The Magnificent Seven 1.03.14: The Top 7 MMA Fighters of 2013
Posted by Jack McGee on 01.03.2014
From Vitor Belfort and Urijah Faber to Chris Weidman and more, 411’s Jack McGee looks back at the year 2013 and names his top seven fighters of the year!
Welcome back to the 411 MMA Zone kids, Jack McGee back in the saddle to deliver you a special one-shot appearance. The year that was 2013 for MMA is done and we're now into the year 2014, but it seems as if all everyone wants to talk about is Georges St-Pierre walking away and the fall of Anderson Silva. That is all well and good because those are important news items, but I also feel that we need to look back on the good from the year 2013. With that in mind, I want to look back at the year 2013 and name my personal top seven fighters from the year. I will look at wins and loses, the importance of victories and all of that good stuff to do so. I won't lie, there will be some personal bias, but there is in every column; I just don't mind admitting it. Lets get to work…
JACK MCGEE'S TOP SEVEN MMA FIGHTERS OF 2013
This was a very difficult list to make. For the record, the Honorable Mentions: Travis Browne, Glover Teixeira & Robbie Lawler.
#7. Emanuel Newton (4-0)
Starting off our list is the Hardcore Kid, Emanuel Newton. When 2013 started, no one knew who Newton was or cared to know who he was. Newton had been toiling around the MMA scene in MFC, Shark Fights and other companies until landing in Bellator. He was matched up against King Mo as a sacrificial lamb because they wanted Mo to win their tournament and title. Well, Mo came in with hands down and ate a spinning backfist and was done. Newton was 2-0 at that point for the year, and then the special summer four man we want Mo to win the title tournament happened, and Mo and Newton would face again for the "Interim Mo Needs a Title" Title, which is another story in itself. Seriously, they were so transparent in trying to give Mo a title it was pathetic. Mo did better in the second fight, but could not defeat Newton, who won via decision. Emanuel Newton goes 4-0 in 2013, wins the Bellator Interim Light Heavyweight Title, defeats the Viacom golden boy and made people take notice. When 2013 started, I had no clue who Emanuel Newton was; now as 2014 begins, I sure the hell know who he is now.
#6. Chad Mendes (3-0)
2013 was a great year for Team Alpha Male. Duane Ludwig came on board and gave them a true head coach and a direction, and they have been tremendous in the year. Two fighters from the camp will make the list, and the first is Chad Mendes. Mendes made waves as a dominant wrestler and being able to grind people out with ease, which earned him a title shot against Jose Aldo. He lost via RD 1 KO to Aldo, and many wondered if he could make another run. Since the loss to Aldo, Mendes is 5-0. Four of those wins via (T)KO and one via decision. He went 3-0 in 2013, finishing Darren Elkins and most importantly Clay Guida; who hadn't been stopped via strikes in his career. To close out the year he defeated Nik Lentz via decision, shutting down Lentz's three fight winning streak. Chad Mendes looks like a new fighter following the loss to Aldo, and with a 3-0 2013 and going 5-0 following the loss to Aldo, he is now making a very strong case for a title shot, especially if Aldo happens to lose against Lamas. We'll see what happens, but the one thing I know is that Mendes had a very good year and I hope to see him get a title shot in 2014.
#5. Holly Holm (4-0)
In the world of women's MMA it seems like the main talks is with the UFC, and for good reason. Ronda Rousey is the right champion at the right time; and Tate was a good challenger for her. McMann has the Olympic pedigree that they can build on as a challenger, and Cat Zingano earned the shot and has the mother thing to build on when she gets her title shot. The UFC did a season of the Ultimate Fighter that was half women, they bought the Invicta Strawweights and will be doing a TUF season with those ladies and a few others added in. But outside of the UFC there is another force making waves, and her name is Holly Holm. Holm was a boxer for 11-years, and won such titles as the WBF Female World Welterweight Championship, WBF Female World Light Welterweight Championship, WBC World Female World Welterweight Championship, WBAN World Welterweight Championship, WIBA World Welterweight Championship. She had a decorated career, and is not set for MMA full time. She fought four times in 2013 (Bellator, LFC, Fresquez Productions) and won all four fights. Three victories via (T)KO, and one via decision. Holm is making waves, she is getting attention and Ronda Rousey has taken notice. The UFC will want to get the best women, they will want the best fights, and it is only a matter of time until UFC signs Holm. They have McMann and Zingano, and then no one as far as challengers go. Holm is doing her part and looking very good, and she had a very good year, especially for someone outside of the UFC and or Bellator.
#4. Vitor Belfort (3-0)
It's so hard not to laugh when you hear people discussing that, "it's like Vitor Belfort has found the fountain of youth" in 2013. And that is due to the TRT exemptions, and the fact that his last three fights have all been in Brazil where no one is particularly sure how strong or valid the drug testing done there is. I do not think that you can overlook these things, and it is partly why Vitor is at #4 on my list instead of being slightly higher. But to look past the TRT and other possible issues, I will never say tat they man did not have a great year. He started with a second round head kick TKO victory over the UFC's Ultimate Bridesmaid Michael Bisping. Belfort was rebounding from the Jones loss and ruined Bisping's latest never going to get it title shot. Belfort then destroyed Luke Rockhold, who was the final Strikeforce Middleweight Championship, with a spinning heel kick and shots in the first round. Finally, Belfort finished all time great Dan Henderson in November to close out what may have been the best year in his career. Again, Belfort's year is great and you have to have the skills to do what he did, unfortunately there are so many dark clouds over the accomplishments that it is hard to get invested in them. I loved Mark Hunt vs. Bigfoot, and then Bigfoot fucked up again (like he did in Elite XC in 2008) and it reminded me not to take things at face value. It sucks to have that way of looking at the sport, but I have been burned too many times in the past.
