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|MNMMANEWS AWARDS: Fighter of the year|
|Written by Ben Pherson|
|Monday, 16 January 2012 10:23|
Fighter of the year always is a tough one.
Everyone who steps into the cage after working their rear-ends off deserves respect, so it's hard to honor just one fighter. And once again this year, there were several fighters worthy of an award such as Fighter of the Year.
After narrowing the list as much of possible, three fighters stuck out in 2011.
Adam McDonough had another great year, and he's still unbeaten. McDonough fought just twice, but both times he could have been considered the underdog. And both times he came out of the cage with quality wins, knocking off Jay Wood and Matt Delanoit.
Then there was Marcus LeVesseur. He went 3-0 this year, picking up quality wins against UFC vets like Dane Sayers and Brian Geraghty.
But ultimately, we decided on a fighter from American Top Team of Savage.
That's right, Mitch Jackson is our fighter of the year.
Jackson, who is 19-2 and ranked No. 1 in Minnesota at 145, was for all intents and purposes the
runner-up for the award last year, when he went 5-1, with his only loss coming against the 2010 Fighter of the Year, Brandon Bergeron (by split decision, no less).
Since that loss, Jackson has been on a tear.
In 2011, he was a perfect 4-0, with two of those victories coming over very tough opponents.
He opened the year with a speedy victory over veteran Sammy Cleveland, and then he came right back and knocked off Andy Selvig.
Jackson's last two victories were his best.
Jackson was paired up with standout Gabe Greenburg at the CFX/Extreme Challenge show at Target Center in July.
Greenburg was a top 3 fighter in Minnesota before taking more than a year off to deal with legal issues. He's also trained extensively under Greg Jackson down in New Mexico.
As is the case in most of his fights, Jackson's wrestling was far superior to Greenburg's skill set that night.
Greenburg is well versed in submissions, though, and when the fight did hit the ground, he constantly was throwing his legs up, looking for triangles and armbars.
But Jackson has proven over and over that his submission defense is some of the best in MMA.
A couple of times, Greenburg looked to have the submission locked up, but Jackson always found ways to wiggle out of trouble.
Greenburg started to gain some momentum in the third round when he landed a couple of strikes early. But when Greenburg got a little too aggressive, Jackson took advantage. He locked on to a guillotine choke and finished the fight with just 38 seconds remaining.
After the win over Greenburg, Jackson's camp hoped he would get the call from a bigger promotion. But when that call didn't come, Jackson made the decision to move down to 135 pounds.
Jackson was cutting down to 135 for a bout in October. That fight fell through, but another opportunity presented itself.
On a little more than one day's notice, Jackson stepped up to take on ranked 155-pounder Nate Schut after Schut's original opponent and Jackson's teammate, Austin Judge, was injured while preparing for the fight.
That's right, while cutting his way down to fight at 135, Jackson filled in, against a ranked fighter, on one day's notice, jumping up TWO weight classes.
And the weight became even more of an issue when Schut wasn't able to make 155. Jackson took the fight anyway.
And the ATT of Savage standout didn't disappoint. Though Jackson was taken down by the former collegiate All-American Schut, Jackson latched on to another guillotine choke just 2:30 into the fight. At first, it didn't look tight. But he cranked it at the perfect angle, and Schut tapped.
While Jackson sometimes gets labeled a boring wrestler, it should be noted that his last SEVEN victories all have come by way of submission.
After his perfect 4-0 mark in 2011, Jackson seems primed for a monster 2012. He still intends to make the move down to 135, and he'll make his debut at that weight on Jan. 28 in Savage.
So why hasn't the UFC called this guy yet?
It seems like it's simply a matter of time. And when that does happen, Minnesota's 2011 Fighter of the Year will pose a threat to any elite 135er willing to step in the cage with him.