411's Fighter of the Month: March 2014
Posted by Larry Csonka on 04.09.2014
Johny Hendricks won the UFC welterweight title, Pat Curran regained the Bellator featherweight title, Emanuel Newton became the Bellator light heavyweight champion and more, but who won 411’s Fighter of the Month for March? Check out the full article to find out!
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:
At Bellator 106, Daniel Straus defeated Pat Curran to win the Bellator featherweight title. Curran was on a roll, winning six in a row, and I was surprised he lost. Curran got the immediate rematch, but had to deal with depression issues on the road to his rematch. He defeated her personal issues, had one hell of a rematch with Straus, and took his title back with a fifth round submission – no judges needed. This was a great fight, with a great finish and is a great story with Curran taking back his title. I have a feeling that it gets lost in the shuffle, but to me this was the biggest win of the month.
2) Johny Hendricks: At UFC 171, Hendricks defeated Robbie Lawler to win the vacant welterweight title via unanimous decision. He also basically did so with one arm, he's a bad man.
3) Emanuel Newton: Defeated Attila Vegh via unanimous decision to unify the Bellator Light Heavyweight and Interim Light Heavyweight titles, continuing his momentum from 2013.
4) Marlon Moraes: Moraes defeated Josh Rettinghouse via unanimous decision to win the inaugural WSOF bantamweight title.
5) Rousimar Palhares: Defeated Steve Cark via RD1 heel hook to win the WSOF Welterweight title.
1) Johny Hendricks:
‘Big Rigg' squeaked by Robbie Lawler in an absolutely fantastic, enthralling main event title fight at UFC 171, finally capturing the Welterweight Title he has long been so close to. Hendricks (and Lawler, who deserves a lot of praise as well) showed true grit and determination throughout the battle, which now seems even more impressive as we learned he fought through a torn bicep and fractured shin. Hendricks received a much shorter recovery time-frame than originally feared and we can look forward to his first title defense in early Fall as he has a group of fresh contenders awaiting his return.
2) Alexander Gustafsson: Alexander Gustafsson did what was expected of him at Fight Night 37, defeating Jimi Manuwa in impressive fashion. Gustafsson had a case for an immediate rematch against Light Heavyweight kingpin Jon Jones after their epic battle in September but it didn't play out that way. Gustafsson is now almost a lock to receive the next LHW title shot and see if he can catch lightning in a bottle twice.
3) Hector Lombard: Robbie Lawler was considered for this spot for his performance against Johny Hendricks. Tyron Woodley was also close for likely becoming the #1 Welterweight Contender but the unfortunate injury ending to his fight against Carlos Condit led me to give Hector Lombard the spot here. We all know how successful Jake Shields has been at absolutely stifling the majority of his opponents yet Lombard was able to completely neutralize Shields and outwork him throughout their fight. Lombard took some ridiculous criticism from people like Joe Rogan for not getting the finish, but the fact is he played it smart and did something to Jake Shields that virtually no one else has been able to do. Lombard has found a good home in the Welterweight division and is likely one win away from a title shot.
4) Dong Hyun Kim: ‘Stun Gun' continued to build on his impressive resume as he landed a beautiful, vicious spinning elbow KO to John Hathaway in the main event of TUF China Finale. Kim has a record of 19-2 with those two losses coming to top fighters Carlos Condit and Demian Maia (the latter of which was due to a fluke injury.) Kim has some flaws in his game and he may soon reach a ceiling but he has been an exciting fighter in the Welterweight division and has earned himself a chance at some top competition in his next bout.
5) Godofredo Pepey: I'm going to give Godofredo Pepey some love here for his amazing flying knee KO at Fight Night 39. That flying knee was so fantastic and will surely be seen in highlight packages for years to come.
1) Johny Hendricks:
There were a ton of really great performances this past month but Hendricks not only accomplished his life mission of becoming UFC Welterweight Champion, in a modern day epic against Robbie Lawler, he did it while being injured. The determination Hendricks showed was nothing short of legendary and the performance comes at a crucial time for the UFC. His showing helped establish Hendricks as one of the elite fighters on the UFC roster. One of the guttiest as well, which is always a good draw when given Hendricks knockout ability. Early signs are pointing to a solid butyrate for UFC 171 as well, putting it in the same ballpark as UFC 170 which was headlined by Ronda Rousey.
