Every year, a handful of MMA fighters ascend from obscurity to contendership, from prospect status to championship gold — from nothing to something. In honor of The Warrior’s Way, which hits theaters next Friday, we’d like to salute MMA’s breakout class of 2010, whose careers exploded this year, and who are all poised for even larger accomplishments in 2011.
Notable 2010 victories: Brian Stann (unanimous decision, UFC 109), Alexander Gustafsson (submission R1, UFC 112), Tim Boetsch (submission R2, UFC 123)
Between his pink shorts, action-figure physique, and aggressive grappling, Mr. Wonderful has become an unmistakable figure in the UFC’s light-heavyweight division. A year ago, he was a relatively unknown 4-0 prospect trying to re-invent himself as a cage-fighter after a brilliant collegiate wrestling career at Penn State, which culminated in a 2008 NCAA title. Davis made his Octagon debut this February, and has since sent four straight opponents back to the drawing board, beginning with former WEC champ Brian Stann, and ending with a Submission of the Night performance against Tim Boetsch. Having proven himself against gritty veterans and promising rookies, we’re about to find out if Davis can keep his dominant run going against the next level of UFC contenders.
Notable 2010 victories: Kris McCray (submission R2, TUF 11 Finale), Ryan Jensen (submission R3, UFC 121)
Court McGee’s life is an object lesson in never, ever giving up, no matter how dire the circumstances. A former drug-addict who was declared clinically dead after an overdose in 2005, McGee got clean and devoted his life to MMA. His stint on The Ultimate Fighter 11 this year was almost cut short after he lost a bum decision to Nick Ring, but McGee re-entered the competition as an injury replacement, and went on to choke out James Hammortree, Brad Tavares, and Kris McCray to earn the season’s middleweight trophy. In his first post-TUF test at UFC 121, he survived getting bombed out on by Ryan Jensen in the first round, and turned the momentum around when Jensen began to fade in round two. In the end, Jensen was tapping like the rest of them, and Court McGee had secured his reputation as one of toughest (and most likable) bastards TUF has ever produced.