With enough action in 2008 to put you into debt from watching all the PPV’s, a slew of fantastic performances from the fi ghters was certain to emerge from the smoke of the battlefi eld. After much coffee, well thought out debate and some considerations and perspectives that rival Roger Huerta’s decision to become an actor, we present to you the 2nd annual FIGHT Awards for 2008. Disagree with some of our conclusions? There’s more than likely at least one person around here that will feel vindicated by your comments so let us hear them at feedback@fi ghtmagazine.com
KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR rashad evans def. chuck liddel
Chuck Liddell has handed out several big knockouts of his own during his celebrated career. But Rashad Evans’ knockout of Chuck Liddell, is certain to be a staple on UFC highlight reels for eternity. At UFC 88 in Atlanta, Evans landed what is sure to be the biggest punch of his career as he knocked Chuck Liddell out cold with a huge overhand right. he crowd in Phillips Arena went silent – some in shock, others in amazement – as The Iceman lay stiff in the center of the Octagon. The punch heard ‘round the MMA world earned the undefeated fi ghter a title shot at UFC 92, where he took the title from a very game Forrest Griffi n.
SUBMISSION OF THE YEAR Frank Mir def. Brock Lesnar
While there might have been fancier submissions in 2008, no submission made a bigger impact on the sport of MMA than Frank Mir’s submission of Brock Lesnar. In one of the most anticipated matches in history, the former pro wrestling mega-star instantly proved he deserved to be in the Octagon as he secured an early takedown of the former champ and began landing lightning fast punches directly to Mir’s head. After a brief stop in the action due to an illegal blow, Lesnar again took Mir to the ground and landed some huge shots. But this time, Mir, a black belt in Jiu- Jitsu, grabbed a hold on Lesnar’s leg as he tried to retreat and secured a picture perfect kneebar. After a few seconds of attempted escape, Lesnar was forced to tap. The win propelled Mir to a coaching position on The Ultimate Fighter and eventually the Interim Heavyweight Title.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR Demian Maia
Already a world champion in BJJ, Brazilian Demian Maia proved he was also a world class mixed martial artist in 2008. Maia entered his fi ght with Ed Herman at UFC 83 in April sporting a 6-0 MMA record. His slick Jiu-Jitsu scored him a second round triangle choke victory as well as Submission of the Night honors, which netted him a cool $75,000. His second fi ght of 2008 came at UFC 87 versus Canadian Jason McDonald. Though McDonald battled with Maia, the submission ace caught McDonald in a Rear Naked Choke in the third round, again earning Submission of the Night and a $60,000 bonus. To top off his breakthrough year, Maia recorded a fi rst round submission of veteran Nate Quarry at UFC 91 in November, bringing his UFC record to 4-0 and his overall record to a perfect 9-0. Maia’s rise from virtual obscurity to legitimate middleweight title contender gets him the nod as our Newcomer of the Year.
UPSET OF THE YEAR Junior dos Santos def. Fabricio Werdum
Being from Team Nogueira doesn’t necessarily get you any love at the sportsbook. Such is the case of Junior dos Santos (+500) in his UFC 90 fi ght with Fabricio Werdum. While each fi ght in our honorable mention could lay claim to this title, each underdog had his fair share of believers. But dos Santos, despite entering the fi ght with a professional record of 6-1, didn’t have much of anyone thinking he had much of a chance against the decorated Werdum who was coming into the fi ght riding a two fi ght win streak over Gabriel Gonzaga and Brandon Vera. However, dos Santos silenced his critics quickly as he landed a brutal right uppercut that dropped Werdum to the mat. Dos Santos landed a few more unneeded shots and the fi ght was over at 1:21 of the very fi rst round.
fight OF THE YEAR Eddie alvarez vs. joachim hansoN
In an attempt to come to a decision on the Fight of the Year for 2008, the staff at FIGHT! gathered in a room, devoid of food, drink, and daylight, and each person pleaded their case as to why “their fi ght” was the fi ght of the year. After several hours in the tank, the discussion at hand had shifted from actually choosing the fi ght of the year, to what actually makes a fi ght a great fi ght. Two key factors were repeatedly mentioned and became the foundation for our criterion: overall excitement and back-and-forth action. Ancillary factors that also taken into account were: the combination of both standup and ground game, both fi ghters had to be in the fi ght, and the signifi cance of the fi ght. In the end, one fi ght satisfi ed each and every one of these aspects and exemplifi ed everything that is great about MMA. An American and a Norwegian – fi ghting in Japan – Eddie Alvarez vs. Joachim Hansen.
