The Highly Unofficial Half-Year awards season continues with the best fights of 2014 thus far...
2014 has provided more than its share of thrills over the first half of the year, and when it comes to the best fights so far, here are five of the most memorable…
5 - Renan Barao vs TJ Dillashaw
There are title fight wins and then there’s TJ Dillashaw’s victory over Renan Barao at UFC 173 on May 24. In one of the great performances in mixed martial arts history, the underdog from California put on a master class against Brazil’s Barao, a fighter who entered the Octagon that night having gone unbeaten in his previous 35 bouts. That didn’t matter to Dillashaw though, as he did everything right, racing out to a lead on the scorecards but refusing to sit on it, turning it up a notch in the fifth round to stop the seemingly unstoppable Barao and take the UFC bantamweight championship.
4 - Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida
For the first couple rounds of UFC 175’s main event between middleweight champion Chris Weidman and challenger Lyoto Machida, I thought to myself “there’s a lot of drama in this fight, but I don’t know if I’d watch it again.” Then from round three on, the action began to match the level of drama, and as you saw Machida pick up the pace in order to try and finish Weidman while the champion held off this charge and fired back his own bombs en route to a close, but unanimous, decision win, the die was cast: I was definitely watching this one again.
3 - Jamie Varner vs. Abel Trujillo
After a less than thrilling UFC 169 preliminary card, lightweights Abel Trujillo and Jamie Varner made up for everything in seven minutes and 32 seconds of the main card opener, going to toe-to-toe for a round and a half before Trujillo ended matters with a stunning second round knockout. With each fighter taking turns rocking the other, it was clear that this one wasn’t going the distance, but just when it looked like Varner was on the verge of a stoppage win, a flush right hand sent the former WEC champion down to the deck face first, ending the bout.
2 - Matt Brown vs. Erick Silva
When it comes to intensity, few competitors have it quite like Matt Brown, and when you add in fighting in front of his friends and family in Cincinnati on May 10, it was clear that no one – not Erick Silva, not anyone – was going to beat “The Immortal” in the UFC Fight Night main event. Brown would have to survive some rocky moments thanks to Silva’s body shots and ground game, but when he got back to his feet, it was a hundred percent go until he wore down his courageous foe and stopped him at 2:11 of the third round.
1 - Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler
The disappointment of Johny Hendricks’ November loss to Georges St-Pierre vanished in the space of two words at the American Airlines Center on March 15: “AND NEW…”
And when Bruce Buffer said those words, declaring Hendricks the new UFC welterweight champion after a five round classic with Robbie Lawler, the 170-pound division had its new king, someone who many believed should have had that crown last year after his controversial split decision defeat to GSP, who later vacated the belt. But if you ask Hendricks, he will undoubtedly say that finally getting the belt was worth the wait, even if he had to walk through fire to get it.
Honorable Mention: Rua-Henderson II, Romero-Brunson, Saffiedine-Lim, Woodley-Condit, Swanson-Stephens, Alves-Baczynski, Gomi-Vallie-Flagg, Gastelum-Story, Poirier-Corassani, Guida-Kawajiri