2) Tyron Woodley: I didn't give Woodley a chance heading into his fight with Carlos Condit but even before the freak injury "The Chosen One" was making a statement and winning the fight. Who knows how the fight would have gone had Condit not tore his ACL since Woodley is known for gassing even in three round fights. With the win Woodley propelled himself through the rankings and has deservedly become one of the top two contenders in the heavily crowded UFC Welterweight division. Although Woodley will most likely have to win one more fight before getting a title shot, it was his win over the highly ranked Condit that put him in the consideration as someone who should even get a shot.
3) Robbie Lawler: Even in defeat Robbie Lawler was able to have a career defining performance against Johny Hendricks. During the fifth round of their fight you could literally feel the fight just barely slip away through the "Ruthless" one's fingers as the final minutes ticked away. Lawler will be quick to return to action when he jumps in to take on Jake Ellenberger at UFC 173 to help save that card from further imploding, so I bumped him up a little bit. He is well aware of the situation he finds himself in, where fans are clamoring for a rematch but the Welterweight division happens to be a crap shoot at the moment and the only way to really stand out for a title shot is to get some convincing wins.
4) Alexander Gustafsson: Gustafsson made a statement against the undefeated Light Heavyweight prospect Jimi Manuwa and called out Jon Jones for their rematch afterwards. Twitter drama aside, people flat out want to see Jones and Gustafsson fight again and Gustafsson is coming out looking like the man who wants this fight even more than the fans.
5) Dan Henderson: Hendo may have saved his career at the expense of completely destroying Shogun Rua's face. After a three fight skid where Henderson hadn't won a fight since… his first fight with Shogun, he was able to pick up a critical win and appears set on making one last run at the Light Heavyweight title before he hangs it up for good. It'll be interesting to see where the certified mixed martial arts legend goes from here but a name like his is always at least one or two legitimate wins away from title contention. There also aren't a whole lot of names out there people have been begging to see Hendo step in the Octagon with. Many would agree had he retired after his rematch with Shogun, it may have been one of the more fitting retirements in MMA history. His thirst to be called UFC champion will supposedly be the only thing driving Henderson to his ultimate goal with the recent ban of TRT.
1) Johny Hendricks:
At long last, Johny Hendricks fulfilled his goal of winning the UFC welterweight title, and he did it in his hometown. Despite some weigh-in concerns, where it almost appeared that Hendricks might come in overweight and a close, tough battle against Robbie Lawler, Big Rigg at least captured the belt that he was denied last November at UFC 167. The battle was grueling against Lawler. Despite starting strong, the fight was gradually being taken away from Hendricks later on. He recognized that and realized he had to push forward and gut it out in order to edge out the fight and capture the title in an incredible bout. And he did it with an injured bicep.
2) Robbie Lawler: Lawler failed to win the title at UFC 171, but he still managed to put in a great, memorable performance against Johny Hendricks. His takedown defense, long one of his biggest flaws, looked better than ever against a NCAA Division I wrestling champion. Lawler lost, the fight, but he was still a part of one of the greatest UFC welterweight title fights ever seen. Despite getting out-pointed by Hendricks, Lawler is still in the top rung of UFC welterweights and could find himself back in the title picture sooner rather than later.
3) Alexander Gustafsson: Gustafsson was put in a risky fight against the undefeated Jimi Manuwa. Gustafsson was the favorite, but as we have often seen, anything can happen in the Octagon. Gustafsson unfortunately was not able to be put in an automatic rematch against Jon Jones for the title. Gustafsson came out and made a statement. He was the first man to ever stop or beat Manuwa period. Now a likely rematch against Jones or a title opportunity to redeem himself awaits him.
4) Dan Henderson: Henderson was in the midst of a losing battle against Shogun in Brazil. Henderson nearly got stopped early on. But proving once again that he has the heart of a champion and one of the greatest ever, Henderson rallied back. He recovered and fought through a tough beating. When all seemed lost, Henderson landed his patented H-Bomb that effectively rearranged Shogun's face and gave him a definitive victory. Henderson was coming off three straight losses, and while he might not be able to fulfill his goals of making another run at the title, he proved yet again that this old man can fight and take a punch.
5) Pat Curran: Despite the circumstances of the poor matchmaking that made the fight, Curran definitely needs to be recognized for his excellent performance at Bellator 112. In a rematch against then-champion Daniel Straus, Curran and Straus fought down to the wire. They were even on the scorecards going into the last round. And with only 15 seconds left to go in the fight, Curran was able to secure a rear naked choke and win back the title. It was an incredible fight and potential Fight of the Year candidate. Curran has now won his second title and effectively won his trilogy against Straus 2-1.
