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 411mania » MMA » Columns

411's Fighter of the Month 5.03.13: April 2013
Posted by Larry Csonka on 05.03.2013

How It Works
Each staff member picks five fighters and ranks them. I'll assign a point value to those rankings. Points are determined as:

1st - 5
2nd - 4
3rd - 3
4th - 2
5th - 1

The fighter with the most points is our Fighter of the Month and then new points are assigned that will go towards Fighter of the Year. Those points are:

1st - 15
2nd - 12
3rd - 9
4th - 6
5th - 3
6th – 1

The Voting
Larry Csonka
1) Pat Curran:
Pat Curran is still your reigning and defending Bellator Featherweight Champion, following his submission of Shahbulat Shamhalaev at Bellator 95. Curran has now won six in a row, and is quickly becoming a big star for Bellator.

2) Jon Jones: Jon Jones fought through a jacked up big toe to destroy Chael Sonnen at UFC 159. Jones has successfully defended the title five times in a row, and is looking to break the record for that division, set by Tito Ortiz.
3) Benson Henderson: Benson Henderson scored a controversial split decision victory over Gilbert Melendez to retain the UFC Lightweight Title. While it was close, the fact is that he did retain the title and has now won seven in a row.
4) Cat Zingano: Defeated Miesha Tate via RD3 stoppage to earn a coaching gig o TUF as well as a title shot against Ronda Rousey.
5) Chad Mendes: Chad Mendes won his third fight in a row, via RD1 KO, and in on track for another title shot.

Jon Butterfield
1) Jon Jones:
Anyone following me on Twitter would have seen how unsurprised I was when Jones decided to wrestle Sonnen. Jon Jones has a history of trying to out-do opponents at their chosen craft. If it wasn't clear enough from the Lyoto Machida fight, where Jones literally stood toe-to-toe with ‘The Dragon' for the entire first round as opposed to playing to his wrestling strengths (where he held a clear advantage), this is the fight that lets you know for sure that Jones will take on any fighter at any aspect of the MMA game – and rarely lose out.

Where Machida actually tagged Jones and caused him to readjust his focus for the resulting rounds, Sonnen had nothing to offer Jones in the wrestling department – and so having been planted on his back for the second time in four minutes, Sonnen found himself utterly helpless as Jones rained down a furious flurry of elbows, knees and punches that rendered the challenger's defenses entirely ineffective. Nobody has ever done that to Sonnen before, and say what you will about size and weight, the chances are, nobody ever will again – not because Sonnen is supposedly retiring, but because nobody is of the same caliber as the reigning, defending UFC Light Heavyweight Champion of the world. If there was ever a dead cert to become the greatest fighter of all time, it's Jon ‘Bones' Jones. Anderson Silva and Georges St Pierre, prepare to be eclipsed.

