2007 FIGHT! Awards
2007 was a monumental year in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Randy Couture’s resignation surprised the entire industry. The UFC acquired the WFA, the WEC, and most importantly, PRIDE. The fi rst MMA event was held at the Playboy Mansion. The WEC landed a television deal with the Versus Channel. SpikeTV re-signed the Ultimate Fighter. Roger Huerta graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. ESPN Sportscenter began showing highlights of UFC events. Forrest Griffi n appeared on Law and Order. CNBC and 60 Minutes aired lengthy segments discussing the sport. Billionaire Mark Cuban jumped into the MMA mix. The list goes on and on.
With all the hustle and bustle outside the cage, there was still plenty of excitement inside the cage as well. In the following pages, we pay tribute to the best performances of the past year with our First Annual FIGHT! Awards.
Newcomer of the Year: Frank “The Answer” Edgar
Frank Edgar burst on to the lightweight scene in a big way in 2007. After amassing a 5-0 record in 2005 and 2006, Edgar was signed by the UFC to face Tyson Griffi n at UFC 67 in February 2007. The fi ght was an instant classic, winning Fight of the Night honors and ended with Edgar showing unbelievable heart and determination as he refused to tap to Griffi n’s deep kneebar in the closing seconds of the match. He won on all 3 judges scorecards and gained an immeasurable amount of respect in the MMA community. “The Answer” followed up his amazing debut with a fi rst round TKO of Mark Bocek at UFC 73. To top off his amazing 2007, the New Jersey native won a unanimous decision over Spencer Fisher in his home state at UFC 78.
Submission of the Year: Nick Diaz g0ogoplata’s Takanori Gomi
In what was one of the most exciting fi ghts of 2007, Nick Diaz upset the Pride champion via the very rare gogoplata submission. The move is usually performed from the rubber guard, where the legs are held very high against the opponent’s upper back. The fi ghter slips one foot in front of the opponent’s head and under his chin, locks his hands behind the opponent’s head, and chokes the opponent by pressing his shin against the opponent’s trachea. This was only the second successful gogoplata attempt in Pride history.
Upset of the Year: Matt Serra over Georges St. Pierre
Matt Serra proved that everyone has a “puncher’s chance” in MMA. At fi ght time, Serra was at least an 8 to 1 underdog at virtually every sports book in the world. Nobody gave the Ultimate Fighter Season 4 champion even the smallest chance of beating the ultra-skilled St. Pierre. Then it happened. About three minutes into round one, Serra caught St. Pierre with a solid left that staggered the champion. Refusing to let his opponent recover, Serra shot right in and began raining down punch after punch. He eventually got the champ on his back and landed some massive elbows and a vicious onslaught of punches. At 3:25 of the very fi rst round, Matt Serra shocked the MMA world and became the new welterweight champion.
Knockout of the Year: Gabriel Gonzaga’s head kick vs. Mirko Filipovic
We tried to fi nd another knockout that was even close to competing with Gabriel Gonzaga’s jaw dropping head kick to Mirko Filipovic and came up empty. With only 11 seconds left in the fi rst round, Gonzaga unleashed a devastating head kick that instantly fl oored Filipovic, leaving his body his body a limp pile of Croatian goo. Mere words cannot explain the awesomeness of this knockout. If you didn’t see it….fi nd it. You will thank us later.
Fighter of the Year: Anderson “The Spider” Silva
2007 was a year phenomenal performances in MMA. Randy Couture’s battles with Tim Sylvia and Gabriel Gonzaga cemented his status as an all time great Quinton Jackson’s knockout of Chuck Liddell will top highlight reels for years, while Urijah Faber’s dominance at featherweight has him near the top of many pound for pound lists. Despite the achievements of these remarkable fi ghters, nobody dominated in 2007 like Anderson Silva. The fi ghter that hasn’t seen any of his fi ghts go to decision since 2004, walked through all three of his fi ghts in 2007; two of those fi ghts versus consensus top 10 opponents. His unparalleled skill and fl are in his battles is equaled only by his humbleness outside the cage. With great honor and respect, we congratulate Anderson Silva, FIGHT! Magazine Fighter of the Year.
