The Highly Unofficial Half-Year awards season concludes with the top fighters of 2013 thus far...
It’s that time…the Highly Unofficial Half-Year awards season comes to an end with the top fighters of 2013 thus far, and yes, I’m sticking to my guns this year when it comes to including only fighters who have fought at least twice.
5 – Dennis Bermudez
After losing a back and forth loss to Diego Brandao in the Ultimate Fighter 14 finale in 2011, Dennis Bermudez has won four straight in the Octagon, picking up two post-fight awards in the process. In 2013, he made a name for himself as a legit featherweight action hero, winning split decisions over Matt Grice and Max Holloway that kept fans roaring from start to finish, and earning him Fight of the Year consideration for the UFC 157 win over Grice.
4 – Urijah Faber
Like Vitor Belfort, two title fight losses put former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber on the backburner when it came to talk of being in the championship picture, but in 2013, “The California Kid” shook off his 2012 loss to Renan Barao with back-to-back submission wins over fellow contenders Ivan Menjivar and Scott Jorgensen, and if he can make it three straight when he faces Yuri Alcantara in August, he could be back in the race.
3 – Glover Teixeira
It took Glover Teixeira much too long to finally get to the UFC, but after resolving visa issues, he made up for lost time, fighting four times in 12 months and skyrocketing to the upper reaches of the light heavyweight division. In 2013, the well-rounded Brazilian scored the biggest win of his career, decisioning “Rampage” Jackson on FOX in January, and he then went on to take Submission of the Night honors against James Te Huna in May, with an added bonus being that the fight took place in one of his fighting heroes, Mike Tyson.
2 – TJ Grant
Canada’s TJ Grant has always been a blue collar fighter. He puts his hard hat on, punches in, and goes to work. And his unbeaten 3-0 run at lightweight proved to the hardcore fans that he was a player in the 155-pound weight class. But when he added two more wins to that slate in 2013 - knockouts of Matt Wiman and Gray Maynard - the rest of the world found out just how dangerous he is. In August, he gets his well-deserved title shot against Benson Henderson.
1 - Vitor Belfort
After a 2011 title fight loss to Anderson Silva, the odds of Vitor Belfort getting another shot at “The Spider” were slim, especially given the highlight reel fashion of his defeat. But today, the idea of the Brazilian getting a second middleweight title fight isn’t so far-fetched anymore. The reason? 2013 knockouts of Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold, both started with head kicks that brought out a new dimension in the game of “The Phenom.” Not bad for a pioneer of the sport who has been fighting professionally since 1996.