Opening Round: 2011 MMA Awards

As the calendar creeps closer to turning from 2011 to 2012, it is time for us to look back at the year that was in MMA.

It has been quite the memorable right over the past 12 months, as we have seen several worthy “Fight of the Year” candidates, along with some bone-crunching submissions and devastating knockouts.

While it’s easy to look at the main events and pick out the best knockout or submission, if you dig a little further into the card, you might be surprised what you find. So, without further hesitation, let’s get to the awards.

Knockout of the Year: The winner here comes from a man set to compete for the interim UFC welterweight championship, Carlos Condit. “The Natural Born Killer” was just working his way up the ranks when he stepped inside the Octagon against Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 132: Cruz vs. Faber 2 earlier this year. Condit, known for his lethal knockout ability, caught Kim with a flying knee that dropped “The Stun Gun” like a sack of potatoes. It was the first loss of Kim’s career, and propelled Condit into a scheduled bout with B.J. Penn. We all know what happened from there, as Condit went from fighting Georges St. Pierre for the UFC title, to missing the card completely, to now being thrown into a title-match with Nick Diaz in 2012.

Honorable Mention(s): Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida, for their knockouts of Vitor Belfort and Randy Couture, respectively.

Submission of the Year: It’s hard to remember Chan Sung Jung’s Twister that locked up Leonard Garcia and not say, “Submission of the Year.” But, when you think about submissions, you think about lasting images, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira looking down at his broken arm suffered against Frank Mir will be one that lasts forever. Mir locked in a kimura that “Minotauro” tried to fight out of before fight fans were left to experience something that many turned away from. Nogueira looks to be on track to return in 2012, while Mir is back among the heavyweight contenders in the UFC.

Honorable Mention: As was already talked about, Jung’s tying up of Garcia was incredible and will likely win several honors for best of the best.

Fighter of the Year: Jon Jones has made a name for himself in MMA by either being your favorite fighter, or the one you want to see get knocked out more than anybody else. Regardless, 2011 was the year of “Bones,” and that is why he deserves this honor. Defeating Mauricio “Shogun” Rua with the ease that Jones did alone would likely place him in this category, but adding victories over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida by submission makes him an easy choice. Add in a victory over fellow prospect Ryan Bader, and 2011 will be remembered as the year of “Bones” Jones.

Honorable Mention: Dan Henderson grabbed three big wins in 2011, including victories over Fedor Emelianenko and Mauricio Rua, but he didn’t do it as impressively as Jones did. Donald Cerrone would also be a candidate based on his five-fight win streak in the past twelve months alone but then again Nate Diaz might have something to say about that.

Fight of the Year: Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua. What was not to love about this bout? Both former champs battled it out for twenty-five minutes with each finding himself on the cusp of collapse, yet weathering out the storm. The fight was as close to a Draw as could be without actually being scored in such a manner. Truly one of the all-time great fights and easily 2011’s FotY.

Honorable Mention: Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez. Similar to the above-mentioned breakdown but minus the historical greatness of each competitor.

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