Alex’s World MMA Awards Ballot

 

The World MMA Awards are presented by Fighters Only Magazineand voting is open to the public. This means that even people like me get a say something about who wins. While award shows are kind of stupid, they do make a pretty big deal about these ones, and fighters do actually show up. I have presented below my ballot for the 2016 Awards, along with the actual winners.


 

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Charles “Mask” Lewis “Fighter of the Year”

  • Rafael dos Anjos
  • Max Holloway
  • Demetrious Johnson
  • Conor McGregor
  • Luke Rockhold

I voted for: Conor McGregor

Actual winner: Conor McGregor

It would take a seriously delusional fight hipster to deny the fact that 2015 was Conor McGregor’s year. First, he headlined the most watched UFC cable TV event of the Fox Sports era (2.75 million viewers). This card was promoted almost entirely on the promise of Conor McGregor knocking out Dennis Siver, a promise on which McGregor delivered. This led to a massive media tour promoting the highly anticipated title fight against Jose Aldo. After Aldo was forced to pull out due to an injury, Chad Mendes stepped in on short notice. This fight was supposed to be a stylistic nightmare for McGregor. Many had accused the UFC of cherry picking McGregor’s opponents, keeping him away from skilled grapplers like Mendes, and instead matching him against opponents willing to stand and trade with the heavy handed Irishman. The Mendes fight was the biggest challenge of McGregor’s career, on short notice no less. McGregor not only knocked out Mendes, but then closed out the year by knocking out Jose Aldo (arguably the best featherweight of all time) within seconds. He spent the rest of the year bullying Dana White into letting him fight for the title in a second division.

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Female Fighter of the Year

  • Tonya Evinger
  • Joanna Jedrzejczyk
  • Holly Holm
  • Ronda Rousey
  • Angela Lee

I voted for: Joanna Jedrzejczyk

Actual winner: Holly Holm

I have a feeling that most people voted for Holly Holm because she is the only female fighter that they know about besides Ronda Rousey and maybe Miesha Tate. I want to take nothing away from Holm’s victory over Rousey, which none of us saw coming, but calling her Female Fighter of the Year is a stretch. Holm fights in a weak division that was essentially thrown together for Rousey, and her two other UFC wins were underwhelming decisions. When she was first booked in the Rousey fight, many felt that it was too soon for her. It was only in hindsight that Holm became the conquering hero that many have now made her out to be.

Compare this to Jedrzejczyk, who fights in the far more competitive strawweight division. Joanna Champion, as she has taken to calling herself, put on two absolute striking clinics against two of the division’s best. Her wins over Carla Esparza and Jessica Penne were two of the most beautifully brutal displays of violence that I have ever seen. She closed out the year with a tough but decisive win over Valerie Letourneau on the Rousey/Holm undercard. Joanna Jedrzejczyk is the more dominant fighter in the more competitive division, and her resume should more than make up for her lack of ESPN name recognition.

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Breakthrough Fighter of the Year

  • Thomas Almeida
  • Henry Cejudo
  • Tony Ferguson
  • Joanna Jedrzejczyk
  • Holly Holm

I voted for: Holly Holm

Actual winner: Holly Holm

I have no problem with Holm winning this award, and I feel it is far more representative of the kind of year she had. She had one huge, career making performance, and deserves all of the attention that she has received since then.

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International Fighter of the Year

  • Joseph Duffy
  • Joanna Jedrzejczyk
  • Liam McGeary
  • Conor McGregor
  • Marat Gafurov

I voted for: Conor McGregor

Actual winner: Conor McGregor

This isn’t even fair. The fighter who had the best year (by far) just happens to be from Ireland, so there you have it.

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Fight of the Year

  • Justin Gaethje vs. Luis Palomino (WSOF 19)
  • Andrei Arlovski vs. Travis Browne (UFC 187)
  • Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald 2 (UFC 189)
  • Daniel Cormier vs. Alexander Gustafsson (UFC 192)
  • Vitaly Bigdash (vs. Igor Svirid, ONE Championship 32)

I voted for: Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald 2

Actual winner: Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald 2

This fight was a masterpiece. It was a gruesome, emotional, and gutsy performance from both Lawler and MacDonald, and it ended like any good fight should…with one fighter completely demolishing the other. With one well-placed punch, Robbie Lawler seemingly shattered Rory MacDonald’s hopes and dreams. It was amazing, and I am a Rory MacDonald fan. Imagine if Ward vs. Gatti ended with a decisive finish. Needless to say, I believe that the right fighter won out here.

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Knockout of the Year

  • Hisaki Kato (vs. Joe Schilling, Bellator 139)
  • Thomas Almeida (vs. Brad Pickett, UFC 189)
  • Holly Holm (vs. Ronda Rousey, UFC 193)
  • Jorge Filho (vs. Claudio Cezario, Jungle Fight 83)
  • Conor McGregor (vs. Jose Aldo, UFC 194)

I voted for: Holly Holm

Actual winner: Holly Holm

While I was tempted to vote for Almeida, just to go against the grain, breaking the jaw of the sport’s biggest star of all time should probably win you an award. It probably helps matters that it was the exclamation point on a masterful performance in a fight that she was not supposed to win.

