Make your pick for the 201â€™s best fighter in Bloody Elbowâ€™s Year-End Awards.
Over the next few days, Bloody Elbow is going to ask for your opinion on some of the best things that have happened in the MMA world over the course of 2017. There will be a total of eight different categories youâ€™ll be asked to vote on. For the sake of simplicity weâ€™re going to stick with high-level and relevant MMA stuff in these posts. While Iâ€™m sure there was a ludicrous knockout in an unscheduled MMA event at The Lumberyard strip club in Des Moines, or an insane pancreas lock submission on an obscure ZST! card in Japan, letâ€™s just stick to stuff a lot of us have seen, okay? (If that spiel looked familiar, itâ€™s because Iâ€™ve used the same one for seven years in a row. Originality? What originality?)
Itâ€™s pretty simple. Iâ€™ll post 5-10 options in a category, you vote for what you think was the best. If you think I left something really important off my list, post it in the comments and we can add it to the poll if itâ€™s deemed worthy. I can almost guarantee you wonâ€™t like all my suggestions, but narrowing down these lists is tough.
Now that weâ€™ve got that out of the way, letâ€™s get onto the sixth poll – the best fighter of 2017. Many combatants had the best years of their career in 2017, and select few won titles as well. This is always a tough category to narrow down nominees from, but here are the ten I came up with.
Rose Namajunas – A huge submission victory over Michelle Waterson in April set her up for a massive matchup – a title shot against the strawweight queen, Joanna Jedrzejczyk. And in an incredible display, Thug Rose dropped Joanna with a vicious left hook and laid a beating on her until the champion tapped to strikes. A huge 2017 for a great person.
Rafael dos Anjos – RDA left the lightweight division behind and started fresh as a welterweight in 2017. And he exceeded all expectations, picking up three wins over ranked fighters and capping it off with a dominant win over former champion Robbie Lawler. Heâ€™s now arguably the number-one contender for Tyron Woodleyâ€™s belt, and has a legitimate chance to join the short list of two-division UFC champs.
Volkan Oezdemir – His UFC debut wasnâ€™t all that crazy – a split decision win over Ovince Saint Preux. But the next two fights were amazing. He knocked out Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa in a total of one minute and ten seconds. Combined.
Brian Ortega – The comeback kid worked his magic again in 2017, rallying to submit Renato Moicano in the third round of their July fight. In December, there was no need to come from behind – he was hanging quite well with Cub Swanson before finishing him with a beautiful modified guillotine in the second round.
Robert Whittaker – Bobby Knuckles was handed the big boys of the middleweight division in 2017 and he completely delivered. He destroyed Jacare Souza like no one ever has before, and then defeated the mighty Yoel Romero by decision, despite suffering a leg injury early, to win the interim UFC middleweight title. Not bad for a former welterweight.
Ryan Bader – Despite a 7-1 run in a thin UFC light heavyweight division, Bader was never given a title shot. Frustrated with that, he decided to sign with Bellator when his contract came up, and he made the most of it. Bader was given a title fight right away in the promotion, and defeated Phil Davis to claim it. He then defended it by stopping Linton Vassell in November.
Max Holloway – He only fought one man in 2017. But that man happened to be the greatest featherweight in the history of the sport, Jose Aldo. And Holloway didnâ€™t just beat him twice – he finished him twice. The Hawaiian finally rose to his rightful place as the 145-pound king, and it doesnâ€™t look like heâ€™ll be dethroned anytime soon.
Cris Cyborg – The UFC finally gave up forcing her to try to get to 135 somehow and went forward with her as a featherweight in 2017. All Cyborg did was wreck Tonya Evinger to win the vacant title, then outfox Holly Holm to defend it.
Demetrious Johnson – Two more title defenses. Two armbar wins, including one of the craziest finishes in the history of the sport. Cemented his spot as the top P4P fighter in the sport. You know, just another year for Mighty Mouse.