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The Potato Awards: Best and Worst of 2009

You didn’t think we were going to let another calendar year run out without paying homage to this year’s big winners and mocking the year’s biggest idiots, did you?  Naw son, that’s not our style.  2009 was an eventful year with plenty of ups and downs, but after casting our ballots and tallying up the votes (there’s only two of us, so it really shouldn’t have taken as long as it did, but there was a lot of yelling and a little crying) we have some awards to give out.  The envelopes please…

Fighter of the Year: Fedor Emelianenko

The year was not without disappointments for the sweatered one.  He missed a chance to fight Josh Barnett and walked away from another chance to sign on with the UFC.  All the same, he reinforced his status as one of MMA’s most dominant fighters with knockouts of Andrei Arlovski and Brett Rogers.  Meanwhile, Anderson Silva had one snoozer and one great fight out of his weight class, while GSP beat a lightweight and won a decision to retain his title.  Sorry boys, Fedor’s 2009 was way more fun.

Beatdown of the Year: Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin

"The Spider" didn’t just beat FoGriff, he straight-up violated him.  It’s one thing to do that against a woefully outmatched challenger in your own weight class, but quite another to do it to a former champ from the division above yours.  Never have we seen such a clear demonstration of the vast chasm between good and great as we did on that night.  You can hardly blame Griffin for running out of the Octagon after that.  We’re sort of amazed that he waited until the fight was over to do it.

Best Entrance: Akihiro Gono

Maybe you had to be there to really appreciate it.  Maybe you just have to be easily amused by men in evening gowns.  Whatever the reason, we didn’t see anything as mind-blowing or gender-bending as Gono’s entrance in his last stand with the UFC.  He’d go on to lose a decision to Jon Fitch that night, which would lead to him getting cut, but we’ll never forget what he and his cornerman did that night in Las Vegas.

Best Event: UFC 100

This is an easy one.  The UFC stacked the deck for this show and it paid off big time.  Mainstream media took notice, casual and hardcore fans got more than their money’s worth, and we all got to see Michael Bisping knocked senseless before Brock Lesnar threatened his wife with sexual intercourse.  What else do you want out of an MMA event?

Worst Event: Affliction “Trilogy”

Okay, so maybe this event should be ineligible because it didn’t actually, you know, happen.  But that would mean that some other event that did deliver on its promise to fighters and fans gets stuck with the label, while Affliction gets to sweep its colossal failure under the rug.  That, we cannot abide. 

Biggest Upset: Scott Smith def. Cung Le
Usually when we refer to a fighter as having a puncher’s chance in a fight, what we really mean is that he’s in for a beating.  The good news for Smith is that he can take just such a beating and still actually manage to land the one big punch to turn the tide near the end.  He did it against Benji Radach and then again against Cung Le, so maybe we should stop being so surprised.  Of course, it would help if he could stop looking so surprised as well.

Comeback Fighter of the Year: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

After sitting out all of 2008 due to injury, Rua came back with a vengeance in ’09, beating Mark Coleman and then (briefly) retiring Chuck Liddell before getting screwed out of the UFC light heavyweight strap against Lyoto Machida.  In our eyes, he deserves to be 3-0 on the year with some hardware around his waist right now. 

Most Disappointing Fight: Anderson Silva vs. Thales Leites

After his fight with Patrick Cote turned out to be MMA’s version of a sleeping pill, we assumed Silva would come out determined to shut us all up against Leites.  Not so.  Leites flopped into the guard and Silva made a show of his frustration, but neither was worth the price of the pay-per-view or even the twenty-five minutes it took to watch.  Note to Mr. Silva: you may have thought it was a flawless performance, but that crowd was not saying ‘Boo-urns.’

Breakout Fighter of the Year: Marius Zaromskis

Admit it, before this year you had no idea who Zaromskis was.  Now you can’t wait to see who he’ll kick in the head next. 

Biggest Personal Failure: Nick Diaz Screws Strikeforce

(Yeah dude, we got it.)