1) Johny Hendricks:
While it may not have the same historic value as a win over Georges St. Pierre, Johny Hendricks became the new UFC welterweight champion by topping Robbie Lawler. Another hard-fought five-round battle, Hendricks was the clear-cut winner after 25-minutes. Now with the target on his back, let see if he can become the first man not named GSP to successfully defend the gold since 2006!
2) Pat Curran: Curran went through a rough stretch after losing to Daniel Straus last year but came back strong in their rematch. Potentially on his way to a decision loss, he still fought to finish in the waning seconds of the fifth round. He locked on a rear naked choke and forced the champ to tap out with under 15-seconds remaining to become the first two-time Bellator champion.
3) Eduardo Dantas: DuDu gets this spot exclusively for his awesome smooth transition to choke out Anthony Leone and retain his bantamweight title. He made it look too easy.
4) Tyron Woodley: Injury or not, Woodley earned a win over Carlos Condit in perhaps the first big upset of 2014. The win sets him up for a potential title fight this summer, too.
5) Alexander Shlemenko: The Bellator middleweight champion was not having an easy go of it in the first round against Brennan Ward. Yet, in the second round, an ill-timed takedown attempt from the challenger brought an end to the fight. Shlemenko locked on a modified guillotine choke and won by tap out, adding another victim to his 50-plus fight pro career.
1) Johnny Hendricks:
I don't think it's even a question as to who the Fighter of the Month for March is. A number of titles were fought over this month but none as prestigious as the UFC Welterweight Championship. From Pat Miletich to Matt Hughes to Georges St-Pierre, the UFC welterweight division has one of the strongest lineages of any weight class. Not only is Johny now a part of that lineage, he earned the right in a terrific 5 round battle with Robbie Lawler. I hope those two fight again but, for now, it's Bigg Rigg's time.
2) Emanuel Newton: Newton has been one of the biggest surprises in Bellator's light heavyweight division. He went from beating King Mo to winning the Season 8 tournament to beating Mo again for the interim championship to defeating Attila Vegh to become the undisputed champion. He avenged the only defeat he has suffered in the last four years and established himself as a fighter to watch. UFC better keep an eye on this guy because he is a legit fighter.
3) Rousimar Palhares: He let go of the leglock! He let go of the leglock! That alone should be enough of a distinction to garner mention on this list but, in letting go of said leglock, he became the World Series of Fighting Welterweight Champion. Former champion Steve Carl doesn't need surgery and all is right in Toquinho's world. A couple more consistent performances like that and Dana might be willing to bring him back. I'm not saying it's the right thing to do but we all know Dana would bring him back if the circumstances (i.e. money) were right.
4) Marlon Moraes: The Brazilian kid who leaped into the MMA consciousness by defeating Miguel Torres back in November 2012 is now a champion. Moraes defeated a very tough, albeit very outmatched, Josh Rettinghouse to become the inaugural World Series of Fighting Bantamweight Champion. Aside from being a great fighter with very hard punches and kicks, Marlon is a genuinely nice guy and I couldn't be happier to see him as champion. There was only one man who deserved this distinction at 135 and I'm glad I got to see it happen.
5) Tyron Woodley: Everyone thought Woodley was crazy for badgering Dana White into booking him against Carlos Condit at UFC 171. Everyone thought he would lose. Everyone, that is, except for Woodley. He took the fight to Condit and, even though it ended in an unfortunate knee injury for Condit, Woodley was winning the fight up to that point and certainly proved he can rise to the occasion. Could the former #12 ranked welterweight get a title shot this year? It's certainly in the realm of possibility. I didn't think that would be the case a few months ago. No one did. Good work, T-Wood.
1) Pat Curran:
In a bout a lot of people will relegate to the backend of the brain due to the slugfest that was Lawler/Hendricks this month I give credit to Bellator. Sure, some people did not like the matchmaking from the outset and that is something I can agree with but the fight itself after the fact was something to not bicker about. It was an awesome 5 round war that saw Curran snatch back his title from the jaws of defeat, a true "Rocky" moment. And considering how close the previous encounter was between Pat and Pitbull I am more curious how that rematch would go rather then the other way around. Score one for Bellator.
2) Johny Hendricks: The first UFC Welterweight Champion in the post GSP era was crowned and if any doubt was left in his loss he did not leave any doubt in that 5th round this time around. Now the waiting game is in effect until the WW division sorts itself out but for now "Bigg Rigg" made one hell of statement already.
