On the slowest sports day of the year we look ahead to the second half of 2010. Baseball writers have laid out their first-half award winners, so let's fire away with mixed martial arts' highs and lows from the first half of 2010.
Fighter of the Year
This isn't necessarily an MVP award and doesn't have to be a champion. FOY candidates come in all shapes and sizes. It can be someone who revitalized their career, shocked the world or simply put themselves top of mind for most fight fans.
1. Brock Lesnar
The UFC heavyweight champ's win over Shane Carwin showed he still has a ways to go. But the way he did it at UFC 116 changed many folks' opinion of the loudmouth former pro wrestler. Lesnar won back a lot of fans by the way he handled himself in and out of the cage. He showed unreal moxie by surviving the onslaught from the mammoth Carwin in the first and some creativity with the way he finished the match via arm-triangle choke.
Lesnar, who battled a life-altering stomach ailment at the end of 2009, showed a renewed attitude with the media and towards his opponent before the fight. He was also incredibly respectful and humble following the win.
2. Chael Sonnen
Sonnen is now the middleweight version of Lesnar. He busted down the door to a title shot by throwing Nate Marquardt around the Octagon at UFC 109. Then the former republican political candidate from Oregon went on a verbal rampage stoking the fire for his fight against Anderson Silva, who isn't exactly a fan favorite right now. It's set up a great scenario for fans who get to root for which fighter they dislike the most.
3. Alistair Overeem
Fighting mostly in Japan, Overeem was opening some eyes with his dominance and the fact that he had grown from a sleek light heavyweight to a striking monster at 253 pounds. But the question loomed — was it natural? Overeem came to the U.S. in April and destroyed Brett Rogers, something Fedor Emelianenko had much more difficulty doing. Most importantly, Overeem was clean. Now he's the non-UFC heavyweight fans are calling for to get a shot at the big league's elite.
4. Jon Jones
Jones burst onto the scene in 2009 and his performances have made it hard for the UFC to find fights for him. The promotion doesn't want to move him to quickly but it's clear after literally breaking Brandon Vera's face at UFC on Versus 1 in Denver, they have to fast track the 22-year-old. Next up is Vladimir Matyushenko on Aug. 1. After that, who can argue against Jones being in the mix with the likes of Lyoto Machida, Quinton Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Rashad Evans?
5. Chris Leben
Leben isn't beating the cream of the crop at middleweight but the feat of two wins in 14 days is sick. He was also bouncing back from one of the lowest points of his career at the backend of 2009 when he was put to sleep by Jake Rosholt, who isn't even with the UFC anymore. "The Crippler" has now put himself in line for a fight against a top middleweight, that's something no analyst or fans, would've been clamoring for a year ago.
Others: Court McGee, Roy Nelson, Mauricio Rua, Gilbert Melendez, Fabricio Werdum
Breakout Fighters of the Year
1. Frank Edgar
"The Answer" was already established as a top-5 fighter at 155 pounds but few thought he had a chance to beat B.J. Penn. After his loss to Georges St. Pierre, Penn appeared to be an unsolvable riddle at lightweight. Edgar's gameplan at UFC 113 was brilliant in taking out Penn and now many pundits have him on the top-10 pound-for-pound list.
2. Mo Lawal
After making the transition from high-level amateur wrestler, Lawal is only five fights into his MMA career. He's made a mark with his mouth and his skills in the cage. Lawal took out one of the hottest young fighters in the game in Gegard Mousasi. A few more dominant wins and people will be clamoring for him to test himself in the talent-rich 205 division in the UFC.
3. Evan Dunham
Boy, he doesn't look the part of the badass, but Dunham has a pretty good nasty streak and a well-rounded game. There are tons of promising lightweights in their 20s and Dunham pushed right towards to the top of the list by completely frustrating Tyson Griffin, who had only lost to Edgar and Sean Sherk, coming into their fight at UFC 116. Dunham vaults all the way up to face Sherk at UFC 119 in September.
4. Ross Pearson
Pearson, 25, has opened some eyes after what was an odd run to the Season 9 title on "The Ultimate Fighter." Not many fans thought there was a real prospect coming off the show but Pearson shut up the critics by brutalizing Denis Siver. Up next, he gets Cole Miller in September.
