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CagePotato.com Presents: The 2013 Potato Awards

Greatest Fight Canceled Due to Injury: Jose Aldo vs. Anthony Pettis (6/14/13)

The scheduled featherweight title match between Jose Aldo and Anthony Pettis is without a doubt the greatest fight of 2013 that was scrapped because one of the participants came up lame. True, the cancellation of Carlos Condit vs. Matt Brown made us mope around CP headquarters for a week, but a nixed championship bout should take precedence over a fun slugfest with a Rocky-esque underdog. As much as I would love to watch Condit and Brown transform the Octagon into something resembling a mosh pit at a Rage Against the Machine concert for a round or two, Aldo vs. Pettis is the appropriate choice for this year’s Potato Award. Let’s put it this way: Which fight would headline a PPV? The only silver lining to this lost classic is that it could potentially still happen in the future — as a champion vs. champion superfight. - Nathan Smith

Greatest Unsanctioned Fight of the Year: The Maiquel Falcao Gas Station Incident

The video above is basically a worst-case scenario of things that can go wrong when you decide to rub up against a stranger at a gas station, then slap her with your wallet when she doesn’t respond positively to your sexual advances. It’s a story about a jackass getting his comeuppance, via 2×4 to the dome, and the consequences that followed. Former UFC one-timer Maiquel Falcao was fired by Bellator after the brawl made news in Brazil this summer, and his friend Kaue Mena suffered life-threatening injuries for making the mistake of having Falcao’s back. There’s a lesson here, folks. Don’t hang out with assholes, and never slap a stranger in public unless you’re COMPLETELY SURE that she doesn’t have a carload of male friends waiting outside. - Ben Goldstein

Honorable mentions: Kangaroo fight ends in rear-naked choke, emo fight ends in flying inverted back-breaker choke (or something), real-life Black Knight throws down

Worst Event of the Year: UFC 161 (6/15/13)

It was the second weekend of June, and I had been invited to a cottage party with some friends for the weekend. Normally I’d jump at the offer to enjoy some beers and good times with friends in the great Ontario north, but there was one problem: UFC 161 was going on that weekend. And it featured a solid main event on paper between former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson, and an intriguing co-main event between Roy Nelson and up-and-comer Stipe Miocic. Sure, it wasn’t as good as the original card that featured Renan Barao vs. Eddie Wineland and Shogun Rua vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, but it was still pretty decent on paper, and it was taking place in my native Canada. So I had a difficult choice to make.

After thinking about it for a little while, I made up my mind and decided to stay at home and watch the pay-per-view. Did I want to go to the cottage? Of course I did. But I rationalized the decision to pass pretty easily, because my goal is to be the most knowledgeable and dedicated mixed martial arts journalist in the world, and I absolutely hate missing fights. So I bit the bullet, stayed in and ordered the $60 PPV, and plopped down on the couch, ready to watch some great fights and hoping to be able to justify to my buddies (and myself) that I made the right decision to stay home that weekend.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, because UFC 161 turned out to be an awful PPV event, and I’ll tell you right now, I regret not going up north that weekend, and I regret spending my hard-earned cash on that PPV. I know I didn’t enjoy watching it, and I honestly don’t know anyone who did.

Before I get to the PPV card, I should talk about the prelims. Overall they were okay, but mostly because James Krause and Sam Stout had an epic fight that ended in the dying seconds of the third round with a shocking submission, the only finish on the six-fight preliminary card. Sadly, though, my memories of that great fight were drowned out by the dullness of the three-round stinker between Jake Shields and Tyron Woodley to end the prelims, a fight that featured perhaps the most wall-and-stall inactivity in UFC history. A terrible fight, and another terrible memory from UFC 161.

Now let’s get to the fights that fans actually had to pay for.

The first fight of the main card was a heavyweight bout between Pat Barry and Shawn Jordan. I was expecting to see an exciting slugfest from these two heavyweights, but instead Jordan clipped Barry’s chin and finished him just 59 seconds in the first round. He then followed up the KO with a brilliant backflip celebration.

Yeah, it was a fun knockout, but the fight lasted less than a minute and I feel like the finish said more about Barry’s declining chin than anything else. And since Barry did absolutely nothing before he got his lights put out, it’s really hard to say this was a great fight. A good performance by Jordan for sure and a solid knockout, but the fact this was the only knockout on the whole card speaks volumes to the muted excitement level the event provided on a whole. In fact, it’s arguable to say the backflip was more exciting than the finish itself, which is never a good thing to say.

