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    Top 10 best single years in MMA


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    Top 10 best single years in MMA

    Post  The_Axe_Emperor on Thu Dec 15, 2011 12:27 am

    Found this on the BE forums, great article IMO. what do you all think?

    Props to HeadKickOfDoom for it.


    With his victory over Lyoto Machida, Jon Jones has had arguably the best single year run in the history of MMA. He defeated 4 top 10 fighters with very little difficulty. We as fans got all excited on Saturday when someone actually tested his skills for a full round. His evisceration of Ryan Bader, Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson and Lyoto Machida may never be matched in modern MMA, where elite fighters seem to rarely fight three times a year. With his monumental 2011 in the books, I wanted to look back at 10 other excellent years in the history of MMA.

    10. Fedor Emelianenko 2004

    Victories: Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Naoya Ogawa, Antonio Rodrigo Nogeuira 2 and 3

    Coming into 2004, Fedor was well on his way to being recognized as the best heavyweight mixed martial artist of all time. He was the undisputed Pride Heavyweight champion, and virtually undefeated. He would enter Pride's 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix as the favorite, and would not disappoint. He began the tournament in April with a quick armbar over a still relevant Mark Coleman in just over 2 minutes. He would move on to the quarter finals to face Coleman's HammerHouse teammate (and also still kind of relevant) Kevin Randleman, fresh off an upset of Mirko Cro Cop.

    Randleman came in obviously as the heavy underdog, but he came out firing. Early in the first round, Randleman took Fedor down, and in a scramble, took the Russian's back and then dropped this crazy shit on the MMA world;

    Literally, any other person probably would have been out, but not Fedor. Within less than a minute, Fedor would sweep the former Ohio State wrestler and end up catching him with a kimura. This victory would go down as one of the most brilliant victories in Emelianenko career.

    The victory over Randleman would lead to a fight with 7 -1 judoka Naoya Ogawa in the semi finals. Fedor would show that Ogawa wasn't even on his level with a quick armbar, earning a spot in the finals in a rematch with Antonio Rodrigo Nogeuira.

    The second meeting between the two heavyweight legends would be ruined later that night when an accidental clashing of heads opened a huge cut on Fedor's head and the fight being declared a no contest. They would meet on New Years Eve for not only the Heavyweight GP title, but the Pride world title as well. In a three round battle, Fedor would outlast Nogeuira to solidify his standing as the best heavyweight in the world.

    9. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira 2001

    Victories: Volk Han, Hiromitsu Kanehara, Valentjin Overeem, Gary Goodridge, Mark Coleman, Heath Herring

    In 2001, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was just in the nacasance of his MMA career. The 25 year old Big Nog entered the year already being in the Finals Block of the RINGS King of Kings 2000 32 man tournament. In a night where he would fight 3 times, Nogeuira would defeat Sambo fighter Volk Han, catch wrestler Hiromistsu Kanehara, and then a victory over the less successful Overeem, Valentjin Overeem. Soon after winning the tournament, Nogeuira would move over to Pride and beginning to estabilsh himself as the undisputed number 1 HW in the world. He would win his Pride debut over Gary Goodridge, and then meet up with reigning Pride GP 2000 winner Mark Coleman. Big Nog would submit the former UFC champion and earn the unofficial title of #1 heavyweight in the world. He would face Heath Herring in November of that year to win the inagural Pride Heavyweight title and cap off perhaps the best year of Nogueira's storried career.

    8. Dominick Cruz 2010

    Victories: Brian Bowles, Joseph Benavidez, Scott Jorgensen

    One of the UFC's most underrated champions, Dominick Cruz put together a career year in 2010. Having earned a title shot with a victory over Joseph Benavidez in 2009, Cruz would win the batamweight title when Brian Bowles quit on his stool after suffering a broken hand during the first round. Cruz would defend the title via a close split decision rematch with Joseph Benavidez in August of that year. At WEC 53, the final show in the company's history, Cruz would take another decision from honeybadger like Scott Jorgensen and win the very first UFC bantamweight title. With 3 victories over top 10 opposition, and the very first batamweight title in UFC history(since defended twice) Cruz helped solidify himself as a force and P4P fighter in 2010.