5. Brendan Schaub
I guess Roy Nelson is really, really good. Schaub had a tough time with the big-bellied one at the TUF 10 Finale, but he responded by storming through his first two opponents since. And the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder did it the way people love to see heavyweights doling out their beatings, via the knockout. Schaub showed heavy hands and a killer instinct in destroying to bulky wrestlers in Chris Tuchsherer and Chase Gormely.
Others: Gerald Harris, Ryan Bader, Luke Rockhold, Ben Askren
Most Disappointing Fighters
1. Diego Sanchez
The move to 170 pounds proved to be a disaster. Sanchez panicked a bit after he lost badly to Penn at UFC 107. He moved back from 155 and he looked tiny and out of shape in a loss to John Hathaway. Sanchez needs to go back down to lightweight, sharpen up his skill set and most importantly, come in with better gameplans.
2. Frank Mir
A third Mir-Lesnar fights had fans salivating until they saw the stratergy Mir came up with for his interim UFC heavyweight title fight against Shane Carwin. Mir, who was overpowered by Lesnar in their second fight chose to lock horns in a clinch battle on the cage against Carwin too. He was mauled and is now fighting a crisis of confidence. Mir is certainly still a top-10 heavyweight but he needs fight down in the 250s and be a thinking big man.
3. Paul Daley
The fall came quicker than the ascent for Daley. The British sluggest stormed his way towards a UFC welterweight title shot by getting a fight against Josh Koscheck. Fifteen minutes and 30 seconds later he was looking for a job. Daley's lack of takedown defense was alarming, but his actions after the fight were just plain stupid. He slugged Koscheck just second after the bell prompting UFC president Dana White to cut him from the roster immediately and state that he'll never fight in the UFC again.
4. Takanori Gomi
Once considered the top lightweight in the world, lack of dedication and hard work caught up with Gomi. He's only 31 but Gomi's battling the fact that he hasn't added to his game much over the years. Gomi looked tentative in his first UFC fight against Kenny Florian. He needs a bang-up performance against Tyson Griffin in two weeks to stick around.
5. Marius Zaromskis
So much for that shocking victory at DREAM's 2009 Welterweight Grand Prix. Zaromskis showed off solid takedown defense and vicious head-kick KO power in storming to the victories in Japan. Once he came stateside to face Nick Diaz and Evangelista Santos, he was uncovered as a bit of sham. Head movement! Zaromskis was a punching bag in both of Strikeforce matchups.
Others: Dan Lauzon, Rolles Gracie, Phillipe Nover, Joachim Hansen
Fighters who put their career on life support
1. Kimbo Slice
We didn't know Kimbo's fight against Matt Mitrione was a make or break fight but it was. Kimbo couldn't check leg kicks and lost badly to a guy with one professional fight. The UFC thought the sizzle was gone and now we're in a waiting pattern on Kimbo. Strikeforce has repeatedly said its not interested. You'd think the former YouTube brawler would have Japan clamoring for his services but nothing has come down yet. Now there's rumors of a ridiculous fight against World's Strongest Man freak Mariusz Pudzianowski.
2. Andrei Arlovski
Arlovski, 31, admitted before his lackluster loss to Antonio Silva that he'd worked with a sports psychiatrist. He needs more sessions. Arlovski's experimenting with a boxing career has completely screwed him mentally in the cage during MMA fights. He's too calculated now. Where did the killer instinct go? He better get it back soon or he's destined to be a card filled in Japan.
3. Mark Coleman
The UFC and PRIDE legend tried to reinvent himself by training smarter and harder, but there's only so much you can get out of the body at age 45. Coleman gassed quickly and broke mentally in his fight against fellow veteran Randy Couture. The performance was so bad, that in spite of Coleman fighting in a UFC main event, the promotion dumped him. There really isn't much more he can do beyond hit the minor league for a few more paydays. Let's hope he stays healthy and avoid any serious damage.
4. Paul Buentello
Buentello got a second chance at the big time when he returned to the UFC, but he just couldn't pull the trigger against Cheick Kongo. Buentello has never been in premium shape and it costs him against the Frenchman, who took him down at will at UFC on Versus 1.
5. Frank Trigg
Trigg, 38, is ready for the announcer's booth. He's one of the best and getting better. He's ready for the next phase in his life and Matt Serra made sure of it that by scoring a nasty knockout win at UFC 109.
Others: Keith Jardine, Nate Quarry, Renzo Gracie