The simple act of requiring that he submit to a pre-licensing drug test was enough to make Nick Diaz leave his employer and his opponent high and dry, all without so much as a half-hearted attempt at an apology from Diaz.  We know, he doesn’t give a fuck.  Sometimes though, we really wish he would.

Female Fighter of the Year: Cris "Cyborg" Santos

("Cyborg" gets a little too excited about learning that she may have won a million-dollar Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes prize.)

In the biggest fight in women’s MMA history she destroyed Gina Carano and showed the world that female fighters can be just as terrifying as men.  What remains to be seen is whether fans will still care when "Crush" isn’t involved.

Trainer of the Year: Greg Jackson

(He can fix the holes in your striking game, create a sound financial plan for your retirement, and interpret your most bizarre dreams, all in an afternoon.)

Whether you’re a world champ trying to find the will to fight through a torn groin muscle or just a young up-and-comer trying to make the leap to the big time, no trainer in MMA is more beloved by his fighters and revered by the opposition as Greg "Yoda" Jackson.  Play on, playa.

Biggest Head Case: Junie Browning

(Nothing says ‘perfectly chemically balanced’ like an unnerving stare.)

It’s funny how quickly the wild man act goes from being entertaining to being criminal as soon as you threaten to rape the families of hospital staff.  And by funny we mean sadly predictable. 

Worst Commentator: Tito Ortiz

Ortiz didn’t do much commentating in 2009 — and thank God for that — but his work at Affliction: Day of Reckoning may very well live on forever as the worst on-air performance in the history of sports broadcasting.  Even simple phrases proved too difficult for our bleached-blonde friend, making us wonder why Affliction didn’t just hire one of those dogs who can bark ‘I love you.’ 

Best Commentator: Pat Miletich

(‘You see Mauro, your problem is that you’re not using your diaphragm when you…hey man, my eyes are up here.’)

"The Croatian Sensation" was also used somewhat sparingly on the mic in 2009, much to our dismay.  When it comes to offering detailed, yet easily digestible analysis, Miletich proved surprisingly adept during Strikeforce’s Showtime broadcasts.  Why they’ve opted to use Frank Shamrock more often than Miletich remains a mystery to us.

Most Inflated Sense of Self-Importance: Kim Couture

According to her unintentionally hilarious website, "Sugar Free" is a "mother, a model, a business women and a in your face, tell it like it is fighter, who has been changing the world of MMA and bringing acceptance for female fighters around the world in a once male dominated sport."  At least the mother part checks out.

Worst Referee: Steve Mazzagatti

(Mazzagatti throws a temper tantrum when informed that he won’t be rewarded with a trip to Chuck E. Cheese after the fights.)

Dana White’s vituperative anti-Mazzagatti campaign almost made us feel for the guy, but you can’t argue with the evidence.  As nice a guy as he may be, Mazzagatti could fuck up a wet dream. 

Best Referee: Herb Dean

(‘I’m gettin’ too old for this shit.’)

Our man Herb doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and doesn’t try to thrust himself into the spotlight, and that’s exactly what we want out of a ref.  He also seems like he’d be a cool guy to blaze up and play "Gears of War 2" with, so that doesn’t hurt either.

Most Regrettable Video Rant: Dana White

Dana Whites Fight Night 18 video blog – Watch more Funny Videos

You know what’s not a good way to deal with a news story that you don’t like?  Calling attention to it by going on a misogynistic, homophobic, expletive-laden tirade against the reporter and her sources.  It has a weird way of making things worse.  Like, waaaay worse.

Best Performance on a Reality Show: Rashad Evans

He put his heart into his coaching, took the practical jokes in stride, and came off as a gregarious, charismatic guy.  Even the "Suga" haters out there have to respect that.

Worst Performance on a Reality Show: (tie) “Rampage” Jackson and Tiki Ghosn

You know all those things that Rashad Evans did that we just praised him for?  Yeah, well "Rampage" and Tiki did pretty much the exact opposite.

