There are a number of fighters that had tremendous comeback years in 2013, but to me it all comes down to two men for the title of Comeback Fighter of 2013: the UFC’s Robbie Lawler, and Bellator’s Doug Marshall. Now, let’s take a look at both men’s years so we can compare. Lawler was 3-5 in Strikeforce and was lucky that the UFC brought him over after their purchase of that promotion, seeing as how he lost to Lorenz Larkin in his last Strikeforce bout and looked terrible in doing so. It seemed as though Lawler was at the end of his career, but when the UFC brought him over, he decided to move down to welterweight and try to see if he had a second wind. And it has turned out to be a tremendous decision, because Lawler has gone 3-0 in 2013, with huge wins over Josh Koscheck, Bobby Voelker, and Rory MacDonald. And it’s definitely worth keeping in mind he was a huge underdog to Koscheck and MacDonald, and despite both of those fighters being top-10 ranked welterweights, Lawler was able to beat down both of them, even though the betting public hardly gave him a chance in either fight. With his three victories in the Octagon in 2013, “Ruthless” has earned a shot at the vacant UFC welterweight championship, and he’ll battle Johny Hendricks in the main event of UFC 171 next March in Dallas, TX. Absolutely amazing, when you consider where Lawler was a year ago today — clinging to a spot on the Zuffa roster. And when you consider the calibre of opponents he’s defeated, as well as what he’s earned from those wins, Lawler seems to be deservedly at the top of the list for Comeback Fighter of the Year. But I believe there is also a good case to be made for Marshall. “The Rhino” went 3-1 overall in 2013, with victories over Brett Cooper, Sultan Aliev, and Andreas Spang, and a loss to Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko. In each of those fights, Marshall was a big underdog, and he came through with flying colors in three of them. Considering that Marshall was coming off a brutal knee KO to Zelg Galesic in the India Super Fight League just last year, it’s been an absolutely amazing turnaround for him in 2013, and one that culminated with him winning a Bellator tournament and getting a shot at their middleweight title, TRT or not. Since Marshall did lose to Shlemenko, and since Lawler didn’t lose, you have to lean towards Lawler for Comeback Fighter of the Year, especially when you take level of competition into play. But when you think about the fact that Lawler has always had this potential but just didn’t show it, and that Marshall more or less had a crazy-good year out of nowhere at age 36, there is definitely an argument to be made that he’s the Comeback Fighter of the Year. It’s a tough choice. So, I’ll pose the question to the readers: Who is the Comeback Fighter of the Year in MMA? Lawler, Marshall, or something else? Leave a comment below, or hit me up on Twitter @MMAdamMartin.
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