#3. Urijah Faber (4-0)
This one will stir up some shit, because there seems to be an anti-Team Alpha Male sentiment going around these days, even on this very site. While I respect all opinions, the facts are that Team Alpha Male had a great year, and Urijah Faber proved that he can still go and that he can be a challenger. Following his loss to Renan Barao, Urijah Faber took some time and rededicated himself to the sport. Starting in February, the California Kid took the Octagon by storm, and is 2013 went 4-0 with three finishes via submission; Ivan Menjivar - choked out, Scott Jorgensen – choked out, Iuri Alcantara – made it to a decision, Michael McDonald – choked out. Faber is money in non-title fights, which is a fact and in a way a joke due to his recent record in title fights. But people want to downplay him due to that, but the man has a great submission game, spectacular scrambles and a wealth of experience to call back on. Add in the addition of Duane Ludwig as his new head coach, and things seems to be falling in place for Faber. The man had a great 2013, and should be awarded the title shot against the Cruz vs. Barao winner.
#2. Demetrious Johnson (3-0)
The UFC Flyweights do not get much respect from MMA fans. They are small, they don't hit hard, they aren't all that exciting, they don't finish fights, and the aren't made to look important. Well, if you believe all of that, you obviously did NOT pay attention to Demetrious Johnson in the year 2013. Sure, Demetrious Johnson cannot do a lot about the small part, but the other stuff he did his best to dispel the close-minded thoughts about the Flyweights. Exciting? Johnson is one of the fastest fighters ever to step into the Octagon. The man looks like a video game in the cage, and has that anything can happen vibe about him. Finishing fights? Following an energetic decision victory over Jon Dodson, Johnson arm barred Moraga and then destroyed Benavidez via KO in the first round of their rematch. Not made to look important? Lets look at something…
UFC on Fox 6 - Johnson vs. Dodson
UFC on Fox 8 - Johnson vs. Moraga
UFC on Fox 9 - Johnson vs. Benavidez 2
Now correct me if I am wrong, but the man main evented three "BIG FOX" events that had his name on the marquee. That seems pretty damn good to main event three FOX shows, which were all title defenses. The UFC runs a lot of shows, they have a big master in FOX to please, but they also have the difficulty of making stars in a sport that they don't have full control over. They took a new title and a new champion and, in a wrestling phrase, strapped the rocket to his ass to get him the most exposure so that he either remains a TV drew or becomes a PPV draw. Johnson goes 3-0, with three title defenses, two finishes and all of "BIG FOX"? Not only has he had one hell of a year, but may end up winning 411's Fighter of the Year voting. But there is one other guy we need to discuss…
#1. Chris Weidman (2-0)
In my opinion there was only one choice to take this top spot, and that was Chris Weidman. Why? He defeated Anderson Silva TWO times. Silva was the most dominant UFC Champion ever, and is regarded by most to be the greatest fighter of all time. Silva went from January of 2006 to July of 2013 without losing a fight. 17 fights, 17 victories, and 15 finishes; Anderson Silva was the man, and then Chris Weidman stepped up to the plate. Weidman was coming off a yearlong layoff due to injury and hurricane Sandy destroying his house. He was always heavily hyped, had the tools to give Silva issues, but personally I felt as if the layoff would be what slowed him down. He went in there, he looked good, Silva fucked around, and Weidman took advantage and knocked out the legend. Now, people want to make excuses for Silva and slight Weidman's victory, but Silva has done this in the past and no one could even touch him. Weidman did, Weidman finished him, and Weidman won the title.
But with that title came nothing but disrespect. I get that to a point, what if Silva took the fight seriously? But then again, Weidman hit the button and knocked out the man that looked indestructible. In the past we have seen that once the button is pushed that it cannot be un-pushed (Fedor and Liddell for example).
Five months after the first fight they would rematch at UFC 168, and Chris Weidman won again. When the first fight was over, Weidman's camp was not happy that he took so many leg kicks from Silva, and it was a focus of their camp. Now, I am not insane like some people that comment on the old Internet, but those claiming that, "Weidman's strategy was to check leg kicks and break Silva's leg" are idiots. Stop talking about the, "best leg kick check in the history of MMA," it was a perfect storm. Weidman learned a technique to make people think twice about throwing leg kicks, Silva threw a very hard kick, he is older, and the leg snapped in what may be one of the most disappointing ways to see a career end.
But with the win and title retention, still comes disrespect. Now I am a huge Anderson Silva fan, and I will fully admit that when I saw him break his leg at UFC 168, I was disappointed and sad. It is likely the end of an era. We saw the end of the greatest fighter in the history of MMA, we saw him get old before our eyes, because it was always going to happen. Chris Weidman was the perfect storm, the kryptonite to the Superman that was Anderson Silva.
Chris Weidman is the undisputed UFC Middleweight Champion and he did that by knocking out Anderson Silva and was on his way to winning the second fight through conventional means when Silva broke his leg. Chris Weidman won, and they never ask you HOW you won, just HOW MANY you won; and he won two against the greatest of all time. Does it suck how the second fight went down? Certainly, it is a tragedy. Is it part of the sport? Obviously.
Chris Weidman defeated Anderson Silva TWO TIMES in the same year. He won the middleweight title, he defended the middleweight title, and not to be insensitive, he was the last man standing. The king is dead, long live the king…