By the CagePotato Staff
Look, you already know how we feel about MMA awards ceremonies: They’re meaningless exercises tainted by personal bias and stupidity, in equal measures. The only thing that makes the Potato Awards different is that we’re completely honest about the fact that our awards are biased and stupid. But it’s the end of the year, and we have to acknowledge that somehow, right?
Putting together this year’s Potato Awards list was a harrowing experience. Honestly, 2014 was an awful year for mixed martial arts. It was the year that the UFC’s pay-per-view business tanked due to injured stars and general disinterest among fans — what else is new, amirite? — while competing promotions stooped to terrifying depths in order to get your attention. (Not that the UFC didn’t do some of that, too.) 2014 answered the question “Can the UFC survive an entire year without Anderson Silva and GSP?”, and that answer was “yes, but just barely.” It was also a year in which domestic violence incidents involving MMA fighters became a tragic recurring theme (see: War Machine, Thiago Silva, Josh Grispi, Anthony Johnson, Michael Johnson).
But years from now, we may look back at 2014 as an important turning point, thanks to some major developments that took place near the end of the year. Notably, the UFC’s Reebok uniform deal is poised to transform the sponsorship landscape, while the Le/Quarry/Fitch class-action lawsuit and the related suits that came out in its wake could drag out some long-hidden truths about the UFC’s finances. We don’t yet know if these developments will turn out to be positive or negative overall, but MMA could be a lot more interesting in 2015.
As we enter a new year, let’s look back at the past 12 months that got us here — the highs, the lows, and the moments that were so “WTF?!” that they defy all judgment. Use the page links below to peruse our mostly-chronological list of 38 award categories, and thanks so much for sticking with CagePotato for another year.
Page 4: Greatest Unsanctioned Fight of the Year, Catchphrase of the Year, The Krazy Horse Bennett Arrest of the Year Award, Greatest Fight Canceled Due to Injury, Best Reference to Medieval Europe in MMA
Page 7: Most Bizarre News Story of the Year, The “Really? You’re Just Gonna Keep Doing That Shit That Gets You in All That Trouble?” Award a.k.a. “The Koppenhaver”, Best Event of the Year, The Minowaman Freak Show Hall of Fame Award
Comeback Fight of the Year: Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua 2 at UFC Fight Night 38 (3/23/14)
Three words: HENDO. VERSUS. CORMIER. (I jest, but Hendo was involved.)
Despite the fact that their first encounter resulted in one of the greatest fights in UFC, nay, MMA history, there weren’t many of us who were chomping at the bit for a Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua rematch when it was announced for Fight Night 38. Like Dumb and Dumber To, the bar had simply been set too high by the original for a sequel to ever live up to it, so fans approached the matchup with an overwhelming “meh.”
And through the first two rounds of the fight, our apathy seemed rightfully placed. Henderson looked every bit the 44 year-old fading legend that he was, getting flash KO’d by the 33 year-old Rua (who himself is approximately 85 in fight years) on no less than three separate occasions. We were watching a man’s career come to an end in real time, or so we thought, and the best thing that Henderson could do would be to just stay the f*ck down already and go out with some dignity.
But there’s a reason Dan Henderson is, well, Dan Henderson, and the rest of us are Lewis Skolnick in comparison. It’s called the H-Bomb — a fabled right hand that was bestowed upon Hendo by Thor himself according to the ancient texts — and it essentially acts as a failsafe should Henderson ever find his back against a wall. It is the great equalizer, and roughly one and a half minutes into the third round, Henderson used it to equalize Shogun’s nose into a million pieces.
It was an absolutely insane comeback for Henderson, a lightning strike TKO that snapped an unprecedented three-fight skid and earned him unanimous praise from fans, fighters, and critics alike.
“Dan Henderson has just surpassed John Wayne, Chuck Norris, and Tom Selleck as the most American man in history.” – Tim Kennedy
“What a fight! Tune into UFC on FOX for my objective analysis!” – Ariel Helwani
“A punch so powerful that it made my jaw hurt. My jaw.” – Roger Ebert from beyond the grave
In short, never count Dan Henderson out. Unless he’s fighting Daniel Cormier.
The Steve Nelmark Memorial “Is He Dead?” Award: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Roy Nelson at UFC Fight Night 39 (4/11/14)
I would say that watching Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Roy Nelson was like spotting a car accident moments before it was about to happen, but that doesn’t quite do it justice. Because even if you happen to…er…happen upon the scenario I just mentioned, chances are that you only get a few second buffer before everything gets all-
Really, Nog vs. Nelson was more like watching a Paranormal Activity movie. You walked into it with a stomach-turning sense of trepidation, and knew from the moment that the opening credits rolled rolling that something terrible was going to happen to at least of the people on screen. From there, it was just an endurance test — an agonizing, dread-filled slog toward death where everything is silent and time seems to stand still.
Roy Nelson is called “Big Country” for a multitude of reasons, the least of which being that he has never been considered the fastest man at 265 lbs. But compared to Nogueira — who appeared to have dipped his gloves and legs in concrete before stepping into the Octagon that night — Nelson was nothing short of Usain Bolt with a beer gut. For three and a half excruciating minutes, we were forced to watch a PRIDE legend and former interim champion serve as target practice to an IFL champion and TUF winner, until it inevitably happened.
Us Nogueira fans have witnessed some heartbreaking moments in recent years — the Velasquez fight, the Mir fights, the Werdum fight — but nothing quite compares to the night our hero was mummified by Rubeus Hagrid. And while it’s true that Big Nog may not have actually died that night, I sure as hell did. On the inside.
Honorable mentions: The drooling tornado kick victim, Raquel Pennington drops Ashlee Evans-Smith’s broken corpse on the public square for all to see, Melvin Manhoef goes out on his sword (again) vs. Joe Schilling
MMA Screen-Caps of the Year: Gabi Garcia on TUF Brazil
Jesus Christ, take that thing back to Baltimore. By the time this surreal moment aired on TUF Brazil 3, BJJ champion Gabi Garcia had already failed a drug test for Clomiphene, confirming our suspicions that her 24-inch pythons were earned with a little hormonal help. A month later, Wanderlei Silva was surprised with a random drug test of his own and responded by fleeing out of the side door of his gym; as a result, he caught a lifetime ban from the NSAC. But here they are on the set of a reality show, having a conversation about drive, determination, and being a role model to women. And meanwhile, Gabi looks like she could crush an apple in either one of her hands. So yeah, it was a little ironic in retrospect.
“Just Bleed” MMA Superfan of the Year Award: Chuck Liddell Costume Guy (5/10/14)
It’s easy to be cynical about MMA. And it would be easy to be cynical about a guy who dresses up in a Chuck Liddell costume in an attempt to get on TV and meet Dana White and a bunch of fighters.
But look at that thing. It’s marvelous. And he times his Chuck Liddell victory pose perfectly with the crane camera that’s flying through.
Yeah, Greg Insco seems like a bit of a goober who sends the same photo to Jeff Probst and Mark Burnett over and over, but for one night he made MMA fun for a lot of people. You keep doing you, Greg.
Honorable mention: Drunk dancing doofus at UFC Halifax