OTM BJJ Match of the Year: Kron Gracie vs. Gilbert "Durinho" Burns | IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Championship 2011 (Black Belt Lightweight Finals)
On June 5th, 2011 at the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, California, USA, the world saw Kron Gracie, the son of legendary jiu-jitsu pioneer Rickson Gracie, make a fearsome run at the IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in an attempt to win his first world title as a black belt. Kron was administering chokes at such a rapid pace that day, that it surely would have given Dr. Henry Heimlich nightmares had he been present.
After choking everyone in his path to the black belt lightweight finals, Kron would find Gilbert "Durinho" Burns as the last man standing in his way of capturing that coveted black belt world title. This also happened to be a title Durinho had never won. Coincidentally, just three weeks earlier, Kron had submitted Durinho with a slick collar choke in the finals of the BJJ Pro Cup in Biella, Italy and many fans and Kron's supporters from Gracie Humaita were hoping he would do the same, since he had already choked out everyone he had faced in this tournament.
Alas, the ending of this story was not as good as gold for Kron, but rather as good as silver, as the Atos team member Durinho stymied Kron and avenged his loss in Italy en route to a convincing 9-2 victory win his first IBJJF black belt world title. In possibly the most hotly-contested division at the 2011 IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Championship, where 3-time world champion Celso "Celsinho" Venicius and recent standout Leandro Lo went home without a medal, the 2011 "OTM BJJ Match of the Year" award winner would fittingly have all the elements and plot lines to impress even the most seasoned of Hollywood writers.
OTM Submission Grappling Match of the Year: Fabricio Werdum vs. Vinny Magalhães | ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship 2011 (+99 kg Finals)
On September 25th, 2011 at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham, England, UK, Vinny Magalhães would face 2-time ADCC champion and 6-time ADCC medalist Fabricio Werdum in the finals of the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship 2011 +99 kg weight division. Werdum was the heavy favorite coming in considering he was the 2-time reigning champion having one this weight class in 2007 and 2009. After defeating Danish grappler Alexander Trans in the first round, submitting fellow 2-time ADCC champion Jeff Monson in the second round, and eliminating Roberto "Cyborg" Abreu in the semi-finals, Werdum was on a nice staedy pace for a three-peat in the division.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the bracket, Magalhães in only his second trip to an ADCC tournament defeated local British favorite Luke Costello, submitted fellow Brazilian grappler Jose Ferreira Junior, and outdueled NCAA wrestling champion turned Renzo Gracie black belt Gerardi Rinaldi. This set up a match between two UFC veterans in Werdum and Magalhães, but one would only have to look at what UFC weight classes they competed in to realize the size advantage Werdum would have before they stepped on the mat. Werdum fought as a heavyweight, while Magalhães competed was a light-heavyweight.
The 2011 "OTM Submission Grappling Match of the Year" winner would go on to be one of the most memorable matches in ADCC history. This was due in large part to the nail-biting moment when Werdum nearly took off Magalhães' left arm with an extremely deep straight armbar. However, Magalhães showed a tremendous amount of heart, guts, and flexibility by escaping the dangerously tight submission and would go on to upset Werdum with a sweep to win his first gold medal at ADCC via points 2-0.
OTM MMA Fight of the Year: Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Dan Henderson | UFC 139 - Shogun vs. Henderson (Light-Heavyweight Main Event)
On November 19th, 2011 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California, USA, two of MMA's most decorated modern day warriors met in competition for the first time in the main event of UFC 139 - Shogun vs. Henderson. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua made a name for himself in PRIDE by winning the PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix Championship in 2005. He would eventually achieve similar success in the UFC by winning the UFC light-heavyweight title at UFC 113 in 2010.
Similarly, Henderson won the 2005 PRIDE Welterweight Grand Prix Championship the same year Shogun won the middleweight version. Henderson had also previously won the UFC 17 middleweight tournament in 1998 and would later win the PRIDE middleweight title and Strikeforce light-heavyweight title.
Somehow, even with both men being stars in Japan with PRIDE and the USA with the UFC, they had never fought each other until the third Saturday of November in 2011 and boy was it worth the wait. Not only was this fight the clear cut 2011 "OTM MMA Fight of the Year" award winner, but it was also described by UFC commentators Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg as "one of the greatest MMA fights of all time". The back and forth all-out war also proved that the UFC's decision was a masterstroke, when they decided to make all main event fights 5 round affairs. The first non-title UFC fight in the Zuffa era to last 25 minutes will forever resonate with fight fans for generations to come.
Check out the rest of the winners from the OTM Awards 2011 here: www.onthemat.com/blogs-posts/otm-awards-2011-recap .