2013: The year that testosterone became Public Enemy #1 and legends went out the door — either voluntarily or on stretchers. Like all years in this still-young, still-dangerous sport, 2013 reminded us why MMA continues to hold our attention, with its thrilling battles, LOL-worthy embarrassments, and train-wrecks of the human and promotional varieties. And so, the CagePotato staff bids farewell to 2013 with another round of dubious “awards,” recapping the highs and lows of the last 12 months. For better or worse, this is the crap that stood out. Use the page links below to navigate through our somewhat-chronological list of 30 award-categories, and Happy New Year to all of you lovely people!
Page 4: “WTF?” Moment of the Year, Greatest Hype-Deflation, The “Really? You’re Just Gonna Keep Doing That Shit That Gets You in All That Trouble?” Award (a.k.a. “The Koppenhaver”), Comeback Fight of the Year
Submission of the Year: Olivier Fontaine’s Hurricane Armbar (2/9/13)
Without any flashy submission finishes in any of the major MMA organizations, CagePotato had to travel to France to find this year’s best sub.
In February, Olivier Fontaine entered a Lyon Fighting Challenge ring as an unknown. With zero submission victories on his unimpressive 3-2 record, nobody could have expected the French welterweight to pull off one of the most spectacular subs we’ve ever seen.
The first two minutes of his bout against Sofian Benchohra suggested that it would play out like your average standup battle. Fontaine and Benchohra circled each other, exchanging strikes and feeling one another out. When a lazy kick was caught by Benchohra, Fontaine stumbled around on one foot trying to keep his balance. What happened next was unprecedented.
With one foot suspended, Fontaine propelled his entire body around the head of his opponent before swinging back towards the mat and locking up his opponent’s arm, subsequently forcing the tap. It was an unbelievable submission, something never before seen in the sport and unlikely to ever be repeated. It looked more like something Tony Jaa or Jet Li might choreograph for one of their action flicks than something that could happen in a real life fight.
Even if Fontaine never amounts to anything in MMA (evidence suggests this is the most likely scenario), he can take pride in the fact that he won a Potato Award for Submission of the Year. Hooray? - Shawn Smith
Honorable mention: Rose Namajunas hitting a flying armbar of her own in just 12 seconds against Kathina Catron at Invicta 5 in April — while decked out in CagePotato logos.
Greatest MMA Play-by-Play Call of the Year (And Possibly of the Decade): Michael Schiavello Has a Few Things to Say About His Anus (3/22/13)
In case you were confused the first time you saw this, let’s be perfectly clear: This is not unintentional comedy. Michael Schiavello is a master of the combat sports one-liner, and he knew exactly what he was doing here. A fighter whose last name sounds like “my anus” is a fastball down the middle for The Voice, and he is going to knock that fucker out of the park every time. Even the usually-stoic Pat Miletich can’t help breaking into giggles as he delivers the line “Mainus is bleeding all over Chavez’s chest.” In the end, Mainus was screwed by the judges, losing a split decision. See? Hilarious! - Ben Goldstein
The Krazy Horse Bennett Arrest of the Year Award / Most Bizarre MMA News Story of the Year: Charles Rowan Fakes Own Death, Robs Gun Store With a Hammer
(Mugshots via Yahoo!)