2) Benson Henderson: You can't argue with the history books, and the history books state that Benson Henderson retained his title against the world-ranked number two lightweight in MMA. People will almost certainly look to Anthony Pettis as a potential suitor for the UFC Lightweight title, since Pettis defeated Henderson in the infamous ‘Showkick' fight in WEC, but I'd say that, right now, Henderson already has his hands full with a very dangerous opponent in his own right. Benson will almost certainly be asked to repeat his defense of the title against Melendez, and rightly so given how close this fight was. If Henderson can correct some of the flaws in his striking, he can not only defeat Melendez for a second time, but also prove he is one of the most competitive, most adaptable champions in UFC history.
3) Gilbert Melendez: Gilbert Melendez may have officially lost his UFC Lightweight title shot to Benson Henderson, but when the entire UFC on Fox panel are stating that they scored the fight unanimously for the challenger, you KNOW Melendez isn't losing out. If you've already read my number 5 pick, you're probably thinking I'm on the wind up or looking to be controversial, but I'm really not (okay, maybe with the Sonnen pick) – Gilbert Melendez not only pushed the recognized world number one to the very limit, but he more or less ensured a second chance to claim the 155 lb throne. Melendez consistently beat Henderson to the punch for three full rounds, before fading in the championship rounds. That's something Gil now has plenty of time to address, and given that his training partners are the Diaz brothers, world famous for their ridiculous cardio, I'd say he'll have plenty of tips coming his way to get those lungs prepared for a second crack at UFC glory. Considering how most people picked Henderson to win this fight by out-working Melendez, I think it's safe to say the statement Gil made in this fight was a lasting one, and well worthy of a Fighter of the Month mention.
4) Josh Thomson/Pat Healy: There have been some ridiculous statements bandied around since the demise of PRIDE, and some ridiculous misconceptions about how great the UFC roster is and how it's fighters would decimate all others. Yes, the UFC roster is the deepest in the world by far, but no, that doesn't mean the guys who fight outside the UFC can't be considered world class in their own right. Josh Thomson and Pat Healy have never been ranked as highly as they have been after ONE FIGHT in the UFC, and that's purely and solely down to the fact that if a fight doesn't take place under the UFC banner, it isn't judged to be as of high a standard as if it were. Like I said, that's ridiculous. The UFC offers the chance for fighters to prove themselves against recognized opposition, that much is true, and certainly Thomson would never have defeated Diaz and Healy would never have defeated Miller, had they remained contracted to Strikeforce – but that doesn't mean they aren't or weren't capable of beating them. Not only did Thomson and Healy win against top-ranked opposition, BOTH fighters finished their opponents – and oh what shockwaves that creates, despite the fact that when the WEC guys came into the UFC, they too were able to run roughshod over the competition. If I sound bitter here, it's because I am – and I still remember the clowns that claimed that had Fedor Emelianenko signed to the UFC, Brock Lesnar would have taken care of him. Seriously. Just because a guy is ranked highly in the UFC, doesn't mean he can beat everyone outside the UFC as well – and had a different set of judges been in place when Melendez challenged Henderson, we could have seen a clean sweep in favor of the ‘inferior' Strikeforce roster.
5) Chael Sonnen: I know a lot of people are going to baulk at this selection since Chael Sonnen got annihilated (as expected) in his Light Heavyweight title shot, but give the devil his due – when was the last time a fighter as inadequately equipped as Chael Sonnen managed to blag (English English for ‘talk his way into') a match of such high magnitude without doing ANYTHING to earn it? Chael Sonnen lost twice to the 185 lb champion, moved up a weight class, and without so much as winning a fight against a midcarder (let alone a legitimate challenger), Sonnen wormed his way into a title fight with Jones – and even managed to have fans second-guessing Jones' phenomenal wrestling and all-round fighting acumen to the extent that 49 % of viewers at UFC 159 actually predicted Sonnen to win! Despite not really threatening to actually spring the upset once the cage door closed, Sonnen did what so few fighters in the history of MMA have ever managed to do, and that's dupe nearly half of the audience into imagining what they damn well knew was nigh-on impossible. Sonnen, in April (and for months before), led the way with a resplendent example of how to market an almost unmarketable fight – now don't go telling me that's not every bit as impressive as actually beating someone relevant, because in one night Sonnen made far more money than most UFC contenders will in a year or two. Showmanship – this sport thrives on it – and only great fighters with immeasurable charisma can pull off what Chael Sonnen pulled off. Hell, he even bagged a Fighter of the Month nomination.

Patrick Mullin
1) Benson Henderson: Smooth did it again, taking on a very tough opponent and coming away retaining his lightweight title. Henderson showed his ability to adjust mid-fight and that he isn't afraid to take a few lumps in order to dish some out. Bendo has his share of critics, but so long as he keeps winning I don't think he cares. He also got to propose to his lady live on national television. Way to go Ben!

2) Cat Zingano: Zingano out-toughed Miesha Tate to earn a title shot at Ronda Rousey and a lucrative coaching gig on TUF opposite her. It was a hard fought and exciting win that put Zingano on the map at 135 pounds.
3) Michelle Waterson: The Karate Hottie earned Invicta gold with a submission win over Jessica Penne. Despite being hurt and nearly submitted while giving away size, Waterson didn't quit and earned a championship belt to match a championship heart.
4) Pat Curran: Is there a better fighter not in the UFC? Curran easily dispatched a game challenger in Shabulat Shamhalaev with a tight guillotine to retain his Bellator featherweight title. Curran has not lost at 145 pounds.
5) Pat Healy: Healy legitimized himself to the MMA world with a submission victory over the tough Jim Miller. Healy proved his own toughness and outlasted Jim before finishing him with a rear naked choke in Miller's backyard.

Jeffrey Harris
1) Jon Jones:
Jon Jones has now tied Tito Ortiz's UFC record for most consecutive title defenses in the light heavyweight division. But more than that, he did it against a much tougher group of opponent's. He defeated Sonnen at UFC 159 as many predicted he would, but still he endured a horrific toe injury that saw his big toe literally break and twist the other way around with the bone exposed. Say what you want about Jones, but his toughness is undeniable.

