March MMA MVPs (Yahoo! Contributor Network)


By Dave Doyle,

Fighter of the Month: Joseph Benavidez As an undersized bantamweight, the 5-foot-4 Benavidez fought an uphill battle in the WEC and later the UFC. Still, he went 7-2 at 135 pounds under the Zuffa banner, with both losses coming to current UFC champion Dominick Cruz. The second of those fights, a WEC title match, was won by Cruz on a split decision, the closest Cruz has come to losing on his current four-year, 10-bout win streak.

With that in mind, the UFC's new 125-pound flyweight division seems tailor-made for the New Mexico native. Benavidez always had tenacity and a strong wrestling base as his assets. At 125, he's erased his size issues and his power has become pronounced. He proved this in his March 3 match against Yasuhiro Urushitani in Sydney with a brutal TKO just 11 seconds into the second round, the second TKO finish of his Zuffa career. That victory put Benavidez into the finals of the flyweight title tournament, where he awaits the winner of the Demetrious Johnson-Ian McCall re-take.

Fight of the Month: Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate, Strikeforce, March 3 Much has been made about the lack of star power in women's MMA these days. It's pretty obvious Gina Carano isn't coming back anytime soon and the former Cris "Cyborg" Santos is on the sidelines due to her steroid suspension. But as long as the trash-talking Ronda Rousey keeps backing up her talk, women's fighting will be just fine. Rousey and Miesha Tate engaged in weeks of entertaining banter leading up to their bantamweight title fight in Columbus, including a near-altercation at the weigh-ins. Then they delivered with an all-action bout. In the end, the former Olympic judo medalist from Santa Monica finished Tate the way all five of her opponents have gone down—via first-round submission. Rousey dislocated Tate's elbow with an armbar 4:27 into the first round. Former champ Sarah Kaufman awaits next.

KO of the Month: Brian Rogers vs. Vitor Vianna, Bellator, March 16 While Zuffa had an uncharacteristically quiet month after March's first weekend, another season of Bellator is under way, and the company produced a knockout that would have been worthy of a look even if there was a full slate of UFC fights. This one comes courtesy of Brian Rogers, who met Vitor Vianna in the middleweight tournament quarterfinals on March 16. Late in the first round, Rogers wobbled Vianna with a right to the chin, then followed with a textbook flying knee knockout. Don't believe us? Check it out for yourself.

Submission of the Month: Martin Kampmann vs. Thiago Alves, March 3 While Rousey's submission of Tate was no doubt March's most visually jarring, no sub meant more to a fighter's career than welterweight Martin Kampmann's finish of Thiago Alves in the main event of UFC on FX 2. For most of the fight, Alves was the "Pitbull" of old, using a brutal and efficient standup game to to keep Kampmann at bay. The only way Alves could lose would be to fall for a last-minute submission … which was exactly what happened. Kampmann snagged Alves in a rear-naked choke and earned the submission victory with 48 seconds left in the fight. Just like that, Kampmann escaped what would have been his third high-profile decision loss in his past four fights and stayed relevant in the 170-pound mix. Alves, at one point considered a star in the making, has now dropped four of six bouts dating back to his unsuccessful challenge for Georges St-Pierre's title at UFC 100.

Quote of the Month: " I honestly feel like [Pat] Lundvall was a racist [expletive] asking me if I can read or speak English. Go on somewhere with that bull [expletive]."—A since-deleted tweet by Mohammed Lawal, who was fired by Strikeforce on Tuesday. Lawal's tweet was aimed at Nevada commissioner Pat Lundvall, who was among those who imposed a nine-month suspension on Lawal due to his testing positive for a banned substance after his Jan. 7 win over Lorenz Larkin in Las Vegas. Strangely, much of the MMA media attempted to portray Lawal, a fighter who had been caught cheating red-handed and used misogynistic language, as the victim in the situation.

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