MMA on Tap Awards

Upset of the Year: Ortiz Topples Bader

Tito Ortiz. Photo property of Heavy MMA.

After failing to win a fight in four years and five consecutive fights past that point, "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy", who once carried the UFC through the dark ages a decade ago, was finally at the end of the line with the organization.

Tito Ortiz, the longest reigning light heavyweight champion in the history of the UFC, had lost it. Leading up to an anticipated rematch with Chuck Liddell in December 2006, Ortiz had won five straight fights. Ortiz fell to Liddell a second time. A point for grabbing the fence led him to a draw with Rashad Evans next. But following that, Ortiz lost decisions to Forrest Griffin, Lyoto Machida and former protege Matt Hamill.

Ortiz had never lost three straight fights before in his career. To make matters worse, UFC President Dana White had informed him and the public that with a loss, Ortiz would be released from his contract. Beating a world-ranked light heavyweight in "Ultimate Fighter" winner Ryan Bader shouldn't be too hard, right?

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Submission of the Year: Mir on Nogueira

Frank Mir submits Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Photo by Esther Lin/

While last month's rematch between Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was going to be a memorable one no matter what, it's hard to say that anyone imagined the outcome that occurred.

The first meeting between the two submission specialists took place in December 2008, right after both finished up stints as opposing coaches on a season of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality show. The fight never hit the ground, and Mir used surprisingly superior striking to become the first fighter to ever stop Nogueira.

Since their original clash, Mir had continued to remain among the top heavyweights in the world, while Nogueira battled injuries and brutal losses alike. Many pundits thought that Mir would use his power to stop Nogueira again, in a similar fashion as UFC 92. Mir stopped Nogueira, but not with strikes, and made history in the process.

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KO of the Year: Silva vs. Belfort

Anderson Silva finishes Vitor Belfort. Photo by Tracy Lee/

On February 5, 2011, Anderson Silva was supposed to have met his match.

A fellow Brazilian that was an explosive striker with knockout power, potentially faster on the feet, and a black belt in jiu-jitsu, Vitor Belfort posed the biggest threat that Silva had seen in a long time. Chael Sonnen would argue that, but we're talking about on pre-fight paper here.

It only took "The Spider" three and a half minute to put a stop to the hype.

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Event of the Year: UFC 139

Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Dan Henderson. Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC.

The usual pre-event hype for UFC 139 just wasn't there. The UFC's first foray into the San Jose area following their surprising acquisition of Bay Area mainstay Strikeforce happened to be sandwiched in between the organization's network television debut on FOX, pitting Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos in a UFC heavyweight title bout, and the finale of the fourteenth season of "The Ultimate Fighter" the show's last on Spike.

It wasn't as if the fight card was lacking. Dan Henderson's return to the Octagon against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua was a barnburner of a headliner. Wanderlei Silva facing Cung Le and Urijah Faber going up against Brian Bowles aren't bad co-main events either. The advertising just wasn't there.

Still, UFC 139 delivered to say the least...

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Fighter of the Year: Jon Jones

Jon "Bones" Jones. Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC.

There's no doubt about it. Jon Jones' year-long quest for the UFC light heavyweight title and subsequent title defenses may very well be the most dominant year that MMA has ever seen.

Mauricio "Shogun" Rua once captivated hardcore fans with a run through the top 205 lb fighters that PRIDE had to offer back in 2005, but "Bones" list of victims rivals Rua's to say the least, and includes the Brazilian as well.

Here's a look back at 2011 for Jones, a year the 24-year-old will never forget.

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