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Unofficial Half-Year Awards: The Fighters

Will your favorite be here? Read on to find out.

This is it – the unofficial half-year awards seasons is just about
and done, and all that’s left is to determine the top fighters of the
first half of 2010. Will your favorite be here? Read on to find out.

UFC 108 Junior Dos Santos vs GIlbert Yvel5 (Tie) – Junior Dos Santos

Still only 25, Brazil’s Junior Dos Santos continued his whirlwind ride
through the heavyweight division in the first half of 2010, knocking
out veterans Gilbert Yvel and Gabriel Gonzaga with relative ease. With
fellow young gun Cain Velasquez getting the next shot at champion Brock
Lesnar, Dos Santos will have to keep busy as he waits for his turn, and
he could secure his place in the pecking order with a win over Roy
Nelson at UFC 117 next month.

ufc115_06_dunham_vs_griffin_0135 (Tie) – Evan Dunham

Unheralded lightweight Evan Dunham quietly made a name for himself in
the UFC in 2009 with wins over Per Eklund and Marcus Aurelio, but in
2010 he moved from prospect to contender with an impressive come from
behind finish of Efrain Escudero and a clear-cut decision win over
Tyson Griffin.

GYI00609583155 (Tie) George Sotiropoulos

Winner of seven straight (six in the UFC) dating back to late 2006,
Australia native George Sotiropoulos has had his coming out party this
year, as he’s dismantled both Joe Stevenson and Kurt Pellegrino,
putting him squarely in the lightweight title picture. And with his
improved all-around game, Octagon vision, and quiet intensity, he’s
going to be a nightmare matchup for anyone at 155 points.

ufc114_11_evans_vs_rampage_0164 – Rashad Evans

Following the loss of his UFC light heavyweight title via knockout to
Lyoto Machida in May of 2009, fight fans were wondering how Rashad
Evans was going to react in his next bout. Well, in January he
decisioned Thiago Silva, going back to his wrestling roots and
surviving a late sequence when Silva got him in trouble. And four
months later he headlined another major event when he took on – and
beat – bitter rival Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson with another solid
wrestling-based victory at UFC 114 in May. Some would say ‘Suga’ is
back, but in reality, he never left.

GYI00609586183 – Chris Leben

Entering 2010, Chris Leben’s UFC career was on the line after
back-to-back losses to Michael Bisping and Jake Rosholt, but amazingly,
by the time he forced Yoshihiro Akiyama to tap out in the third round
of their UFC 116 bout earlier this month, he was back among the ranks
of middleweight contenders. This amazing transformation took place
thanks to wins this year over Jay Silva, Aaron Simpson, and the
aforementioned Akiyama, with the latter two victories occurring within
a two week period.

ufc112_09_edgar_vs_penn_0202 – Frankie Edgar

Rightfully deserving of a lightweight title shot, Frankie Edgar still
wasn’t considered likely to be the one to defeat the seemingly
unstoppable 155-pound king, BJ Penn. Edgar and his team just ignored
the odds, put together an intense training camp and fight plan, and
walked into Abu Dhabi in April with one goal in mind – to win the belt.
And after five close rounds, it was Edgar who shocked the world and
took the title from ‘The Prodigy’ behind a disciplined 25 minute attack
that he plans on replicating when the two meet in a rematch at UFC 118
in August.

ufc113_11_shogun_0151 – Mauricio Rua

It’s never hard for a fighter to get up for a world title fight. When
you lose a controversial decision many think you won, it has to be
difficult to go through the physical and mental trials necessary to do
it all over again. But Mauricio Rua did it. And not only that, but in
his championship rematch against Lyoto Machida in May, he scored the
defining win of his career via first round knockout. What made the
victory sweeter was the journey it took to get there, from a loss in
his UFC debut to Forrest Griffin to two knee surgeries, Rua got to the
top in the Octagon the hard way, and even though he may be sidelined
for a while due to injury, the top fighter of the first half of 2010
was undoubtedly the man dubbed ‘Shogun.’

Honorable Mention: Martin Kampmann, Brock Lesnar, Cain
Velasquez, Mark Munoz, Melvin Guillard, Brendan Schaub, Jon Jones,
Georges St-Pierre, Kenny Florian, John Hathaway, Chris Lytle, Gerald