2) Benson Henderson: Ben Henderson fought one of the toughest and most evenly matched competitors in his career against Gilbert Melendez at UFC on Fox 7. Henderson retained his title by split decision, and I'd say it was because he continued to push the pace and work more after Melendez took his foot off the gas about midway through the fight. Henderson then got engaged to his girlfriend after the fight was over, despite an unsympathetic crowd who was upset their guy lost. Bendo has now tied the previous record for lightweight title defenses made by BJ Penn in the UFC.
3) Cat Zingano: The second ever women's fight in the UFC was an absolute barnburner between Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano. Zingano was undefeated but certainly the underdog going in considering the past rivalry between Tate and champion Ronda Rousey as well as Tate being a former women's champion in Strikeforce herself. This was a back and forth battle, but Zingano simply would not be denied. She came back with some big knee strikes to stop Tate and earn herself a spot as one of the first female coaches for the new season of The Ultimate Fighter and a shot at Rousey's UFC title.
4. Chad Mendes: Mendes' stock continues to rise in the featherweight division as he got a nice step-up in competition at UFC on Fox 7 against Darren Elkins, who was coming in on a hot win streak of 5-0 at featherweight in the UFC and 6-1 overall. Mendes quickly took care of business knocking out Elkins in the first round, giving Mendes three straight finishes since his knockout loss to Jose Aldo in a UFC title fight. Mendes has definitely stepped his game up and fighting like a guy with something to prove. In the WEC and in his early UFC fights, he was more of a grind 'em out wrestler, but now he looks like a much better rounded and complete mixed martial artist.
5) Matt Brown: Believe it or not, the seasoned veteran in the "Immortal" one Matt Brown was seen as the underdog against Jordan Mein at UFC on Fox 7. Mein was getting a lot of attention being a young fighter on a win streak from Strikeforce and had an impressive UFC debut, finishing Dan Miller. Brown's completely turned his career around as of late, winning five straight and remained in the win column against Mein in the opener at UFC on Fox 7. Brown came to throw leather, but almost went down to a rough body shot. He made it through though before finishing Mein off in the second frame to give him another Fight of the Night award.

Jonathan Solomon
1) Benson Henderson:
While it may have been another close decision, Henderson is now the undisputed #1 lightweight in the world after his win over Gilbert Melendez. Throw in his engagement and it was a hell of a month for Bendo. He finds his ways to win despite not dominating and in some ways, that's as impressive as those who never face adversity during a fight. Sure, there was the Nate Diaz fight, but one of these days, you have to imagine someone will steal enough rounds to knock him off. So far, that has yet to happen and Henderson is the top dog at 155-pounds.

2) Pat Healy: Many criticize the talent of fighters who don't happen to compete under the UFC banner for a variety of reasons. Such people were left fools when Bam Bam Healy not just beat Jim Miller, but choked him out. He may be one of the bigger lightweights, but it's a great sight to finally see him gain success in front of the biggest audience in the sport. Plus, he earned two bonuses for his performance, so an extra $130,000 in addition to his purse money must have been an outstanding sight to see.
3) Jon Jones: Bones did what everyone expected him to do, storm right past Chael Sonnen. Unfortunately, a freak injury which literally saw one of his big toes rip apart will keep him out of action for the foreseeable future. Timing wise, it sounds like Alexander Gustafsson will not get the next shot at him, which opens up rumors that we may see a super fight with Anderson Silva in the fall. Sweet~!
4) Pat Curran: Curran continues to cement his spot as the second best featherweight in the world. In his second Bellator title defense, he choked out Shahbulat Shamhalaev in under three minutes, hardly breaking a sweat in the process. Now, on a six-fight win streak, he has Daniel Straus, and Frodo Khasbulaev knocking on his door entering the second half of the year.
5) Kelvin Gastelum: A 21-year-old undefeated fighter out of Arizona had his entire career flipped upside down last month when Kelvin defeated TUF 17 favorite Uriah Hall to become the latest TUF champion. With a multi-fight contract and a looming cut to welterweight, now it's time to see whether he can turn this success into realizing the potential that has taken him this far.

Jack McGee
1) Cat Zingano:
While the win is a big part of this, I have always felt that Fighter of the Month (like the Wrestler of the Week) is also about career advancement. Well, Cat Zingano was the one that did the most for her career this month. She defeated Miesha Tate in a great comeback performance, she earned a coaching gig on TUF and she gets to face Ronda Rousey for the title. Not bad mom, not bad at all.

