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Edson Barboza (10-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) is one step closer to becoming the UFC's first ESPY winner.
Barboza, a No. 14 seed among an original 16 participants in the voting for ESPN's 2012 ESPY Awards "Play of the Year," is now among four finalists eligible to take home the honor at the July 11 awards show.
Barboza's three co-finalists all come from the college ranks, leaving the fighter as the only professional athlete still eligible to win. Voting for the award currently is open and ends on Monday night.
Barboza's highlight qualified for the finals after it was voted past No. 3 seed and PGA Tour golfer Louis Oosthuizen for his double-eagle at the Masters this past April, as well as a No. 11 seed in Winter X Games' Heath Frisby, who in January landed the first snowmobile front flip ever seen in the Games during the "Best Trick" competition.
Barboza now is paired against the University of Arkansas' NCAA football team, NCAA basketball's Christian Watford and Lower Columbia College baseball's Derek Salberg.
Voting is under way at ESPN.com for the four remaining finalists. The one-day voting period to determine the winner ends Monday, and the results are expected to be announced at the July 11 awards show.
Barboza, who learned of his nomination only after his manager, Alex Davis, read about the honor on MMAjunkie.com, recently said he hopes the entire MMA community can take pride in his nomination.
"I am glad that someone from MMA is competing for this award," Barboza said. "I hope all the people who come from MMA will vote, and we will be able to see MMA on the top of the other sports."
Barboza's third-round wheel-kick knockout of Etim earned him a pair of bonuses at UFC 142 in Rio de Janeiro for both "Knockout of the Night" and "Fight of the Night." While Barboza is the lone combat-sports athlete remaining in the "Best Play" category, he's not alone as an MMA ESPY nominee. As previously reported, UFC champions Anderson Silva and Jon Jones are nominated in the category of "Best Fighter" against boxers Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Andre Ward. An MMA fighter never has won that category since its inception.
And quadruple amputee Kyle Maynard, who has trained and competed in MMA, is a nominee for "Best Male Athlete With a Disability," an award he won in 2004. He is nominated for becoming the first quadruple amputee to climb to the top of Africa's Mt. Kilimanjaro without assistance.
Along with Silva, Jones and Maynard, Barboza now joins Georges St-Pierre, Lyoto Machida, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Randy Couture as MMA fighters nominated for an ESPY.
Aside from the bracket-style "Best Play" category, fans can vote in 33 other categories at the ESPY Awards official website. The awards ceremony takes place July 11 at Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles and airs live on ESPN. The show will be hosted by actor and comedian Rob Riggle.
"BEST PLAY" FINAL FOUR NOMINEES
2. Arkansas football (NCAA)
8. Christian Watford (NCAA basketball)
13. Derek Salberg (college baseball)
14. Edson Barboza (UFC)