“WTF?” Moment of the Year: PROFESSIONAL WRASSLIN’ HAMMAR BETRAYAL HYPES TITO ORTIZ VS. RAMPAGE JACKSON (8/15/13)
This may come as a shock to you, but I’m a pretty big MMA fan. Equally shocking, I really love wrasslin’, too. I’m probably the exact person that Viacom had in mind when they sent Tito Ortiz and Rampage Jackson to TNA Impact! Wrestling to hype up their ill-fated PPV bout. Yet even I couldn’t help but scratch my head over literally everything about this fiasco.
TNA Impact! actually cut talented, promising wrestlers in order to make room for Rampage and Tito — two people who couldn’t cut a promo, take a bump, or do anything else I want to watch when I sit down to watch professional wrestling. And believe it or not, the same MMA fans who didn’t want to watch Chuck Liddell pretend to be a ballerina had no interest in watching Rampage and Tito pretend to be professional wrestlers. Exactly as obvious, the professional wrestling fans who were watching a professional wrestling program to see actual professional wrestling didn’t appreciate their wrestling time being taken away by two aging MMA fighters.
As if this angle didn’t already get people rolling their eyes at the Bellator PPV, TNA decided that Tito Ortiz needed to make a completely unnecessary heel turn, and pretend to slug Rampage in the back of the head with a hammer. And the cream de la crap, there was zero follow-up on this. See, Rampage and Tito weren’t allowed to participate in any TNA shenanigans before their fight — for rather obvious reasons — despite the last show before the PPV being extremely important and incredibly influential on buyrates.
Essentially, “buy this real fight because there is a lot of fake drama” was Viacom’s sales pitch, which I guess explains why so few people were going to if Tito didn’t suffer an injury beforehand. And also why TNA Impact! Wrestling is on its death bed. And probably also why Bellator has made absolutely no attempt to re-book Rampage vs. Tito since then. - Seth Falvo
Greatest Hype-Deflation: Rory MacDonald, “Future of the Welterweight Division”
Two of the most prominent predictions made at the start of 2013 were that Georges St. Pierre would retire from MMA and that Rory MacDonald would take his place at the throne, thereby continuing Canada’s death grip on the welterweight division for the foreseeable future. But the Rory MacDonald we were treated to in 2013 was anything but the world-beater he was made out to be. You could go as far as to say that there was an idea of a Rory MacDonald, some kind of abstraction, but there was no real Rory MacDonald: only an entity, something illusory. And though he could (barely) hide his cold gaze, and you could shake his hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you could even sense that your lifestyles are probably comparable…he was simply not there.
Extended metaphor/reference aside, we were half-right in our predictions, sort of, but we couldn’t have been any more wrong about Rory MacDonald, who in one year went from future champion to “one-dimensional” contender thanks to his yawn-inducing victory over Jake Ellenberger (GRUDGE MATCHES FTW!) at UFC on FOX 8 and a successive split decision loss to reinvigorated brawler Robbie Lawler at UFC 167. Gone were the explosive takedowns and brutal ground-and-pound that saw him TKO Che Mills and Mike Pyle in years past, gone were the crisp combinations and high-level slams that notched him wins over BJ Penn and Nate Diaz. All that remained were jabs. Jabs and a ton of blank stares.
Was it a case of too much too fast for the 24 year old, or did Rory simply buy into his own hype? We can’t say for sure, and it’s not like Rory doesn’t have time to round out his game, but it would be hard to say that anyone fell as hard, as fast as Rory Mac in 2013. It’s a harsh assessment for a guy who only went 1-1 on the year with a loss to one of the division’s current top dogs, but such is life in the world’s most prestigious MMA promotion. - Jared Jones
Dishonorable mentions: Alistair Overeem, Francis Carmont (somehow), Michael McDonald
The “Really? You’re Just Gonna Keep Doing That Shit That Gets You in All That Trouble?” Award (a.k.a. “The Koppenhaver”): Jason Miller
Dear Lord! Would somebody please get a hold of Jason Miller already? In 2012, he took home the coveted hardware for “Most Bizarre MMA News Story of the Year” and things haven’t gotten much better. Though he has not fought since losing to LaunchPad McQuack back at UFC 146, Miller has remained in the MMA media spotlight (kinda) for all the wrong reasons. Over a two week span, Miller was arrested twice on separate instances involving domestic violence. Though the exact details of the altercations are hazy at best, it is clear that Mayhem has a few issues to deal with. At least he apologized (I think). In a previous post, CagePotato’s own Elias Cepeda wrote:
“We’re not really sure what to say at this point, ‘Taters. For years, it appeared as if Miller was simply having a good time, fighting hard and playing up the more silly parts of his personality. But now it’s evident that he is having problems keeping himself out of bad situations, almost all of them involving alleged violence against others.”
If two arrests in two weeks aren’t bad enough, Miller was then caught on camera in late October instigating a near-brawl with TUF runner-up Uriah Hall at a BAMMA USA event. Though no arrests were made, Miller hurled a truckload of racial slurs in Hall’s direction during the entire altercation, cementing himself as this year’s runaway Koppenhaver Award recipient. Jason “Mayhem” Miller: once the competitive and charismatic jester of MMA has become a sad strange little man and he has my pity. - Nathan Smith
Comeback Fight of the Year: Travis Browne KO’s Alistair Overeem @ UFC Fight Night 26 (8/17/13)
2013 did not start off well for Alistair Overeem. One fight away from a title shot, Overeem was fully in command heading into the third round of his fight with Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva at UFC 156 in February. Yes, Overeem is a notorious frontrunner who wilts under pressure, and has a suspect chin and stamina. Nevertheless, he didn’t seem to be in any danger. But 25 seconds into the third round, as he lay slumped against the fence following a barrage of punches from the gargantuan Brazilian, Overeem’s title aspirations and his legitimacy as a title contender were dashed. If Overeem can take any solace from that loss, it’s that at least it wasn’t the craziest comeback of the year.
Unfortunately for him, his next fight was. His opponent, Travis Browne, had a decent striking background, but certainly not one on par with the hulking Dutchman. Nor did he possess the size or the threat of the ground game that Silva did. From the opening bell, this looked like a mismatch. Browne was bullied in the clinch by Overeem who landed vicious knee after knee to the body. Browne crumpled in half, still on his feet but in obvious agony. Miraculously, he weathered the storm and managed to separate himself. Overeem, tired from his onslaught, plodded forward as Browne began to pester him with front kicks. Then, expecting another kick to the body, Browne went high and connected with a front kick to Overeem’s chin. Overeem staggered and then collapsed, and Browne followed with hammerfists until the fight was waved off. In weathering an extraordinarily brutal storm against arguably the most powerful striker in the heavyweight division before knocking him out in the same round, Browne grasped victory from the jaws of defeat, and proved the value of heart in unforgettable fashion. - George Shunick
Honorable mentions: Antonio Silva vs. Alistair Overeem, Ben Rothwell vs. Brandon Vera