2014 was a year full of several matches that were certainly memorable in MMA. In the category of comebacks, it was certainly no exception. This week the top comebacks of the year will be reviewed. As is normally the case, the votes were cast by a panel of MMA Freak writers. There were of course matches who didn’t make it onto the list due to a lack of votes but were still nominated and as a result will appear on the honorable mentions list:
– Joe Warren vs. Rafael Silva – Bellator 118 for the Interim Bellator Bantamweight Championship
– Emanuel Newton vs. Joey Beltran – Bellator 124 for the Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship
– Emanuel Newton vs. Linton Vassell – Bellator 130 for the Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship
– Rory MacDonald vs. Demian Maia – UFC 170 on February 22nd, won Fight of the Night honors
– Dong Hyun Kim vs. John Hathaway – The Ultimate Fighter China Finale: Kim vs. Hathaway
– Fabio Maldonado vs. Hans Stringer – UFC 179 on October 25th, won Performance of the Night honors
– Jessica Penne vs. Randa Markos – The Ultimate Fighter: A Champion Will Be Crowned Finale, FOM
– Fabricio Werdum vs. Mark Hunt – UFC 180 for the Interim UFC Heavyweight Championship
– Joe Schilling vs. Melvin Manhoef – Bellator 131 on November 15th with a knockout in the second round
– Dustin Ortiz vs. Justin Scoggins – The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale, Scoggins lead early than Ortiz cameback
– Dave Jansen vs. Rick Hawn – Bellator 130 on October 24th for a decision victory in Mulvane, Kansas
With that here is the list of the top 10 comebacks of 2014:
10) Lavar Johnson’s comeback over Ryan Martinez during Bellator 111 on March 7th
This would turn out to be the last full season of Bellator MMA and it would feature the largest heavyweight tournament the promotion had seen. Lavar Johnson had not only lost his last two fights in the UFC, but he’d also lost his Bellator promotional debut. Ryan Martinez was coming off of a loss to Vitaly Minakov in the four man 2013 Summer Series Tournament. The opening round started with Martinez taking Johnson down and getting some ground and pound in to the point that it looked like Martinez would win. Then in the final minute, Johnson was able to stand up and knock Martinez out to advance to the semifinals of the tournament.
9) Chris Beal’s comeback over Patrick Williams during UFC 172: Jones vs. Teixeira on April 26th
Chris Beal had just competed in The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs. Team Tate where he was eliminated in his first fight in the TUF house. The show’s divisions were both at bantamweight and now Beal was not only making his promotional debut but was also on a pay-per-view. In the first round there were several times that opponent Patrick Williams almost finished Beal, but somehow he survived to the second round. Then in the second round, Beal was able to place a flying knee on Williams chin, resulting in a knockout win. Beal’s win earned him a Performance of the Night bonus.
8) Cathal Pendred’s comeback over Mike King during UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Brandao
Following his stint on The Ultimate Fighter: Team Edgar vs. Team Penn, Cathal Pendred initially didn’t fight in the UFC until July 19th on his home turf against fellow Team Penn fighter Mike King. Being the first fight night event in Ireland, Pendred certainly had some pressure on him as well as the rest of the Irish fighters on the card. However, Pendred went out there and in the second round, won the fight by rear-naked choke. For the effort, both men received Fight of the Night honors. Then Pendred was further rewarded when King failed his drug test.
7) Yoel Romero’s comeback over Tim Kennedy during UFC 178: Johnson vs. Cariaso
Leading into this fight, both men had been on the rise and both had competed in Strikeforce. The difference was that Tim Kennedy was already well known before crossing into the UFC, whereas Yoel Romero was still relatively unknown before the transition. Both men were on four fight winning streaks when they met at UFC 178 with Kennedy dominating the first round. Despite some controversy between rounds, Romero was able to mount an amazing comeback and knocked out Kennedy. Both men received Fight of the Night honors for their battle.
6) Donald Cerrone’s comeback over Edson Barboza during UFC on Fox: Werdum vs. Browne
Before this bout, Donald Cerrone was on a two fight winning streak to Edson Barboza‘s three fight winning streak. Cerrone had been in the fight game longer then Barboza and was looking for a title shot in the UFC, something he’d never earned before. Barboza was just looking to earn another big name to his list. The fight wasn’t going is way until the middle of round one when he was able to secure a rear-naked choke and force a submission. For his win, Cerrone earned a Performance of the Night.
5) Cat Zingano’s comeback over Amanda Nunes during UFC 178: Johnson vs. Cariaso
This was an emotional fight for those who were paying attention to Cat Zingano. Zingano had originally earned a title shot against Ronda Rousey at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale but injured her knee before filming for The Ultimate Fighter 18 could begin. Then during her rehab, her husband Mauricio Zingano commit suicide for still unknown reasons. In addition to facing all this outside cage adversity along with being a mother, Zingano was almost finished in the first round of her match against Amanda Nunes. She came from behind a won the match.
4) Rick Glenn’s comeback over Georgi Karakhanyan during WSOF 10: Branch vs. Taylor
In the World Series of Fighting, it can be easy or hard to set one’s self apart from the pack. Rick Glenn needed a few fights to show that he was worthy of a title shot against Georgi Karakhanyan. During the first round Karakhanyan controlled the fight with several submission attempts. However, during the second round a rib injury took its’ toll and Karakhanyan didn’t answer the bell for round three. Glenn became the new WSOF Featherweight Champion.
3) Matt Brown’s comeback over Erick Silva during UFC Fight Night: Brown vs. Silva
Before this fight Matt Brown had been long overdue for title shot having fought to a six fight winning streak. Erick Silva on the other hand had a checkered record since coming over the UFC but just the same has potential. Both men were looking to set themselves apart with this fight. During the first two rounds of the fight Silva was leading with a dominant performance. However, in round three Brown found Silva’s chin and earned his win and bonuses.
2) Anthony Pettis’ comeback over Gilbert Melendez during UFC 181: Hendricks vs. Lawler II
It had been over a year since UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez had graced the Octagon with their presence. Part of that reason was that they were coaching opposite each other on The Ultimate Fighter 20. When the two of them finally faced each other, Melendez proceeded to smother Pettis and keep him from having any space to work. However, in round two Pettis placed one good kick to Melendez which rocked him enough for Pettis to secure a guillotine choke. For his efforts, Pettis was awarded a Performance of the Night bonus.
1) Dan Henderson’s comeback over Mauricio Rua at UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Henderson 2
Needless to say, it shouldn’t be surprising that two top veterans would make the top of this list. Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua had previously faced each other in 2011 at UFC 139 with Henderson taking a unanimous decision. Since then both men had run on hard times and were looking for a win to help him out. At one point Henderson was in trouble before he was able to come from behind and finish Shogun for the win. Both men earned Fight of the Night honors and Henderson earned Performance of the Night honors as well.