The 2013 UFC Halfsies Awards
Who is going to be MVP? Who will win Rookie of the Year? These are questions that get asked even before the first stick-and-ball game is played, and continue to be talked about until the hardware is officially handed out.
Things are a little different in the UFC.
Between injuries, a rising crop of new talent, and the inherent unpredictability when a cage door closes, the UFC crystal ball becomes uniquely cloudy. Heading into this year’s NBA season, tipping LeBron James to take home his fourth MVP trophy was easy. Forecasting who would take home UFC Fighter of the Year on Jan. 1? Not so much.
Now with the first half of the 2013 UFC fight calendar in the books, it’s time to hand out some hardware recognizing the best performances so far this year.
Fighter of the Year/Knockout of the Year:
Winner: Vitor Belfort’s Two-for-One
Two fights. Two main events. Two top 10 opponents. Two stunning knockout finishes.
In the opening six months of 2013, the “Old Lion” has looked extremely impressive, adding highlight reel finishes of Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold to his résumé, putting himself back in the middleweight title conversation in the process.
Belfort took home Knockout of the Night honors for both his finishes, and while there were individual endings that could have taken home first half honors — Bigfoot Silva’s KO of Alistair Overeem, for instance — posting a pair of thunderous headkick finishes against two elite contenders is enough to earn the 36-year-old Brazilian a pair of awards at the midway point.
You know you're doing something right when "UFC Tonight" brings on a doctor just to explain why your kick keeps flattening people.
Submission of the Year:
Winner: Kenny Robertson’s “Kickstand”
Kenny Robertson's off-the-wall submission off Brock Jardine, "The Kickstand".Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC
There have been a host of impressive submission in the first half of 2013, but only one person did something that we’ve never seen in the Octagon before. When that happens, you just have to give them an award.
This was one step beyond Chan Sung Jung connecting on the first “Twister” submission in the UFC a couple years ago. At least we knew what to call it when “The Korean Zombie” torqued Leonard Garcia in two different directions.
At UFC 157, Robertson forced Brock Jardine to scream in agony and submit to a kneebar-slash-hamstring stretch that he calls “The Kickstand.” Everyone who saw it called it painful looking… and a pretty slick submission.
Fight of the Year:
Winner: Dennis Bermudez def. Matt Grice, UFC 157
Dennis Bermudez and Matt Grice annihilated each other for three glorious rounds.Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC
On a night when Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche made history as the first pair of female athletes to compete in the UFC cage, these two featherweights put forth an instant classic that seems destined to take home this same honor at the end of the year.
The ebb and flow of this fight set it apart from other high quality fights in the first half of the year. They traded leather throughout the first and second round, and just when you thought one man was getting the advantage, a power shot landed and the tide turned. The third, however, was all Bermudez as the former Ultimate Fighter threw everything but the kitchen sink at Grice, who somehow managed to stay upright and survive the frame.
Winner: Kelvin Gastelum def. Uriah Hall, TUF 17 Finale
Much of the 17th season of "The Ultimate Fighter" revolved around Hall and his devastating victories. While the Queens, NY native was tabbed as the clear-cut favorite, Gastelum was the perpetual underdog; a young, green fighter with upside that was still two or three years down the road.
Just as he did throughout the season, the Yuma, Ariz.-based fighter rose to the occasion, keeping the pressure on Hall from the outset, doing just enough to earn a split decision victory over his heavily-favored housemate to join the fraternity of "The Ultimate Fighter" winners.
Winner: Conor McGregor
Some athletes just have “it,” and McGregor is one of them.
The charismatic and confident Irish featherweight carried a considerable amount of hype with him into the cage for his UFC debut back in April. Just 67 seconds later, it was clear that “The Notorious” had the tools to back up his bravado.
McGregor made quick work of Marcus Brimage, dropping the surging American Top Team product with a combination of punches from odd angles that he didn’t even see coming. Though it was just one fight — and a short fight at that — it was the kind of dominant performance that resonates with fight fans, and one that has many believing there are big things in the talented Irishman’s future.
