We’re at a slow point in the month as both UFC events have come and gone, leaving the regional scene and UFC 162 is set up to start the second half of 2013 with a bang. With half the year in the book it’s time to sit down and look at the best (and worst) of the year so far.
Biggest upset – Emmanuel Newton KO’s “King Mo” Lawal with a Spinning Backfist
King Mo came into Bellator as a conquering hero, it seems, as he was a Top 10 talent expected to destroy Bellator’s light heavyweight division without fail. And in his opening fight in the company he looked like the killer many predicted he’d be. Newton would be just another victim because Lawal was supposed to be just too much. And early on that looked right … until Newton dropped Lawal right in his tracks. Lawal has since rebounded but the aura around him, of having the type of skill set that could potentially dethrone Jon Jones, hasn’t recovered fully. It’s going to take a while before anyone thinks of Mo as being elite enough to be in Jones’s category.
Knockout of the Year – Junior Dos Santos turns the lights off on Mark Hunt with a spinning wheel kick
We know how hard Junior Dos Santos hits, of course, because he’s violently knocked out plenty of guys who normally don’t get knocked out. Mark Hunt looked to be able to survive 15 minutes with the former champion, eating some hellacious punishment in the process, when Junior busted out something he hadn’t done in competition before and turned the lights off on one of MMA’s toughest outs.
Worst Fight of the Year – Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida don’t do much en route to a split decision
Henderson didn’t pull the trigger. Machida did nothing. This was a shorter version of Maynard/Guida from 2012 and was even worse because people wanted this to be the main event of UFC 157 instead of Rousey/Carmouche. Evans/Nogueira may have been an awful fight but Henderson/Machida was equally bad and significantly higher profile. This was a fight a lot of fans pointed to as the “real main event” of that PPV card … and it was completely shown up by Ronda Rousey and her Kimbo Slice moment.
Submission of the year – Josh Burman chokes out Jon Fitch
It wasn’t the prettiest submission of the year but it was the most unexpected. No one gave Burkman a chance, either, as Fitch’s next career step was supposed to be running through the World Series of Fighting and get signed by either Bellator or the UFC. People scoffed when Dana White inferred that Fitch was on the down slope of his career. High profile losses sandwiching a win against Eric Silva were to elite competition, not an indicator that Fitch’s career was winding down. And then Burkman, who had quietly been compiling a hot streak on the regional circuit, came out and ran through the AKA product and one-time UFC welterweight title challenger in devastating fashion.
Best Fighter – Vitor Belfort
In the middleweight division Vitor’s been on fire since getting knockout out by Anderson Silva in spectacular fashion. The only two losses he’s had in this UFC tenure have been to Silva and Jon Jones; that’s pretty spectacular and he nearly had Jones with a first round armbar that nearly shocked the world. So far this year he’s faced two fighters looking for their shot at Anderson Silva (Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold) and has knocked them out in spectacular fashion with head kicks. Belfort was supposed to be washed up and done, a big name on the decline in the division, and yet he’s found second life and a new skillset.