As today is the last day to vote for the 13th annual World MMA awards, I thought I'd share who got my votes this calendar year.
Fighter of the year: Kamaru Unman
Out of the five nominees, nobody is more deserving of this award than the Nigerian Nightmare. Usman has been dominant, to say the least, and is on his way to cleaning out the division. Its also safe to say the welterweight champ is the pound-for-pound best martial artist on the planet at the moment. I believe this award would be hard to give to any other nominee, it is one of the more clear-cut decisions.
Female Fighter of the Year: Rose Namajunas
This past year was the year of Thug Rose as she regained UFC strawweight gold in stunning fashion. She is more than deserving of the award however, Valentina Shevchenko and Kayla Harrison are close runner ups. Due to Namajunas' story going and getting her belt back just two years after losing it, it's hard to pass her up here. Not to mention the way she finished Weili Zhang in under 80 seconds as an underdog was nothing short of a perfect performance.
Breakthrough Fighter of the Year: Brandon Moreno
This is another award in which would be hard to give to another fighter. Moreno did the absolute unthinkable coming back after being cut by the UFC and earning UFC gold. However, not only did he earn UFC gold, but he put on a 5- minute show with Brandon Royval in November of 2020 and a month later, in his first fight with then champ Deiveson Figueiredo, he participated in a fight of the year worthy scrap. Moreno had an unreal year and he is finally being recognized as one of the world's best martial artists.
International Fighter of the Year: Jan Blachowicz
To me, this is another no brainer. While Vadim Nemkov and Yaroslov Amosov had great years, neither of them faced the strength of schedule Poland's Blachowicz did. At 37-years-old, Jan Blachowicz dominated and finished two-time light heavyweight title challenger, Dominick Reyes. At 38, he put on a picture perfect performance against one of the worlds best martial artists and UFC middleweight champ, Israel Adesanya. The only person who I'd say had a better year than Blachowicz is Kamaru Usman.
Fight of the Year: Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno 1
This was one of the tougher awards to choose from and might be a biased play by me. I might be the biggest flyweight fans on earth and was on the edge of my seat the entire fight. Homasi vs. Daley was an awesome fight and a great comeback win for Daley however, I don't think they out performed the flyweights. Prochazka vs. Reyes seemed a bit too one sided for me and it also didn't even go two full rounds. Ponzinibbio vs. Baeza and Burgos vs. Barboza were both wars and definitely deserve nominations, but likewise to Homasi vs. Daley, I don't think they outperformed the flyweights. Also, a fight is just bigger when there is gold on the line.
Knockout of the Year: Joaquin Buckley
Pretty obvious choice here. When you see a certain technique that is rarely, or never, seen in a high level scrap it automatically catches the eye. This not only caught MMA fans eyes, but the entire world. Don't get me wrong, Cory Sandhagen's flying knee, Mamed Kalidov's jumping switch kick and Kamaru Usman's power right hand are all worthy of an award, but how do you pass up Buckley here. The technique Buckley performed not only will be tough for him to repeat, but might never be seen again in the sport.
Submission of the Year: Khabib Nurmagomedov
Kind of a chalk play, but I don't think Khabib will get passed up. The backstory on how he decided to transition from armbar to the triangle to not break Gaethje's arm is special. This was arguably Khabib's best performance ever. My top three with Khabib also included Jimmy Flick's flying triangle and Fluffy Hernandez's guillotine win over Rodlfo Vieira. Not to take anything away from Hernadez, because he did everything right in that fight and submitted one of the best BJJ guys in MMA, but the stage and stipulations of the Khabib vs. Gaethje fight were second to none. Jimmy Flick could be in the running for submission of the year every year sadly, he retired from the sport.
Comeback of the year: Charles Oliveira
This list didn't include just comeback wins in fights, but also comebacks in ones career, which threw me off. It was weird that Brandon Moreno wasn't nominated, but not that it matters because this is Oliveira's award. I know his fight with Michael Chandler is the nomination here, but I'm taking into consideration his whole career. He was seconds away from being finished in that first round by Chandler and this fight alone was worthy of comeback of the year however, Oliveira's career is one that many with find inspiring. Talk about a guy who has been through it all in the UFC, Do Bronx is a warrior and a pleasure to watch every time he scraps.
Upset of the year: Shana Dobson
From legends like Mighty Mouse, Eddy Alvarez and Anthony Pettis being upset to Rodolfo Vieira being submitted, you never know what's going to happen in a fight. Shana Dobson is my choice here because she did the unthinkable. She weathered a storm early and went to her grappling against Mariya Agapova however, she was one of the biggest underdogs in UFC history in this fight. She closed at nearly +1000, that's 10/1 for those who don't gamble. Not to mention she was nearly 20/1 to win by TKO, which she did. I know she isn't a huge name, but she is more than deserving of this award.
Coach of the Year: Trevor Wittman
This is a pretty easy choice. If Wittman doesn't win this award throw it all away. The guy has evolved two high level grapplers, Rose Namjunas and Kamaru Usman, into complete fighters and even knockout artists. The three main fighters he trains are without a doubt all in the pound-for-pound top 10. He is the best striking coach on the planet right now, Henri Hooft is upon there too.
Other Notable Awards:
Referee of the Year: Dan Mirgliotta
Trainer of the Year: Phil Daru
Gym of the Year: Sanford MMA
Leading Man: Dana White
Best Promotion: UFC
Personality of the Year: Jon Anik
Analyst of the Year: Michael Bisping
Best MMA Programming: Dana White's Contender Series
MMA Journalist of the Year: Ariel Helwani
Fighting Spirit of the Year: Brandon Moreno