The year 2014 wraps up today, at least here in North America.
(The other side of the world has already enjoyed New Year’s Eve festivities of course, which included a pair of MMA events in Japan. One event featured Mirko Cro Cop, who incidentally had a quietly busy 2014. The old PRIDE/K-1 favorite fought four times in 2014: twice in kickboxing, and twice in MMA.)
So, annual year end awards have already been handed out by analysts at media outlets great and small.
Fans of AXS-TV’s Inside MMA look forward to Bas Rutten’s “Bazzies” every year, as well as their “Not So Bazzie” segment, which highlights some of the most bizarre moments of the year in MMA. It’s well worth a look, if you haven’t yet:
Anyway, I missed the fun, up until now. Maybe — because somehow it just hasn’t felt like that great of a year. Today’s MMA scene is dominated by the UFC, who were plagued with injuries and other issues with their top talent. Kickboxing had a weird year, with GLORY beginning the year leading a charge to the mainstream, then ending with a failed PPV and a cancelled December event. Boxing seems a mess, too — more so than usual.
But still, there has been some great action to be found too.
Nothing shined brighter than Robbie Lawler’s rise to championship gold, twelve years in the making. His bouts with Johny Hendricks were UFC events that felt like “events” — something it seems you just don’t get that often.
TJ Dillashaw’s shocking upset of Renan Barão was another moment to remember — and Dillashaw continued success has made it look like we should have expected it all along.
Both Lawler and Dillashaw won historic victories for their camps, and both are honored as “Fighter of the Year” by different online outlets.
They might be great choices — but only if you decide you want to separate the awards by gender, as in the case of Rutten. Or, our own Chris Pagliuca.
Repctfully, I disagree. To me, there’s just no need to do that.
So, there’s exactly one top MMA fighter — only one titleholder, anyway — who enjoyed victories against top ten ranked competition twice in the year 2015, and suffered not a single loss.
Her name is Ronda Rousey.
Rousey began the year with an impressive TKO victory over Sara McMann, and continued it with an even quicker knockout of Alexis Davis. It represented a return to form. Rousey’s last bout had seen old rival Miesha Tate stretch the champ in early rounds.
The Davis bout saw Rousey execute a spectacular harai-goshi throw from her judo days, followed with a nasty series of punches in kesa-gatame (head and arm/scarf hold). It was the biggest highlight of perhaps the best UFC event of the year.
In the case of GLORY, we got consistently entertaining shows but we wondered if they would even survive. In the case of the UFC, injuries and even a lawsuit are brewing.
But as the year comes to a close, it’s clear that however the climate changes, there’s a champion named Ronda Rousey and she is here to stay.
That’s just one reason 2014 was her year.