Sherdog’s Miscellaneous Awards for 2008

Event of the Year

Jan 10, 2009
Photo by Sherdog.com

UFC 84 was a clear winner
for event of the year.
Sherdog’s Event of the Year
By Danny Acosta

Sometimes blood is thicker than plotlines. When lightweight champion B.J. Penn met Sean Sherk in the UFC 84 “Ill Will” main event on May 24 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, blood -- the bad variety -- was the plotline.

Penn finished Sherk in 15 minutes in their lightweight title tilt, which anchored Sherdog’s Event of the Year for 2008. It was a seminal moment for two fighters and a weight class over which they beat up themselves and others to help establish.

One needs look no further than how the two combatants entered the UFC to understand their differences. Penn made his MMA debut in the UFC based on his prodigious Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills. Sherk had to earn his way to the UFC on regional circuits when the UFC was little more than a regional circuit itself.

Their stories first intersected in the summer of 2007 when Penn re-entered a division once considered his for the taking and submitted rival Jens Pulver. Sherk had recently become the first lightweight champion since an ill-fated tournament starring Penn left the belt and division in limbo.

Sherk’s win over Hermes Franca at UFC 73 and a subsequent loss to the California State Athletic Commission over a positive test for suspected steroid use set the pieces in motion for a showdown between him and Penn.

Penn stepped in and claimed the belt after it was stripped from “The Muscle Shark,” as he battered Joe Stevenson and submitted him in the second round at UFC 80. Literally licking the fallen Stevenson’s blood off his gloves, the newly crowned champion sought out more; he wanted a piece of Sherk. Their date was soon set, and they made every ounce of their bad blood known.

Chants of “B.J.” and “steroids” proved it was a pro-Penn arena that greeted the two gladiators in Las Vegas. Sherk did not attempt his bat-out-of-hell shots and was all-too willing to trade leather with the potent Hawaiian.

Penn dominated the Minnesotan and left Sherk dazed in the corner after three rounds, asserting, “He’s done.” Confirmation came when Sherk was unable to continue. Bad blood was put aside -- only after Penn licked the backs of his gloves again -- as the champion directed fans to respect and cheer his fallen opponent after a quick embrace.

The fight established an undisputed lightweight champion and also cemented the division’s drawing power -- a major criticism it had received since its inception. The event pulled in 475,000 pay-per-view buys, finishing 10th in North America for 2008. It was, in fact, the biggest fight in lightweight history.

Tidbits from ‘Ill Will’

Wanderlei Silva returned to form after three consecutive defeats when he swarmed Keith Jardine like a hurricane. So brutal was “The Axe Murderer’s” attack that he performed a move aptly and affectionately named the “rape choke.” The match lasted 36 seconds;

• In what may go down as Tito Ortiz’s final UFC appearance, Ortiz was equal parts frustrated and dominated for 14 minutes by karate master Lyoto Machida. He mounted a dramatic comeback with a surprising triangle choke in the third but still dropped a unanimous decision;

• Impressive debuts and decisive finishes were the norm on the rest of UFC 84 card. More than half the fights ended in the first round. In fact, there were only two decisions on an 11-match card -- a competitive scrap pairing Terry Etim with Rich Clementi at 155 pounds and the Ortiz-Machida bout;

Goran Reljic and Wilson Gouveia nearly finished each other multiple times during their bout. The debuting Reljic stopped his American Top Team-based counterpart in the second round;

• Unbeaten Brazilian Thiago Silva showcased his durability, as he took out Antonio Mendes in the first round after a shaky start;

• The armbar Rousimar Palhares landed in a transition from back control was so swift that it sent time-tested veteran Ivan Salaverry into retirement;

Kazuhiro Nakamura’s leg said “no mas” to Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou in only five minutes;

War Machine learned that judo throws hurt and anaconda chokes can leave you unconscious, as he lost to Yoshiyuki Yoshida in less than a minute;

• Korean import Dong Hyun Kim ended Jason Tan’s night early in the third round thanks to a judo throw and unanswered elbows.

Shane Carwin’s XXXXXL hands displaced Christian Wellisch’s mouthpiece in 44 seconds; it served as an emphatic debut for the highly-touted heavyweight.

The Best of the Rest:

WEC 34 “Faber vs. Pulver”: The event featured two “Fight of the Year” candidates -- Miguel Torres-Yoshiro Maeda and Urijah Faber-Jens Pulver -- and promoted the 135- and 145-pound weight classes in front of a raucous crowd in Sacramento, Calif., on June 1. The show also featured the WEC debuts of Jose Aldo, Mark Munoz and Will Ribeiro, all of whom were victorious. Reigning featherweight champion Mike Thomas Brown was tucked away on the undercard.

Strikeforce “Shamrock vs. Le”: When San Jose, Calif., celebrities Cung Le and Frank Shamrock battled for middleweight gold, the Bay Area once again registered on the Richter scale in an all stand-up crowd pleaser on March 29. Neither man has fought since. An all-around solid show upped the local promotion’s notoriety. The event also featured Joey Villasenor’s one-punch knockout against Ryan Jensen and eight finishes in nine fights.
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