As has become a tradition here at MMA Freak, special occasions and holidays are marked by a top 10 list. As the first themed list for 2015 and in honor of Martin Luther King Day tomorrow and the upcoming African American History Month next month, this list will review the top 10 African Americans of the past year. The overall criteria for this list will be record of the past year. With that here we go with the list:
10) Tyron Woodley
Tyron Woodley literally had an up and down year which ended on a high note. To start the year off Woodley fought Carlos Condit for what was supposed to be a title shot against at the time champion Johny Hendricks which he subsequently won when Condit suffered a knee injury off of one of Woodley’s kicks. However, with Hendricks injured and the win against Condit having been a considered a freak accident, Woodley was matched against Rory MacDonald at UFC 174 and lost in a decision. Fortunately Woodley fought Dong Hyun Kim in August and was able to win by punches. He is now set to face up and coming Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 183 at the end of January.
9) Daniel Cormier
To say the least, Daniel Cormier had a good year in 2014. He started by defeating Patrick Cummins in his light heavyweight debut, then defeated Dan Henderson at UFC 173. Then when Alexander Gustafsson was injured and had to drop out of his match against Jon Jones, Cormier was offered the title shot in his place. The fight was delayed multiple times and was mired by controversy with a media day brawl but finally took place at UFC 182 on January 3rd. Jones dealt Cormier his first career defeat but still earned Fight of the Night.
8) Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal
Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal also had to deal with a loss this year but was able to rebound quite well. After much build up, Lawal entered the Bellator Season 10 Light Heavyweight Tournament and defeated Mikhail Zayats in the semifinal round before facing Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in the final at Bellator 131, the promotion’s inaugural pay-per-view. Jackson won the controversial decision and needless to say Lawal wasn’t happy. However, Lawal was able to pull off rebound wins against the likes of Dustin Jacoby and Joe Vedepo to close out the year. Lawal currently has nothing scheduled but under the new Bellator format expect a title shot in the works.
7) Bobby Lashley
Crossover pro wrestler and MMA fighter Bobby Lashley was mainly active in MMA during the latter part of the year. Having dabbled part time in MMA over the course of his fighting career, Lashley signed with Bellator as part of the transition between Bjorn Rebney and Scott Coker and subsequently fought twice for the promotion in the second half of the year. In September at Bellator 123 he defeated Josh Burns then fought and beat Karl Etherington at Bellator 130 a little over a month later. Initially, Lashley was going to face James Thompson in a rematch as part of the Bellator 134: The Brisith Invasion card but pulled out due to an injury. His return is unknown.
6) Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson had a successful yet interesting year at the same time. Jackson started off the year competing in the Bellator Season 10 Light Heavyweight Tournament where he defeated Christian M’Pumbu then Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal in the semifinal and final rounds respectively. While the tournament win should have earned him a title shot against Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion Emanuel Newton, an allegiance to Newton kept Jackson from committing to such a match. He subsequently voice his displeasure with working with Bellator and surprised many by signing with the UFC in December. Bellator President Scott Coker has since stated that Jackson is still under contract with Bellator but in the meantime Jackson is booked against Fabio Malonado at UFC 186.
5) Jon Jones
If it weren’t for all of the controversy that surrounded Jon Jones in the past year, he may have been ranked higher on this list. Jones only fought once during 2014 when he successfully defended his title against Glover Teixeira at UFC 172 on April 26th. There was then several shuffles in opponents from Alexander Gustafsson to Daniel Cormier as well as a shuffling of dates for the title defense. After the controversial media day brawl, Jones and Cormier finally faced off at UFC 182 where Jones pulled a close decision victory. However, it was subsequently announced that Jones had tested positive for cocaine metabolites and Jones has since been fined and checked into rehab.
4) Demetrious Johnson
Demetrious Johnson had a very good year and one could argue he was one of the more active champions within a twelve month span. He successfully knocked out Joseph Benavidez in December 2013, then defended his title against Ali Bagautinov at UFC 174. What was impressive about his win against Bagautinov was the fact that Bagautinov tested positive for performance enhancing drugs and Johnson decisively defeated him. Finally in September at UFC 178, Johnson again defended his title against Chris Cariaso and was able to submit him in the second round. Johnson currently has nothing scheduled but expect the constant role model to come out ready to fight.
3) Anthony Johnson
Needless to say Anthony Johnson in 2014 was an example that it’s possible for a fighter to reinvent himself. Johnson started out by defeating Mike Kyle at WSOF 8 this same day last year before being resigned by the UFC. In his first match back since 2012, Johnson handily controlled Phil Davis then finished Antonio Rogerio Nogueira with a knockout. Unfortunately any further progress he could have made this year was stalled out by accusations of domestic violence against his former girlfriend got him suspended while he was investigated, of which he was eventually cleared. To kick off his new year, Johnson will face Alexander Gustafsson for a title shot.
2) Emanuel Newton
Emanuel Newton was probably the most active champion of a major promotion in 2014. Newton started out the year but avenging a previous career loss to Attila Vegh by unifying the Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship with Newton’s Interim Championship and becoming the unified champion in the process. From March to September, Newton was inactive for lack of any challengers under the old system as friend Quinton “Rampage” Jackson refused to challenge him for the title. However, in less than a month Newton defended his title twice against Joey Beltran and Linton Vassell respectively. He will next defend his title against Liam McGeary at Bellator 134.
1) Neil Magney
If there is anyone who deserves to be on the top of this list, it is Neil Magney. After going 1-2 in 2013, Magney went on a blitz. In what is definitely uncommon in the UFC today, Magney fought Gasan Umalatov, Tim Means, Rodrigo de Lima, Alex Garcia, and William Macario. Not only did he face all five of those opponents, but he defeated all five of those opponents. With it the former army veteran and TUF 16 alumni tied Roger Huerta for the most wins in a calender year and made it to the top of this list.
I’d like to wish everyone a happy Martin Luther King, Jr. day and please stay tuned for the Best of 2014 Awards after the best of December.