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2018 St. Louis MMA Awards - Winners

By Matt Frazier | Knuckle Junkies

Marking the seventh year for the St. Louis MMA Awards, we are proud to announce the winners for 2018. Categories, this year, include Professional Fighter of the Year, Top Amateur Fighter, Professional Fight of the Year, Amateur Fight of the Year, Top Knockout, Submission of the Year, as well as a special recognition to Alex White.

As per previous competitions, fans were asked to submit their favorite moments of 2018 to help create a list of nominees, the list was curated by KJ founders Matt Frazier and Brett Auten who narrowed the list to 5-6 per category. A group of 20 local coaches, officials, and promoters were asked to submit a ballot to elect the winners. See the full list at the bottom of this article.

Winners of each category will receive a special plaque honoring their achievement. A special thanks to Shamrock FC CEO Jesse Finney for covering the cost of these awards.

Without any further delay, here are your winners:

Scott Futrell quietly had one of the busiest years in recent memory. Racking up four wins in 2018 Futrell grinded out wins on the regional circuit that culminated in an opportunity against Mike Shipman at Bellator 211.

Showing a renewed energy since joining St. Charles MMA, Futrell kicked off 2018 with a trip to Iowa where he stopped David Glover in the first round. Michigan was his next, losing a close decision to Marco Smallman. From there he would win his next three including a victory over former Ultimate Fighter contestant Dakota Cochrane. His victory over Josh Streaker put Futrell at 4-1 on the year setting up the biggest fight of his career (thus far) just two and a half weeks later on Bellator 210.

Futrell epitomized the workman-like attitude required to navigate and survive in a competitive Midwestern regional fight scene. Congrats to Futrell for narrowly edging out his SCMMA teammate, Julius Anglickas, to become our 2018 Professional Fighter of the Year.

Runners up: Julius Anglickas (6 of 20 votes), Tyler Flores (5 votes)

It's back-to-back for "Night Night" Sam Paneitz. Paneitz makes it two years in a row winning the area's top amateur for 2017 and now 2018, cementing his legacy as one of the very best amateurs to fight out of and compete in the Gateway City.

February saw Paneitz continue his unbeaten amateur streak with qualification for the UMMAF National Tournament. In June, Paneitz took a huge step forward in terms of National visibility when he made a trip to Las Vegas for the Tuff-N-Uff promotion and earned a win that put all eyes on the flyweight out the Wolves' Den. Paneitz beat the previously undefeated Victor Lipari to capture the Tuff-N-Uff bantamweight title. While the full-time student normally doesn't compete in the fall, Paneitz cashed in his UMMAF qualification and took a trip to Bahrain where he competed in the 2018 IMMAF-WMMA Unified World Championships. It was there Paneitz would suffer his first loss to the eventual runner-up of the competition, Rio De Janeiro's Carlos Veras

It was a great year for amateur fighters in St. Louis with Paneitz narrowly edging out Evan Elder and Orlando Sanders in our most competitive category of the competition, to win our award for Top Amateur of Fighter of 2018.

Runners Up: Evan Elder (5 votes of 20), Orlando Sanders (5 votes)

It was the do-over that everyone was buzzing about, the rematch of one of 2017's best scraps, and a match-up between two talented strikers with plenty of history to get everyone talking.

It was very good 2017 for Sean Woodson, who leaped ahead of the pack to become one of the best unsigned-pros in the Midwest. In 2018, the 6-foot-3 striker out of the Wolves' Den was on a mission to show his early successes were no fluke. A trip to Vegas for an Ultimate Fighter Tryout didn't pan out, and with injuries and fight cancellations, it looked like it was going to be a disappointing follow-up. But Woodson was able to finish the year out on a high note, earning a convincing victory over Rashard Lovelace and remaining unbeaten at 5-0 in the 2018 Pro Fight of the Year.

If you haven't seen it, the entire fight is available thanks to Shamrock FC.

Runner Up: Sal Woods vs Josh Weston (3 votes of 20)

A Kevin Roper fight is quickly becoming must-see. With his fight with Orlando Sanders, Kevin Roper joins Damian Newman as the only two-time winner for Amateur Fight of the Year. The epic brawl with Sanders was one for the storybooks as both fighters looked on the verge of ending it, only to see the other claw his way back into the fight.

With a decision that could have gone either way, the fans in attendance were treated to something special. Taking home half of the votes for this category, Sanders vs Roper is the 2018 Amateur Fight of the Year.

If you haven't seen this fight, be sure to check out this link courtesy of The Nemesis Fighting Alliance:

Runner Up: Colin Parr vs Evan Elder (8 votes of 20)

Primarily known for his outstanding wrestling, Eric Ellington showed the "Big Dog" has some bark. In his eighth professional fight, Ellington dropped a bomb on Scott Ettling to score his first professional KO. The punch came at 44 seconds into the second round in what was building up to a very competitive contest. The win improved Ellington to 3-1 on the year, earning him a nomination for Pro Fighter of the Year, and the 2018 KO of the Year.

