2011 has been a huge year for MMA, both in terms of growth and the sheer entertainment value of the fights that have been waged. Over the next week, FightLine will take a look at the best performances turned in over the last year before the apocalypse.
Fight of the Year
It’s another gimme, but Dan Henderson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua’s pitched, back-and-forth battle in the main event of UFC 139 this past November takes Fight of the Year for 2011 and may even go down as the best fight in MMA history.
A long overdue battle between PRIDE veterans, Hendo and Rua put on an elephantine display of heart, grit and fighting spirit on November 19 that will live on in the annals of MMA as one of the best and most impressive wars ever waged inside the cage. Right off the bat and with the connection of Dan Henderon’s first thunderous right hand, the thought of tactics and strategy essentially flew out the cage door. Henderson went to beating on the wounded Brazilian steadfastly over the next several rounds, but Rua would continue to fight back from the edge of the abyss every time, rising like the undead to fight back against Henderson’s onslaught.
And when Hendo slowed, himself having taken damage from an unstoppable opponent, Shogun was still there to turn the tide. For the last two rounds, Rua stole the bout’s momentum, ending the battle in full mount on an exhausted Henderson, whose turn it was now to hang on and survive. In the end, the judges’ decision was awarded to Henderson, though it was hard to call anyone a loser after such an absolutely epic battle.
Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira 2 (UFC 140) – Some called their first bout a fluke and some pegged Mir as the kind of fighter who doesn’t stand up to diversity well, but battling back from the brink of unconsciousness to not only submit Nogueira for the first time, but snap his arm, sent both of those notions right out the window.
Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard 3 (UFC 136) – Though their rematch went down as an instant classic, the rubber match between UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard offered the same kind of dramatic action as their second meeting, with the added bonus of closure, as Edgar finally put Maynard away in the fourth.
Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley (Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley) – Welterweight scrappers Nick Diaz and Paul Daley fit more action into one round than most fights see in three or five when they met in April to contest what was then Diaz’s Strikeforce welterweight title.
Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Barry (UFC Live 4) – Pat Barry had his heavyweight contest against fellow striker Cheick Kongo all but won, pasting the Frenchman from cagepost to cagepost and looking to have him a punch away from being KOed. That is, until he waded in with his hands too low, hungry for the finish, and left himself open for a pair of hail Mary right hands from Kongo that stole Barry’s consciousness.