One of my personal favorite moments of a fight isn't when a fighter lands a stunning highlight reel KO, or when the underdog comes from behind to secure a slick submission; it's the moment an athlete celebrates their victory. The feelings are raw, unabashed and usually fodder for the perfect photos.
I took a look at my personal MMA collection of photographs from this year and picked five of my favorite post-win celebration photos to share with you all. Some have never even been seen before.
RFA - Visalia, CA - Steve Gruber
Flyweight Steve Gruber defeated Shai Lindsey at RFA 42 in August after submitting him via rear-naked choke in the opening moments of the third round. Gruber increased his record to 6-3 and showed his excitement by running laps around the cage.
Combate Americas - Los Angeles, CA - Heinrich Wassmer
Heinrich Wassmer is one of Combate Americas' rising stars, and after he defeated Ramos Cruz in the first round of Combate Americas: Road to the Championship 4 this past April, it's easy to see why. Wassmer was able to secure the armbar finish with just four seconds left in the first round. After his win, he leapt onto the top of the cage to celebrate with his fans. This photo is one of my personal favorites, as Wassmer is perfectly framed by the lights of the venue.
CXF - Studio City, CA - Chase Gibson
The backstory to this image really makes it all the better. Chase Gibson faced Fard Muhammad at CXF in June, but after his opponent flung unsportsmanlike comments during the weigh-ins and during his walkout, Gibson knew he'd take the win. With just two seconds left in the first round, Gibson landed a knockout kick to the face that dropped his cocky opponent. If you look closely, you can see the downed fighter using an obscene gesture, even in defeat.
Invicta - Costa Mesa, CA - Cris Cyborg
Cyborg now fights for the UFC, but in January, she defended her featherweight title with Invicta. She faced Daria Ibragimova, finishing her with just two seconds remaining in the first round. After being awarded her belt, she immediately exited the cage to find her boyfriend, Ray Elbe, and quickly planted a kiss before heading backstage.
Bellator - Anaheim, CA - Georgi Karakhanyan
When Georgi Karakhanyan faced Bubba Jenkins at Bellator 160 in August, many wondered if the second fight would go as perfectly for Karakhanyan as it had before. Without question, it did. He defeated Jenkins just :53 seconds into the first round, almost a full minute faster than his first victory over the decorated wrestler.
Stay tuned as I will be sharing more collections throughout the coming weeks.