    7. Lyoto Machida 2009

    Victories: Thiago Silva, Rashad Evans, Shogun 1

    Machida in 2009 was a puzzle wrapped in a riddle wrapped in an enigma. No one could seem to figure out how to defeat the man, as evident at his 13 - 0 record entering 2009. He would begin the year meeting top 10 ranked and also undefeated Thiago Silva. In the dying seconds of the 1st round, Machida would drop the Brazilian wrecking machine and finish him with only 1 second left on the clock. Based on this impressive victory, and his undefeated record, Machida was matched up with newly minted Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans.

    The two undefeated fights would meet at UFC 98 (billed with something like "Someone's O has got to go." I can imagine Goldie pitching this one in Dana's office in my head, I swear). Machida would introduce the world to The Stanky Leg, when he caught Rashad with a series of punches against the cage in 2nd round to win the title. With that, Joe Rogan proclaimed us in the "Machida Era".

    5 months later, Machida would match up with former Pride GP winner Shogun Rua. Over 5 rounds at UFC 104, fans were treated to a technical masterpiece between the two Brazilians, where Machida would win a razor close and controversial decision over Rua. Despite the controversial nature of the victory, Lyoto KOed two top 5 opponents, and put on a great fight with a MMA legend. Thus far this year was the highlight of Machida's career, going 1-3 since his victory at UFC 104

    6. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic 2006

    Victories: Isuhisa Minowa, Hidehiko Yoshida, Wanderlei Silva, Josh Barnett

    Coming into 2006, Cro Cop was starting to look like the Dan Marino of MMA. He was exciting, won some big fights, but could never seem to win a championship. He had lost to Fedor Emelianeko in 2005, and had dropped a fight to Mark Hunt on New Years Eve. He entered the Pride 2006 Open Weight Grand Prix hoping to finally break the curse.

    He began the tournament over future Super Hluk tournament champion Isuhisa Minowa. In a one sided affair, Filipovic crushed the Japanese sensation in just over a minute. This would earn him a spot versus former Olympic Judo gold medalist Hidehiko Yoshida. Cro Cop would defeat the Japanese star, forcing him to submit due to having his leg kicked into a living death over the span of 7 minutes.

    Advancing to the semi finals held in September of 2006, Cro Cop would square off with Pride 205 lbs champion Wanderlei Silva. These two feared strikers would not disappoint, but in one of the final highlights of his career, Cro Cop knocked out Silva with a vicious left high kick. This would allow him to move on to face Josh Barnett that same night for the GP title. Cro Cop would finally fulfill his destiny when he shattered Barnett's orbital bone to earn a stoppage in the first round. This would be the pinnacle of Filipovic's career, as he would never again live up to these high standards.

    5. Chuck Liddell 2006

    Victories: Randy Couture 3, Renato Sobral, Tito Ortiz 2

    2006 was easily the peak of Chuck Liddell's career. He was finally the UFC Light Heavyweight champion, and had defended it once since defeating Randy Couture. He would enter 2006 with the end of the storied trilogy between himself and Randy Couture. When they met at UFC 57, it was one of the most anticipated fights in the history of the company. Chuck would make relative short work of Randy, KOing him in the 2nd round and vaulted himself further into the MMA stratosphere. He would follow up this victory with a rematch with Renato "Babalu" Sobral.

    Babalu would enter the fight with Liddell at UFC 62 on a 10 fight winning streak, including victories over Shogun Rua, Jeremy Horn, Jose Landis-Johns, and Chael Sonnen. None of this seemed to matter, as Chuck landed a huge uppercut that left Sobral in a pile on the mat at 1:35 of the first round.

    Chuck would end the year with another huge rematch, this time against bitter enemy Tito Ortiz. Tito came into the fight riding a 5 fight streak since he lost to Chuck at UFC 47. The rematch would be the biggest fight in the UFC's history at that point, and Chuck would not disappoint, finishing Ortiz via TKO in the 3rd round. Despite maybe not a more impressive stretch as say Nogeuira in 2001, the historical significance of Chuck's fights in 2006 propelled him to the number 5 spot.

    4. Takanori Gomi 2005

    Victories: Jens Pulver, Luis Azeredo, Jean Silva, Tasuya Kawajiri, Luis Azeredo, Hayato Sakurai

    UFC fans may know Takanori Gomi as that hyped up Japanese fighter who likes to come into the Octagon and do a poor man's imitation of Dan Henderson. Constantly looking to land the fastball of an overhand right, he has not looked good in any of his appearances in the Octagon. But once upon a time, in the mythical land of Japan, The Fireball Kid was arguably the best 155 pounder in the world. He would begin his 2005 on New Years with a huge KO victory over former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver. He would meet up with Chute Boxe fighter Luis Azeredo in May of 2005, where Gomi was getting pummeled until landing a left/right hook combo that caused the Brazilian to drop like his strings were cut. Gomi apparently didn't think he had had enough, as he continued to try and hammer Azeredo even as the ref and Pride officials tried to hold him back.

