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5 Oz. 2009 MMA Awards: Most Exciting Fighter of the Year

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time! It has been an extraordinary year of ups and down for all of those involved in the rapidly growing world of mixed martial arts, but all things must come to an end, and it’s time for to dish out our official year end awards for the crazy year that was 2009.

We’ll be diving headfirst into a series of fifteen end of the year awards, with a new award being distributed every single day through December 31 with a special two part New Years Eve year-end award extravaganza.

In this edition we have FiveOuncesofPain’s top ten most exciting fighters of 2009:

Top 50 Cerrone

1. Donald Cerrone: “Cowboy” gave as good as he got in 2009, winning two and dropping two, but one thing that is for certain is the fact that Cerrone clearly established himself as one of mixed martial arts’ most exciting fighters to watch in a year to be remembered for the athlete/entertainer from Albuquerque. Cerrone took part in three of the best fights of 2009 as he dropped a technical split decision at the hands of Jamie Varner, went to war in a bout he lost by decision to Benson Henderson, and submitted Ed Ratcliff with a rear naked choke in a bout with no shortage of fireworks. On top of his back and forth tussles with the previously mentioned fighters, Donald also notched a first round submission over James Krause to his belt at WEC 41.

2. Scott Smith: Scott Smith only knows one style of fighting, and that’s Kamikaze Style. The appropriately nicknamed “Hand of Steel” came back from the brink of defeat in two separate bouts this year against Benji Radach and Cung Le, as well as losing a hard-fought three round tussle to Nick Diaz.

Come from behind victories have long been a cornerstone of any athletic competition since the dawn of time, but I can think of no other sport where a team could come back from such a huge defficiency on the scoreboards in the blink of an eye as in MMA. For example; in baseball if a team enters the ninth inning with a 15 point lead, they can come back, but it’s going to take a while. And in football, if you’re down by twenty points or more with a minute to go, there’s no miracle bomb you can throw to make up for that kind of deficit. Perhaps that’s what makes fighting the greatest sport in the world. You can come back from a twenty point deficit with a minute to go in the fourth quarter with a single punch to the chin. This is what makes Smith’s ability to continuously notch together these type of compelling performances all the more impressive.

3. Gilbert Melendez: “El Nino” went from being one of the most talented but hard to watch fighters to one of the most consistently memorable fighters the sport has to offer in the space of a single year. Six of Melendez’ previous seven bouts had gone to the judges scorecards leading up to 2008 where the Cesar Gracie trained lightweight put Rodrigo Damm to sleep with a huge punch, avenged a previous defeat at the hands of Mitsuhiro Ishida via TKO and avenged the only other loss in his career while unifying the Strikeforce 155 pound crown in a potential fight of the year against Josh Thomson at “Strikeforce: Evolution”.

4. Jose Aldo: Four wins, four brutal TKO’s this year; That’s how Jose Aldo rolls. There weren’t many keeping tabs on this phenom from Brazil heading into 2009, but Aldo changed all of that with his eight second death by flying knee destruction of Cub Swanson and utter domination of Mike Brown to capture the WEC featherweight title.

5. Alan Belcher: Alan Belcher said that he wanted to be on the main portion of the UFC cards he fought on in the future, and in 2009 he sent a direct message to the UFC with two separate fight of the night performances against the likes of Yoshihiro Akiyama and Wilson Gouveia with a submission of the night over Denis Kang just for good measure.

6. Marius Zaromskis: The only way you had heard of Zaromskis going into 2009 would be if you lived in Lithuania or were a big fan of the UK based Cage Rage promotion, but Marius changed all of that this year as he booted everyone in the face that crossed his path, wining three bouts via coconut kick, four overall, and capturing the DREAM welterweight GP title in the process. If you haven’t began to get excited for an upcoming showdown between Zaromskis and Nick Diaz in Strikeforce, go ahead and do so now.

7. Fedor Emelianenko: Fedor may have thrown down just twice this year, but in true Emelianenko fashion, “The Last Emperor” took part in two of the most memorable bouts of the year in separate heavyweight wars against Andrei Arlovski and Brett Rogers.

8. Chris Lytle: “Lights Out” threw down for his town just twice in 2009, but true to form, Lytle grabbed fight of the night honors with the UFC on both occasions. Lytle came out on the losing end of a split decision to Marcus Davis this year but later rebounded with a unanimous decision nod over Kevin Burns in two of the most exciting fights of the year.

9. Brett Rogers: “Grim” guaranteed two things in 2009, and that was plenty of pain and plenty of action. A guarantee the 6’5″, 260+ Rogers delivered on with a brutal mugging of Abongo Humphrey, a shocking blowout of former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski and a scrap to remember against the best fighter in the business on CBS in one of the most watched fights of the year.

10. Eddie Alvarez: Alvarez just basically freaked out and started choking people this year. The heavy handed lightweight normally known for his knockout ability went on a strangulation rampage through the Bellator lightweight tournament to win it’s crown before slapping a choke on Katsunori Kikuno during DREAM 12 for his fourth asphyxiation submission victory of 2009.

