The awards continue with a look at Comeback and Breakthrough Fighter of the Year
Today’s two categories in the 2010 Heavy MMA awards honor those who may have been on the outside looking in when the year began. Our comeback fighter of the year is a lovable character who has battled personal demons outside the cage but became relevant again in 2010, and our breakthrough fighter of the year is a young prospect who lit up the airwaves at the end of the year with one of the most dazzling moves ever seen in mixed martial arts.
COMEBACK FIGHTER OF THE YEAR
Jeremy Botter: Few expected Leben to thrust himself back into the title picture in 2010, but that’s exactly what he did over the course of three stellar fights with Jay Silva, Aaron Simpson and Yoshihiro Akiyama. Brian Stann violently derailed the Leben hype train on January 1st, but nobody can take away what Leben accomplished in 2010.
Jeff Cain: Heading into 2010, Leben was coming off back-to-back loses and the possibility of being relegated to a prelim card fighter. He strung together three wins in a row, rising to a contender status in the middleweight division and the co-main event at UFC 125.
Spencer Kyte: Most everyone expected “The Crippler” to do away with Jay Silva in January, but “The Summer of Leben” was another thing entirely. Two wins, two weeks apart, over two quality opponents brought the original bad boy of The Ultimate Fighter back into the limelight and the hearts of the fans.
Matt Brown: Just when you thought you could write off Chris Leben, he came back and won all three of his fights in 2010, collecting KO of the Night and Fight of the Night honors along the way. Despite his imperfections, fans flock to “The Crippler” in droves. He had a rough start to 2011, but a focused Chris Leben can spell trouble for much of the middleweight division.
Honorable Mention: Melvin Guillard, Mark Hominick, Clay Guida
BREAKTHROUGH FIGHTER OF THE YEAR
Winner: Anthony Pettis
Spencer Kyte: He won four fights, claimed the WEC lightweight title and delivered the best move in the history of the sport, a highlight that landed on SportsCenter and PTI. No one else blew up nearly as much as Anthony Pettis in 2010.
Jeremy Botter: Four wins – including one that landed him the final WEC lightweight championship – make Pettis an easy choice for this award. On top of that, his Showtime Kick is going to be in the highlight reels until the end of time.
Jeff Cain: No one really knew who he was, and now he’s the No. 1 lightweight contender in the UFC and the newly crowned, last-ever WEC lightweight titleholder. His Showtime Kick as absolutely insane as well, drawing eyes on MMA from mainsteam media outlets around the world, some that had never covered MMA before.
Matt Brown: Few fighters have seen their stock rise in a shorter amount of time than Pettis. With one flying kick to the jaw of an opponent, Pettis went from hot prospect to full blown star. The sky is the limit for the charismatic young Duke Rufus pupil.
Honorable Mention: Evan Dunham, George Sotiropoulos, Tyron Woodley