    7 weeks later, Gomi was back in the Pride ring (thank you no commissions in Japan) to fight another Chute Boxe opponent in Jean Silva, taking a decision. 8 weeks after that, Gomi would enter the Pride Lightweight Grand Prix looking to be crowned the first lightweight champion in the company's history. He would meet the Shooto champion Tasuya "Crusher" Kawajiri in the first round of the tournament. They put on what was voted the Pride 2005 fight of the year, which Gomi won via a first round rear naked choke. That same night, Gomi would rematch Luis Azeredo, roughly 15 weeks after they had first met. Gomi would win this fight via decision, earning his spot in the tournament finals on New Years eve.

    In the finals, he would square off against former teammate and Japanese MMA legend Hayato Sakurai. Sakurai was in the midst of a career rival since moving to the US to train with Matt Hume, and this was considered an epic fight. Gomi would waste little time, KOing Sakurai in 3:56 of the very first round. With this victory he would become the first Pride lightweight champion, and can be considered the best stretch of Gomi's entire career.

    3. Dan Henderson 2011

    Victories: Rafael Cavalcante, Fedor, Shogun

    Dan Henderson is like a good bottle of scotch, he just becomes more awesome and intoxicating as he gets older. Despite already having a legendary career, 2011 has arguably been his best. After defeating Babalu Sobral in Dec of 2010, Hendo would meet up with Strikeforce's 205 lbs champion Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante in March. Henderson didn't disappoint, winning his first championship since winning the Pride 205 championship back in 2007 by loading up the H Bomb and dropping Cavalcante face first, Rick Flair style on the mat.

    After his victory, as opposed to defending his title, Henderson decided he wanted to move up to heavyweight to meet fellow Pride legend Fedor Emelianeko in July. In a crazy back and forth first round, Henderson would show that nothing could stand up to the power of his right hand, when he slipped out the backdoor on Fedor, took his back and landed a couple of punches, being the first man to stop the MMA legend via strikes.

    With his stock at an all time high, Hendo came back to the UFC after leaving for Strikeforce in Dec of 2009 to face another Pride legend in Shogun Rua. As most MMA fans are well aware of, Henderson and Shogun put on a fight for the ages, arguably the best fight of all time to cap of Henderson's impressive and epic 2011. Two finishes, one over a former cyborg, and an all time classic fight is enough for him to crack the top 3.

    2. Mauricio Rua 2005

    Victories: Hiromitsu Kanehara, Quinton Jackson, Antionio Rogerio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem, Ricardo Arona

    Shogun's 2005 was what once was the epitome of a great single year in MMA history. He would start his 2005 with a victory over former pro wrestler Hiromitsu Kanehara via brutal KO. (Oh Pride head stomps, you were vicious but effective). Eight weeks later, Shogun would enter the Pride Middleweight (205 lbs) GP with a first round destruction over the heavily favored Rampage Jackson.

    Following the first round upset of Jackson, Rua moved on to face Antonio Rogerio Nogueira where they put on one of the best fights in MMA history at Pride Critical Countdown 2005. Shogun would manage to win a decision over the BJJ black belt, moving on to meet Alistair Overeem in the semi finals. Rua would continue his Cinderella story, defeating the Dutch kickboxer via TKO in the first round, to move onto the finals.

    In the finals he would meet Ricardo Arona, of the rival Brazilian Top Team. Arona had defeated Shogun's Chute Boxe teammate Wanderlei Silva earlier that evening, and Shogun had a taste for revenge. In under 3 mins, the then 24 year old Rua would vault himself from virtual unknown to a top 3 Light Heavyweight in the world when he stopped Arona with hammerfists.

    1. Jon Jones 2011

    Victories: Ryan Bader, Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida

    What else needs to be said. Jon Jones is a monster, and could potentially be a dominant force for the next 10 years in this sport. This will be the year people will always talk about when we discuss the single best year a MMA fighter has ever had.


