Demetrious Johnson (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)Santa’s Nice and Naughty List: The MMA Edition Trey Downey December 26, 2013 Spotlight The holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year. Every child around the world puts on their best behavior once December rolls around to make sure that they get on Santa’s nice list. The children never really know which list they are on until they get up and see what is under the tree on Christmas morning. As I woke up yesterday and watched my younger siblings and cousins open up their gifts, all I could think of is which MMA personalities made Santa’s nice or naughty list. Weird, I know, but let’s get to the list. Nice Demetrious Johnson: There really couldn’t be a nicer guy in MMA than the UFC flyweight champion. At the beginning of the year, Johnson was vastly underrated by many pundits and quite a few thought that he could end up being a short-lived champion. Johnson proved everyone wrong. He headlined three Fox UFC Saturday cards this year and successfully defended his title on all three occasions. Johnson improved each time and won each fight in a different way. It just goes to show that hard work really does payoff. Johnson is settling into his role as a champion and could be on the verge of becoming a pay-per-view headliner and a breakout star. I’m sure Santa left the champ plenty of “Mighty Mouse” paraphernalia under the tree. Brian Stann: This is someone who might have fallen off the radar for some. Stann only fought once this year, but it was an absolute slugfest with Wanderlei Silva. Stann came up on the short end of the stick, but ended up with a “Fight of the Year” candidate. After the bout, we didn’t hear much from “The All-American” until he announced his retirement a few months later. Stann showed that it was okay to go out swinging. He probably had more fight left in him, but he got out before it was too late. Stann did this to spend more time with his family, and he was rewarded with an expanded analyst role with the UFC and Fox Sports team. Stann continually improves in this role and was the color commentator at UFC 163. He is also an analyst for Fox’s coverage of college football. With the expanded schedule for the UFC, I expect to see Stann calling fights a lot more, and he could even see some bigger football assignments, too. Johnny Hendricks: For the past few years, Hendricks probably assumed that he was on the big man’s bad side. Hendricks has been on an absolute tear, knocking out every contender possible in the welterweight division, yet, this time last year, he was passed over for a title shot. The shot was given to Nick Diaz, a man who was coming off a loss. Hendricks stated his case, but it wasn’t successful. Instead, he fought Carlos Condit and won a hard-fought decision victory. After that, Hendricks could be denied no longer and was awarded with headlining the UFC’s 20th anniversary show alongside Georges St-Pierre. Hendricks lost in the eyes of two of the judges, but in the eyes of most fans and media, he was the guy to finally dethrone GSP. Hendricks handled the whole situation with class and has now been rewarded. St-Pierre has vacated the title, and now Hendricks will fight for the gold in his home state of Texas in March. Naughty Antonio Silva: “Bigfoot” Silva is one of the most likable big men in the game. Unfortunately, a mistake has landed him on the naughty list this year. Silva fought former training partner Mark Hunt earlier this month in what turned out to be a “Fight of the Year” candidate and arguably the best heavyweight fight of all time. The entire world was in awe of the battle, which ended in a draw. Silva was awarded with a $50,000 bonus and UFC President Dana White even exclaimed that he deserved his own island. However, a few weeks later, a bad taste would enter everyone’s mouths when Silva failed a post-fight drug test with elevated testosterone levels. Silva, who had a therapeutic use exemption, claimed that it was his doctor’s fault, but he was still stripped of his bonus and has been suspended for nine months. Regardless of if it was Silva’s fault or not, he made a mistake in not being involved enough in the process and is facing the consequences because of it. Rousimar Palhares: This is probably the most evident man on the naughty list this year. Palhares made the drop to welterweight and beat an amazingly durable Mike Pierce in the first round. Palhares looked great and won by his signature kneebar submission. All of that was great, but Palhares held on to the submission for too long. He couldn’t come up with a viable excuse other than that he was “in a zone,” and he was greatly punished for his actions. That submission is one of the most dangerous out there, and Dana White was not pleased with the Brazilian at all. Palhares apologized, but he was cut by Zuffa. White even went as far as to say that Palhares will not be welcome back in the UFC in the future. Palhares has since signed with World Series of Fighting, but that is certainly further down the ladder than he would be if he would have let go of the submission as soon as Pierce tapped. Chael Sonnen: Some great things have happened for Sonnen this year, but he still finds himself on the naughty list. “The American Gangster” is one of the best sound bite machines in the sport, but you always have to take everything he says with a grain of salt. Sonnen’s punishment for his ways have come in the form of two absolute whoopins’ from Jon Jones and Rashad Evans. Sonnen isn’t always naughty, but he’s on this list. I’m sure the “Bad Guy” would not have it any other way. Finally, all of us fans must have been on the nice list all year. We have been rewarded with the best year of fights in the history of the sport, and “Dana Claus” has saved the best for last. We all get a great Christmas present with UFC 168 on Saturday night. Enjoy the fights, and Happy Holidays to you and yours!