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The Highly Unofficial Half-Year UFC Awards - The Fights

Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - Action. Drama. High Stakes. All key elements of a great fight, and we’ve had more than a few memorable battles to choose from thus far in 2009. But in the interest of space, we’ve had to narrow them down to just five, and here they are…

By Thomas Gerbasi

Action. Drama. High Stakes. All key elements of a great fight, and we’ve had more than a few memorable battles to choose from thus far in 2009. But in the interest of space, we’ve had to narrow them down to just five, and here they are…

5 – UFC 100 – July 11 – Yoshihiro Akiyama W3 Alan Belcher
After seeing them together before the fight and in the Octagon, I admit that I thought it was going to be a rough night for Yoshihiro Akiyama against the much bigger Alan Belcher on July 11th, with the best case scenario for the Japanese star being to take Belcher down and work from there, because standing with the dynamic Biloxi product wasn’t going to turn out well. I was wrong, and I’m glad, because we got a memorable scrap out of the two middleweights that fans are still debating today. And regardless of who you thought deserved the decision win, you can’t argue about the quality of the fight, as both men were giving and taking flush shots throughout all three rounds. Of course, the lasting image to me is of Akiyama moving forward and throwing while trying to see out of his almost swollen shut eye. That’s the way you make a debut.

4 – UFC Fight Night – April 1 – Martin Kampmann W3 Carlos Condit
This was one of those fights that hardcore fans were anticipating from the moment it was announced, and Kampmann and Condit delivered when the bell rang. Fast-paced from start to finish, this battle between two of the welterweight division’s brightest young stars had a little bit of everything, from crisp standup exchanges to solid ground work and submission attempts. And though Condit, the former WEC welterweight champion, fell short in his UFC debut, he made it clear that he belonged among the top 170-pounders in the world, a place where Kampmann has also set up camp.

3 – UFC 99 – June 13 - Cain Velasquez W3 Cheick Kongo
Great fights answer questions about fighters. Does he have a chin, does he have heart, can he adapt when things don’t go his way, etc? We wanted to have those questions answered about rising heavyweight star Cain Velasquez, and we did. He passed – with flying colors. But the bonus of this heavyweight battle was that we also got some of those answers out of Cheick Kongo as well. We found out a ton about the Frenchman’s heart, determination, and resilience against the relentless Velasquez, and though he lost a clear-cut three round decision, he never stopped trying to win. Don’t know how this one looked on TV, but live, it was one to remember.

2 – UFC 99 – June 13 - Rich Franklin W3 Wanderlei Silva
Rich Franklin, Wanderlei Silva. Put them in the Octagon together and it had to be good. And it was. But just before the opening bell, I wondered if the cut to 195 pounds had drained Silva too much and would leave him vulnerable to the crisp standup attack of Franklin. Early on, it looked that way. But then ‘The Axe Murderer’ warmed up, got a rhythm, and it was like the PRIDE days all over again as he traded blows with reckless abandon. Franklin didn’t back down either, and the combination of the two MMA superstars’ styles made for an action-packed, dramatic finish to a bout that was the perfect end to the UFC’s first night in Germany.

1 – The Ultimate Fighter Finale – June 20 - Diego Sanchez W3 Clay Guida
If Sanchez and Guida stood in opposite corners and didn’t engage for 14 minutes and 30 seconds, the first 30 seconds of their bout still would have earned them a spot here, that’s how good the frenetic, toe-to-toe opening was. Luckily for us, they kept the pace high wherever they ended up throughout the three round battle, and this fight had something for everyone. If someone ever wonders why the lightweights are considered the most exciting division in the sport, show them this fight. I hate to say a fight has no losers, because it’s hard to console the fighter on the short end of the decision, but if you watched Clay Guida on the night of June 20 and said ‘I don’t want to see that guy fight again,’ you’re crazy. As for Sanchez, the win solidified him as a top contender at 155 pounds after just two fights, and opens the door for even more intriguing bouts in the future.

Honorable Mention – Dan Henderson-Rich Franklin, Marcus Davis-Chris Lytle, John Howard-Chris Wilson, Joe Lauzon-Jeremy Stephens, Matt Grice-Matt Veach, Paul Kelly-Troy Mandaloniz, Tyson Griffin-Rafael Dos Anjos, Sam Stout-Matt Wiman, Frankie Edgar-Sean Sherk, Tim Hague-Pat Barry, Chris Lytle-Kevin Burns, Joe Stevenson-Nate Diaz, Jim Miller-Mac Danzig, Matt Hughes-Matt Serra, Josh Neer-Mac Danzig.