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    Re: Top 10 best single years in MMA

    Post  p4pnumber_1 on Thu Dec 15, 2011 12:54 am

    Very interesting. Would agree with Jones being number 1, what a year he has had, a very high prospect, followed by 3 former champs! Amazing.

    It's weird to think that Silva or GSP aren't there, but after looking at their records, they havnt really had a stand out year.

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    Re: Top 10 best single years in MMA

    Post  Sheldan on Thu Dec 15, 2011 1:44 am

    Bit of a flawed system, as like p4p said, the likes of GSP and Silva aren't there because they just haven't been lucky enough to have their fights fit solidly into a full calender year. Over a 12 month period, GSP beat Josh Koscheck, submitted Matt Hughes, knocked out Matt Serra to win the UFC title, and beat Jon Fitch. I'm not saying it's worthy of a top 10 position, but you can see my point.

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    Re: Top 10 best single years in MMA

    Post  sunthunder on Thu Dec 15, 2011 2:06 am

    Good to see Gomi's 2005 get recognition.

    I'd also have Thiago Alves' 2008 in the top 5, he deserved fighter of the year for that.
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    Re: Top 10 best single years in MMA

    Post  Cowboys From Hell on Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:41 am

    I Would have gone with Shogun as No 1 He reeled 4 off super impressive wins in the space of months including beating Arona & Overeem in the same night night hell saying that the run Hendo has been on is impressive too at LHW & HW not bad for blown up MW Wink
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    Re: Top 10 best single years in MMA

    Post  Anfields5thKing on Thu Dec 15, 2011 9:04 pm

    Shogun's year is by far the most impressive and I'd put Hendo over Bones given that he's fought 3 men who were bigger than him and went into the 2nd and 3rd as an underdog. Plus his fight with Hendo is one of the greatest fights ever.

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    Re: Top 10 best single years in MMA

    Post  The_Axe_Emperor on Sat Dec 24, 2011 1:12 am

    Long, but good read on some of the top years in MMA.

    When an unconscious Lyoto Machida dropped to the canvas at UFC 140 on Dec. 10 in Toronto, it marked the end of a spectacular year for UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. “Bones” went 4-0 in 2011, stopping an undefeated fighter and three UFC champions. It was an extraordinary accomplishment and has fans asking whether it was the most impressive single year for a fighter in mixed martial arts history.

    There are a number of factors that go into evaluating the success of a year. First and foremost, a fighter’s record matters. Without at least three wins, it is hard to consider any year one of the best ever. Likewise, a loss pretty much discounts a year from consideration. How impressive the fighter was in winning is also important, as finishing opponents spectacularly means significantly more than squeaking by on decisions. Quality of opposition is paramount, too. Wins have to come against dangerous foes. Finally, the stage matters. There is greater pressure to perform on the biggest of stages, and that is where reputations are forged.

    Jones’ feat in 2011 is made all the more impressive by a changing landscape that does not favor dominant single years. The UFC provides fighters ample time to prepare for individual fights, and top fighters get handsome paydays that allow them to take time off between bouts. Neither Anderson Silva nor Georges St. Pierre, widely considered the top two pound-for-pound fighters in MMA, have fought more than twice in a year since 2008. In fact, St. Pierre has not won three fights in a year since he first captured the UFC welterweight title. St. Pierre and Silva are the best fighters of the era, but neither has a particular calendar year that stands out.

    In spite of that recent trend, there is no shortage of competition when it comes to impressive single years in MMA history. Jones is in the discussion with an elite group of all-time great performances. As the sport has evolved, so, too, has the nature of individual accomplishments. That does not always make for ideal comparisons, but each era has its share of extraordinary years.

    Early Days

    The early days of the UFC were defined by single-night tournaments. This allowed the best fighters to win large numbers of fights over the course of a year. It also meant they would frequently fight against opponents that were overmatched or did not really belong in the competition at all. As such, there are some feats that sound impressive on paper but not quite as impressive when analyzed more deeply.

    A comparison between today and the early days of the UFC is difficult enough. With Pancrase, it is basically impossible. Pancrase featured many of the top fighters of its era. However, it also featured worked fights and carrying of opponents (extending fights artificially for entertainment purposes). As such, it will not be included here.

    Royce Gracie put the UFC on the map in 1993, but it was in 1994 that he enjoyed his best year. Gracie won all eight of his fights and captured the UFC 2 and UFC 4 tournament championships. He also turned in a pair of signature performances, overcoming adversity to submit Kimo Leopoldo and Dan Severn.

