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Greatest hits: A look back at the year in mixed martial arts

December 28, 2011|By Ted Gruber, For RedEye

2011 might be remembered as the year the UFC made a huge leap toward the mainstream.

From buying Strikeforce to inking a seven-year deal with Fox networks, the UFC made plenty of big moves outside of the ring. The fighters held up their end of the bargain too. Here are the awards for some of the best and worst moments of the year.

Fighter of the year: Jon Jones

Jones finished the year winning four-straight fights, including the light heavyweight championship, making him the youngest champ in the UFC at 24.

Biggest comeback: Cheick Kongo

Kongo took on Pat Barry as part of a UFC Live card in June. Barry came out swinging and looked as if he had Kongo unconscious. Kongo, however, was able to get back to his feet and landed a solid right to Barry's chin. Kongo added a few more punches to finish the fight and pull off not only the biggest comeback in 2011 but also perhaps UFC history.

Best quotes: Chael Sonnen

Who else? Sonnen is quick to respond to any question and isn't afraid to call out anyone he has a problem with—including himself. Take this one from early December, for example. "I already ran for office and exited the only way an official should be, and that is in handcuffs." Sonnen pleaded guilty to money laundering in connection with mortgage fraud in January.

Biggest problem: Twitter

With tweets about rape and other sexual subjects, many have called for a code of conduct for UFC fighters. When Miguel Torres tweeted about a rape van (a quote from "Workaholics") that was the last straw. Torres was quickly fired from the UFC.

Ted Gruber is a RedEye special contributor.

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