2) Pat Curran: Pat Curran continues to destroy fools in Bellator. Your current, reigning and defending Bellator Featherweight champion, making Shahbulat Shamhalaev his bitch via round one submission. Curran is a beast at 145, and continues to be one of the brightest spots in Bellator.
3) Jon Jones: Jon Jones destroyed Chael Sonnen in the first round of their UFC 159 fight. Jones wins again, with a BROKEN FRICKEN TOE, and still looks "unfuckwithable."
4) Benson Henderson: Benson Henderson defeated Gilbert Melendez at UFC on FOX 7 via razor thin split decision. If Henderson finishes or wins without dispute he gets a higher spot, unfortunately that wasn't the case. All split decisions are possible through Christ.
5) Michelle Waterson: Michelle Waterson defeated Jessica Penne via submission at NVICTA 5 to win the Atomweight Title. It felt like a special moment as the emotional Waterson has finally shed the "Karate Hotty" moniker, in a good way, as she is a mother and now a champion.

Alex Rella
1) Benson Henderson
The UFC lightweight champion picked up another big win as he knocked off longtime Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. It was another close five round battle for Henderson. He also tied the UFC lightweight record with three title defenses. Next he takes on the winner of Gray Maynard-TJ Grant. Both matchups are interesting.

2) Jon Jones: Yea he tied Tito Ortiz's record with his fifth title defense this past weekend. It was another dominant performance even with the broken toe. I still think it was an early stoppage, but there have been worse stoppages and he probably just would have finished him off ten seconds later.
3) Pat Curran: The best fighter outside of the UFC right now and clear number two featherweight in the world right now. He made quick work of his most recent opponent and hasn't lost at 145 lbs yet. Right now I don't think there is anyone else in Bellator that comes close to beating Curran.
4) Josh Thomson: This was such an awesome debut. The former Strikeforce lightweight champion became the first person to knockout Nate Diaz. This is something Benson Henderson, Gray Maynard, and Rory Macdonald were all unable to do. I can't wait to see who he goes up against next.
5) Cat Zingano: The UFC's second women's fight was pretty good. This was a stiff fight from start to finish as former Strikeforce bantamweight champion took on undefeated Cat Zingano. I thought Tate would take this one, but Zingano put her away with some brutal knees. Now she's the number one contender and will coach opposite Ronda Rousey on TUF.

Honorable Mention: Chad Mendes & Michelle Waterson - (4 points)

5th Place Pat Healy - (7 points)

4th Place - Cat Zingano - (15 points)

3rd Place - Pat Curran - (16 points)

Still your reigning and defending Bellator Featherweight Champion.

2nd Place - Jon Jones - (24 points)

Still your reigning and defending UFC Light Heavyweight Champion.

411's Fighter of the Month for March - Benson Henderson - (28 points)

 photo bndoproposal_zps7b5ae303.jpg

Benson Henderson is still the reigning UFC Lightweight Champion! He also proved that split decisions and proposals are possible through Christ…

2013 Year-End Standings
Here are the standing after four months…

RULE REMINDER: If a fighter ranked on the yearend list LOSES a fight they will lose 5 points. Also, after much discussion, if a fighter is suspended by an athletic commission, they lose any points accumulated.

  • Benson Henderson -15 pts
  • Georges St-Pierre -15 pts
  • Demetrious Johnson -15 pts
  • Ronda Rousey -15 pts

  • Jon Jones - 12pts
  • Johny Hendricks - 12pts
  • Anthony Pettis - 12pts
  • Renan Barao - 12pts

  • Pat Curran - 9pts
  • Mark Hunt - 9pts
  • Tarec Saffiedine - 9pts
  • Jose Aldo- 9pts
  • Emanuel Newton - 9pts

  • Glover Teixeira - 6pts
  • Antonio Silva - 6pts
  • Cat Zingano - 6pts

  • Pat Healy - 3pts
  • Wanderlei Silva - 3pts
  • Ben Askren - 3pts

  • Chad Mendes - 1pts
  • Marlon Moraes – 1pt
  • Michael Chandler - 1pt
  • Alexander Shlemenko - 1pt
  • Michelle Waterson - 1pt

  • Year-End Rankings Key:

    * UFC Contracted Fighters are represented in BLUE.

    * Bellator Contracted Fighters are represented in RED.

    * Other Fighters are represented in MAROON.


    Year One (2009) Winner: Lyoto Machida

    Year Two (2010) Winner: Cain Velasquez

    Year Three (2011) Winner: Jon Jones

    Year Four (2012) Winner: Benson Henderson


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