    Gracie’s reputation as a fighter was almost entirely forged by the time 1994 concluded.

    Jiu-jitsu was the first dominant discipline in MMA, but, by 1996, a wave of American wrestlers had completely changed the game. Leading the way was Mark Coleman.

    “The Hammer” won the UFC 10 and UFC 11 tournaments so impressively that many believed him unbeatable. The UFC could not even get an opponent to come out for the finals of UFC 11 against Coleman.

    Coleman’s signature win of 1996 came against Don Frye, who had one of MMA’s better years in 1996 even considering that loss. Frye compiled a remarkable record of 10-1 in 1996 alone, winning the UFC 8 and Ultimate Ultimate 2 tournaments and making it to the finals of the UFC 10 draw. Frye’s accomplishment was marred by one of the few illegitimate fights in UFC history: a 20-second bout with Mark Hall at Ultimate Ultimate 2.

    Pride Era

    Kazushi Sakuraba was already an elite fighter, but in 2000, he became MMA’s top star. Sakuraba ran up a 5-1 record, with victories over three Gracies at a time when the Gracie mystique was still strong. The crowning jewel was a legendary 90-minute contest against Royce that was Royce’s first real loss. Sakuraba’s only setback that year came against Igor Vovchanchyn, but there were several mitigating circumstances. Vovchanchyn outweighed him by 40 pounds, Sakuraba had already fought 90 minutes that evening against Gracie and Sakuraba still gave Vovchanchyn a tough fight.

    Sakuraba’s run would not last much longer. In 2001, Wanderlei Silva went 4-0, defeated Sakuraba twice and was crowned the first Pride Fighting Championships middleweight champion. Working against Silva was the fact that his other two wins came against much lesser opposition. Silva turned in another all-time great year in 2003, when he bested Sakuraba, Hidehiko Yoshida and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson to win the 2003 Pride middleweight grand prix.

    The 2001 campaign was transcendent for another Pride fighter, as well. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira captured the Rings King of Kings title at the beginning of the year and then quickly made a splash in the Pride heavyweight division. His submission win over heavyweight grand prix champion Coleman came as a surprise to many, and he then defeated Heath Herring in a classic bout to become the first Pride heavyweight champion. Nogueira’s 6-0 year established him as the sport’s top fighter.

    While many fighters fall off immediately after a remarkable year, Nogueira went 5-0 in 2002 with memorable submission victories over Bob Sapp and Dan Henderson.

    No run lasts forever, and, in 2003, Fedor Emelianenko bested Nogueira to win the Pride heavyweight title. That led to Emelianenko’s best year in 2004, when he won the Pride heavyweight grand prix. He submitted his first three tournament opponents in less than three minutes, including both Coleman and Kevin Randleman, from the Hammer House gym.

    That set up a hotly anticipated rematch with Nogueira. It was stopped early by a ghastly cut on an unintentional head butt, but Emelianenko then won the rematch on New Year’s Eve to leave no doubt who was the better man.

    The year that gets mentioned most often as MMA’s most impressive was Mauricio “Shogun” Rua’s 2005. In winning that year’s Pride middleweight grand prix, “Shogun” took out a prodigious list of opponents: Quinton Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem and Ricardo Arona. All four were highly regarded at the time, and, with the exception of Arona, they remain highly regarded today. Moreover, Rua did it with style. In particular, he demolished Jackson and Arona in spectacular fashion.

    While Shogun was dominating the Pride middleweight division, the “Fireball Kid” Takanori Gomi was similarly having his way in Pride’s lightweight division. Gomi went 5-0 in 2005 and won the Pride lightweight grand prix. Some felt Tatsuya Kawajiri was Japan’s top lightweight fighter following his success in Shooto, but Gomi submitted him in an exciting quarterfinal bout. Hayato “Mach” Sakurai entered the finals of the tournament with tremendous momentum: consecutive wins over Shinya Aoki, Jens Pulver and Joachim Hansen. Gomi knocked him out in less than four minutes to cap a highly successful year.

    Mirko Filipovic closed out his Pride career in impressive fashion in 2006. “Cro Cop” stopped all four of his opponents to win the Pride open weight grand prix and secure a lucrative contract to jump to the UFC. Neither Yoshida nor Silva ever fully seemed the same after the beatings they received from the Croatian kickboxer.