  • Perfect call on the Cowboy, just like Aldo(minus destroying everything in his past) he wasnt a name before late 08 until he got his Fight of the year with Razor Rob and he never is in a boring fight. The only Amendment to this list I would make is I would put Shogun on here, but that may be a personal fan add. His slightly boring fight with The Hammer was still a great thing to see with Shogun getting wore out and Coleman refusing to give up. His destruction of Liddell was possibly the loudest I have ever heard a crowd get for the first round of a fight and the 3 and a half minutes that it lasted was something spectacular to behold. But seeing him be the first to test the Dragon and lose a controversial decision in one of the best championship fights of all time was what really turned me into a Shogun fan.

  • Scott H. says:

    Hi Cory. Pretty good list again, and you’ve made good arguements for most, but…

    Jon Jones & Matt Brown are (in my mind) two of the most exciting fighters out there, and I’d need to find a spot for them. Nothing against Alan Belcher, or Brett Rogers but I think I’d drop them off the list.

    I know everyone will have a differing opinions, but I think Aldo needs to be number one.

  • Curly Biddles says:

    Yes this is a good list. I am sure everyone could plug in their favorite fighters because it is all about opinion and perspective!

    Personally, I would remove Melendez, Rogers, and Lytle (not that they don’t fight hard, they just don’t get me quite as excited 😉

    Add Joachim (Hellboy) Hansen, Lyoto Machida, & Gegard Mousasi in their place!

  • Curly Biddles says:

    Hands of Steel is my #1 pick. The harder the beating he takes, the stronger he becomes. You better finish him cause he doesn’t die easy!

  • Curly Biddles says:

    Ok I would thumbs down my own post because the Hansen heroics were in 2008 /bonk

    Don’t mind calling myself out on that one…terrible

  • Curly Biddles says:

    Ok I would thumbs down my own post because the Hansen heroics were in 2008 /bonk

    Don’t mind calling myself out on that one…terrible

    You can plug Lytle back in I guess

  • Good list but I’d move Aldo up a bit higher and probably drop Lytle off the list. He puts on a good show but I wouldn’t call him exciting really. I think there are a lot of other fighters out there that deserve a spot as much if not more so than Lytle.

  • Makington says:

    Aldo would be my number one pick, but I see why you wouldn’t put him because you want to give other fighters some credit. I say that because if Jose Aldo doesn’t win fighter of the year at the end of this, it is rigged. The guy was unknown before 2009 started, and now by the end of 2009 he is a legit contender in the p4p rankings.

    Good pick on Cerrone, but I’d probably lose Brett off the list for Diego Sanchez. He had some of the most frenetic fights against Guida and Stevenson, and got excitingly beat to shit by Penn, which should still count when you’re on the losing end of an exciting fight.

  • bigbadjohn says:

    and the unofficial #11 spot goes to: Anyone besides Machida

  • WTF John?! That BRUTAL KO of T Silva? That picture perfect KO of Rashad? The true championship fight with Shogun?I disagree with the decision of the judges in that fight too, but dont discredit the awesome year The Dragon gave us!

  • Jstew3785 says:

    I would have to go with Jose Aldo, but this is still a damn good list.

  • fanoftna33 says:

    I would like to have a opinion on this but since direct tv dropped Verses I cant talk good or bad about the WEC picks since I dont get to watch these guys fight.
    Although I would add Nick/Nate Diaz as the #8 spot over Lytle as thoes guys have been in some of the best fights of the year and they are threats from any position whereas Lytle just stands there and wings punches, which is ok if thats all you are looking for but personaly I like to see a little technique, and while Lytle has great overall skills he never uses them.

  • submit662266 says:

    First, Jose Aldo should top this list. What else does the guy need to do? Each fight was a severe beatdown. He completely dominated Mike Brown, a very dangerous and talented fighter, and won the belt.

    Second, Lyota Machida belongs on this list. I completely agree with what superdave said.

    Third, Josh Koshchek should be on here.

    Fourth, I like the lists that are posted: they are thought-provoking. But there is always 1-2 people listed that make no sense (Cerone at #1 and Lytle being on here at all). The controversial picks generate more buzz, but something about this is rather insulting.

    Fifth and finally, Nick Diaz deserves an honorable mention. If he had not failed to take his drug test and honored his commitment a few months ago, he probably would have been in the top 3. As I’ve posted before, I hope Nick cleans up his act: he is one of my favorite fighters and it was painful to see him self-destruct.

  • hindsightufuk says:

    Fifth and finally, Nick Diaz deserves an honorable mention. If he had not failed to take his drug test and honored his commitment a few months ago, he probably would have been in the top 3. As I’ve posted before, I hope Nick cleans up his act: he is one of my favorite fighters and it was painful to see him self-destruct.

    i’m with you there, here’s hoping Nick gets it together for 2010 and brings us some more great mma.

  • Rece Rock says:

    I wouldn’t call what Nick Diaz does as self-destructing… it’s more like Nick Diaz being Nick Diaz…. sorry but the guy is just a douche, and I think he proves that time and time again in between small showings of greater potential.


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