By Benjamin Bieker
Submission Grappler of the Year (Female) (Beatriz Mesquita)
Beatriz Mesquita truly is the future of women’s BJJ, because at only 21 years old she is already a black belt and has been training for about 17 years. She now trains at Gracie Humaita under the famed Leticia Ribeiro under the recommendation of her original coach Luis Fernando, who saw great potential in his former student. He was right as Mesquita has rocketed up the ranks in the grappling world by taking medals in the Worlds, Pan American, and Brazilian National competitions multiple years in a row and at different weight classes. She was awarded her brown belt while on the podium at the Mundials, and the same thing happened in 2011 when she was awarded her black belt at the Pan Americans.
In 2012, she took first at Worlds as a lightweight, and she took third in the openweight competition. She did even better at the World No-Gi championship where she once again took first place in her weight class, but she made it to the finals in the open-weight competition. Plus, you have to remember this is her first year as a black belt, and she is nearly at the bottom of the age bracket at only 21 years old. Mesquita has a long future ahead of her, and her name will be heard many times at many competitions to come. That is why she wins Female Submission Grappler of the Year.
MMA Fighter of the Year (Female) (Ronda Rousey)
While their have been faces of Women’s MMA before her there has never been one quite so talented or influential. Ronda Rousey helped legitimize the sport of women’s MMA since she was instrumental in getting female fighters into the UFC. She became the first female UFC champion, and the company has her headlining a fight card at UFC 157. Aside from the business side of the sport, Rousey has been a picture of dominance inside the cage as well, because in 2012 she took on her toughest opponents to date and passed with flying colors.
Miesha Tate talked a lot before her bout with Rousey, and stated such things as Rousey was jumping over a lot of legitimate fighters and did not deserve the title shot she was getting. While Tate lasted longer than any other fighter before her the result was the same, because Rousey had her tapping out before the end of the first round. She followed that up with another first round armbar over former Strikeforce bantamweight champion Sarah Kaufman, and that is why Ronda Rousey is the recipient of the Female MMA Fighter of the Year award.
BJJ Player of the Year (Male) (Buchecha)
No one can deny the superstardom that Marcus Almedia, better known as Buchecha, is destined for, and he took the first steps into the limelight this year. Already involved in the BJJ match of the year this will be the second OTM award that Buchecha will have been involved in. Buchecha won the Worlds at his weight class and absolute, and he won the World Cup at +100kg in Abu Dhabi. The only tournament he fell short in was the Pan American Championship where he took gold in his weight class, but had to settle for silver in the absolute division.
He first started training BJJ at the age of 14 where he trained under a BJJ world champion in Rodrigo Cavaca. He received his black belt in 2010 after a win at Worlds, but he really stepped his game up when he moved to the CheckMat BJJ team in California. While all the gold medals are nice the real crown of jiu jitsu fell upon this phenom’s head when he took on Roger Gracie at the Metamoris Pro Invitational. While he did not win since the match was held under submission only rules he displayed amazing technique against a competitor many felt could best him. Many eyes will be on Buchecha as he starts to compete in 2013, and now they will only be watching to see what moves he pulls off next.
Submission Grappler of the Year (Male) (Xande Ribeiro)
If Buchecha holds the title of best BJJ Player of the year then the only person who can contend with his credentials is Xande Ribeiro who had an amazing year as a submission grappler. He took gold medals at the NoGi Worlds at his weight class and absolute. He also captured a gold medal at the World Cup in Abu Dhabi at -100kg. Ribeiro holds a third degree black belt underneath his brother, a BJJ champion in his own right, Saulo Ribeiro at the famed Gracie Humaita camp.
At the Metamoris Pro Invitational, Xande Ribeiro tok on Dean Lister in the only no-gi match of the year. Ribeiro passed Listers guard multiple times, and seemed to try and set up the kimura each time. While he could never get that kimura, Ribeiro had a great transition, because off of a sweep he took Lister’s back and set up an armbar. The armbar was fully locked out on the American, and he persevered. While the match was called a draw, because of the submission only rules the people watching knew who the real winner was.
Ribeiro along with his brother Saulo now train in San Diego, California at an academy they aptly named the University of Jiu Jitsu. While Ribeiro may not compete as often as he used to at age 31 he showed that he is still one of the best in the world. That is why Xande Ribeiro is OTM’s pick for Submission Grappler of the year.
MMA Fighter of the Year (Male) (Benson Henderson)
MMA Fighter of the year is a hard one to pick, because with so many dominant champions in the sport you are sure to upset the fans no matter who you choose. Sometimes though, the winners transcend just what they do in the cage, and that is why Benson Henderson is the winner of this year Male MMA Fighter of the Year. Henderson captured the lightweight title from Frankie Edgar, and that was a big accomplishment in itself. The problem was he had to prove he deserved the belt all over again when the two rematched. With those two hard battles behind him Henderson could have easily took the rest of the year off, but he didn’t and took on Cesar Gracie trained Nate Diaz on the last FOX card of the year.
He helped prove that lightweights can be a draw without BJ Penn by his bout with Diaz pulling in nearly 6 million viewers. That more than doubled the previous two main events for Fox cards. Outside of the cage, he is the perfect picture of a role model. Instead of going out and partying after wins Henderson likes to take his mom out to dinner, because she is the person that supported him throughout his whole career and made him who he is today. Also, he is proving that you do not have to have a loud mouth to be a champion, and we will all be excited to see a true number one in the lightweight division be crowned when Henderson takes on Gilbert Melendez in a champion vs. champion bout in April of this year.