The final week of 2011 has arrived, and though the year may not have delivered on the public’s long-standing dream of flying cars and laser-blasters it was certainly a period filled with memorable months from a Mixed Martial Arts viewpoint. We witnessed champions fall in dramatic fashion, prospects rise from the ranks to become divisional kings, and numerous fighters emerge victorious by the skin of their teeth. We saw shocking signings and ridiculous releases; countless classics and numerous nod-offers; moves in the ring unlike any other before and some hopefully never seen again.

With the close of the year, Five Ounces of Pain is bringing you our annual awards as we wind things down and get ready for the adventures 2012 will undoubtedly bring. Over the next few days we will announce our winners in somewhat unique categories with a final batch of standard distinctions handed out on Monday, January 2, once all the year’s performances have been turned in.

As always, 5 Oz. invites our readers to offer their own opinions in the “Comments” section on who should have taken home the hardware (or in this case digital love). We would not be here without you, and rest assured the Staff not only appreciates your contributions from a “page view” standpoint, but genuinely enjoys reading our community’s take on topics. Have an incredibly fun, albeit safe, NYE weekend!

– Who Saw That Coming –

Zuffa buys Strikeforce: It seemed like a typical non-event Saturday. There was no anticipation of a big fight later that night, no last minute bets to be placed, and no all-day discussions of who we thought would win later that evening. Then, in the early afternoon, Dana White dropped the bombshell: Zuffa has purchased their biggest competitor Strikeforce.

While Dana claimed that things would be “business as usual” for Strikeforce, that quickly changed when UFC took Strikeforce champions Nick Diaz, Dan Henderson, and Alistair Overeem along with top local draw Cung Le to compete in the octagon. Strikeforce events almost immediately became even more secondary with most wondering when Zuffa would just fold the organization and bring the talent over the UFC.

It was a move that changed the landscape of the MMA world as Bellator became the defacto #2 promotion while Zuffa tightened its guillotine on the entire sport.

– Old Timer of the Year –

Dan Henderson: A couple of years ago, many would have argued that Dan Henderson’s resume was somewhat overrated. And they would have had a point. It’s not that the man hadn’t accomplished much – he had – but between gift decisions, hold the PRIDE welterweight (183 lbs) title in a non-existent division, and then briefly holding the middleweight title (205 lbs) only to lose it in a unification bout against Quinton Jackson, Henderson’s achievements were slightly overstated.

However, at 41 years of age, “Hendo” just had the best year of his career. He started things off with a knockout of Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante to add yet another title to his resume, before securing two of the biggest wins of his career back-to-back. His knockout of Fedor Emelianenko is even more impressive when factoring in the fact that for much of his career, Henderson competed two weight classes below the great Russian. He finally capped things off with one of the greatest in MMA history when he bested Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in an epic twenty-five minute war.

– Most Meteoric Rise –

(Tie) Ben Henderson/Ronda Rousey: Both Rousey and Henderson went unbeaten in 2011, rising up from relative obscurity to receive consideration as being among the top fighters in their respective weight-classes.

Henderson’s rise to the next level seemed in doubt after coming up short against Anthony Pettis to close out 2010, yet “Bendo” picked up wins on all three of his UFC fights including those against top contenders Jim Miller and Clay Guida and now has a future date with 155-pound champion Frankie Edgar.

While Rousey’s in-ring accomplishments are in no way as impressive as Henderson’s, her outspoken nature, aggressive style, and girl-next-door good looks have thrust her into the spotlight and made her one of the most popular competitors in MMA. Snapping another girl’s arm in two during a fight didn’t hurt her profile either, just Julia Budd’s limb.

Make sure to check back in on Monday when we reveal our selections for “Knockout of the Year”, “Submission of the Year’, “Fighter of the Year”, and “Fight of the Year”. You can also check out our previous 2011 Year-End Awards by clicking this link.