By Chris Howie
I've decided that this year for the MMANews.com year-end awards I would pick the most deserving fighter/fighters in each of the following categories (bold tags indicate category winners detailed below in part one):
2007 was probably the biggest year so far in the short life span of Mixed Martial Arts. We were treated to some of the best fights and most shocking moment and with the way 2007 ended, one can only assume that 2008 is only going to top it. Without further adieu, let's kick off part one of the year end awards.
Comeback Fighter of the Year: Randy “The Natural” Couture
Why?: Couture, who is now 44 years old, retired from fighting early in 2006 only to get the “itch” to return at the end of the year. In March, Couture would return to challenge all 6'8'' and 250 lbs. of Tim Sylvia for the UFC Heavyweight championship. Couture would win that fight, taking the big man the distance and dominating him from bell to bell for five straight rounds. Following his triumphant return to championship glory in the Heavyweight division, Couture would defend his title against the man who would give Mirko CroCop a taste of his own medicine by knocking him out with a devastating head kick – Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga. “The Natural” would stop Gonzaga in the third round of their August tilt, and would hope to move on to the man regarded as the best in the world, Fedor Emelianenko. Unfortunately for everyone this fight did not happen in 2007, but no one can look past Couture's accomplishments in the last year coming back to the division that at one time forced him to drop down to Light Heavyweight.
Breakthrough Fighter of the Year: Roger Huerta
Why?: Huerta had a tremendous 2007, going 5-0 in the UFC's deep Lightweight division. Huerta started the year off in February with a quick first round stoppage of John Halverson via TKO. In April he would go the distance in a very exciting tilt with Leonard Garcia. Two months later he TKO'd Doug Evans in the second round and following that victory he would go on to defeat Alberto Crane by TKO at UFC 74 in August. Huerta ended the year in very exciting fashion coming from behind to rear naked choke Clay Guida (no pun intended) to cap off 2007 in a fight of the year candidate. Huerta stamped his place in the UFC with his impressive year and will look to continue his streak when he makes his return in 2008 after a well-deserved break.
Upset of the Year: Georges St. Pierre VS Matt Serra UFC 69
Why?: Why not? Considering the dominating fashion GSP won the Welterweight championship from Matt Hughes in their second fight, many just assumed that St. Pierre would walk through Serra, who earned his shot at the title by winning TUF 4. Serra had other ideas for all the nay-sayers, TKOing the French Canadian in the first round of their fight at UFC 69. Although there were a lot of big upsets and surprises this year such as Nick Diaz beating Takanori Gomi and Sokoudjou's victories over Ricardo Arona and Rogerio Nogueira (just to name a few) none shocked the world the way the Serra over GSP upset did. No one would have imagined Serra coming in and taking it to GSP the way he did. Considering GSP just dominated Hughes in their third match, the next fight should be the rematch of our 2007 “upset of the year.” Serra will come in the underdog again and most will consider GSP the obvious winner in this fight but could lightning strike twice? It could just be the biggest upset of 2008 as well.
Biggest Disappointment Of 2007: Fedor VS Couture did not happen
Why?: Well, I suppose it was also disappointing that Fedor didn't sign with the UFC because everyone wants to see him fight the top guys and minus a select few fighters, the top guys are in the UFC. The one fight that many wanted to see happen to end the year was a Heavyweight unification bout between Pride champ Fedor and UFC champ Couture. Unfortunately putting together the proper contract to seal a deal and bring the best Heavyweight in the world to the UFC failed, and that led to a downward spiral of more unfortunate events. Fedor decided not to sign with the UFC and instead signed with the upstart M-1 Global while Couture “resigned” from the UFC. Now both fighters will have to sit and wait until at least October to make this fight happen. Although it was a year of many ups in the sport, this in my opinion would be the biggest disappointment.
STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO OF THE MMANEWS.COM 2007 YEAR-END AWARDS FEATURE