Then it was time for Canada’s own Alexis Davis to make her UFC debut against Brit Rosi Sexton. There was a ton of buzz for Davis before the fight, with many observers of the sport pegging her as a future title challenger to UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. But although she entered the fight as a massive favorite, Davis severely disappointed and was only able to eek out a close decision in a fight fight that was difficult to watch, and poorly represented the talent level in women’s MMA.

Next up on the main card was a light heavyweight bout between Canadian Ryan Jimmo and Igor Pokrajac, a fight that was originally scheduled for the prelims but which was moved up to the main card after injuries shifted things around. There were a lot of people looking forward to this fight, because Jimmo had actually been quite exciting in his two UFC fights and Pokrajac always brings it, but anyone who had seen Jimmo in the MFC knew he could make fights boring, and boy oh boy, was this fight boring.

I haven’t even thought about this fight since it happened. I just wanted to get it out of my mind because it was so bad. Sooo bad. All that happened in the fight was Jimmo would push Pokrajac up against the fence, then take him down to the floor, where Pokrajac couldn’t get up off his butt. And even when Jimmo had Pokrajac on roller skates, he elected to play it safe and hold Pokrajac on the mat until the final bell. That’s it — that was the fight. Lay and pray for a full three rounds.

That fight was terrible to watch, and Jimmo and Pokrajac deserved the boos the Winnipeg crowd showered them with. But even worse than the fight itself to me was Jimmo taking the mic in his post-fight speech and admitting to playing things safe because he was coming off a loss to James Te Huna and wanted to seal his spot on the UFC roster. Well, he may have accomplished his goal, but he definitely pissed off UFC matchmaker Joe Silva, who decided to pair Jimmo up with bonecrusher Jimi Manuwa in his next matchup a few months later.

After the Jimmo/Pokrajac snorefest, it was time for the co-main event between Roy Nelson and Stipe Miocic. Most were expecting Nelson to walk in and knock Miocic out with a big overhand right, but instead fans were treated to a passing of the guard as Miocic used angles to perfection and picked Nelson apart with his strikes, earning a decision win.

This was a breakthrough performance by Miocic, and it’s safe to call this fight a highlight of the event. But what bothered me was Nelson’s conditioning. Yes, I know Nelson has a gut and is rarely in great shape, but he usually has decent cardio for a big boy. In the fight with Miocic, however, he did not, and that’s because he was recruited by the UFC to take the fight on only three weeks’ notice after injuries created some holes in the lineup. The allure of Nelson on the card was one of the reasons people bought this PPV, but a Nelson who only trained for three weeks isn’t the same Nelson that knocked out Cheick Kongo, Stefan Struve, and Dave Herman with one punch each.

Last but not least on the main card was the main event between Henderson and Evans. Although the UFC had changed non-title main events to five rounds as of November 2011, Hendo vs. Evans was only three because they had been shifted to the headlining act after injuries to Wineland and Barao bumped the interim bantamweight title fight out of the main event.

I can’t say the fight between Evans and Henderson was terrible, but it wasn’t good either. The only thing I remember from it was Hendo dropping Evans in the first with a jab, and Evans barely squeaking out a decision. Really, that’s it. Was the fight as bad as Evans vs. Little Nog at UFC 156 or Hendo vs. Machida at UFC 157? No, but it definitely didn’t play out as a UFC-caliber main event, especially one on PPV.

In the end, it was an awful card with little replay value, and a huge waste of that Saturday night. I usually try to stay away from negativity in my MMA coverage, but paying $60 for UFC 161 and giving up a prime pre-summer weekend to do so pisses me off to this day, and I still feel like the UFC owes Winnipeg for this one, just like they said they owed Calgary for the debacle that was UFC 149. And you saw how they repaid the fans for that one. Oh, wait…no you didn’t. Poor Western Canada, and poor fans that bought UFC 161. Let us all mourn together. – Adam Martin

Best Female Newcomer: Aryane Steinkopf

When selecting 2013′s best new ring girl, I’m not going to bestow this award based on my own biased opinions. That would be selfish and wrong. Instead, we’ll rely on the cold hard numbers: Since our Hot Potato gallery of Brazilian ring girl Aryane Steinkopf was published in January, it has taken in over two million pageviews, making it our most popular post of the year by a wide margin. (It didn’t hurt that the gallery had a “page 2.” You’re welcome, Doug.) Aryane’s absurd bootyliciousness also earned her a spot in yesterday’s list of the most incredible photos we posted on Facebook this year. So Aryane, from all of us at CagePotato, we have just one thing to say: Hnnnnnnng. - Ben Goldstein

Honorable mentions: Jhenny Andrade, Alyssa Arce, Jessica Storie, Sierra Rene, Andrea Calle

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