What better way to celebrate the love and brotherhood of the holiday season than by examining the best times two men inflicted traumatic brain injury on one another?
2013 was a gold mine for terrific fights, featuring quality scraps in all divisions. If I wasn't such a lazy prick, I'd be tempted to make this a Top 10 instead. Unfortunately, I am, in fact, a lazy prick, so you can instead derive additional enjoyment from people in the comments section complaining that their favorite bout was not included.
Don't lie to me ... I know my audience! Especially since I'm not including Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez because it was entirely one-sided save for one good punch from "The Dream" in the third.
5. Matt Brown puts the Young Gun on safety
Honestly, I'm somewhat surprised this UFC on FOX 7 firecracker hasn't gotten more attention. Matt Brown vs. Jordan Mein was not only a terrific fight, it was an incredibly interesting stylistic match up. Mein is one of the Welterweight division's best boxers, while Brown has what Jack Slack calls "a gift for violence," showcasing terrific creativity in his opportunistic assault.
All of that was on display here, Brown's relentless offense suffocating Mein's calculated boxing attack early on. Mein fought back with a brilliant liver shot partway through the round, hurting him more than any other of "The Immortal's" foes.
Eventually, though, Brown beat him down in the clinch. Despite his loss, though, I'm anxious to see where the 24-year-old goes from here ... just as I'm excited for Brown's next brawl.
4. Wanderlei Silva and Brian Stann trade Purple Hearts
I had three criteria for making this list:
- The fight must showcase solid technique.
- The fight must be competitive.
- The fight must be violent.
The UFC on FUEL TV 8 main event didn't quite fulfill the first one, but nailed the latter two. Wanderlei Silva and Brian Stann beat the living hell out of each other.
For the first five minutes, they repeatedly traded knockdowns, winging power shots with reckless abandon. Both landed over 50 percent of the shots they threw, landing 55 power strikes between them in the first.
After what is likely the "Round of the Year," things slowed down somewhat, Wanderlei reverting to the counter-oriented style he's recently employed. It paid dividends late in the second as he crushed Stann with a huge counter right, pounding him out cold shortly thereafter.
Hats off to both men. Nicely done.
3. Eddie Alvarez comes back with a vengeance
When Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler first locked horns, they put together one of the best fights of 2011, Chandler's power and speed eventually overwhelming Alvarez's slick boxing technique to secure a fourth-round submission.
Chandler proceeded to defend his belt three times, all by one-sided stoppage. This massive improvement, plus the fact that Alvarez was out of action for more than one year because of legal issues, meant most expected the rematch to be just a tad less competitive.
While it may not have been quite as high-octane as the first time around, the two engaged in an exciting tactical showdown at Bellator 106, Alvarez's superior footwork winning exchanges against Chandler's speed and power after two close rounds. If he won the third, though , Chandler owned the fourth, battering the flagging Alvarez with vicious ground-and-pound.
Impressively, the former champ still had enough in the tank, turning in a solid fifth round to earn the split decision upset win. You could hear the steam leaving Bjorn's ears from miles away.
2. Alexander Gustafsson (almost?) pillages Jon Jones' title
When watching the promos for this UFC 165 main event match, you got the sense that the UFC knew it wasn't fooling anyone. Its hype for Gustafsson revolved almost entirely around his size and not any aspect of his actual fighting ability. Many expected a short night of work for the reigning champ.
It was, instead, a long and painful night.
Gustafsson turned in the performance of a lifetime, becoming the first man in UFC history to take down "Bones," landing more power shots than most of Jones' previous foes combined. Jones would not go down without a fight, however, battling back to take control of the latter portion of the bout with powerful elbows and head kicks. In the fourth, he landed one of the gnarliest strikes of the year, a spinning back elbow that wrenched Gustafsson's neck to an uncomfortable angle.
Incredibly, the durable Swede didn't go down, surviving to give a competitive fifth round. In the eyes of many, he'd toppled the king, but unfortunately had to settle for merely being the closest win of Jones' career.
Let's do it again. Soon.
1. Hunt and Bigfoot go to war
The Heavyweight slobberknocker between Mark Hunt and Antonio Silva at UFC Fight Night 33 was simply a tremendous fight in every sense of the word. "Bigfoot" owned the first two rounds with an uncharacteristically tactical approach, using his superior reach to frustrate the counter-seeking Hunt. He even showed a powerful kicking game, buckling the durable kickboxer with powerful blows to the leg.
Then Hunt did something unexpected, taking down the giant and eventually dropping him with a tremendous right hand. Undeterred, "Bigfoot" battered him in the fourth after reversing a takedown, unloading the ground-and-pound the once felled Fedor Emelianenko before stamina forced a reprieve and allowed Hunt to survive.
Hunt fired everything in the fifth, landing power shot after power shot on an opponent that refused to wilt. Amazingly, Silva saw the final bell and both men walked away with a well-deserved draw (later ruled a "No Contest" because Silva's TRT levels were too high).
Take a bow, gents, as soon as you've got the wind to do so.