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Submission of the Year

  • Ronda Rousey (vs. Cat Zingano, UFC 184)
  • Marcos Galvao (vs. Joe Warren, Bellator 135)
  • Fabricio Werdum (vs. Cain Velasquez, UFC 188)
  • Liam McGeary (vs. Tito Ortiz, “Bellator 142: Dynamite”)
  • Tony Ferguson (vs. Edson Barboza, TUF 22 Finale)

I voted for: Ronda Rousey

Actual winner: Ronda Rousey

Sometimes to the obvious choice is the right one. Ronda’s grappling skills were on full display here, and the end result is worth a repeat viewing.

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Comeback of the Year

  • Thiago Alves (vs. Jordan Mein, UFC 183)
  • Alex Chambers (vs. Kailin Curran, UFC Fight Night 65)
  • Eddie Alvarez (vs. Gilbert Melendez, UFC 188)
  • Patricio Freire (vs. Daniel Weichel, Bellator 138)
  • Vitaly Bigdash (vs. Igor Svirid, ONE Championship 32)

I voted for: Patricio Freire

Actual winner: Eddie Alvarez

I remember watching the Freire/Weichel fight and getting pretty wrapped up in it. I am also not a fan of Alvarez, and do not really enjoy watching him fight, so there is some personal bias there.

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Upset of the Year

  • Rafael dos Anjos (vs. Anthony Pettis, UFC 185)
  • Maryna Moroz (vs. Joanna Calderwood, UFC Fight Night 64)
  • Fabricio Werdum (vs. Cain Velasquez, UFC 188)
  • Uriah Hall (vs. Gegard Mousasi, UFC Fight Night 75)
  • Holly Holm (vs. Ronda Rousey, UFC 193)

I voted for: Holly Holm

Actual winner: Holly Holm

No explanation needed.

Rafael-Cordeiro

Shawn Tompkins Coach of the Year

  • Rafael Cordeiro
  • John Kavanagh
  • Javier Mendes
  • Mike Winkeljohn
  • Firas Zahabi

I voted for: Rafael Cordeiro

Actual winner: Rafael Cordeiro

While Winkeljohn (who trains Holly Holm) was partly the architect of Rousey’s downfall, I believe that 2015 was Cordeiro’s year. Everything that I have read and heard about the guy indicates that he is an incredible coach who knows how to play to the strengths of his fighters. Not only did he lead Fabricio Werdum to victory over Cain Velasquez, but he has turned Rafael dos Anjos into one of the scariest fighters at any weight. This was, in my opinion, and the opinion of most voters, Cordeiro’s year.

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Trainer of the Year

  • Jake Bonacci (S&C)
  • Mike Dolce (nutrition)
  • Brian Harris (S&C)
  • George Lockhart (nutrition)
  • Ido Portal (S&C)

I voted for: George Lockhart

Actual winner: Mike Dolce

I am pretty sure that people just vote for Dolce because of name recognition. I can not say I blame them, and I do not pretend to know enough about the insider aspects of the fight game to really vote here. I voted for the nutrition guy who was not Dolce, because Dolce seems like kind of a douchebag and his books are overpriced. Ido Portal is the guy who does all of those goofy movement drills with Conor McGregor, and I was tempted to vote for him just for the hell of it.

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Gym of the Year

  • American Kickboxing Academy
  • Blackzilians
  • Jackson-Wink MMA
  • Kings MMA
  • SBG Ireland

I voted for: Jackson-Wink MMA

Actual winner: Jackson-Wink MMA

While I feel that Cordeiro is the best coach in the world right now, Jackson-Wink is the premier gym in MMA. They have the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world in Jon Jones (who did manage an impressive win in 2015 before derailing his career with bad personal decisions), the woman who knocked out Ronda Rousey, the hardest working man in MMA (Donald Cerrone), and a much improved Alistair Overeem. Jackson-Wink is like the real life Cobra Kai.

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Referee of the Year

  • Herb Dean
  • Marc Goddard
  • John McCarthy
  • Dan Miragliotta
  • Mario Yamasaki

I voted for: Herb Dean

Actual winner: John McCarthy

I will pretty much always vote for Herb Dean. He may not be perfect, and no referee is, but he consistently officiates the highest profile fights (with the most money of the line), and he rarely makes mistakes.

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Ringcard Girl of the Year

  • Jhenny Andrade
  • Carly Baker
  • Arianny Celeste
  • Brittney Palmer
  • Mercedes Terrell

I voted: I didn’t

Actual winner: Arianny Celeste

This seems like the kind of thing that middle aged men who frequent Hooters get excited about. Is this really still a thing? Even if there is some kind of a charming backwardness to the whole thing, could they have collected a more generic looking bunch of models to parade around the Octagon? It is especially comical that they have ringcard girls for Ronda Rousey fights, when Ronda has actually been in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Congratulations to Arianny for winning, I guess. She’s the brunette, right?