In February, Silva was set to defend his title against veteran Travis Lutter. Lutter, however, didn’t make weight. The fi ght was still on, but no longer a title fi ght. As the fi ght started, Lutter attempted a couple of takedowns to no avail. Lutter eventually got Silva to the ground and landed some big punches that looked to have slightly stung the champ. After some scrambling, both men ended up back on their feet as the round concluded. Round two started much of the same with Lutter taking Silva to the ground. This time, however, the challenger got caught in a triangle. Lutter stayed in the choke for quite some time before Silva fi nally fi nished him with vicious elbows to the top of his head at 2:11 of the second round.
Five months later, Silva entered the cage to defend his belt against seven-time King of Pancrase, Nate Marquardt. The heavily decorated Marquardt entered the fi ght with many experts picking him to capture the belt from the Brazillian. After a stalemate on the ground, referee John McCarthy decided to stand the two middleweights back up with 90 seconds remaining in the opening round. In the closing seconds, Marquardt ate a vicious left that stunned him badly. Silva then landed a barrage of undefended strikes that forced an end to the fi ght at the 4:50 mark.
In late October, The Spider found himself across the Octagon from Rich Franklin, the very man he took the title from one year earlier. Franklin was able to keep Silva at bay early on in the fi ght, but his success was short lived. Something “clicked” and Silva began to pummel Franklin at will. He landed several hard knees and dropped his dazed opponent as time expired in the opening round. Franklin looked lost and round two was much of the same. Silva nailed Franklin with a right hook, quickly sunk in his patented clinch and fi nally fi nished the fi ght for good with an onslaught of knees to complete a perfect 2007.
FIGHT! of the Year: Clay Guida vs Roger Huerta
The Pearl at the Palms was rocking. The atmosphere was electric. The fans had already been treated to a gritty, action packed, see saw battle between Jon “War Machine” Koppenhaver and Jared “J-Roc” Rollins. Yet every fan knew in their heart of hearts that something special awaited them in the main event of the Ultimate Fighter 6 Finale.
Long before Roger Huerta and Clay Guida entered the cage at the TUF 6 Finale, the fi ght was being billed as a potential fi ght of the year candidate. Having already fought four times in 2007, Roger Huerta was riding a ten fi ght win streak that included wins over Matt Wiman, Alberto Crane and an all out brawl with Leonard Garcia. Clay Guida had created a buzz in the industry for being one of the most exciting fi ghters in the sport. “The Carpenter” had rebounded with a win over Marcus Aurelio in his last bout after two tough decision losses to Din Thomas and Tyson Griffi n (another fi ght of the year candidate). This highly anticipated match-up had fi reworks written all over it.
From the opening bell, the two warriors went at it tooth and nail. Guida quickly established that he could take Huerta to the mat at will. Throughout the fi rst stanza both men traded big blows, with Guida’s punches hitting their target more often and causing more damage. At one point during the round, Guida landed a big knee while Huerta had one of his knees on the ground. He was warned by referee John McCarthy and the fi ght resumed. The end of the fi rst round saw each fi ghter trading the dominant position on the ground; delivering damage and living up to the high octane fi ght the fans expected to witness.
Round two opened with some very sharp exchanges from both men. Again, Guida was clearly landing more effective strikes. For the next minute and a half the fi ght toggled between the ground and stand-up game several times. During the exchange Guida momentarily had Huerta’s back, but the agile fi ghter quickly scrambled to safety. With the fi ght back on its feet, Guida saw his best chance of ending the win streak of “El Matador”. Guida landed a hellacious fl urry of punches that dropped Huerta to the mat. It looked as if the fi ght was coming to an end, but miraculously, Huerta recovered and afforded himself another round.
Losing both rounds on all judge’s scorecards, it was clear that Huerta needed a knockout or submission to keep his perfect record in the UFC. Rather than dancing or running away with the fi ght seemingly in hand, Guida, in his typical “balls to the wall” style, came out swinging. This time, however, Huerta got the better of the exchange. Guida was visibly dazed after a bombardment of punches and knees and fi nally went down. Huerta moved in for the kill and sunk in a rear naked choke that ended the fi ght just 51 seconds into the fi nal frame.
The fi ght was truly a brilliant display of conditioning, strength, determination and heart that could make even the most casual watcher a fan for life. “I kept coming back, and kept fi ghting,” Huerta said. “And that’s what it’s all about man.”