If you haven't seen the KO, please check out the fight courtesy of Shamrock FC.

Runner Up: Evan Whited (6 votes of 20)

April's Bellator 197 was a chance at redemption for Jordan Dowdy. In his previous two Bellator bouts, the 32-year old welterweight was submitted in the first round by Adam Meredith and Guilherme "Bomba" Vasconcelos respectively.

Looking to get the Bellator "monkey" off his back, Dowdy jumped on the opportunity to fight Jeff Crotty when it was announced Bellator would return to St. Louis in 2018, this time at the Family Arena. After a brief feeling out, Dowdy landed a big left hook on Crotty to set up the takedown, the transitioned to the back and submitted Crotty - a tough and skilled grappler - in just 29 seconds. It was the fastest submission in Bellator welterweight history, a division that also includes the likes of Neiman Gracie, Douglas Lima, "Bomba" Vasconcelos, among others. Dowdy's rear naked choke victory is the 2018 Submission of the Year.

Editor's Note: Dowdy was a member of the voting panel for these awards and declined to vote for this category.

Runner Up: Tristan Overig (6 of 20 votes)

It's every fighter's boyhood dream to compete in front of his hometown fans for the UFC, and that's exactly what Alex White did in 2018. White was born and raised just outside of St. Louis and quickly became a household name among local fights where he amassed a perfect 14-0 amateur record.

White would go onto win his first 9-0 professional fights to mark an unbeaten run of over 23 MMA fights. The UFC quickly took notice and signed White in January of 2014, and from there the rest is history.

The Let's Go! Award was created by KJ and Fighting for Autism's Manager of US Operations Brian Higginbotham, to honor the late Steve Smith, the founder of Rumble Time Promotions. It's awarded to an individual who's an inspiration to others with their work inside or outside of the cage. It's fitting that it was for Smith who White last competed locally before making the jump to the UFC.

Please join us in congratulating all of the winners for 2018.

Previous winners the St. Louis MMA Awards:

National Pro Fighter of the Year: EJ Brooks
Regional Pro Fighter of the Year: Sean Woodson
Amateur Fighter of the Year: Sam Paneitz
Pro Fight of the Year: Malcolm Smith vs Brandon Lowe
Amateur Fight of the Year: Kevin Roper vs Jeremiah Curtright
Submission of the Year: Zak Bucia
KO of the Year: Luis Pena
KO of the Year: Corbin Howard
Story of the Year: Freeman Shocks the World

National Pro Fighter of the Year: Tyron Woodley
Regional Pro Fighter of the Year: Rashard Lovelace
Amateur Fighter of the Year: Eric Ellington
Breakout Fighter of the Year: Luis Pena
Pro Fight of the Year: Byron Stevens vs Lee Burns
Amateur Fight of the Year: Nathan Stearns vs Miguel Lisbosa
Story of the Year: AJ's Comeback
Submission of the Year: Ashley Cummins
KO of the Year: Kevin Engel

National Pro Fighter of the Year: Michael Chandler
Regional Pro Fighter of the Year: Adam Meredith
Amateur Fighter of the Year: Julius Anglickas
Pro Fight of the Year: Eric Irvin vs Hugh Pulley
Amateur Fight of the Year: Andrew Wiltse vs Ross Campbell
Story of the Year: Passing of Steve Smith
Submission of the Year: Brandon Karcher
KO of the Year: Cortavious Romious
Let's Go! Award Winner: Adam Osmoe

National Pro Fighter of the year: Jake Collier
Regional Pro Fighter of the Year: Eric Irvin
Amateur Fighter of the Year: Michelle Pearce
Pro Fight of the Year: Lucas Gwaltney vs Adam Cella
Amateur Fight of the Year: Garrett Holeve vs David Steffan

Pro Fighter of the Year: Josh Sampo
Amateur Fighter of the Year: Damian Newman
Pro Fight of the Year: Zach Freeman vs Robert Washington
Amateur Fight of the Year: Damian Newman vs Ira Lukowsky
Breakout Fighter of the Year: Susie Wyatt
Story of the Year: SCMMA Flyweights get signed

Pro Fighter of the Year: Zach Freeman
Amateur Fighter of the Year: Kirk Huff
Pro Fight of the Year: Josh Sampo vs Will Campuzano
Amateur Fight of the Year: Damian Newman vs Fierce Taylor
Breakout Fighter of the Year: Chris Heatherly

The full list of the voting panel:

Brett Auten, Matt Frazier, David Cormier, Jordan Dowdy - Knuckle Junkies.
Jesse Finney, Rob Donaker, Jeremy Johnson - Shamrock FC
Brad Carey, Marlene Kelley - Nemesis Fighting Alliance
Patrick Smith, Kain Royer - Cage Champs
Mike Rogers, Kyle Watson, Kirk Huff, Kevin Engel, Andrew Ebers, Drew Ingradne - Coaches
Dr. Melvin Maclin, Rob Francis, Brian Higginbotham - State Officials
Craig Nutella - Cutman