clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Best UFC/MMA fighters of 2014, a Top 5 list

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

On the fourth day of Christmas, Mania gave to me .... Four fights a year. Three pay-per-views (PPVs). Two brutal head kick. And a brabo from underneath.

It's Christmas! Why are you on this silly little website instead of spending time with your family?

Well, whatever the reason, we won't judge you (to your face).'s "5 Top 5s" rolls on today as we check out the fighters who made all of this senseless waste of human health possible.

Here are the most accomplished fighters of 2014:

5. Fabricio Werdum

Fabricio Werdum

Fabricio Werdum rejoined Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 2012 on the heels of an embarrassing fight with Alistair Overeem under the Strikeforce banner. Since then, he's been an absolute wrecking machine, with 2014 his finest year to date.

In April, he trounced one of 2013's "Fighters of the Year," Travis Browne, without ever having to resort to his Brazilian jiu-jitsu. This earned him a spot on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Latin America" opposite division champion, Cain Velasquez, plus a title shot when the show was done.

When Velasquez suffered yet another injury, Werdum took on the resurgent Mark Hunt instead. Though he struggled to bring down Hunt and suffered a pair of knockdowns from the Kiwi's iron fists, Werdum once again showed his evolving game by laying out "Super Samoan" with a gorgeous flying knee.

The Heavyweight division is more interesting than it has been in years thanks in no small part to Werdum. I'm quite looking forward to how things play out in 2015 and beyond for the big boys.

4. Luke Rockhold

(Photo Credit: USA Today Sports)

Luke Rockhold's 2013 ended on the wrong end of Vitor Belfort's heel. His 2014, by contrast, was a brutal path of destruction through one of the most crowded divisions (Middleweight) in the sport.

He opened the year by demolishing Costas Philippou, becoming the first man to ever stop the Cypriot striker with a brutal liver kick halfway through the first round. He took even less time to erase Tim Boetsch, tapping out "The Barbarian" with an inverted triangle/kimura combination.

However, his best performance was his most recent, as he thoroughly dominated Michael Bisping. Rockhold controlled every second of the fight, eventually finishing "The Count" via left high kick and one-armed guillotine.

What makes this year so impressive from Rockhold isn't just the quality of competition -- since those three usually hover around the Top 10- to Top-15 mark, but also the fact that it is really hard to look good against those guys. Boetsch and Bisping in particular are notorious spoilers and Rockhold just walked though them.

I can't wait to see him against one of the Top 5.

3. T.J. Dillashaw

(Photo Credit: USA Today Sports)

In his first fight of the year back in January, Dillashaw washed out the taste of his controversial loss to Raphael Assuncao by thrashing Mike Easton, whose Lloyd Irvin association made this one of my personal favorite fights of the year. Despite this, few if any gave him a chance against Renan Barao when he stepped up to replace Dominick Cruz.

And he kicked Barao's ass.

There's no other way to describe it. Dillashaw completely and utterly wiped the floor with a man who hadn't lost in nine years. Best of all, he never took his foot off the gas despite being clearly ahead and capped off his impressive performance by laying out "The Baron" in the fifth and final frame.

If the rematch with Barao had gone through and he'd repeated his effort, I'd have Dillashaw at least a spot higher. As is, he still had a tremendous year and is a mouth-watering prospect.

2. Donald Cerrone

(Photo Credit: USA Today Sports)

I don't think there is anyone in the sport, save perhaps the man at the front of this list, who fights as often and consistently against top-flight competition as Donald Cerrone. When he fights Myles Jury at UFC 182 on Jan. 3, 2015, he will have fought five times in 12 months ... all against excellent fighters.

He started the year off by laying out underrated Brazilian Adriano Martins with a picture-perfect head kick, then survived a vicious early onslaught to choke out fellow leg kick aficionado Edson Barboza. Jim Miller lasted longer than those guys, but it was no less impressive when "Cowboy" became the first man to stop Miller with strikes.

His fight against Eddie Alvarez, though, deserves special consideration because it shows the growth in his game that could one day take him to the title. Alvarez, on paper, seemed toxic to Cerrone, packing the speed, durability and power to force "Cowboy" onto the back foot like Nate Diaz before him. Though Cerrone had to wade through hellfire to do it, he laid a beating on Alvarez, using brilliantly-timed knees to the body to halt his advance.

If he manages to get past Jury, it's hard to imagine he won't be in title consideration once this whole Khabib Nurmagomedov / Rafael dos Anjos fustercluck is resolved. Can he avoid a repeat of last time? Based on what we saw this year, I'd say it's not out of the realm of possibility.

1. The Injury Bug Robbie Lawler

(Photo Credit: USA Today Sports)

Ten years ago, Robbie Lawler got knocked out with one punch by Nick Diaz. Today, he's the UFC Welterweight champion.

Lawler is an anomaly on this list in that he didn't go undefeated this year. That said, it's such a remarkable comeback story, the loss was such a great fight, and the rest of his year was so impressive that I feel he still deserves the top spot.

His title fight with Johny Hendricks served as his first bout of 2014 and delivered all the excitement you'd expect out of a clash between true knockout punchers. The two engaged at close range with a variety of techniques, leading to a fight that remained gripping and entertaining until the very last minute.

Though he came up short, he was just getting started.

In May, he wiped the floor with Jake Ellenberger, cowing the fearsome puncher before putting him away with a vicious knee in the third round. Two months later, he did what so many others have failed to do and outslugged the surging Matt Brown for a unanimous decision win.

Finally, in December, he got his revenge and the UFC welterweight title by defeating Johny Hendricks in another classic bout.

This is a man who went 3-5 in Strikeforce and was a +385 underdog in his first fight back in UFC. His original Octagon debut was 12 years ago. Everything's come full circle and, against all logic, "Ruthless" is once more one of UFC's brightest stars.

Well done, Robbie.

Cleaning up all the Christmas detritus may not be fun, but we've got one more list to keep you occupied. So swing back through later tonight as we count down the best fights of 2014.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Mania Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Mania