The Year That Was: MMA in 2017



Hey everyone. Jody Jamieson here to bring you the MMA Awards of 2017. Yeah I know, there's still a few weeks to go and a few cards to go, but I got allocated the 9th of December, so you can all come and cry at me on twitter if something should make the cut that hasn't happened yet. We'll cover the good, the bad and ugly in these awards. In no particular order, here we go!

FIGHT OF THE YEAR Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Johnson, The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption Finale This was just insanity from start to finish. Two guys who spent nine minutes putting on a video game fight. Gaethje would eventually take the win, but not before being wobbled twice and getting himself in huge trouble. Enjoy. Honourable mentions go to Yancy Medeiros vs. Alex Oliveira from this past week at UFC 218, and Mirsad Bektic vs. Darren Elkins from the UFC 209 prelims. We'll talk more about Bektic vs. Elkins later.

KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR Paul Daley vs. Brennan Ward, Bellator 170 Ward was down for a long time after this, and I'm not surprised. Just watch. Thankfully he was ok, but this was frightening at the time. Honourable mentions go to Francis Ngannou's cartoon uppercut against Alistair Overeem at UFC 218 last Saturday, and Edson Barboza sleeping Beneil Dariush with a flying knee at UFC Fortaleza in March.

SUBMISSION OF THE YEAR Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg, UFC 216. This was just unfair. Johnson spent the first four rounds of his title defence just playing with the talented Borg. Then in the fifth round thought he'd take a flyer at something spectacular. This would be hard to do in pro wrestling with an opponent who is co-operating. To do this in the fifth round of a title fight is incredible. Honourable mentions here go to Valentina Shevchenko's armbar way back in January over Julianna Pena, and Brett Johns' calf slicer over Joe Soto at the TUF Finale last Friday. We were really spoiled last weekend.

UPSET OF THE YEAR Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk, UFC 217. Some people thought Namajunas had a chance, but taking down the undefeated strawweight queen was one thing. To do it by first round TKO was something no-one in their right mind would have predicted. But MMA is a weird game sometimes, and Thug Rose took the biggest win of her life. Honourable mentions here go to Zach Freeman spoiling the debut of super-phenom Aaron Pico at Bellator NYC with a 24 second guillotine, and Nicco Montano going from the #14 seed at TUF 26 to Flyweight Champion.

Some nice positive happy stuff to get us going. What do you think so far? Let's get to some of the more negative stuff about MMA in 2017. Because what is this sport without catastrophe and shenanigans?

PR DISASTER OF THE YEAR The UFC Women's Featherweight Division Here's the full timeline, which stretches a little into the end of 2016, but is relevant to the entire year of this division. The division was created for Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino, but after stuffing the last couple of months of 2016 with tons of title fights, UFC were left without viable pay-per-view main events to open the year. They cancelled a scheduled PPV in Anaheim in late January (which later became UFC 214) and offered Cyborg two fights for February in Brooklyn at UFC 208. Cyborg turned both down, asking for more time to have a camp and make the weight. Instead the UFC, lacking patience, booked two bantamweights to face off for the inaugural title. Before Holly Holm faced Germaine De Randamie for the vacant belt, Cyborg failed a test for a diuretic. Cyborg would later be given a pass on the failed test, but not before De Randamie took a controversial 48-47 unanimous decision over Holm. In a terrible fight. Also, Germaine should have been docked a point for two flagrant blows after the bell. If she had been, the fight for the vacant title would have been a draw. Nightmare, right? There was more to come. De Randamie refused to defend against Cyborg. Citing the failed test, for which Cyborg was given a retropsective TUE, and also mentioning a hand injury she picked up two years before. UFC stripped De Randamie of the belt and booked the only actual featherweight available to face Cyborg for the belt. Australian Megan Anderson then had visa issues, so was replaced by Invicta bantamweight champion Tonya Evinger for a long awaited UFC debut. Evinger hung tough for three rounds before Cyborg won the belt. UFC still haven't signed any other actual featherweights. This division has had TWO WHOLE FIGHTS in the UFC, but more problems than most divisions have in a decade. A disaster. Cyborg will face Holly Holm for the belt on December 20th in the main event of UFC 219. Honourable mentions go to Conor McGregor jumping the cage at a Bellator event and almost fighting with referee Marc Goddard, and the first UFC Athlete's Retreat in Las Vegas. That event involved a drunk rep for Budweiser telling fighters to "be yourself, but be more like Conor McGregor!" It had Kajun Johnson verbally slaughtering a Reebok exec regarding the fighter kit deal. It had Kobe Bryant as a guest speaker telling fighters how important a player's union is. The UFC has been passionately anti-union forever and would have hated that. And just when it seemed to have calmed down, Cris Cyborg punched Angela Magana. A great weekend for all involved.

DANA WHITE LIE OF THE YEAR "I won't main event that title again." This was in reaction to UFC 213 and Amanda Nunes making weight for her bantamweight title defence against Valentina Shevchenko, though falling ill the next day and pulling from the fight with just hour's notice. Needless to say he did. Two months later. On a card that had another title fight on it anyway. Honourable mentions include claiming 2017 has been the best year in company history "by a long way" and saying he'd always considered Conor McGregor the pound for pound #1, even though saying Demetrious Johnson was a few weeks earlier. This was a reaction being pissed off with DJ for not wanting to fight TJ Dillashaw.

WORST FIGHT OF THE YEAR Cheikh Kongo vs. Augusto Sakai, Bellator 179. What makes this fight even worse in some way was that this card was in London, and was shown on tape delay on both UK and US TV. Yet they decided to broadcast it anyway. I covered this fight, and at the time I described it as "an absolutely fucking terrible fight." I'm not going to watch it again to prove myself right. Don't watch this fight kids. It was atrocious. Tyron Woodley takes a pair of honourable mentions for his snoozefest title defenses against Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia. The Wonderboy rematch was especially disappointing due to the greatness of the first fight, but the Maia fight was even worse. Maia could do nothing with him, and Woodley wasn't willing to take any risks. Dreadful stuff.

WEIGHT CUTTING NONSENSE OF THE YEAR Daniel Cormier, UFC 210 Cormier weighed in with about 2 minutes to spare at 206.2 pound for his main event title defence against Anthony Johnson. Cormier disappeared, came back a minute or two later, and then weighed in at 205. How did this happen? Look at the towel. It was obvious. It's one of the oldest tricks in the books. Yet the New York State Athletic Commission stated that not only did they not see it, but then tried to claim grabbing the towel would add weight. I hate the NYSAC everyone. Too many honourable mentions where fighters missed weight and scuppered big fights to mention them all, but Khabib Nurmagomedov's tiramasu nightmare, and Sijara Eubanks missing weight for a title fight in her first official UFC bout were pretty bad moments.