Commentary

Johnson in the thick of FOTY talk

Originally Published: December 16, 2013
By Josh Gross | ESPN.com

With two weeks left in 2013, the field for "Fighter of the year" remains impressively deep.

Following the action in Sacramento, Calif., over the weekend, Demetrious Johnson and Urijah Faber stayed in the running. Joseph Benavidez, however, did not. By my count, this is what it looks like ahead of Dec. 28's epic UFC 168 card in Las Vegas.

Two-win champions

Renan Barao. Cain Velasquez. Anthony Pettis. Jose Aldo.

It's a difficult trick to find separation here, which means these four likely get lost in the shuffle. Pretty good shuffle. If there's a compelling argument for one standing above the other three, I'd like to hear it.

If I'm forced to pick one guy in this spot, it's Pettis. The first-round kick to stop Donald Cerrone was devastating. And the opening-round armbar to claim the UFC 155 title was clinical.

Superlative but not enough

Urijah Faber.

Four wins (three by choke) in his mid-30s against the level of opposition he faced is damn impressive. But the stakes weren't there. No title fights means he's out of the running.

Front-runners

Demetrious Johnson. Vitor Belfort. Chris Weidman.

If Weidman beats Anderson Silva again at the end of the month, it's impossible not to name him FOTY. But if that doesn't happen, then I think it's between "Mighty Mouse" and the "Phenom.

Belfort has been a laser-guided missile the last 11-plus months, but maybe he shouldn't escape the shadow of testosterone replacement therapy. Dana White compared Faber's run this year to Belfort's. I disagree, in that Faber doesn't own the TRT brand. Belfort wouldn't be able to do this stuff without it, I'm led to believe, so that's a major mark against him.

Down the stretch, it's Weidman and Johnson.

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