It’s the end of the year, which means it is time to honor the incredible athletic performances that have taken place in the past twelve months of combat sports! In this installment, we are taking a look at the very best submissions, knockouts, and overall fight performances of 2014.
Performance of the Year
The hallmark of a great performance is the opponent being made to look weak and foolish, especially over a large chunk of the fight. Prolonged and protracted beatings are the backbone of outstanding performances.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Rafael Dos Anjos, UFC on Fox
While I am an unabashed Khabib mark, when you consider how good RDA has been before and since their fight in April, including a knockout of Benson Henderson and making Nate Diaz look foolish, the fact that Khabib ragdolled Dos Anjos for 15 minutes is really impressive. – Jessica
(Burnsy note: Dude also wrestled a bear. He’s probably our mutual favorite.)
Conor McGregor vs. Diego Brandão, UFC Fight Night: Dublin
I docked the homecoming of The Notorious points in my super secret ranking system because Brandão was a replacement opponent, but even moreso because if this fight had ended with anything other than a first round finish, McGregor’s countrymen would have burned the world down. Still, I know there are people out there who don’t believe in McGregor and his big mouth just yet, but when a guy talks that much and comes in like a dancin’, stylin’ and profilin’ hurricane of Irish fury, I tip my cheap St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl hat to him. – Burnsy
TJ Dillashaw vs Renan Barao, UFC 173
Even though I predicted this baby Alpha Male to win the title, I still had some doubts as the fight got nearer to bell time. Then TJ unleashed an epic display of Bang Muay Thai, making Renan Barao look terrible. I mean, how often does a title-winning performance get recounted as an epic tale of good and evil and hobbits and demons? – Jessica
Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier, UFC 178
The Notorious had two fights in 2014 and both of them earned him Performance of the Night bonuses. I loved his homecoming win, but his first round TKO over Poirier was faster and meaner. I don’t care if people hate the guy, because he’s everything the UFC needs right now. We need him to keep winning and racking up those bonuses, and as long as he does, he’s going to win most of my imaginary awards. – Burnsy
Submissions of the Year
There were a lot of good choices this year as a lot of people were made to tap out during 2014. Of course, sometimes they didn’t tap and were forced to snap or nap instead.
Josh Barnett, Scarf Hold Choke
Context is important for a lot of these choices, and this is has a lot of context. Dean Lister’s grappling career is super impressive, and he’d never been submitted during his 12-year run. Then in comes Josh Barnett with his Billy Robinson black trunks, wrestling shoes and all the power of the Catch Wrestling gods. It took nearly the entire 20 minutes of their Metamoris IV match, but Barnett’s scarf hold compressor choke forced a tap and made me lose my mind. – Jessica
Raquel Pennington, Bulldog Choke
Ashlee Evans-Smith did a disservice to our great first name (technically, she has a boy’s name with a girl’s spelling) by letting her guard down in an otherwise dominant first round performance against Pennington. But Pennington did what any great fighter should instinctively do and recognized her quick window of opportunity, and then she slapped on the bulldog choke to make Smashlee go night-night. I’m not giving the women enough respect for their great moments in 2014, but this one definitely stood out. – Burnsy
William Haney, Reverse Boston Crab
Sometimes you just have to pick the most incredible thing, and this reverse Boston crab has to be the best thing this year. I don’t think we’ll see something like in another twenty years of MMA. – Jessica
Ben Saunders, A Freaking Omoplata!
This one has a lot of personal bias with me being a big, honking Orlando homer, but it was also just such a rad moment. I knew Killer B way back in the day (*pats self on back*) before he ever appeared on TUF, and although he was only on the series for two weeks, we had a huge watch party for him at the bar that he worked at. So all these years later, it was awesome to see him make a return to the UFC and submit Chris Heatherly in the first round with a move that’s as rare as a good Tito Ortiz fight. I’m a huge sucker for a comeback story. – Burnsy
Knockouts of the Year
There were a ton of great candidates across boxing, kickboxing, and mixed martial arts for people getting gloriously wrecked and put to sleep. It was hard to narrow the list down to a select few, but we’ve managed to do just that.
I wrote about this knockout back in November, and it’s still really rad. It looks impressive, plus the victim’s reaction is pretty great (Which is why Rolles Gracie’s Flairinho Flop is still one of my most favorite knockouts). – Jessica
Mark Hunt, The Right Hand of Rock
I hated this fight because I wanted Nelson to get back on track for title contention, but I also wanted Hunt to win and move on for his own title. However, we all knew that this was Hunt’s fight to win, and he proved it by sending MMA best MMullet to the mat in the second round. – Burnsy
Knockouts of the Year
What puts this knockout over the edge into best of the year category for me is how it was literally the only thing to happen in the fight. The bell rings, Stanley starches her opponent, the fight is over, it’s pretty perfect. – Jessica
Ronda Rousey, The Complete Annihilation of Alexis Davis
FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! I can watch that over and over and over and over, and I do not ever get tired of it. Go ahead and hate Rousey all you want, but she is the KO Queen of 2014. – Burnsy