Ronda Rousey (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)The MMA Corner’s 2013 Mixed Martial Arts Awards Richard Wilcoxon January 4, 2014 Spotlight As 2013 comes to an end, it is a good time to look at the year that was in MMA. Who emerged this year? Who was the best fighter, trainer or camp? What news headline stood out? The staff at The MMA Corner got together to find the answers to these questions and more. Every writer and photographer for the site was asked to nominate fighters, events and the like for each category. Once nominations were in, we narrowed the field and voted for the winners of the awards. Here are The MMA Corner’s winners for the end-of-the-year awards. Fighter of the Year: Chris Weidman The voting was tight for the Fighter of the Year, and it wasn’t decided until the final UFC fight of the year. Chris Weidman may have only won two fights this year, but they were both over the greatest fighter that ever lived. Weidman won championship gold in July when he did the unthinkable and knocked out Anderson Silva. The rematch was one of the most anticipated fights of the year, but the result was similar: Weidman won decisively. Honorable Mention: Demetrious Johnson, Robbie Lawler, Vitor Belfort Female Fighter of the Year: Ronda Rousey This should come as no surprise to anyone. Rousey followed up being the Female Fighter of the Year for 2012 with another amazing year. The former Olympic judoka and first-ever woman’s UFC champion fought twice this year, adding two more armbar victories. First, she faced off with Liz Carmouche in the first woman’s title fight in UFC history at UFC 157. After successfully defending the title, she coached the first season of The Ultimate Fighter to feature women as coaches and participants. Rousey capped off the year by armbar-ing her archenemy, Miesha Tate. Honorable Mention: Tecia Torres, Holly Holm Fight of the Year: Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson (UFC 165) The main event for UFC 165 wasn’t supposed to be an amazing fight. Jon Jones is one of the best fighters ever in his division, and Alexander Gustafsson wasn’t supposed to be a test for him. But that is why they have the fights. Gustafsson gave the champion everything he could handle. He landed significant strikes and even took Jones down. In the end, Jones escaped by the narrowest of decisions. The fight was an instant classic. Honorable Mention: Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez (UFC 166), Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler (Bellator 106), Mark Hunt vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (UFC Fight Night 33) KO of the Year: (tie) Chris Weidman over Anderson Silva (UFC 162)/ Chinzo Machida over Brian Wood (RFA 11) This year saw a lot of great knockouts, but a couple stood out above the rest. For the first time this year, we have a tie. The first of the co-winners should come as no surprise. At UFC 162, unheralded contender Chris Weidman faced off with MMA legend Anderson Silva. Going into the fight, many believed if there was going to be a KO of the Year coming from that fight, it would be at the hands of Silva. However, in the second round, as Silva tried to dodge strikes with his matrix-like moves, Weidman connected solidly, dropping the champion to the ground before following up with another strike to make sure the job was done. Whereas Weidman and Silva were the main event of one of the biggest cards of the year, our other co-winner comes from much more meager surroundings. Chinzo Machida, brother of former UFC champion Lyoto Machida, faced Brian Wood on RFA 11. At the end of the first round, Wood lowered himself and shot for a takedown just as Machida launched himself for a flying knee with devastating effect. Honorable Mention: Junior dos Santos over Mark Hunt (UFC 160), Lyoto Machida over Mark Munoz (UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Munoz) Submission of the Year: Rose Namajunas flying armbar of Kathina Catron (Invicta FC 5) Rose Namajunas’ slick submission took less than 15 seconds and was on the undercard of Invicta FC 5, but it still stands out in the memories of many fans. Namajunas clinched, went for the flying armbar and was celebrating her victory before many fans even knew the bout started. Honorable Mention: Anthony Pettis armbar of Benson Henderson (UFC 164), Josh Burkman guillotine choke of Jon Fitch (WSOF 3) Comeback Fighter of the Year: Robbie Lawler This is one award where the voting wasn’t even close. Robbie Lawler’s history in the sport goes back a long way. At one point, he was considered the future of the UFC, but that was long ago. In his time with Strikeforce, Lawler went just 3-5, and his best days seemed long ago. Understandably, hopes were not high when 2013 began with Lawler returning to the UFC. Lawler shocked the world, though, going 3-0 with two knockout victories and wins over top-10 fighters Josh Koscheck and Rory MacDonald. Honorable Mention: Matt Brown, Mark Hunt Comeback of the Year: Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva over Alistair Overeem (UFC 156) Many thought Alistair Overeem’s victory over Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva was a sure thing. They thought Overeem would dismantle his opponent and move on to