Best Endorsement: Georges St. Pierre and Gatorade
(Honarable Mention: Ben Rothwell and Extenze)

St. Pierre’s strategy of eschewing the Condom Depots of the MMA landscape in favor of the bigger fish paid off in spades. 

Best New Promotion: Bellator

If you like rooting for the little guy, you have to like Bellator.  They’ve already built a reputation for putting on exciting fights in an intriguing tournament format, plus they actually embrace viral video rather than declaring war on it.  That’s refreshing.

Best Performance in a Movie Directed by Hector Echavarria: Keith Jardine

Do we really need to explain this one?  Just look at him.  Jardine is like a balder, uglier, far more bad-ass version of Kenneth Branagh.

Best MMA Apparel: Six Deuce Glorious Sweater of Absolute Victory

Our love for Fedor’s Glorious Sweater of Absolute Victory is only eclipsed by our hatred of typical MMA gear covered with skulls and chains and all that other trite crap.  So yeah, of course we can’t get enough of this shirt.

Worst MMA Apparel: TapouT’s Kimbo Slice series

You’re telling us that someone looked at the design for this Kimbo Slice shirt and then said something along the lines of ‘Perfect, let’s give this son of a bitch the green light and get it in stores, pronto,’ and that person wasn’t on Jim Morrison-grade peyote?  No way.

Cagepotato Comments

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Dagnut- January 1, 2010 at 1:48 am
FEdor Really? I am very disappointed CP..I very rarely comment but is everyone forgetting Machida? from what I can see the only fighter with 3 realy good oppenents put away..he fought a number 1-2 contender in Thiago silva..put him away with style..destroyed the champ...and successfully defended it against a very impressive Shogun..ok fair enough it was a lucky decision..but he got it none the the great scheme of things I would be prouder to be The Dragon after 2009 than a chubby russian who knocked out 2 bums.
Undefeated, winning a belt defending a belt doesn't get much better than that.
CheckHisPee- December 31, 2009 at 6:35 pm
Well, another year of excellent mma is in the books and, as with this article, CP's done a bang-up job of covering it all (and slandering a goodly portion of it as well). Nothing negative to say and I really hope the injury bug steers clear of the champs this year. Perhaps 1 quasi-negative comment @MOOSEKNUCKEL; Dude, get your head out of your ass if you intend on speaking but don't want the air to smell like shit. The Grim was a top 10 HW at the time of the Fedor fight.
Lastly, yes Fedor has "looked beatable" at times but he's never BEEN defeated has he? One of the truest signs of a champion is the ability to overcome adversity on the way to victory. 'Nuff said.
Carl Sagan- December 31, 2009 at 3:32 am
Comeback of the year is Vitor Belfort in my opinion. FOTY was Thompson/Melendez for suuuuuure. Aldo was completely flawless and dominant, and earned fighter of the year. AA had Fedor in trouble with the game plan of straight punches before he fucked it up and got caught.
ItburnswhenIpee- December 30, 2009 at 11:35 pm
And if you're making a comment about GSP, it should be..."favour"... please spell Canadian when talking Canadian...
ItburnswhenIpee- December 30, 2009 at 11:06 pm
missed one... Douchetard of 2009 goes to... Curtis Sample! For being a douche... and a 'tard.

Random thought of the year... If I was getting beat up by Cyborg (the female one), I would just pretend Gina Carano was there... best threesome since Mom and Aunt Ethel!

