We all know that in MMA anything can happen and 2013 certainly proved that. One of the many things that can happen is when a situation turns around completely. A fighter can turn his career around from losing and on the brink of being cut to rising through adversity to the top. Then there are also those matches where a fighter comes from the brink of defeat to snatch a victory right at the last minute.
This week we are going over the matches voted as the best comebacks of the year or the fighters that turned their careers around this year. As usual there were matches and fighters who were nominated but did not receive enough votes to make it on the list but appear in the honorable mentions:
Robbie Lawler‘s comeback victory over Josh Koscheck at UFC 157: Rousey vs. Carmouche on February 23rd.
Jesse Taylor– added three more victories to his now seven fight winning streak which has set him up for a title shot for the WSOF MW title.
Urijah Faber– went from 0-1 in 2012 to winning four matches in a row and earning a title shot against Renan Barao at UFC 169.
Uriah Hall– flopped with two losses earlier in the year and then at UFC 168 became the monster we all expected him to be out of TUF 17.
Wanderlei Silva‘s comeback victory against Brian Stann at UFC on Fuel TV: Silva vs. Stann on March 3rd.
Robbie Lawler– upon his UFC and welterweight returns, went 3-0 earning a title shot at UFC 171 after an upset over Rory McDonald.
Now for the voted top 10 comeback fights and fighters of the year:
10. Michael Wootten’s comeback over Josh Hill during The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs. Team Tate
Josh Hill was clearly a wrestler chosen by Team Tate and chosen to face Michael Wootten based on Wootten’s mainly stand up base. The game plan of course was to take Wootten down and ground and pound him.
The plan worked just great in the first round but then Hill seemed to give up on the game plan and Wootten’s subsequent performance during round two resulted in a sudden death third round. Once again Wootten controlled the fight and the result was a victory for Team Rousey. Hill didn’t fight again while Wootten lost to Chris Holdsworth.
9. Anthony Pettis’ comeback over Benson Henderson at UFC 164: Henderson vs. Pettis
This highly anticipated rematch didn’t last anywhere near as long as their first outing in the WEC. Defending his title for the fourth time Benson Henderson went into his match with Anthony Pettis keeping it standing until he decided to take it to the ground.
At no point did he inflict any major damage against Showtime but he was controlling the round. It was Pettis’ BJJ that came into play and resulted in his rolling into an arm bar and forcing Henderson to submit verbally. Pettis has been out due to knee surgery since then while Henderson fights soon.
8. Jessica Rakoczy’s comeback victory over Roxanne Modafferi during The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs. Team Tate
Former boxing champion Jessica Rakoczy was the last women’s pick on the show and was up against veteran Roxanne Modafferi. The first round for the most part was controlled by the veteran Happy Warrior. However, round two was starting to go in favor of Rakoczy when Modafferi went for a triangle or arm bar.
It was in that submission attempt that she made the same mistake she did against Sarah Kaufman in not letting go when Rakoczy lifted her and essentially slammed her to a finish with strikes. Both shared a sportsman like moment after.
7. Cain Velasquez’s comeback as UFC Heavyweight Champion
Cain Velasquez came into 2013 one day into his second reign as UFC Heavyweight Champion. What he needed to prove was that he was the man who could come out and dominate everyone the way he did leading up to his first title reign. He did just that with two dominating title defenses, the first of which was against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva.
It wasn’t even close as Velasquez dispatched Silva even quicker (and with less blood) then their first meeting. He then faced Junior dos Santos for a third time and once again finished his opponent convincingly.
6. Vitor Belfort’s comeback following his loss to Jon Jones
Following his move back up to light heavyweight to unsuccessfully challenge Jon Jones for the championship, there were many questioning whether Vitor Belfort had a future title chance at all. However, that didn’t keep him from going 3-0 for the year against the likes of Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold, and Dan Henderson.
Things turned in his favor when Chris Weidman upset Anderson Silva at UFC 162. He’s now set to face Weidman sometime this year. The only hiccup with Belfort’s spectacular 2013 is his admission to using TRT regularly.
5. Matt Brown’s comeback as a fighter
Matt Brown only fought twice this year but those two fights are only the latest caps to a six fight winning streak and a call from some for a potential title for “the Immortal.”
Both of his matches this year were finishes against the likes of Jordan Mein and the veteran Mike Pyle. We will see what happens this next year for Brown and whether he indeed gets his title shot for against the eventual new welterweight champ.
4. Cat Zingano’s comeback against Meisha Tate at The Ultimate Fighter: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen Finale
Only the second women’s match in UFC history, the bout between Cat Zingano and Meisha Tate was originally meant to determine who would coach against Ronda Rousey on The Ultimate Fighter 18. The fight went the first two rounds for the veteran Tate who was using her grappling to control the fight. However, in the third round, Zingano was able to get the right shots off, eventually ending the fight in a TKO and theoretically winning the coaching position.
Unfortunately Zingano wouldn’t be able to coach as a knee injury forced her out and led to the heated season between Tate and Rousey. Zingano had an even worse break this January when her husband died with our prayers for her.
3. Travis Browne’s comeback against Alistair Overeem at UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Sonnen
These two fighters were on vastly different career paths when they met at the first UFC Fight Night on Fox Sports 1. Travis Browne had just won against Gabriel Gonzaga while Alistair Overeem had just lost to Antonio Silva in a fight he was winning. For those who believe lightning strikes twice, this match is their proof as at one point Overeem was winning the only round, almost finished Browne at one point.
Then instead of pushing the pace, Overeem once again became overconfident and let his guard down while Browne refused to let his spirit be broken and used his lanky legs to attack Overeem with front kicks. Those front kicks are how Browne pulled the upset against Overeem.
2. Antonio Silva’s comeback against Alistair Overeem at UFC 156: Aldo vs. Edgar
Going into this fight many considered Alistair Overeem as a top contender for the UFC Heavyweight Championship despite the face he was just coming off a drug suspension. Antonio Silva on the other hand had already lost to champion Cain Velasquez and just got a rebound win against Travis Browne.
There was also some back blood as Overeem had been talking smack against Silva. Overeem went in and controlled the first two rounds with his dangerous striking. Then in the third round Silva caught Overeem on the chin and won the fight for a title shot.
1. Julianna Pena’s comeback against Shayna Baszler during The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs. Team Tate
Without a doubt, Shayna Baszler was a favorite to win The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs. Team Tate but Meisha Tate in her first round pick Meisha Tate chose her training partner Julianna Pena for her team. In order to try and send a message, Ronda Rousey tried to send a message to Tate by picking Baszler to fight Pena.
During the first round Baszler clearly had the advantage controlling the fight and taking it where she wanted. However, in the second round, Baszler’s lack of a game plan resulted in Pena coming back and sinking in a rear naked choke against the longtime veteran. This match was actually quite foreboding as Pena would go onto win the entire season.
Please stay tuned for a special regarding this month. Also as mentioned above, please keep Cat Zingano and her family in your prayers.