2008 packed punch for UFC

JOSE RODRIGUEZ

, Last Updated: 1:59 PM ET

It was 12 months of ups and downs, tapouts and knockouts. We saw the birth of Affliction and the deaths of EliteXC and the IFL, and the UFC's first foray into Canada.

The highs and lows of 2008:

Fight of the year

Two stand out.

Joachim "Hellboy" Hansen and Eddie Alvarez traded heavy leather and enough energy to power a small city for three rounds during the Dream 3 Lightweight Grand Prix in Japan in May. Alvarez got the unanimous nod.

Cung Le schooled Frank Shamrock, displaying exceptional taekwondo mastery and a stick-and-move approach that would make Cassius Clay envious. Le broke Shamrock's arm in the third round of their Strikeforce bout in March.

Comeback of the year

Even though he lost, there is no bigger comeback than than that of the Godfather, Randy "The Natural" Couture. Fans are squarely behind the 45-year-old legend with the cauliflower ears.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira gets honourable mention for taking a beating from Tim Sylvia for three rounds, then choking out the clumsy giant.

Knockout of the year

Seth Petruzelli's surprise KO of Kimbo Slice is perhaps the most talked-about KO of the year, though this month's kick-to-the-head KO of Kevin Burns by the out-for-revenge Anthony Johnson is also a contender.

Honourable mentions to Thiago Alves' flying-knee KO of Karo Parisyan, Anderson Silva's destruction of James Irvin, Wanderlei Silva's destruction of Keith "Dean of Mean" Jardine and Josh Barnett's KO of Pedro Rizzo.

Disappointment of the year

For three rounds in his home country, Kalib Starnes ran from Nate Quarry at UFC 83 in Montreal. An embarrassment that got Starnes punted from the UFC.

Upset of the year

Your pick. Rashad Evans' KO over KO-king Chuck Liddell or Forrest Griffin's domination of Quinton "Rampage" Jackson to win the UFC light-heavyweight belt. Probably the latter.

Submission artist of the year

Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Demian Maia: Three fights, three textbook submissions.

Rookie of the year

Brock Lesnar. Had his first UFC fight Feb. 2 and took the heavyweight title from Couture in November.

Beatdowns of the year

Heath Herring at the hands of Lesnar; Fedor Emelianenko's schooling of Tim Sylvia; and Andrei Arlovski on Ben Rothwell.

Canadian of the year

UFC welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre. Enough said.

Loss of the year

Former UFC middleweight champ Evan Tanner, who died of heat exposure in the California desert while walking to his campsite after his dirt bike ran out of gas. Every other loss is meaningless.

---

IN THIS CORNER

GEORGES ST. PIERRE, MIXED MARTIAL ARTS

The face of MMA in Canada and one of the UFC's most popular and marketable fighters. Not bad for a guy who started taking karate at 10 because "a lot of older kids in school always tried to steal my clothes and my money." St. Pierre had his first amateur bout at 16 and earned the nickname Rush for ending fights early. Now trains with Greg Jackson in Arizona as well as the Tri-Star gym in Montreal. St. Pierre's next fight is against B.J. Penn on Jan. 31.

ON THE CARD

FUTURE FIGHTS AND EVENTS

- UFC 92 from Las Vegas on Dec. 27. Light-heavyweight champ Forrest Griffin makes his first title defence against Rashad Evans, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira takes on Frank Mir for the interim heavyweight title and Wanderlei Silva fights Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.

- Affliction Day of Reckoning goes Jan. 24 from Anaheim. WAMMA heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko vs. Andrei Arlovski and Josh Barnett vs. Gilbert Yvel.


Photos