War Rum!!!!!
Robocop Didnt Tap- December 30, 2009 at 9:57 pm
On second thought, the winner of every single category should've been Don Frye.
LJM- December 30, 2009 at 4:56 pm
How is Nick Diaz a "personal failure" for simply refusing to stop taking a politically incorrect drug? If he had said he'd stop, but then failed to stop, then he'd be some kind of failure. As it stands, he's just taken a principled position you happen to disagree with. That just doesn't equal "personal failure."
DangadaDang- December 30, 2009 at 3:56 pm
As both an Aldo and Fedor fan, which judging by this comment board is a near impossibility, Fedor's wins over Arlovski and Rogers were much more impressive than Aldo's. Fedor beat a former UFC champ and a man who everyone was hyping the shit out of to beat him. Aldo, though impressive, ran through 3 fighters clearly not in his league. Mickle is a can, Swanson got tooled by an aging Jens pulver and Rolando Perez, who was to busy fixing his hair to mount any offense. Was an 8 second win and a beatdown of Mike Brown impressive? Obviously. But if were taking a serious look at it, Fedor fought legitimate threats, whether or not you feel Andre has a "glass chin", in which case your a moron anyway, because he was knocked out by 3 heavy handed fighters in their prime.
Contraband- December 30, 2009 at 3:40 pm
Biggest Head Case: Junie Browning

I nominate war machine or whore machine or jo....... what ever his name is
Hulk Smash- December 30, 2009 at 2:53 pm
@ get off me - i stand corrected. i forgot to factor in tito ortiz as biggest douchebag. yes, he is in fact the biggest d-bag going. the cherry on that cake is, of course, every-fucking-thing he did, said, and of failed at for the year. which was all of the above. really, the only success he had was increasing his d-bag factor by a multiple of six.
portland mma- December 30, 2009 at 2:29 pm
Thompson vs Melendez was fight of the year...probably saying that because its most fresh in my mind but that was a war for 25 minutes.
Get Off Me- December 30, 2009 at 2:15 pm
Happy Holiday season to all.

Secondly, where is fight of the year? I would go with Couture v. Nog.....and all this talk of Pride vs UFC dream match-ups, we had it at UFC 102 and it delivered!

D-Bag of the year- Tito Ortiz by far, two quick reasons:1)He compared himself to GSP with how he fights and takes guys out 2)Interview with Rogan after losing to Griffin.

Worst Ref- Mazzagatti only because he is consitent.

Fighter of the Year- Aldo or Penn

@The Demon- It's amazing that you had to remind people of why Silva doesn't lay it on the line with his 185 title in play. Especially after what he did in his last two fights where he did not have to worry about that(Irvin, Griffin).
I was at UFC 97, the best line of the night came from people behind me "I drove three days for this?!" Silva v. Leites was by far the worst fight of the year, poor job by Joe Silva and Leites, not the spider though.

Crazyhooligans- December 30, 2009 at 1:55 pm
Biggest Personal Failure= Karo Parisyan atleast Nick still has a job.
THE DEMON- December 30, 2009 at 1:36 pm
To: Everyone on here
From: Me
Re: Anderson Silva vs Thales Leites and Patrick Cote

Anderson Silva didn't go to the ground in these fights for one reason. HE DIDN'T FUCKING HAVE TO!!! He was already the champion. Had nothing to prove. He already had the belt. Granted, they weren't the most exciting fights in MMA history, but they were effective in Anderson Silva's goals for those fights. KEEP THE BELT. If the other guys wanted the belt bad enough, they would have brought the fight to him, instead of staying away or flopping around on the mat. They were scared of him. Period.

The Demon
portland mma- December 30, 2009 at 1:10 pm
^ I agree, Arlovski was good enough to be the UFC champ but since he left all the UFC nut huggers are saying he's nothing, you can't have your cake and eat it too. You either gotta admit that what you were watching was complete bullshit...or AA is a legit fighter.

Harrysack M1 and K1 are two different things.

Also I love Fedor but you can't disagree with what Jose Aldo has done...not saying this is what happened but I fucking hate that the smaller guys get so much less credit, money, vagina, etc. Maybe it is because I'm a smaller guy but it honestly blows my mind sometimes that the Aldo's, Faber's and Torres' of the world are getting chump change while guys like Matt Lindland get 10 times what they get and he gets his ass beat.
SleeperNoob- December 30, 2009 at 1:04 pm

Come on.....don't kid yourself. Everybody had a PRIDE vs UFC dream card.

