New champions emerged and old champions re-emerged as title contenders again in 2013. It was a monumental year for some mixed martial artists, and Newsday has selected five candidates for you to choose as fighter of the year.
The nominees are listed below, in alphabetical order. Read the case for each fighter below, then vote in the poll on the right rail.
Three head-kick knockouts in a career is a lot. Three head-kick knockouts in the same calendar year is scary. And they all came against top competitition and in either the first or second rounds. Belfort, 36, looks devastating in the cage right now. But there's also the matter of therapeutic use exemption for testosterone replacement therapy that causes concern for many connected or attracted to the sport.
From 2008 until 2012, "The California Kid" won back-to-back fights one time, going 6-5 in that time span. In 2013, Faber went 4-0 (three submissions), returned to the top echelon of the bantamweight division and is poised for another title shot against the Dominick Cruz-Renan Barao winner.
Johnson defended his UFC flyweight title three times in 2013 and improved each time. First, there was a unanimous decision win over John Dodson, followed by a fifth-round submission of John Moraga. He capped his year with a brutal first-round knockout of Joseph Benavidez. Mighty Mouse can pack a punch.
Rousey was installed as the UFC's first women's bantamweight champion in December 2012 and defended the belt twice in 2013. But her candidacy is more about profound impact on the sport. She is the face of women's MMA -- in the world's most prominent MMA promotion. That's a lot more to carry around than just a bag of board shorts and pads.
Weidman, from Baldwin, knocked out Anderson Silva to win the UFC middleweight title last July. What more do you need? How about a second win over Silva six months later, this time by TKO?