3) Marlon Moraes: Even though maybe the championship rounds were the not the most competitive (that is putting it lightly) Moraes again demonstrated some serious chops at WSOF 9. Already a face to Ray Sefo and company he can now call himself a titleholder.
4) Rousimar Palhares: Heel Hook equals death!!! The Palhares formula has granted him title immortality bring on The Fitch.
5) Pepey, Kim, Dantas and Shlemenko: Mega cop out by me but it's a 4 way tie for 5th as though titles were not won- statements were made. Pepey created a highlight reel knee that will continue on a loop for the next decade. Plus he finally showed some true potential after some lopsided losses, saving both his job and potential going forward. Speaking of highlights we have the slick ring around the rosey back mount into RNC Eduardo Dantas pulled off in his title defense against replacement opponent Anthony Leone. ELBOW SMASH!!! I have always thought Kim never got enough cred for his chops in the cage and with his change in style in his last few fights people are finally taking notice. And lastly The Storm once again defended his crown against Brennan Ward with one of my favorite chokes to put the granted very shallow Bellator MW division on notice. I guess that's it, I would love to give Emanuel Newton some love but his fight with Atilla Vegh was just a slog to sit through and should have never been a split decision. Good day people.
1) Johny Hendricks:
The guy who beat GSP back in November finally won his title. That alone would've been enough to earn him the number one spot, but the fact that he was able to gut out a torn biceps and a broken shin and still win the crucial fifth round decisively puts him head and shoulders above the competition. Add in the fact that the biggest threat to his title just sustained a severe knee injury to his non-surgically repaired knee, and March was a good month for Bigg Rigg.
2) Pat Curran: In a title fight that even Urijah Faber and Vitor Belfort felt was undeserved, Pat Curran made Bellator look a lot smarter than average MMA fan/pundit, as he rebounded from a one-sided loss to Daniel Straus to regain his title in one of the best fights of the year so far.
3) Alexander Shlemenko: Easily the best middleweight not under UFC contract, Shlemenko is currently making a case to be considered the best fighter in any weight class outside of the UFC. Sure, he's got a loss to Hector Lombard all the way back in 2010, but he's been on a tear since then, earning a thirteenth straight victory to move his career win total to 50.
4) Alexander Gustafsson: Normally, winning a title shot by finishing an undefeated prospect who'd never gone to decision before would rank higher than fourth, but this was a month of crazy good fights, and this is where Gus ended up.
5) Marlon Moraes: I had to debate between Moraes and Palhares for this spot, but ultimately, I gave it to Moraes, because he didn't have any critics speculating about whether or not he held onto his winning submission hold for too long like Palhares did. Instead, Moraes is a young champion with tremendous upside who battered Josh Rettinghouse en route to an incredibly one-sided decision victory.
Honorable Mention: Rousimar Palhares - (6 points)
Defeated Jimmi Manuwa via RD 2 TKO, and looks to be on his way to another UFC Light Heavyweight Title shot.
2nd Place - Pat Curran - (19 points)
Pat Curran regained the Bellator Featherweight Title with a 5th round submission over Daniel Straus.
411's Fighter of the Month for MARCH is…
Johny Hendricks - (38 points)
Your NEW UFC Welterweight Champion!
THE 2014 STANDINGS (THROUGH MARCH)
Ronda Rousey - 15 pts.
Luke Rockhold - 15 pts.
Johny Hendricks - 15 pts.
Renan Barao - 12 pts.
Justin Gaethje - 12 pts.
Pat Curran - 12 pts.
Lyoto Machida - 9 pts.
Alex Caceres - 9 pts.
Alexander Gustafsson - 6 pts.
Jose Aldo - 6 pts.
Jeremy Stephens - 6 pts.
Marlon Moraes - 6 pts.
Emanuel Newton - 3 pts.
Tyron Woodley - 3 pts.
Benson Henderson - 3 pts.
Daniel Cormier - 3 pts.
Donald Cerrone - 1pt
Alistair Overeem - 1pt
Abel Trujillo - 1pt
Rousimar Palhares - 1 pt
Robbie Lawler - (-2 pts.)
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 or the UFC (drug related), they lose any points accumulated thus far.
Year-End Rankings Key:
UFC Contracted Fighters are represented in BLUE.
Bellator Contracted Fighters are represented in RED.