By Benjamin Bieker
Model of the Year (Corissa Furr)
While the MMA world may have tentatively awaited to see which fighters may be picked up from Strikeforce after its demise some fans may have hopes another talent may make the transition. Professional model Corissa Furr won a contest earlier in 2012 that made her a Strikeforce ring girl, and she could end up being one of the greatest assets picked up by Zuffa if she makes the transition. What makes her even better is that she is a true fan of the fights, and is not just there to hold a card.
In fact, she is such a big fan of the sport that she named her dog Spider in honor of the great Anderson Silva. She has already hosted segments on the Fuel TV program Ultimate Insider so the folks at Zuffa have obviously taken a liking to her. Furr called being an octagon ring girl a dream of hers, and with so many shows planned for this year it is possible to see her strut her stuff around the eight sides of cage sometime this year. That is why Corissa Furr is OTM’s pick for Model of the Year.
Comeback of the Year (Matt Brown)
This award is a no-brainer. Matt Brown easily revitalized his career in 2012. He was on the brink of being cut when 2011 closed since he had only went 1-4 through his past five fights, and he was submitted in all of those losses. He was impressive cranking out four straight wins this year. It started with a second round knockout of Ultimate Fighter alum Chris Cope. Then he took out the hyped newcomer Stephen Thompson by out striking the 60+ kickboxing veteran through three rounds. Brown earned his second TKO of the year when he knocked Brazilian Luis Ramos in the second round.
Those three wins gave him his biggest chance of his career in a long time when he took on Mike Swick at this past December’s UFC on Fox 5. Brown proved pundits wrong when he dominated the ground with Swick in the first round, and then he finished the night with a picturesque KO in the second. Now, Brown heads into 2013 with a lot of confidence, and he will need it as he faces British slugger Dan Hardy at April’s UFC on Fox 7 in San Jose, California.
Organization of the Year (RFA)
While it would be easy to cop out and give the UFC the Organization of the Year award that is not what this award is about, or MMA is about for that matter. MMA has always been about the scrappiness of a fighter, or for someone to come out of nowhere and just prove people wrong. So, why can’t that apply to organizations? While RFA held their first event in 2011 they held their first five events in the span of a year. Somehow the promotion always delivers with no event having more than five decision, and the fans always get their fill with no fight card hosting less than 11 matches.
They come from such a small part of the country too, and many fighters having to fly or drive to Kearney, Nebraska which only boast a total population of about 31,000 people. That is where RFA’s scrappiness comes in with them making the sport of MMA a popular and profitable endeavor is such a small place. The cards always hold a plethora of big show names with UFC veterans Gilbert Yvel, Houston Alexander, Tyson Griffin, Efrain Escudero, and Jens Pulver among others on the cards.
RFA goes into the new year with a lot of steam. They now have a TV Deal with AXS TV which came in part form them buying Titan Fighting Alliance which was a fighting promotion that had been in business since 2006. Also, RFA is one of the only MMA organizations to hold an event at a Station casino. You may ask why that is important? Well, that is the chain of casino’s owned by none other that UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta. I guess putting Ed Soares(Anderson Silva’s manager) as your president has some perks with all the connection he has in and out of the MMA world.
Breakthrough BJJ Player of the Year (Claudio Calasans)
Coming from the now famed Atos camp Claudio Calasans made a name for himself through 2011 with some highly entertaining matches, but with five losses in the year he still had some fine tuning to do to his game. Well, it looks like training with the Mendes brothers and Andre Galvao has helped, because Calasans had a stellar year in 2012. Going 19-1 in matches, Calasans took home multiple trophies in his natural weight class of middleweight and competing at the absolute division.
This year alone Claudio Calasans became a Pan American champion, a BJJ World Pro Cup Champion(which was his fourth win there), and an absolute champion at Desafio BB and Mundial CBJJE. Calasans took wins over Leo Nogueira, Victor Hugo, Adrian Silva, Victor Estima(2x), Bruno Alves, and many more this year. That is why he is the BJJ Breakthrough Player of the year, and look for him to continue to make waves in 2013.
Breakthrough Submission Grappler of the Year (Keenan Cornelius)
While it may seem odd that a recently turned Brown belt is earning this award, but it is hard to deny him that when GRACIEMAG calls you the biggest revelation of 2012. A lot of his ascent can be credited to his loss to AJ Agazarm of Gracie Barra at the 2011 Pan competition. It seems that defeat spurred Cornelius to a different level this year. The Lloyd Irvin trained submission Grappler displayed amazing skills that had him submitting everyone of his opponents except for one in his double gold win at the 2012 No-Gi World Championships.
He took home gold in his natural weight class of medium heavyweight, but also stepped it up and took home the gold at the absolute division as well. All of this came just in his first year of being a brown belt, because he only jumped to brown from purple after his run last year. It looks like the sky is the limit for this young Hawaiian and many people in the BJJ world expect him to turn even more heads in 2013.
Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow!