2015 All-Violence Second TeamHeavyweight: Stipe Miocic
Light Heavyweight: Anthony Johnson
Middleweight: Thiago Santos
Welterweight: Tim Means
Lightweight: Rafael dos Anjos
Featherweight: Max Holloway
Bantamweight: T.J. Dillashaw
Flyweight: Ben Nguyen
Strawweight: Rose Namajunas
HEAVYWEIGHT: To an extent, the All-Violence team prioritizes and praises activity, and Miocic is another fighter who only fought once in 2015. However, the Ohio native was slighted by a back injury injury nixing his October bout with Ben Rothwell. More importantly, in his one outing on the year, he absolutely savaged Mark Hunt of all folks, authoring Sherdog.com’s 2015 “Beatdown of the Year.” I’ve already written an essay about the massacre Miocic put on “The Super Samoan” back in May. Miocic landed 361 total strikes against Hunt, breaking a single-fight UFC mark set by Royce Gracie 20 years earlier against Ken Shamrock. There was a 10-7 round and a 10-8 after that. It was violent, and it was harrowing. Still, Miocic’s destruction of the old warhorse Hunt wasn’t just a happenchance beating dragged on by poor officiating. Miocic set the pace early with a fantastic jab, bringing clean right hands behind it while feinting for takedowns to keep Hunt off-balance. When the bout turned into an absolute act of terror in the third round, Miocic did it by finally going to his underrated wrestling and ground-and-pound after assaulting the former K-1 World Grand Prix champion standing and keeping him out of sorts.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT: A disclaimer of decency first: I am uneasy rewarding an unrepentant, alleged serial abuser of women on the All-Violence team, and I do not feel great about it. Nonetheless, my distaste for Johnson is one outside the cage. Inside the cage, for better or worse, his talents perennially manifest in the kind of violence and chaos people pay money to see. In his third All-Violence campaign, Johnson fought Alexander Gustafsson on his home turf in front of 30,000 Swedes and after absorbing an eye poke pounded “The Mauler” into dust in just over two minutes. “Rumble” fell short in challenging Daniel Cormier for the vacant UFC light heavyweight title at UFC 187 in May, but before he was tapped in the third round, “Rumble” still managed to drop Cormier in startling fashion twice. To end the year, he casually drove a right hook through heavy-hitting Brit Jimi Manuwa’s face, jumped into his guard and nailed his coffin shut with two right forearms. This list will never co-sign on the man, but it would be absurd to pretend that perhaps the scariest hitter in all of MMA simply doesn’t exist.
MIDDLEWEIGHT: Santos does not have the look of a UFC middleweight contender, but he has the kind of fight style that could earn him some future placements here on the All-Violence Team. After all, that’s what this list is for. “Marreta” is one of the most brutal kickers in MMA and the rest of his game functions behind it. In January, he wasted Andy Enz with a body kick and punches in under two minutes before turning in the finest head kick of 2015 outside of Holly Holm on Ronda Rousey, decapitating Steve Bosse in June in a mere 29 seconds; he turned the former hockey enforcer to stone the minute his shin hit his face. To cap the year, the Brazilian stepped up in competition against the previously unbeaten Elias Theodorou, wearing down the Canadian not just with his body kick but elbows and knees in the clinch. Santos took 10-8s in the third round on two official scorecards en route to a unanimous verdict. Kick on, “Marreta.”
WELTERWEIGHT: It was a strange year in the 170-pound division, and it manifests here. Perennial All-Violence all-star Matt Brown actually choked out Means in the first round at UFC 189, and it seemed to affirm the notion that Means is a poor-man’s Brown. I mean that as a compliment. Nonetheless, Brown was 1-1 on the year and got wrestled to death by Johny Hendricks, whereas “The Dirty Bird” spread his wings outside of the Brown loss, winning his three other Octagon appearances with violent style. Dhiego Lima got wasted under a hail of punches, elbows and knees in just over two minutes; George Sullivan got worn out by Means’ constant forward pressure and volume before being choked by an arm-triangle; and rugged veteran John Howard got knocked stiff as a board by a single left hook. Means might be a poor-man’s Brown, but a poor-man’s Brown is a man I want to know.
LIGHTWEIGHT: Making his second straight appearance on the All-Violence second team is your UFC lightweight champion dos Anjos. Surely you know the man at this point. At UFC 185 in March, dos Anjos shocked the MMA world not just by beating All-Violence staple and offensive wizard Anthony Pettis but by smashing his orbital bone standing, assaulting him on the ground and shutting him out on the scorecards and in every meaningful way. When he returned to defend his title against Donald Cerrone in December, another one of MMA’s most potent offense fighters lasted 66 seconds. Dos Anjos sent “Cowboy” to the mat with a crushing liver kick, followed by a seemingly endless torrent of punches. Two of the best offensive fighters in the world were treated like garbage. Like his Kings MMA teammate and fellow UFC champ Fabricio Werdum, dos Anjos has blossomed under the watch of Rafael Cordeiro, transforming from a straightforward jiu-jitsu fighter into a champion liable to impressively end an elite challenger in any phase of the game -- the very All-Violence ethos.
FEATHERWEIGHT: Making his second straight All-Violence appearance, Holloway is another fighter whose true brilliance isn’t obvious in offensive statistics. The 24-year-old Hawaiian tends to be a slow starter, but as he begins to warm up, it’s like watching an exotic flower blossom. Holloway has great distance striking but excels when he steps inside with extended combinations to the head and body. He’s at his most dangerous as a striker, but those shots often give way to setting up fight-ending guillotine chokes. Such was the case in Holloway’s most outstanding 2015 performance, as he positively dismantled Cub Swanson every which way before hitting that guillotine nine minutes into the bout. After fighting five times in 2014, Holloway found time in 2015 not just for destroying Swanson but to outpoint ever-tough Cole Miller, to force deadly submission threat Charles Oliveira to bow out to a bizarre esophageal tear in 99 seconds and to render Jeremy Stephens of all people inert and scared to throw punches. So long as Holloway is landing 5.5 significant strikes per minute, I’ll have a seat for him here.
BANTAMWEIGHT: Dillashaw’s latest campaign wasn’t as violent as his 2014 first-team berth, but even in just a single showing, the UFC bantamweight champion used his rematch with Renan Barao to put his offensive prowess on display. With continued work under coach Duane Ludwig, Dillashaw was in his finest incarnation in Chicago in July, keeping Barao off-balance from the opening bell, ringing him to the head and body going forward and hitting the Brazilian with clean counters when he did attack before circling away, rinsing and repeating. So thorough, technical and commanding was Dillashaw’s thrashing of Barao in the rematch that it seemed implausible that his title capture was the 2014 “Upset of the Year” and that a rematch ever seemed like a competitive proposition at all.
FLYWEIGHT: One of the most spirited and surprising All-Violence stories of 2015, seemingly overnight, Nguyen went from being an anonymous, middling South Dakotan living and fighting in Australia to being a bona fide, exciting asset to the UFC flyweight division. In both his UFC bouts, Nguyen entered as an underdog, first to hard-wrestling Turk Alptekin Ozkilic in May and then to American striker Ryan Benoit in November. Ozkilic got laced up with a double left hand and follow-up ground-and-pound at the end of the first round. At UFC 193, Nguyen rocked Benoit immediately with a left hand before working him over easily to earn a rear-naked choke at 2:35 of the opening round. Not only did Nguyen get to show out for his adopted Australian faithful by beating down Benoit in Adelaide, but after his win over Ozkilic, he was honored with “Ben Nguyen Day” back in his hometown, proving that Sioux Falls, South Dakota, loves its violent own.
STRAWWEIGHT: From exhibiting high-octane offense as a teenage amateur and pulling off a 12-second flying armbar in her second pro bout to her precocious run to challenging for the inaugural UFC strawweight title, Namajunas making the All-Violence list was just a matter of time. At UFC 192 in October, Namajunas dinged up Angela Hill at distance before flexing her elite scrambling skills and getting a rear-naked choke in under three minutes. However, “Thug Rose” put her stamp on 2015 with her decision to step in for Joanne Calderwood on six weeks’ notice to face promotional postergirl Paige VanZant. Namajunas’ more technical, relentless scrambling was stylistic poison for the upstart VanZant, against whom Namajunas racked up repeated 10-8 rounds, bloodying her, choking her and popping her elbow with an armbar before finally forcing her to succumb in the fifth round. It was one of the year’s nastiest beatdowns and the sort of thrashing that Namajunas is likely to replicate in the future.
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