Despite Jason “Mayhem” Miller‘s best efforts, neither of these awards was even close. In what reads like something out of a Hollywood screenplay,
middling terrible heavyweight fighter Charlie Rowan died in a car crash then proceeded to posthumously rob a gun store with a hammer (successfully!) in order to pay off an $80,000 debt to a local drug dealer. Rowan, who had faked his death — duh — and even listened to his own “wake” while hiding upstairs in an attic, was apprehended shortly thereafter along with his girlfriend Rosalinda Martinez. Rowan was sentenced to 17 to 40 years in prison, but not before pissing off the entire local MMA community in Traverse City, Michigan, which had gone out of its way to hold fundraisers for his parents and girlfriend. (And presumably, the drug dealer is still out $80,000. Poor guy.) To Rowan’s credit, he was able to score a feature article in the New York Times and — more importantly — two Potato awards to his name. - George Shunick
Honorable mentions: Josh Rosenthal catches three years in prison for running a $6,000,000 pot ring, Mayhem Miller’s endless string of arrests, Donald Cerrone’s boat rage incident, Reza Madadi’s handbag caper
Knockout of the Year: Vitor Belfort vs. Luke Rockhold at UFC on FX 8 (5/18/13)
When it comes down to choosing Knockout of the Year in 2013 in MMA, there are really only two options to consider: Chris Weidman’s stunning KO of Anderson Silva in the main event of UFC 162, and Vitor Belfort’s spinning heel kick KO of Luke Rockhold at UFC on FX 8. And choosing one or the other just depends on if you favor significance or flash.
If you choose Weidman’s KO of Silva, you’re taking the significance of the moment into account more than the uniqueness of the knockout. After all, Silva was the long-reigning champion of the UFC middleweight division and had gone nearly 40 fights in his career without being knocked out, so for Weidman to enter the Octagon that night and exit with the title based off a KO that absolutely no one in the MMA world saw coming, it was nothing short of amazing.
Then again, it was just a simple left hook landed on a guy who had his hands by his waist. Removed from its context, there wasn’t really anything flashy or explosive about it. And that’s why I’m going to choose Belfort over Rockhold — perhaps controversially — for my pick for Knockout of the Year in 2013.
We all knew Belfort had vicious KO power in his hands, but it wasn’t until 2013 that we all realized he had KO power in his legs, too. Despite being one of the premier knockout artists in the history of the sport, Belfort had never scored a head kick knockout despite competing in 31 career pro fights before this year. In fact, out of Belfort’s 14 knockout wins prior to 2013, all 14 of them came via his fists.
So when he took on Michael Bisping at UFC on FX 7 and finished the Count with a flush high kick right to Bisping’s skull, we figured that might be the only time Belfort would land a highlight-reel head kick KO for the rest of his career; he’s 36 years old, after all. But it certainly wasn’t, because in his next fight against Rockhold, he not only landed a head kick KO, but he managed to top his stoppage of Bisping with one of the most stunning finishes ever seen in the sport of mixed martial arts.
Shockingly, Belfort was actually the underdog in his fight against Rockhold, who was making his Octagon debut at UFC on FX 8 as the last-ever Strikeforce middleweight champion. Many sharp observers of the sport believed that Rockhold — with his natural gifts of size, strength, length, and athleticism, and a learned skillset of great wrestling, BJJ and striking — would come into Brazil and wear out Belfort over the course of five rounds and get the W. Factoring in his superior gas tank, as well as the fact he’s much younger than Belfort, it was hard to disagree with that line of thinking.
Although Belfort had tried the spinning heel kick early in the fight with Rockhold, he missed badly. It seemed unlikely that he’d throw it again, and virtually impossible that he would actually land it flush on Rockhold’s face. But he did just that, and just 2:32 into the first round of a five-round fight, Rockhold was knocked to the ground with one of the most vicious, unpredictable strikes ever seen in a mixed martial arts cage, and then quickly finished off with some brutal ground and pound.
With the win, Belfort became the first fighter in UFC history to win two fights in a row via head kick KO. He also became the poster boy for Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT), and while I do think it’s insane that a past steroid user like Belfort is allowed to use TRT, the fact of the matter is he is not breaking any of the sport’s existing rules and he shouldn’t be penalized for a loophole created by athletic commissions. That’s why I have no problem giving him the Knockout of the Year Potato Award, even though I know many others believe the TRT taints his year.
Now 36 years old, Belfort looks like he’s in his fighting prime, and will challenge Chris Weidman for the UFC middleweight title sometime in 2014. Can he possibly top what he did to Rockhold in his fight against the All-American? After his latest head kick KO — yes, another one — of iron-chinned Dan Henderson in November, I wouldn’t put anything past the Phenom at this point. – Adam Martin