The fighter of the year is always the most difficult award to hand out.
Just looking at the list of possible candidates, it becomes difficult to decide whether to award it to the fighter with the best overall record during the last 12 months of action or to the person who had the biggest overall impact on the sport of mixed martial.
If we simply look at what each fighter accomplished in terms of wins and losses, then handing the award over to Demetrious Johnson becomes pretty clear as the UFC flyweight champion went a perfect 3-0 in 2013.
Now I know you are all going to point out the fact Urijah Faber’s 4-0 record with three submission wins and Vitor Belfort’s 3-0 record with three head kick knockouts are far more impressive résumés. But the fact of the matter is neither man fought for a title last year while Johnson successfully defended his 125-pound against three top contenders, all of which came during the main event of a UFC Fox card.
But unfortunately for Johnson, I am not looking at simply wins and losses. I am looking at who affected the sport as a whole, and no one made a bigger impact than current UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman.
Entering 2013, Weidman was only 9-0 with his only main event fight appearing on the now defunct Fuel TV. After missing the first several months of the year due to injury and the attempt to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy laid waste to his hometown on Long Island, the former Hofstra University wrestling standout go the call of a lifetime.
During his time away from the octagon, the UFC middleweight division had gone through a big shakeup as several top contenders at 185-pounds lost in disappointing fashion. So with no true number one contender in place, UFC president Dana White announced Weidman, and his perfect 5-0 record in the organization, would challenge the iconic Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight champion at UFC 162 on Fourth of July weekend.
I don’t think I need to explain how big Anderson Silva’s status was in the MMA community, as I have written about it countless of times before. All you need to know is Weidman not only handed Silva his first loss in seven years, but he did so in the most devastating fashion. With a powerful left hook Weidman changed the entire landscape of the UFC, as he sent the former champion crumpling to the ground.
The UFC brass quickly called for an immediate rematch and the new champion immediately agreed so he could prove their first meeting wasn’t a fluke
“I have to solidify my first victory and solidify myself as a champion,” said Weidman in the promos leading up to the fight.
Now with more attention surrounding his upcoming fight than any other in MMA history, let alone the UFC, Weidman showed the poise of seasoned veteran as he addressed countless of questions from the fans and media.
Once fight night came around, Weidman made his way to the octagon and more than delivered on his promise to silence his critics, as he battered Silva throughout the first round.
While the fight may not have ended as fans had hoped in most certainly ended in memorable fashion.
So while Weidman’s record may not be as impressive as other fighters in the organization, his two wins over the greatest fighter in MMA history is more than enough to earn my 2013 MMA Fighter of the Year award.
Honorable Mentions: Demetrious Johnson, Vitor Belfort, Urijah Faber, Cain Velasquez, Ronda Rousey