GSP’s departure highlights wild year for MMA
UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre waves to his supporters during a news conference at Les Galeries de la Capitale shopping centre in Quebec City, December 13, 2013. (REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger)
This year was certainly one to remember for mixed martial arts. Locally, for the first time in years, MMA fans in the Lower Mainland got to see some top local professional talent compete. Fivestar Fight League and Battlefield Fight League did a great job of putting on some stellar events, with some exciting fights throughout British Columbia.
The UFC also did not disappoint in what I thought was one of its strongest years as an organization. It was nice to finally see fight cards with big main events not get blown up due to injuries. The UFC was not short on drama, action and heartbreak. The lasting image of Anderson Silva’s leg breaking over Chris Weidman’s knee will forever be imprinted in our minds.
It was the year of the champion, with most divisions having champions either re-crowned or involved in some of the most epic fights of 2013. My pick for fight of the year was a toss up between Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 or Mark Hunt vs. Antonio Silva at UFC Fight Night 33.
As for fighter of the year, I agree with a lot of my fellow scribes when bestowing that honour on Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (19-2-1). The Washington State native defended his UFC flyweight title on three separate occasions and was dominant in doing so.
Somewhat lost in all of the year’s highlights was the announcement of Ultimate Fighter Canada, which will air on Sportsnet 360 on Jan. 15. Vancouver’s “Ragin” Kajan Johnson (19-8-1), who is currently residing in Montreal to train out of Tristar, made it onto the show and is my pick to be in the finale.
The big MMA news item was Georges St-Pierre (25-2) walking away from the sport following his win over Johny Hendricks (15-1) at UFC 167. Although it appears that the hiatus is only temporary, I would be surprised to see GSP return in 2014. I do see the UFC returning to Vancouver this year and my gut instinct is that it could happen this summer.
Kalib Starnes (16-8-1) is my pick for local fighter of the year. The 38-year-old fought four times, which included a cup of coffee in the heavyweight division, and a dominant win in his light heavyweight bout here in Vancouver at the World Series of Fighting 7 last month.
I highly recommend getting out and watching some of our local pros compete this year. Websites to keep tabs on are MMASucka.com, Battlefieldfl.com, Fivestar-athletics.com and, of course, you could just keep reading this column every Monday to stay in the loop.