    Contemporary American Scene

    Matt Hughes is clearly one of the most dominant fighters since Zuffa LLC purchased the UFC. Hughes also perfectly illustrates how difficult it is to have an extraordinary one-year period in the contemporary UFC. Hughes has 16 wins in the Octagon since 2001, but only once has he won three times in the same year.

    That year was 2002, and it was an impressive run. First, Hughes dominated Sakurai. At the time, Sakurai was 18-1-2, with his only loss via decision to Anderson Silva.

    Hughes dominated Sakurai so thoroughly that it left American fans wondering what was so special about the Japanese fighter to warrant a title shot in his first UFC contest. Sakurai would never fight in the UFC again.

    Hughes’ next win was one he has called his all-time favorite. He had won the UFC welterweight title from Carlos Newton in one of the most controversial finishes in MMA history, a photo finish where it was ambiguous whether Newton had first choked out Hughes with a triangle or Hughes had first knocked out Newton with a slam. Hughes settled all controversy by dominating Newton in the rematch and finishing the fight with a crucifix and strikes. Hughes then closed out his year with a TKO win over Gil Castillo.

    Fans of B.J. Penn have frequently attached an almost mystical aura to the Hawaiian fighter and his natural ability. Penn’s dynamism was never more apparent and that aura was never more solidified than in 2004. Penn moved up from lightweight to welterweight to take on the longstanding champion Hughes. Hughes had won six straight title fights and was a heavy favorite, but Penn shocked the champion with strikes and submitted him in the first round to win the 170-pound title.

    A financial dispute took Penn out of the UFC, and, in his next fight, he took on Duane Ludwig. Ludwig was considered by many to be the lineal UFC lightweight champion, having knocked out Jens Pulver after “Little Evil” left UFC with that title. Penn submitted Ludwig in less than two minutes, staking a claim as the best in two divisions. Not content with that, he closed out the year by handing Rodrigo Gracie his first MMA loss in a middleweight bout. In 2004, Penn seemed like he could do practically anything.

    It was a perfect storm for Chuck Liddell in 2006, as he not only defeated tough opposition to solidify his standing as the UFC’s top light heavyweight but became the UFC’s biggest star in the process. His knockout win over Randy Couture at the beginning of the year gave him bragging rights as the winner in arguably MMA’s most important trilogy. After stopping Renato “Babalu” Sobral, he then turned his sights to rival Tito Ortiz. His victory over Ortiz was the biggest pay-per-view event to that point in MMA history, and decisively defeating someone who got under his skin made the victory sweeter.

    Unfortunately for Liddell, that would mark the high point of his MMA career. In 2007, a new light heavyweight would establish himself as the division’s best. Jackson made his UFC debut by avenging an early loss to Marvin Eastman. Next, Jackson defeated Liddell to win the UFC light heavyweight title. Finally, “Rampage” unified the UFC and Pride 205-pound titles with a hard-fought victory over Henderson. Jackson struggled for years to become the man in Pride, but, in just a matter of months, he made it to the top of the UFC.

    One of the more unique developments in recent UFC history was the rise of Lyoto Machida. His karate style proved a tricky puzzle to solve, and, like Jones in 2011, many in 2009 predicted a long reign for Machida as UFC champion. Machida began the year by destroying the previously unbeaten Thiago Silva and then did the same to also previously undefeated UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans. His third fight of the year is the one that takes his standing down. Machida did get the decision against Rua, but most felt “Shogun” won the fight. Still, it was a competitive contest and concluded an unbeaten year with some signature wins for “The Dragon.”

    How does Jones’ 2011 compare to the best years in MMA history? For credentials, few have beaten three recent champions in a single calendar year. It is rare for a top UFC fighter to win four times in the same year. Jones also gets style points for the way he won the fights. Only Machida came close to scoring effective offense.

    On the downside, none of Jones’ opponents came into the fight riding an overwhelming wave of momentum. Bader was a rising prospect who had not been tested all that often. Of the three former champions, none came into the cage with as much as a three-fight winning streak. The blueprints for success were there.

    Time will help to provide additional context for Jones’ accomplishments this year. We will see where he goes from here and where his opponents go, as well, but Jones is unquestionably in an elite class and, regardless of where his career takes him, he will always be able to point to 2011 proudly.

    Follow Todd Martin on Twitter at @toddmartinmma.

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