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Leading Man

  • Scott Coker
  • Victor Cui
  • Lorenzo Fertitta
  • Ray Sefo
  • Dana White

I voted for: Scott Coker

Actual winner: Dana White

Scott Coker is leading Bellator, the clear number two promotion in the world. Do you know what Coker is not doing? Subjecting us to a dumbass Youtube reality shows in which he runs around the country with his middle aged bro buddies and makes dick jokes. He is not sticking his foot in his mouth every single time he talks in public. He is not publicly throwing his talent under the bus when they have the audacity to insist on being paid like professional athletes.

For the most part, I enjoy what Coker is doing with Bellator. I like the fact that he is taking chances. I like the fact that he embraces the stuff that the UFC stays away from, like the tacky pro wrestling style entrances. I have enjoyed the strategic use of “freakshow” fights, which are kind of a mashup of Pride FC and MST3K.

What I like about Coker’s Bellator is the fact that he is doing something drastically different than the UFC. Dana White has, over the past few years, turned the UFC into a vanilla fighter factory. Reebok era UFC means the death of individuality. No one is bigger than the brand, and we are now subjected to 6 hour events that feature endless fights between the guy in black-and-white trunks and the guy in white-and-black trunks. Admit it, Bellator 149 was everything you wanted and more (so long as DaDa 5000 does not actually die).

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Best Promotion

  • Bellator
  • Legacy FC
  • ONE Championship
  • UFC
  • WSOF

I voted for: UFC

Actual winner: UFC

I like what Bellator is doing, but let’s not get carried away here. UFC is mandatory viewing for MMA fans, and everything else is just extra credit.

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Personality of the Year

  • Jon Anik
  • Joe Rogan
  • Bas Rutten
  • Brendan Schaub
  • Bruce Buffer

I voted for: Joe Rogan

Actual winner: Joe Rogan

Joe Rogan is the only name on that list who has a following outside of the MMA bubble, due to his largely successful podcast and his stand up comedy career. This means that he is the only name on that list who is bringing new eyes to the sport. While Bas Rutten would be the hipster vote (and a good vote at that), Joe Rogan also deserves to win for carrying Mike Goldberg through every single major event this year. Danielle also wouldn’t let me vote for anyone else besides Joe Rogan.

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Analyst of the Year

  • Michael Bisping
  • Daniel Cormier
  • Dominick Cruz
  • Chael Sonnen
    Brian Stann

I voted for: Brian Stann

Actual winner: Dominick Cruz

Since retiring from professional fighting, Brian Stann has proven to be a quick study when it comes to color commentary. He is an intelligent and well spoken guy who know brings his first-hand knowledge to every broadcast, and I have no doubt that he will be ready for pay per view whenever Joe Rogan decides to move on.

That said, I enjoy Cruz on commentary and have no problem with him winning the award.

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Best MMA Programming

  • Bellator MMA: Uncut
  • The Fighter & The Kid
  • The MMA Hour
  • The Ultimate Fighter
  • UFC Embedded

I voted for: Embedded

Actual winner: Embedded

The Embedded series presents a surprising example of the UFC being completely plugged into what their fans want. It provides an easily accessible look at the fighters behind the scenes. Watching Embedded will give you a better sense of who these people are and what they are like outside of the cage. A big part of what makes the sport so compelling is the fact that these are real people with real stories, and Embedded gives fans a way to get emotionally  invested in the product.

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MMA Media Source of the Year

  • UFC Tonight
  • MMA Fighting
  • MMA Junkie
  • Inside MMA
  • Sherdog

I voted for: MMA Fighting

Actual winner: MMA Fighting

No disrespect to Sherdog, which is essentially the IMDB of MMA, but the most consistent and original content is coming from MMA Fighting. Regular contributors include Luke Thomas, Ariel Helwani, and Dave Meltzer (among others). If you follow the sport, you can essentially get everything you need from this one website.

I should mention that my personal favorite MMA blog is Bloody Elbow, which was not nominated.

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MMA Journalist of the Year

  • Brent Brookhouse
  • Ben Fowlkes
  • Ariel Helwani
  • Chuck Mindenhall
  • Brett Okamoto

I voted for: Ariel Helwani

Actual winner: Ariel Helwani

It’s not even really fair. Helwani probably knows more about what is happening right this second in MMA than anyone else in sports media. Fight nerds love him, all of the athletes respect him, he is the guy for MMA news.

I should mention that we did recently have the chance to creep him out on Twitter…

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Bad-Boy-Logo

Best MMA Clothing & Equipment Brand

  • BAD BOY
  • Everlast
  • Hayabusa
  • Torque
  • Venum

I voted for: Bad Boy

Actual winner: Bad Boy

The name Bad Boy always kind of made me laugh. No one gets to wear anything besides Reebok these days anyway.

 

 

1907514_1083815424978254_5819057157408723426_n  Alex co-hosts The Lowbrow Podcast, follow them @lowbrowpodcast

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