It was the last month of the year and to say that the sport went out with a bang is an understatement. With that here’s the best of December:

10) The Ultimate Fighter: A Champion Will Be Crowned – Rose Namajunas vs. Randa Markos

This was the last fight in the house and as with all the others it didn’t disappoint. Both rising prospects, Randa Markos had proven to be the dark horse of the season while Rose Namajunas proved Ronda Rousey‘s highly praise of her. In addition both women were the last to be coached by their teams as Namajunas was the last member of Team Melendez in the competition while Team Pettis teammates Carla Esparza and Jessica Penne had already faced off in the previous semifinal. The only lasted a little over two minutes as Markos in her typical game plan took Namajunas down who was then able to pull a submission. Namajunas was awarded a Performance of the Season.

9) The Ultimate Fighter: A Champion Will Be Crowned Finale – Carla Esparza vs. Rose Namajunas

It was the culmination of the season as finalists Carla Esparza and Rose Namajunas faced off for the UFC Strawweight Championship. Both women represented their respective teams of Pettis and Melendez and were ready to put their noses to the grind. The fight made it to the third round but each round saw the same game plan of Esparza executing good stand up while utilizing some good ground and pound. It was in the third round that Esparza was able to take Namajunas’ back and submit her with a rear naked choke. Esparza won the belt and season.

8) Invicta FC 10: Waterson vs. Tiburcio – Herica Tiburcio vs. Michelle Waterson – Upset of the Month

To say that the result of this fight is a surprise is an understatement. Michelle Waterson had won the Invicta FC Atomweight Championship by submitting Jessica Penne at Invicta FC 5 and looked to reign supreme. Herica Tiburcio on the other hand had never fought outside of her Brazil and in addition was moving down a weight class. Despite the questions of why Shannon Knapp had allowed the fight to happen aside from maybe a tuneup match for Waterson, Tiburcio was able to pull a guillotine in the third round to capture the title. Whether there will be a rematch or if Waterson will have the earn a title shot back, Tiburcio certainly shocked many people in December.

7) UFC 181: Hendricks vs. Lawler II – Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez – Comeback of the Month

All of the intensity of The Ultimate Fighter coaches fight had led up to this moment. There wasn’t too much bad blood but needless to say Gilbert Melendez wanted to take the title and Anthony Pettis was anxious to defend it. Melendez actually played smart by smothering Pettis throughout the fight and taking him down to execute some ground and pound. Then in the beginning of the second round, Pettis threw the fight punch that distracted Melendez long enough for Pettis to sink in a guillotine and forced Melendez to tap out. Pettis had not only successfully defended his title, but was also awarded a Performance of the Night bonus for his come from behind submission.

6) UFC 181: Hendricks vs. Lawler II – Raquel Pennington vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith – Submission of the Month (tied)

On the same card that Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez met for the lightweight championship, Raquel Pennington and Ashlee Evans-Smith opened the televised preliminary card with a bang. Pennington was supposed to welcome former boxer Holly Holm at the event but due to an injury, Holm was replaced by up and comer Smith. Smith had made a name for herself primarily by submitting controversial transgender fighter Fallon Fox and had fought once in World Series of Fighting. The match lasted almost a whole round but ultimately ended when Pennington secured a submission that choked Smith out. Unfortunately Smith later failed a post-fight drug test.

5) World Series of Fighting 16: Palhares vs. Fitch – Rousimar Palhares vs. Jon Fitch – Submission of the Month (tied)

While this fight had a nice submission it certainly wasn’t without it’s controversy. Because of how thin the World Series of Fighting roster is, Jon Fitch only needed two wins to earn a title shot against fellow UFC veteran Rousimar Palhares. Palhares had previously ditched a fight with Fitch for “personal reasons” and was cut from the UFC for holding several submissions too long after the referee stopped the fight. The match only lasted ninety seconds and ended once again with Palhares holding the submission after the official had actually stopped the fight. This was only the latest example of why future title challenger Jake Shields called Palhares a “dirty fighter” intending to take the belt.

4) UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Dollaway – Lyoto Machida vs. C.B. Dollaway – Knockout of the Month (tied)

This was the literal last UFC fight of 2014. Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion had made a name for himself at middleweight to where he got but lost a title shot with middleweight champion Chris Weidman. In his first rebound he was matched up with TUF finalist C.B. Dollaway who viewed a win over Machida as a chance to pull away from the pack. Unfortunately for Dollaway, not even a minute into the fight, Machida threw a kick to the ribs which pretty much ended the fight as Dollaway winced then clamped up in pain as Machida rushed in for the finish. Machida was awarded a Performance of the Night bonus and possibly earned himself a knockout of the year for 2014.

3) UFC 181: Hendricks vs. Lawler II – Josh Sammon vs. Eddie Gordon – Knockout of the Month (tied)

Another example of how The Ultimate Fighter produces good prospects. Josh Sammon had competed on season 17 of the show while Eddie Gordon had won season 19 which Dana White had labeled as “the worst season” of the show. The first round consisted Gordon using his athleticism to control Sammon leaving him looking on the battered side. Round two started out very similar but then Sammon executed a head kick which laid Gordon cold on the Octagon floor. Sammon got a bonus and dedicated the win to his late girlfriend.

2) UFC on Fox: dos Santos vs. Miocic – Junior dos Santos vs. Stipe Miocic – Fight of the Month (tied)

It was on prime time Fox and each man had a chance to prove himself for a title shot. Junior dos Santos and Stipe Miocic were both looking to prove themselves worthy of a heavyweight title shot but both needed to be spectacular as dos Santos had already faced champion Cain Velasquez three times and lost twice while Miocic had always circled in the picture but never actually gotten there. Needless to say both men went in and fought their hearts out for all five rounds. While both men had the edge at times, the judges ultimately scored the bout for dos Santos by a unanimous decision. Both men were awarded Fight of the Night bonuses and clearly closed out 2014 with a bang.

1) UFC 181: Hendricks vs. Lawler II – Robbie Lawler vs. Johny Hendricks – Fight of the Month (tied)

This was a rematch that both men were looking forward to. Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler had faced off at UFC 171 for the vacant UFC Welterweight Championship and Hendricks won. Since then Hendricks had been out with a bicep injury  while Lawler had gone 2-0 defeating Jake Ellenberger and Matt Brown in order to earn the title shot again. While it appeared to most that Hendricks controlled most of the fight, the judges didn’t agree as they scored the fight as a split decision, this time for Lawler. Controversial as it may have been, Lawler’s past Miletich Fighting Systems teammates congratulated the fighter for winning the title twelve years after first fighting in the UFC.

The MMA Freak Best of 2014 Awards will be published soon so stay tuned.