From the historic headlining bout between Gina “Conviction” Carano and Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos in Strikeforce to the crowning of tournament champions in Japan, 2009 has been a groundbreaking year for women’s MMA. We honour the past year with the inaugural edition of the MMARising.com Women’s Mixed Martial Arts Awards.
Assembled by a panel of writers, these awards recognise the top fights, fighters and women’s MMA promotions in 2009, as well as the breakout stars and the most impressive knockouts and submissions.
Fight of the Year:
– Alexis Davis defeats Molly Helsel by Unanimous Decision. (10/10/2009)
– Kerry Vera defeats Leslie Smith by Unanimous Decision. (5/15/2009)
– Sarah Kaufman defeats Miesha Tate by Unanimous Decision. (5/15/2009)
– Elena Reid defeats Michelle Waterson by TKO (Punches) at 1:50 of round two. (4/11/2009)
– Cristiane Santos defeats Gina Carano by TKO (Punches) at 4:59 of round one. (8/15/2009)
Knockout of the Year:
Submission of the Year:
Headline of the Year:
“Gina ‘Conviction’ Carano vs Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Santos Headlines Strikeforce Card.”
For the first time ever on a major televised mixed martial arts card, the women took centre stage at Strikeforce: “Carano vs Cyborg” on August 15th at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. Santos would go on to defeat Carano with just one second remaining in the first round of the Showtime-aired bout, but the historic fight was a significant step forward for women’s MMA.
Promotion of the Year:
No other promotion showcased women’s mixed martial arts on the level that Strikeforce did in 2009. Featuring televised women’s bouts on the majority of their cards, the formerly regional promotion continued to develop its men’s and women’s divisions and held its first event on primetime CBS television. While originally planned women’s tournaments have been put on hold, the promotion’s female roster remains strong and the tournament issue can certainly be revisited at a later date.
Fighter of the Year:
Sarah Kaufman (10-0-0)
After finding herself without a fight for 13 months, the first and only Hardcore Championship Fighting Women’s Bantamweight Champion fought three times in less than two months in 2009. With relentless offence, excellent cardio and superb boxing, Kaufman is a very dangerous opponent for anyone who stands across from her in the cage. She picked up impressive decision victories over wrestling standout Miesha Tate and submission wizard Shayna Baszler in Strikeforce and has title aspirations for 2010.
Newcomer of the Year:
Kerry Vera (2-0-0)
While she competed just twice in 2009, Vera made the most of her debut fights in mixed martial arts. After a spirited battle with Leslie Smith in Bellator, Vera signed with Strikeforce and demolished Kim Couture inside of one round in November. The victory gained a measure of revenge for the lady Vera, whose husband Brandon had controversially lost to Randy Couture less than one week earlier.
Featherweight (145) of the Year:
Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos (8-1-0)
Following a successful tenure in the former EliteXC promotion, Santos made her Strikeforce debut in April against Hitomi Akano. Unfortunately for Santos, the thing that most observers remembered from the ill-fated fight was her failure to come close to making weight. Not to be deterred, Santos proved her critics wrong when she captured the Strikeforce Women’s Lightweight (145-Pound) Championship by stopping Gina Carano in August.
Bantamweight (135) of the Year:
Sarah Kaufman (10-0-0)
Kaufman’s dominance atop the division in 2009 was seriously threatened by Miesha Tate, who became the first woman to both win a round against Kaufman and also take her to a decision. Kaufman would not be denied, however, and earned a hard-fought decision over Tate, then put herself squarely in the title hunt in Strikeforce with a dominant victory over Shayna Baszler mere weeks later.
Super Flyweight (125) of the Year:
Tara LaRosa (18-1-0)
After dropping down in weight, the long-time queen of the 135-pound division has seemingly only gotten better. In January, LaRosa emerged victorious in a 130-pound Fight of the Year war with Alexis Davis, then submitted current Freestyle Cage Fighting Women’s 125-Pound Champion Sally Krumdiack in March. Last month, LaRosa defeated Valerie Coolbaugh in the debut Locked In The Cage event in Philadelphia. LaRosa will compete in the promotion’s second event in early 2010.
Flyweight (115) of the Year:
Miku “Supernova” Matsumoto (23-4-0)
Very narrowly edged out in the “Female Fighter of the Year” category, Matsumoto’s reign of terror in the flyweight division was in full effect in 2009. The reigning DEEP Women’s Lightweight (106-Pound) Champion stopped Nicdali Calanoc in just 21 seconds in April, then avenged the final outstanding loss on her record when she submitted Lisa Ward in June. An October bout with “Windy” Tomomi Sunaba netted similar results and Matsumoto has quickly emerged as one of the few legitimate threats left to the number one pound-for-pound crown of Megumi Fujii.
A thank you to those who contributed to this article and to all others who support women’s MMA.