As much as we love the antics outside the cage, the Countdown specials, Dana White’s periodic meltdowns, and everything Bas Rutten says and does on Inside MMA, it’s what goes on in the cage that matters. The last years of the decade was filled to the brim with great fights and the action wasn’t just limited to the UFC’s Octagon. Strikeforce and the WEC also made their presence known in emphatic fashion. Which two warriors wowed Heavy.com’s crack crew more than any other pair?
Spencer Kyte: Miguel Torres vs. Takeya Mizugaki (WEC 40)
As good as Sanchez – Guida was, this was a five round battle with a championship at stake and that carries more weight to me. What was most enjoyable about this fight was that Mizugaki came in on short notice when Brian Bowles couldn’t go, was relatively unknown and could have rolled over without anyone really paying much attention. Instead, he went toe-to-toe with Torres for 25 minutes, taking two rounds from the champ and pushing him more than anyone had in quite some time.
Jeremy Botter: Gilbert Melendez vs. Josh Thomson (Strikeforce: Le vs. Smith)
It was a close call, but the five-round war between Melendez and Thomson barely edges out Guida/Sanchez in my eyes. Both fights were filled to the brim with action, but Thomson and Melendez featured a lightning-quick pace, fantastic twists and turns and five full rounds of action.
Adam Morgan: Miguel Torres vs. Takeya Mizugaki
There were plenty of great fights this year but none better than Miguel Torres taking on Takeya Mizugaki in defense of his 135 lbs. crown at WEC 40. It was as fast paced a fight as you’ll find this year with both fighters having the other in trouble at numerous points during the fight. Mizugaki proved to be no pushover and showed a relentless standup game during the fight. Torres was Torres, showing that he has skills in all areas of the game and cardio for days. An exciting battle all the way around. Hats off to these two fighters for an amazing fight.
Brett Jones: Diego Sanchez vs. Clay Guida (The Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale)
Fights rarely live up to the hype. Clay Guida, perhaps more consistently than any other fighter, not only lives up to the hype, but often surpasses it. Perhaps more fascinating is that he does so without necessarily winning his fights. Against Diego Sanchez, Guida may have lost a split decision, but he displayed tremendous heart and stamina against Sanchez’s offensive blitzkrieg. This fight even featured one of the great moments in refereeing this year when Josh Rosenthal replaced Guida’s mouthpiece moments before Guida was knocked down by a Sanchez high kick. The fight impressed not only the fans, but UFC decision makers, who awarded Sanchez a Lightweight title shot and Guida a match against previous top contender Kenny Florian following their respective entertaining performances against each other.
Jonathan Snowden: Randy Couture vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (UFC 102)
Sometimes a fight transcends the technical abilities of the fighters in the cage. There was no doubt watching this fight that both men had left their primes far behind. Couture looked slow enough to time with a sundial and Nogueira looked more than a tad punchy. To the rabid crowd live in Portland, that mattered not at all. The two went at it for three rounds and what they lacked in world-class ability, they more than made up for in heart and passion. A fight I won’t soon forget.
Heavy.com Fight of the Year: Miguel Torres vs. Takeya Mizugaki