card and panned out to be the most enjoyable for us here.
2013 MMA “Valor” Award: Matt Grice
This year brought us some really tragic stories regarding MMA fighters and one of those fighters was Matt Grice. Scheduled to face Jeremy Larsen at UFC 166, Grice was in a serious car accident on September 8th in Oklahoma. Grice suffered serious brain injuries and underwent multiple surgeries but the outlook wasn’t good. With a wife and two kids by his side Grice began to recover and amazingly nearly a month later he was making progress. In mid-November Grice returned home for the first time since the accident and as the Doctors call his recovery a miracle, Matt Grice is still looking to defy the odds by returning to his job as a police officer and will also not rule out a return to MMA. Simply amazing!
Disappointment of the Year: The passing of Shane Del Rosario
Another tragic story in 2013, but one without the happy ending, was the unexpected passing of UFC heavyweight Shane Del Rosario. On November 26th, despite having no previous heart issues, del Rosario collapsed at home and was hospitalized after suffering cardiac arrest following two heart attacks. The doctors were able to return him to stable heart rhythm and blood pressure but was put on dialysis because his liver and kidney were not functioning. Days later reports began to surface that del Rosario had passed away but were later denied. Four days after being admitted del Rosario was taken off life support and began breathing on his own. Despite registering some brain activity and improvements in his condition, del Rosario passed away on December 9, 2013. Following his passing the coroner ruled that Shane del Rosario had died of natural causes listed as anoxic encephalopathy, ventricular fibrillation and a rare heart condition called “Long QT Syndrome”. Shane del Rosario was only 30-years-old.
Comeback of the Year: Justin Wilcox vs. Akop Stepanyan at Bellator 99
You couldn’t write a story better than this real-life fight drama. Wilcox took this fight after a year away from the sport, on two days’ notice, and at a lower weight class than he’d ever fought before. His opponent, Akop Stepanyan, was one of the most feared strikers in the division and someone who would be difficult to plan for even with a full camp. An entire round sees Wilcox beaten to a bloody pulp, his lead leg destroyed by the savage low kicks of the Russian terror. Literally on his last leg, Wilcox shoots in the second round and hits the mother of all desperation takedowns before locking up and RNC and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. It literally doesn’t get any closer than this, and proved to be a career defining moment for the Silverback.
Honorable Mention: Dylan Andrews vs. Papi Abedi at UFC Fight Night 17
Thanks to @JoshWoodMMA, @MikeHammersmith & @TyGuyMMA for your help with the 2013 year-end awards, make sure to follow them on twitter.