If you were around, that's most of what MMA forums were all about. Arloski lost and now you guys want to downplay him as a can. Get the hell out of here. He has the best boxing in all MMA HW.
MOOSEKNUCKEL- December 30, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Nobody, all the best heavies were in Pride...maybe you should say things out loud before you type them.
Hulk Smash- December 30, 2009 at 12:20 pm
biggest douchebag - first i have to give to barnett, since he did manage to cancel an entire promotion for being a dork.
but then i think of wes sims, mr comedy of tuf-10. mr in your face, practical joker, the voice of experience, i live under a bridge, blah blah blah horseshit. plus, he got submitted by a fucking nobody in about 32 seconds.
but sims will remain in second place, which will forever remain the best he'll ever achieve at anything.
wes sims' career is over, and he went about getting 'discovered' by hollywood talent scouts the wrong way. he'll be coming to a freeway exit ramp near you any day, offering to squeegee your widshield clean with a bucket of piss. good luck with that, bro!
DrZsbl- December 30, 2009 at 12:17 pm
I'm impressed with how true your choices are, just how can you not give Penn fighter of the year? Dude went from out of shape washout to needing to move up in weight class. Who really wants to see him fight at light weight again?
SleeperNoob- December 30, 2009 at 12:01 pm
Because if Anderson is THAT good, he can hang with BJJ Blackbelt on the ground.

EX: GSP vs BJ Penn AND Fedor vs Big Nog

They didn't wuss out like Anderson did and give us a bad "fight"
SleeperNoob- December 30, 2009 at 11:58 am

"Was Arlovski getting ko'd by Tim Sylvia pre tuf? Can't remember. But anyway, I don't think Fedor doing something that's also been done by Tim Sylvia and Brett Rogers is really that amazing. Anderson didn't do anything against Leites because every time he attacked Leites fell down. I don't hold that one against him, it's hard to fight a guy that won't fight you."

Yes, the Arlovski and Tim Slyvia hype machines left before TUF arrived. Go watch old youtube videos of Dana White saying "Fuck Fedor, Tim would kick his ass. He's the UFC Champion."

What do you mean Anderson didn't do anything because Leites hit the ground? This is MMA isn't it? Why didn't Anderson fight like a champion and bring the fight to the ground?

But, you know wasn't scared like that? Fedor. He didn't give a fuck about Big Nog having the BEST jujitsu in MMA, he whooped his ass standing up and in the guard. Now that's what we expected Anderson to do. Instead he just danced around like a clown.
meanfinger- December 30, 2009 at 11:57 am
@ sleepernoob: why would silva take or follow the fight to the ground? seriously....
MyFightWiffaCheeto- December 30, 2009 at 11:50 am
Ben... Seriously. Get some whiteout and Adjust fighter of the year to Jose Aldo. Dude buzzsawed through four tough guys in the FW Division including MTB.

Who'd have thought someone could make MTB look like a rank amateur at FW?!

ALDO is the Fighter of the Year. HANDS DOWN.
SleeperNoob- December 30, 2009 at 11:42 am

"What the fuck does "pre tuf" have to do with appreciating the win???
AA was couldn't take a punch then and still can't. I didn't know beating Paul B
and Timmeh made for "hardcore" dream fight...idiot"

Before TUF, Andre and Big Tim were all the UFC HW had. It was a dream matchup because MMA fans wondered how Fedor would do against the UFC Champs. There was no Brock, Gonzaga, Mir, and Kongo like what we have today.

If Fedor vs AA and Fedor vs Tim weren't dream matchups then who the fuck did you wish Fedor fought in the UFC back in the day?

Nobody because you weren't watching MMA before TUF.
meanfinger- December 30, 2009 at 11:20 am
ya.. leites didnt want any of the spider. i just gotta put fedor in that position cuz he finished his fights. sure they werent top tier fighters.. but thats his managements fault. he can only fight who they put in front of him.

i love the spider.. but idk whats gonna happen when my man vitor gets back in there and is lookin at takin his belt