SI.com's 2009 MMA Awards
Three men could justifiably be called Fighter of the Year for 2009. So why did
The 28-year-old UFC welterweight champion's successful campaign saw him stop pound-for-pound-ranked
Most impressive about St. Pierre was the ability to dominate in spite of his predictability. Both Penn and Alves knew he would wrestle. Both possess tremendous balance, power and tools to avoid takedowns. Both are known for their uncanny ability to stay standing. Just not against St. Pierre in 2009. In essence, the welterweight king illustrated that even when the toughest opponents know what's coming and how to stop it, he's good enough to do what he wants.
Now it's true the UFC champ didn't offer up the most entertaining performances -- both Emelianenko and Aldo have that over him -- yet his preparation and execution was no less fascinating.
As was his growth outside the cage and away from UFC.
There isn't a mixed martial artist this year who contributed more to the sport's long-term expansion than GSP. In March, he became the first mixed-style fighter sponsored by Gatorade. Seven months later, Under Armour signed St. Pierre (19-2) to a multi-year agreement that made him a featured face of the popular sports apparel company.
Emelianenko (2-0 with knockouts against
MMA's top heavyweight may have received a tremendous amount of attention for negotiations with the UFC in the summer before settling on a contract with Strikeforce that put him on CBS in front of more than 5 million viewers, but it's not the same as the impact mainstream sponsors could have on MMA. Still, Emelianenko (31-1, 1 NC) made enough news to finish a strong second place.
And while Aldo (16-1) isn't the beneficiary of that kind of coverage on Versus' decreasing view universe, the 23-year-old's impressive tally, including a stomping of WEC featherweight champion Mike Thomas Brown in Nov., was more than enough to merit serious consideration.
The 24-year-old Santos (8-1) expressed little interest in usurping the "face of female MMA" mantle from Carano, but so long as all it requires is the desire and capability to fight dangerously, the title could be hers for quite some time.
Highly competitive? Check. Had a little bit of everything? Check. Extended fighters past what they might have thought were their breaking points? Check.
Fight of the year? Sure feels like it.
Competing for the WEC interim lightweight title while
When it was done, the three judges sitting cage-side in San Antonio, Texas, on Oct. 10 scored it 48-47 for Henderson. Though the decision stirred up quite a lot of discussion about its accuracy, all it should have done was speak to the fight's razor-thin margin.
The idea of selecting the best knockout of 2009 is a farce. There were so many tremendous finishes this year it's an impossible category to judge.
Here are seven that, in the moment, were as technically brilliant as Emelianenko's right-hand hammer to the leaping ex-UFC heavyweight champion's chin:
• Jose Aldo KO
• Lyoto Machida KO
So, why Emelianenko's shot against Arlovski?
The Russian had difficulty establishing the right range from which to strike in the early going. Arlovski was fast and sharp, winging punches near and around Emelianenko's head, but one mistake was all he needed. Boxed into a corner, Emelianenko unleashed an overhand right the instant Arlovski planted on the canvas to push himself into the air for a jumping knee. The punch twisted Arlovski (15-7) 180 degrees before he fell face first on the canvas, immobile. Beyond the stunning execution, the finish reminded the world how dangerous Emelianenko has been and still is.
Requiring the least debate of any category,
Twenty strong minutes of fighting brought