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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.