It was just easier to choose two recipients for our fighter of the year award for 2013, especially when the year in MMA was full of angry Brazilians, California kids, a mighty flyweight and of course an all-American who dethroned a certain king. There were so many great individual performances that having just one winner didn’t seem right. Here are Pro Fighting Fans’ choices for 2013’s Fighter(s) of the Year.
Demetrious Johnson (UFC Flyweight Champion)
He’s little but there is nothing little about the huge year that Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson had in 2013. It was his first full year as a UFC champion and he certainly made it count. He started it off by getting a unanimous decision victory over TUF 14 winner John Dodson. Johnson was pushed to the limit in the bout and was even dropped at one point. However, he persevered and his hand was raised when the final bell sounded.
Then in July the flyweight champion had another stiff test in relative newcomer John Moraga. Johnson was winning the fight soundly, and when most fighters would have been happy with coasting the rest of the fight, he was still looking for the finish in the 5th round. Well, he found the finish and locked up an impressive armbar that forced Moraga to tap with less than 3 minutes to go in the last round.
He could have taken some time off and his bosses would have probably been ok with that, instead Johnson decided to give Joseph Benavidez the rematch he so deserved. The two had met in 2012 to determine the inaugural flyweight champion and obviously Johnson came out on top. Heading into their 2nd bout many people thought Benavidez would be able to make the necessary changes to be crowned the 125lb champion. Once again Demetrious Johnson silenced his critics with a shocking knockout of Benavidez in the very first round. The victory gave him his third successful title defense in a year and was definitely enough to secure him as Pro Fighting Fans Fighter of the Year. We can’t wait to see what he can accomplish in 2014!
Vitor Belfort (UFC Middleweight Contender)
As I mentioned in the first paragraph, 2013 was a year for angry Brazilians and one in particular, Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort. Before I recap his impressive year I must say this, sure Belfort uses TRT, and that very well could give him an edge, but until it is banned from the sport it is legal. I also don’t think it should overshadow the incredible year Belfort had.
In January 2013 he faced Michael Bisping at UFC on FX 7 in Brazil. Bisping was looking to catapult himself back into the 185lb title picture, and Belfort didn’t get the memo. Vitor came out in the 2nd round headhunting and found what he was looking for less than 2 minutes into the round. He landed a perfectly placed head kick that put Bisping on his back and allowed Belfort to secure the TKO finish.
So, with one contender down, Belfort then focused his attention on former Strikeforce Middlweight champion Luke Rockhold. Once again the bout took place in Brazil. Yes it did seem the UFC was hiding Vitor there all year, more on that to come. However, he one-upped himself by landing another head kick but this one came in the form of an amazing spinning heel kick that had Rockhold out before his head hit the canvas. It was one of the best finishes of Belfort’s career, and that is filled with highlight reel knockouts.
When Vitor faced off against Dan Henderson in November, no one was thinking he could pull off a third head kick finish. Well, we were all proven wrong once again. Sure, Henderson is way past his prime, but he’s still a tough out for anyone and it didn’t help that Vitor was fighting at 205lbs, a weight that has not always been kind to him. Plus, Henderson had never lost by knockout in his whole career. Vitor wasted no time putting an exclamation mark on his year, when very early in the first round he rocked “Hendo” and just as he was getting back to his feet “The Phenom” planted a brutal kick right to the kisser. He did the seemingly impossible by stopping a man who was thought to be unstoppable when it came to knockouts.
There is no denying that 2013 might have been the best year in Vitor Belfort’s entire career and instead of staying in Brazil, it looks like the UFC will bring him to Las Vegas in 2014 to fight for the middleweight title against Chris Weidman. Whether or not he gets a TRT exemption from the Nevada State Athletic Commission is yet to be seen, but either way he should give the young champion a run for his money.
As I’ve mentioned before I’m not a huge fan of giving out honorable mentions when it comes to awards. However, both Chris Weidman and Urijah Faber deserve at least that. Weidman of course is coming off two victories against longtime pound for pound king Anderson Silva, even if the 2nd one wasn’t really a win, as we all know Silva was forced to quit when he snapped his leg. Chris did go undefeated against Silva in 2013 and that’s something no one else could ever do. Then there is Faber, he seems to be the go to guy when it comes to short notice fights in the UFC’s bantamweight division. He won four fights in 2013, all of them quite decidedly and those wins have earned him another shot at the UFC bantamweight title in 2014.
There you have it, Pro Fighting Fans choices for the 2013 fighter of the year. Continue to check back for more awards updates and also keep your hands up fight fans 2014 will be another wild ride in MMA.
Pro Fighting Fans Staff Writer