Mark Hunt seems to get better with age. | Photo: D. Mandel/Sherdog.com
2013 All-Violence Third Team
Heavyweight: Mark Hunt
Light Heavyweight: Glover Teixeira
Middleweight: Ronaldo Souza
Welterweight: Douglas Lima
Lightweight: T.J. Grant
Featherweight: Magomedrasul Khasbulaev
Bantamweight: Francisco Rivera
Flyweight: Justin Scoggins
Heavyweight: The year he turned 39 years old, 12 years after he shocked the world by winning the K-1 World Grand Prix, Hunt made sure his 2013 campaign would be remembered. He punched Stefan Struve in the face so hard that he cracked clean through his jaw; he had a back-and-forth slugfest with the heavyweight division’s most fearsome puncher in Junior dos Santos before being knocked out with a spinning hook kick; and he fought to a savage 25-minute draw with Antonio Silva in one of the most exciting heavyweight contests on record. A mark of 1-1-1 may be unusual for an All-Violence entrant, but, then again, Hunt is an unusual man. A battleship from a long-ago war that refuses to sink, he blasts cannon fire in every direction and dares any interlopers to exchange artillery. Even after war, he is still jovial enough to share a bucket of original recipe.
Light Heavyweight: This marks consecutive All-Violence selections for Teixeira after a second-team berth in 2012. He sent former UFC champion Quinton Jackson packing for Bellator with a one-sided beatdown over 15 minutes, then ran roughshod over James Te Huna and knocked always-respectable challenger Ryan Bader silly in less than three minutes apiece. He did not meet up with a Fabio Maldonado-type punching bag to pad his FightMetric numbers in 2013, but Teixeira handled business in authoritative enough fashion to punch his ticket to a title challenge against All-Violence hero Jon Jones in April.
Middleweight: It really does pain me to leave Alexander Shlemenko off the roster. After All-Violence honors in 2010 and 2011, a car accident derailed what could have been another high-flying year of violence from the Bellator middleweight champ. In 2013, he had two devastating stoppages and prevailed in one of the year’s most entertaining and overlooked bouts against Brett Cooper. However, Shlemenko has already lost to Ronaldo Souza once in his career and does so again here. With his submissions over Ed Herman and Chris Camozzi, the grappling king looked almost unfairly potent. He pinned down Herman and Camozzi, two rock solid fighters, like grade-schoolers before tapping them with ease seldom seen at the highest levels of MMA. Souza then punched out perennially elite middleweight Yushin Okami in less than three minutes with an intensity normally reserved for contract killers. He might look like a barrel of laughs when grinning ear-to-ear and doing the alligator walk, but make no mistake, in the cage, “Jacare” is trying to ruin your life, bub.
If you want to get a feel for what sets Lima apart, watch his torture session with Michail Tsarev. After hurting Tsarev with leg kicks late in the first round, Lima instantly smelled blood to start the second and spent the next two minutes crushing the hapless Russian in the legs until he could no longer stand. Lima is no poor sportsman, but during a fight, he radiates malice. You believe he wants to kill the man in front of him; and hey, with Ben Askren out of the Bellator ranks, there might be no one left to stop him.
Lightweight: Grant is another disappointing case of injuries interfering with the order of violence. Following Grant’s breakout blowouts of Matt Wiman and Gray Maynard, he earned a UFC lightweight title shot against Benson Henderson, only to have a concussion shut him down for the rest of 2013. However, in his two appearances, Grant put numbers on the board. His knockout of Wiman was just the ninth UFC win stemming from standing elbow strikes -- always a favorable flair in these parts -- and his three knockdowns of Gray Maynard tied the most for any single UFC bout on the year. The Canadian lightweight has been a multi-tool terror, seamlessly blending eight-point striking and slick grappling into a constant, pressuring attack. At 170 pounds, Grant landed just 2.18 strikes per minute, according to FightMetric. Since the drop to 155, he has managed an insane 6.83 significant strikes per minute, the highest in the history of the lightweight division -- the best division in MMA.
Featherweight: Beware the hobbit warrior from Dagestan. Despite visa issues crippling his 2013 campaign after his April Bellator tournament win, Khasbulaev was a true breakthrough fighter over the past 12 months. Despite his Tolkien-esque appearance, he represents a stereotype of rugged fighters from the Caucuses, wearing down opponents with constant striking pressure, ground-and-pound and top-position submissions. After masterfully dispatching tough Brazilian Fabricio de Assis Costa da Silva via nifty arm-triangle choke, he tore apart former Sengoku champion Marlon Sandro, blow-by-blow, to a third-round stoppage. Despite not earning a stoppage, perhaps his finest violence was on display in his tournament-clinching decision win over Mike Richman. “Frodo” showed no fear, playing the aggressor against Richman and his monstrous punching power, no-selling “The Marine’s” head and body attack and roughing him up with ceaseless punching and kicking. His three wins came in the span of eight weeks, which is not too shabby, either. The de facto motto for Dagestani MMA fighters seems to be “show no fear, give no f---s,” and the adorable-yet-horrible Khasbulaev embodies that ethos fully.
Bantamweight: This was perhaps the toughest decision to make, but it ultimately proved to be an important one. Marlon Moraes was a true revelation in 2013, taking out three opponents with an exciting, surgical muay Thai style. However, there is a reason Rivera made this list last year and will probably make it most years until he hangs up his juicy mitts. In his two UFC appearances, Rivera used his otherworldly punching to out-brawl skilled brawlers Edwin Figueroa and George Roop. He was hurt by Figueroa early and roared back, forcing the normally bloodthirsty Texan to turn tail and run, with Rivera punching him square in the face, on the run, from behind. It was the first time Figueroa has been stopped as a professional. Roop, fresh off blasting former World Extreme Cagefighting title challenger Brian Bowles, also tried to retreat from “Cisco” and got beaten into the ground like a tent peg by Rivera’s right hand. Moraes is a treat as a fighter and unquestionably violent. However, Rivera would not let a guy like Brandon Hempleman get away with losing 10-8 rounds; he would put him in the dirt. When Rivera smells blood in an MMA bout, it ceases to look like a professional prizefight and looks more like an uncomfortable street fight. The opponent no longer looks like a professional ass-kicker who wants to raise hell in the cage; he looks like scared and vulnerable prey. If your next bout is with Rivera, do not invite your family, lest they see your head spin like Regan MacNeil and you leave the cage on a spineboard.
Flyweight: If his one-sided thrashing of Richie Vaculik in his UFC debut was the first time you laid eyes on 21-year-old Scoggins, buckle up. The flyweight blue-chipper is already one of the most ferocious head kickers in the sport, clocking three of them in his first eight pro fights, including one to defend his Warfare MMA flyweight title against Len Cook in June. Despite knocking down Vaculik with his electric striking, he chose to show his top position chops instead, sitting on his chest and punching him into pulp. Scoggins seems immune to inactivity thus far in his MMA career, and this might be just the beginning for the youngest member of the 2013 All-Violence team.