2012 was a strange year for MMA to say the least. There were too many cards absolutely decimated by injury to name. But amidst all this chaos, some fights and fighters did truly shine, reminding us of why we love the great sport of MMA. Everybody will have their favorites from the year, and I'd love to hear what yours are and why. Let's take a look at some fights that stood above the rest in 2012:
Frankie Edgar vs. Benson Henderson, UFC 144 from Saitama, Japan:
This February bout could have truly signified a changing of the guard at Lightweight, a division that was arguably the most stacked in the UFC as the year began. Edgar came in as the undersized Energizer Bunny who had just knocked out Gray Maynard in a monumental comeback at UFC 138. Henderson, on the other hand, was a huge and powerful Lightweight who had a chip on his shoulder, going undefeated since dropping the WEC belt to Anthony Pettis. It was a close-fought war, and Edgar held the advantage in the takedown department. But Henderson would not be held down, and the turning point came when he rocked Edgar with a vicious upkick, bloodying his nose. Henderson won a close fight by utilizing more power in his strikes. Their second bout was not as exciting to be sure, but the first bout was a war.
Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen II, UFC 148 from Las Vegas Nevada:
The rematch between champion Anderson Silva and self-proclaimed champion Chael Sonnen may have been the most hyped fight in UFC history thanks to Sonnen's mouth. He had done so much trash-talking that the usually calm Silva had become visibly angry at the Oregon-based wrestler. True, Sonnen had dominated Silva for almost five rounds before succumbing to the now-infamous triangle in August of 2010, but was found to have elevated Testosterone levels. What would happen in the rematch? It was just business as usual for the champ, who spent the first round on his back but came alive in the second. Sonnen tried an ill-advised spinning backfist, and Silva pounced, landing an absolutely destructive knee to the chest. The following strikes were just icing on the cake, as Anderson Silva made his case for being the greatest MMA fighter of all time.
Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort, UFC 152 from Toronto, Canada:
I know that this bout may have been a mismatch on paper, as Vitor Belfort was currently fighting at Middleweight and was merely a replacement for the injured Dan Henderson here. I also know that Jones eventually won the fight with a very nice Americana in the fourth round. But for that quick moment in the first when Belfort had Jones in a tight armbar, you were reminded why you watched the UFC in the first place. The massive underdog literally almost ripped the dominant champion's arm out of the socket, something that former 205 lb. champions like Shogun, Machida, Rampage, and Evans never even came remotely close to. Many kudos to Jones for refusing to tap and coming back to win, but you had to admit, he seemed a little more human in the eyes of the fans after that. I guess I'm a bit old-school, but seeing Belfort almost pull that off after the UFC 151 fiasco was a fun night of MMA.
Georges St. Pierre vs. Carlos Condit, UFC 154 from Montreal, Canada:
This bout had a ton of backstory, but more importantly, it had two hungry fighters at the top of their game with something to prove. Longtime Welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre was coming off of an extremely long layoff here due to ACL surgery. His opponent, interim champ Carlos Condit, was under fire for his elusive victory over Nick Diaz. Many thought Condit had avoided engaging the always punishing and aggressive Diaz. There were tons of questions about GSP's ring rust and injuries. But he came out in his hometown and executed everything with precision even though people knew he was looking for the takedown. Condit, on the other hand, was a warrior who withstood a ton of punishment, never quitting and even rocking GSP with a brutal headkick that got him close to finishing the fight.
There were also some great knockouts and submissions over the past year as well. I chose to focus on the huge title fights that delivered this year, because it's hard to argue with the aura of a big fight with the belt on the line. But these bouts definitely deserve an Honorable Mention for their excitement factor:
-Chan Sung Jung vs. Dustin Poirier, UFC on Fuel TV 3
-Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva, UFC 146
-Chris Weidman vs. Mark Munoz, UFC on Fuel TV 4
-Joe Lauzon vs. Jamie Varner, UFC on Fox 4
-Shogun vs. Brandon Vera, UFC on Fox 4
-Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes, UFC 142
-Edson Barboza vs. Terry Etim, UFC 142
-Pat Barry vs. Shane del Rosario, TUF: Nelson vs. Carwin Finale