On May 11, 2008, Japanese fans that packed the Saitama Super Arena near Tokyo were treated to an incredible bout between Alvarez and Hansen at DREAM III. In the fi rst round, Alvarez clipped Hansen with a hard right hand that sent him to the mat. In what would become a theme in this battle, Hansen recovered quite quickly. After a short time on the mat, the fi ght moved back to the feet. After a few fl urries, Hansen was again dropped by a right from Alvarez. Like before, Hansen recovered quickly and the fi ght was soon standing, but not before the man from Norway landed a nice upkick to the head of Alvarez. With less than two minutes remaining in the round (remember, DREAM consists of two rounds, a ten minute fi rst and a fi ve minute second), Hansen found his stand-up and landed several great shots to close out the round.
The second round, the tables were reversed. It was Hansen who seized control early and caught Alvarez in a guillotine. Though Alvarez escaped the guillotine, Hansen showed off his ground game with an armbar attempt that transitioned to a Kimura. Alvarez hung on while Hansen looked for yet another transition back to an armbar. The fi ghters stood again and Alvarez tried for a takedown. Hansen defended well but was caught with a huge right hand as the bell sounded. It was an amazing ending to an amazing two-way battle.
Unlike in the US organizations such as the UFC and WEC where judges are mandated to score fi ghts on a round by round basis, DREAM judges score a bout based on the overall performance of the fi ghter. So while Alvarez most certainly won the fi rst round and Hansen controlled round two, there would be no third round tie-breaker. The judges all scored for Alvarez and he moved on to the next round of the DREAM Lightweight Grand Prix.
fighter OF THE YEAR thiago “pit bull” alves
Last year was easy. Anderson Silva dominated his division and performed at a level that may never be equaled in mixed martial arts. 2008 however, saw at least a half a dozen fi ghters have career years, all worthy of praise from the MMA community. Rashad Evans knocked out a true legend of the sport in Chuck Liddell, and fi nished up the year by fi nishing Forrest Griffi n to win the UFC Light Heavyweight Title. All Gegard Mousasi did in 2008 was go 6-0 with wins over fi ghters like Denis Kang, Melvin Manhoef, and Ronaldo Souza. And Frank Mir, yes, the same Frank Mir that was undercarding against guys like Antoni Hardonk in 2007, beat a future and current champion in consecutive fi ghts.
As impressive as these achievements were, no fi ghter in 2008 dominated as many legitimate top-ten opponents as the “Pitbull,” Thiago Alves. A product of American Top Team, who hasn’t lost in the UFC since 2006, started the year with a decisive win over top contender Karo Parysian. After a fairly uneventful fi rst round, Alves came out fi ring in the second and caught Parysian with a vicious kn
ee and fi nished him off with a bevy of punches only 34 seconds into the round. He followed that up with one of the most impressive individual performances of the year, defeating former champion and future Hall of Famer Matt Hughes. Displaying superior striking throughout, Alves neutralized Hughes’ wrestling by stuffi ng several takedown attempts and seemed to leave the MMA icon in a state of fl ux. Then, at 1:02 of the second round, Alves landed a massive fl ying knee that put Hughes on the canvas and pondering the future of his career. To round out his already stellar year, Alves ground out a convincing decision over the number four ranked welterweight in the world, Josh Koscheck. It was an incredibly hard fought 15 minutes, but in the end, Pitbull was ahead on all the judge’s scorecards.
Apologies go out to Miguel Torres, Eddie Alvarez, and even Anderson Silva, all of whom didn’t quite make this years list. Rashad, Gegard, Frank – maybe next year. 2008 was the year of Alves. The explosive welterweight is rumored to be next in line for the winner of the Georges St. Pierre and B.J. Penn fi ght. Needless to say, a win there wouldn’t hurt his chances of repeating in ‘09. Until then, congratulations Thiago on a phenomenal 2008. We are proud to call you the FIGHT! Magazine Fighter of the Year.