The 2011 fighter of the year award was the easiest award to decide upon. The winner stood head and shoulder above everyone else as far as the success in the octagon is concerned.
1. Jon Jones -4-0
Some have argued that Jon Jones’ 2011 was the best year in UFC history by a single fighter. I think that proposition would be hard to argue. Jones entered 2011 with a bout with Ryan Bader. Most people thought that a win over Bader could get Jones close to a title shot. However, an injury to Rashad Evans opened the door for Jones. Jones walked through Ryan Bader and then obliterated “Shogun” Rua. Jones then sucessfully defended his belt twice against “Rampage” Jackson and Lyoto Machida. He made it all look easy. Remember, Shogun, Rampage and Machida are all former UFC champions and top fighters in their weight class. Jones finished them all. Oh yeah, he also successfully defended his belt twice, something that has not been done for a long time.
2. Junior Dos Santos- 2-0
Dos Santos has to be in the talk for fighter of the year. He was not as active as some fighters, but he was impressive when he was. He coached a season of the Ultimate Fighter. He walked through Shane Carwin and then he captured the UFC heavyweight title by quickly knocking out champion Cain Velasquez. Dos Santos has a great year.
3. Michael Chandler – 4-0
I love me some Michael Chandler. Most people thought that he could win the lightweight tournament in Bellator, but most people did not expect him to beat Eddie Alvarez. He did. Chandler is a real force at 155 lbs. and he had a phenomenal year.
4. Donald Cerrone – 4-0
Since moving from the WEC to UFC Cerrone has looked really good. He is now on the cusp of a title shot. Technically he has one fight left in 2011 as he faces Nate Diaz in a bout that has title implications. Cerrone has always had the talent, but he put it all together in 2011.
5. Nick Diaz – 3-0
Diaz put himself on the map in a big way in 2011. Big wins over Paul Daley and B.J. Penn let the world know that Diaz was legit. 2011 was a huge year not just because Diaz won a few fights, but because of the way in which he did. Now in the UFC, Diaz will get a shot at the interim weltweight title against Carlos Condit.
Honorable Mention: Ben Henderson – 3-0