Do yourself a favor and jump to 5:15. How could you not love this guy? 60 G's BABYYYY!!!
Winner: “Men in Black” — James Te Huna, "UFC on FUEL TV: Barao vs. McDonald"
This past February in London, England, Te Huna and his corners did their best Will Smith impression, donning the black suits with black Ray-Bans to bust out a quick choreographed routine as he started his walk to the cage.
The entrance really introduced a lot of fans to the heavy-handed light heavyweight, who survived a first-round scare to battle back and defeat Canadian Ryan Jimmo and extend his winning streak to four.
Though he’s since been submitted by surging contender Glover Teixeira, Te Huna’s decision to dance on the way to the Octagon elevated his profile, and in a sport where setting yourself apart from the competition is difficult, this helped do just that for the New Zealander.
Best Post-Fight Celebration:
Winner: Mitch Clarke, UFC 161
We’ve seen “The Robot,” several backflips, countless people climbing the cage, and Jose Aldo running into the seats to celebrate with the fans. Earlier this month, we saw complete, genuine, raw emotion, and it was the best celebration so far this year.
In his third UFC appearance — and first in over a year — Clarke grinded out a hard-fought win over John Maguire, and when Bruce Buffer announced his name, the Canadian lightweight dropped to his knees, tears streaming down his face.
The previous year had been like a bad country song for Clarke: knee surgery, the end of a long relationship, people saying he couldn’t do it. But the 27-year-old from Saskatoon endured, and ended up getting the first UFC victory of his career.
Winner: Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva & Alistair Overeem, UFC 156
These two heavyweights don’t like each other, and throughout the preamble to their showdown at UFC 156 in February, Overeem showed little respect for his opponent, smiling a confident smile, convinced he would win the fight and punch his ticket to a championship fight.
Every time the two shared the stage, “Bigfoot” reiterated that he was going to make the former Strikeforce champion respect him, his emotions and frustrations spilling out at both the pre-fight press conference and at weigh-ins.
Part of what made this an easy choice for “Best Staredown” is what happened when these two behemoths hit the cage. Overeem’s confidence carried over into the Octagon, and in the third round, Silva followed through on his promise, dropping “The Reem” with a series of heavy punches packed with comeuppance.
Best Media Conference Call:
Winner: GSP vs Diaz, UFC 158
Carlos Condit, Johny Hendricks, Jake Ellenberger and Nate Marquardt were all on the line, waiting to answer questions during the UFC 158 media call. The first two fielded a couple questions each, while the latter pair weren’t called on at all. This was “Nick vs. GSP” from Jump Street, and it was glorious.
From St-Pierre trying to explain the concept of passive income to Diaz and admitting he doesn’t run his own social media accounts, to Diaz detailing how a minivan-driving soccer mom told him she hoped he got pounded when he pulled up to her at a light in Lodi, Calif. where his gym is, this call immediately went into the Conference Call Hall of Fame.
We may or may not still listen to it once a month, just to relive the sheer hilarity of it.
Best Fighter to Follow on Twitter:
Winner: Pat Barry
Barry’s Twitter feed @HypeOrDie is a 140-character look into the heavyweight’s life, and it’s ALL CAPS, ALL THE TIME.
Lately, Barry has been detailing his favorite old school Nintendo games, and hyping up the next appearance of his girlfriend “Thug” Rose Namajunas in the Invicta FC cage (Sat., July 13), but it’s not always jokes and promotion from the New Orleans native.
CONFESSION: I'VE NEVER EVER EVER BEATEN SUPER MACHO MAN!!! http://t.co/jirSWSUjrk— Pat Barry (@HypeOrDie) June 22, 2013
Barry interacts with fans, exchanges with his critics, and lets fans into his life like very few fighters do. If you’re on Twitter, start following him, and thank us later.
And with that, we conclude "The 2013 Halfsies". Agree with the winners? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section with your wittiest retort and we'll spend all of our work days arguing. Ready? Break!