Three rising stars shined brightest. Three fighters coming from three separate organizations, all had their biggest moments within this calendar year and all did it with a flair that pleased staunch fans, as well as broadened the audience.
TJ DILLASHAW pulled off the biggest upset of the season dominating the once thought unbeatable Renan Barao to become the new bantamweight champ in the UFC. It was as thorough a performance as anyone has turned over the last twelve months. He went 3-0 in ’14 and could be the Fighter of the Year.
JUSTIN GAETHJE won the WSOF lightweight title beginning at the year and make quick work of Nick Newell in a much ballyhooed bout in July. He closed out a perfect year in a hard fought catchweight win over veteran Melvin Guillard. All with the same never stop, charging forward style. More reminiscent of a great street fighter, than that of someone with his outstanding wrestling background.
WILL BROOKS was considered a flash in the pan by some defeating Michael Chandler for the Bellator interim lightweight title. After his convincing fourth round TKO last month in the rematch, there was no doubt Brooks is clearly the best in the division with an exciting style that’s very marketable for an organization looking for more TV viewers in 2015.
It was also the year of the indefatigable Donald Cerrone. “The Cowboy” rode hard through the ranks, going 4-0 including a victory over Eddie Alvarez in his much anticipated UFC debut. Cerrone has boosted his stock without boasts. Just wins, all impressive.
Cub Swanson had won six straight dating back to 2012 before losing to Frankie Edgar, showing how worthy an opponent he is in the discussion for anyone.
Former champs Edgar, Dominick Cruz, and Andrei Arlovski all had the eye opening wins this year, to remind us why they were title holders and how much fun it will be to watch their next bout.
With a huge weekend approaching for the UFC, (with possible fight of the year candidates emerging) there are already enough moments from the new and the renewed, to justify accolades for 2014.
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