Today’s the Fourth of July, so it’s no more fitting of a time to take a look back at the American fighters who have made an impact upon the sport of mixed martial (MMA) in 2015.
True, MMA is quickly becoming a global sport that’s viewed, respected, talked about, and even practiced the world around, but with all due respect to each of the many countries that currently revere fighting, it began in America.
Three of its native sons have put forth some incredible performances recently, and they deserve recognition this Fourth of July.
Let’s take a look at MMA’s three biggest All-American heroes of 2015.
3.) Dan Henderson – First Round Knockout Of Tim Boetsch At UFC Fight Night 68:
Long thought to be far past his expiration date after losing five out of his previous six bouts, the 44-year-old Henderson staved off Father Time in impressive fashion when he squared off with Tim Boetsch in the main event of June 6’s UFC Fight Night 68 from the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Although ‘The Barbarian’ came out with a bunch of movement early, it was Henderson’s thunderous right hand that soon sealed the deal. He rocked Boetsch with one of his patented overhands, followed up with a wild shot and a big knee, and then sealed the deal with an absolutely vicious uppercut and a flurry of follow-up punches that gave Hendo one of his most emotional wins in the Octagon.
It may not have come over the usually elite opponents that Henderson is used to facing, but the 28-second win proved that the former Pride and Strikeforce champion still has some gas left in the tank. As one of America’s foremost mixed martial artists, the respected and adored Hendo earns an easy spot to kick off our three best All-American wins.
2.) Daniel Cormier – Third Round Submission Of Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson At UFC 187:
Newly crowned UFC light heavyweight champion Cormier recently achieved his crowning MMA achievement when he earned the vacant belt with a dominant three-round showing against the formerly momentous ‘Rumble.’
Johnson landed one big punch early on, but from then on it was all Cormier, as the former Olympic wrestling team captain used his mat pedigree to slam a tiring Rumble to the mat, softening him up with a barrage of elbows that had the knockout artist bloody and battered until a third round rear-naked choke ultimately sealed his fate.
With the win, Cormier proved that he and Jon Jones are undoubtedly the cream of the 205-poud crop. However, the fact that Cormier won a vacant belt after Jones was unceremoniously stripped of the title after he was arrested on felony hit-and-run charges in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The fact that Cormier already lost to Jones at UFC 182 earlier this year taints his title reign ever so slightly despite the fact that it wasn’t his fault Jones got in trouble.
‘DC’ will now go on to defend his belt against Alexander Gustafsson supposedly sometime this fall as Jones gets his legal situation figured out. Regardless what happens there, Cormier has etched his name into MMA history with a UFC title, giving him the second biggest All-American win of 2015.
1.) Chris Weidman – First Round TKO Of Vitor Belfort At UFC 187:
What other win could top this list?
Chris Weidman’s nickname used to be ‘The All-American’ (he let retired former solider Brian Stann keep it), and he’s done nothing but represent the United States to the fullest during his undefeated run as a dominant champion taking out Brazilian legends one by one.
His win over Belfort was a long time coming to say the least. The fight was first booked for May 2014’s UFC 173, but it got pushed back when Belfort was found to have failed an out-of-competition drug test for elevated testosterone in February 2014, prompting Lyoto ‘The Dragon’ Machida to fill in. Weidman was injured and that fight got pushed back to July 2014’s UFC 175, where the champ won a rousing five-round war and set the stage for his rivalry with Belfort to finally be sorted out.
‘The Phenom’ got licensed to fight by the NSAC and the bout was back on for December’s UFC 181, but a Weidman hand injury delayed it yet again. It was rescheduled once more for February’s UFC 184 from Los Angeles, but was mind-numbingly delayed again when Weidman hurt his rib in training, pushing the fight back to May 23’s UFC 187 where it finally took place.
And it did not fail to deliver.
After an early first-round burst from a noticeably smaller Belfort, Weidman capitalized with his trademark wrestling, easily passing Belfort’s guard to mount him and deliver a brutal series of ground and pound to earn the stoppage in one of MMA’s most drawn-out rivalries.
Chris Weidman’s work is far from down with bouts against Luke Rockhold, Jacare Souza, and Yoel Romero waiting in the wings. While those promise to be potentially classic bouts in and of themselves, Weidman is the rightful owner of 2015’s biggest All-American win, and that doesn’t seem to be likely to change.