challenge for the title after his drug suspension. However, Silva had other ideas. The first two rounds were owned by Overeem, who landed strikes, knees, kicks, elbows and even took Silva down and moved to side control. The final round was a different story. Silva knew he needed to finish the fight to win, and he took care of business by unloading massive strikes that left the crowd stunned and Overeem out cold. Honorable Mention: Travis Browne over Alistair Overeem (UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Sonnen), Cat Zingano over Miesha Tate (The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale) Upset of the Year: Chris Weidman over Anderson Silva (UFC 162) The winner for this award should be no surprise. This fight ranks right up there with biggest upsets of all time. Anderson Silva had been undefeated since a disqualification loss in 2006. In that time, he won 17 fights against some of the biggest names in the sport and had secured his place as one of the best fighters in the history of the sport. On the other hand, Weidman had been out of action for a year and the biggest win of his career was over Mark Munoz. On paper, this was not really a contest, but in the cage Weidman found a way to win. Honorable Mention: Emanuel Newton over Muhammed Lawal (Bellator 90), Josh Burkman over Jon Fitch (WSOF 3) Biggest Story of the Year: Women’s MMA Last year, the rise of Ronda Rousey and women’s MMA was an honorable mention for the biggest story of the year. As it turns out, the story was just starting. The UFC started hosting female fights, Rousey did solid buys as the main event, the UFC announced plans to add a second women’s division and The Ultimate Fighter featured women fighters. Meanwhile, Invicta continued to put on great events and then shipped a good portion of its strawweight roster to the UFC for the creation of the UFC 115-pound women’s division. The women of the sport grabbed plenty of headlines. Honorable Mention: Georges St-Pierre’s “break”, End of Anderson Silva’s reign Event of the Year: UFC 166 With so many great events every year, this is usually one of the toughest awards to determine. This year was a little different, though, as the stacked card for UFC 166 walked away with the voting. Honorable Mention: UFC Fight Night 32, Invicta FC 6 Promotion of the Year: Invicta Fighting Championships With the Biggest News Story of the Year wrapped up, is it any surprise that Invicta FC was the best Promotion of the Year? While it is important to note the UFC was not eligible for this award (because if they were, would anyone else ever win?), Invicta put together some amazing events. Honorable Mention: ONE FC, WSOF Gym of the Year: Team Alpha Male It is always difficult to pick a gym or camp when so many great ones exist. However, this year was a little easier. Team Alpha Male went on such a tear in 2013. Some of the camp’s highlights include Joseph Benavidez going 3-1 on the year with his only loss coming in a title fight, Chad Mendes going 3-0 to secure his spot as the top contender, and Urijah Faber continuing to win, going 4-0 and solidifying himself for another title shot. However, it wasn’t just the gym’s stars that performed. A Team Alpha Male won The Ultimate Fighter and lesser-known fighters also found their hands raised on a regular basis. Honorable Mention: Nova União, Black House, American Top Team Trainer of the Year: Duane Ludwig In the most lopsided vote of the year, Duane Ludwig took the landslide to earn the award of Trainer of the Year for his work with Team Alpha Male. He helped a strong gym reach new heights. Honorable Mention: Andre Pederneiras, Greg Jackson Executive of the Year: Shannon Knapp, President (Invicta FC) Many predicted that when the UFC entered the women’s MMA market, Invicta Fighting Championships would collapse. Those predictions were proven wrong in 2013. Shannon Knapp was able navigate the turmoil of both the UFC entrance into the female side of the sport and the loss of the promotion’s matchmaker to put together some excellent events. Honorable Mention: Sean Shelby, Dana White Breakout Fighter of the Year: Chris Weidman Chris Weidman was on Honorable Mention in last year’s voting, but he broke through to win Breakout Fighter of the Year this time. Weidman’s ability to overcome his massive underdog status not once but twice secured the award for him. Both of his victories were definitive against one of the biggest all-time stars of the sport and show a bright future for his career. Honorable Mention: Alexander Gustafsson, Conor McGregor, Nick Newell Broadcast Analyst of the Year: Joe Rogan Joe Rogan was a Honorable Mention in 2012, but rose to the top in 2013 by lending his voice to some of our favorite fights. Honorable Mention: Brian Stann, Michael Schiavello, Pat Miletich, Jon Anik Ring Girl of the Year: Brittney Palmer The only two-time and back-to-back winner in our MMA awards besides Ronda Rousey is Brittney Palmer. Palmer won this award in 2012 and repeats again this year. Honorable Mention: Mercedes Terrell, Jade Bryce, Arianny Celeste The MMA Corner’s 2013 Awards were selected by our staff of writers and photographers. Unless noted otherwise, the nominations were open to all fighters, promotions and events that took place during 2013.