Ah, yes. Another top five list.
With 2011 halfway through, it's time to roll out some typical mid-year awards. Filler? Maybe. Fun? Most definitely.
The subject of this particular list (courtesy of UFC.com), is UFC newcomers. It's an important distinction to make that this is not a reference to "Zuffa newcomers" or even "MMA newcomers" -- quite simply, the qualifier is that 2011 has to be the only year a participant has finally seen competition inside the Octagon.
There are a myriad of possibilities, what with the WEC merger that took place at the beginning of the year. Perhaps, then, it's no surprise the little guys that migrated over dominate the list.
Without further ado, in we go:
5 (tie). Brian Ebersole
This guy. The cartwheel kick guy. The dude who fought 62 times before ever stepping foot inside the eight-sided playground. Not only did it take his winning 12 of 13 fights but Carlos Condit also had to suffer an injury to open up a slot opposite Chris Lytle. "Bad Boy" wasn't expected to do much but he came through with the performance of a lifetime, nearly knocking Lytle out (which has never happened before) and ultimately taking home "Fight of the Night" with his unanimous decision win. He's not exactly viewed as a potential threat to the welterweight crown but you never know, right?
5 (tie). Jose Aldo
Of course "Scarface" is on the list. How could he not be? Okay, I can see how one might leave him off, seeing as he's fought just once since coming over from WEC as the featherweight champion and spent the beginning part of the year injured. However, combine his killer reputation with his "Fight of the Night" decision win over Mark Hominick at the mega-show that was UFC 129 and voila. It's also difficult to imagine "Junior" losing his title any time soon.
Here's a guy that makes the list thanks to big performances despite extremely low expectations. Just 1-1 in his short WEC stint, Poirier was offered up to Josh Grispi as a sacrificial lamb at UFC 125 when Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo pulled out with an injury. "The Diamond" ruined future plans for the 145-pound division and sent Grispi on a career spiral with a stunning three-round beatdown. He followed up that shocking win with a unanimous decision victory over Jason Young. He may not be ready for the top dogs just yet but he's getting there ... and fast.
A heavily hyped grappling specialist from the Serra-Longo Fight Team, Weidman was signed to the UFC after just four wins outside the promotion with the local Ring of Combat organization in New Jersey. He was thrown into the fire, too, stepping in for his debut on just two weeks notice and handily defeating Alessio Sakara. He again stepped in on short notice in his next fight and proceeded to win "Submission of the Night" with a first-round standing guillotine choke of Jesse Bongfeldt. The sky's the limit for this middleweight.
He might not be able to legally order a drink at a bar but he's been impressive as hell since making the jump from WEC. Already 11-1 before entering the Octagon, "Mayday" earned himself "Fight of the Night" honors in his debut performance against Edwin Figueroa. He followed it up with a close split decision win over Chris Cariaso and is on the fast track to bigger and better things in the 135-pound division.
"Mighty Mouse" entered into his UFC run having amassed an 8-1 career mark, including 2-1 in the WEC. A talented wrestler with near inhuman speed, Johnson wasn't expected to make a lot of noise. Then he ran through Norifumi Yamamoto before defeating former bantamweight king Miguel Torres -- with a broken freaking leg. He's now in the running for a title shot against division champion Dominick Cruz. That ain't not bad, folks.
Head on over to UFC.com to check out the extensive list of honorable mentions. And feel free to sound off in the comments section below on any notable snubs.
Let's hear it, Maniacs.