Year in Review: The Best Fights of 2012


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

  • ian

    I dont know about you guys but that preliminary fight with Abel Trujillo had me on my feet!

    • Oh man I forgot about that one! Good call ian, that fight was so sick

    • I agree, that guy is a psycho. I was in shock at the agression and complete domination. Great fight.

  • Silva / Sonnen 2 was one of the best fights of 2012? That would be news to me.

    I agree it was the most hyped fight. Sadly, however, it was also one of the most disappointing fights of 2012.

    Whether or not it was a result of the fight (itself) not being that entertaining (unless, of course you're a hardcore Silva fan, then I'm sure it was eminently entertaining) or whether or not it was as a result of the first fight being so good, that the re-match couldn't possibly live up to our expectations, I'm not sure. I just know that I was disappointed.

    When Sonnen threw that fist, fell down and gave that….deer caught in the headlights look….we all knew it was over. It was if he gave up on the spot. That's how I saw it, at least. I could never call that fight one of the best of 2012.

    To me, for a fight to be a top fight of the year, the fight must have: rounds (minimum of getting into the 3rd), action, back-and-forth between opponents, cannot be one sided, and must have a decent pace and tempo, Strangely, a KO, TKO or submission is not (necessarily) required. Great if you get one, but not a requirement. Sanchez / Guida is an example of such a fight. Incredible fight, one of the best I've ever seen, had everything on the list, but no finish. Works for me.

    Anyway, I don't see Silva / Sonnen 2 as a great fight. It was a let down, to be honest. A great deal of hype with no pay-off, unless you were a Silva fan. And yes, Sonnen took him down in the first and controlled him, but he did no damage and then he was promptly dispatched in the second. I didn't think it was much of a fight. I guess I was hoping for some type of a repeat of the first bout (one of the best fights I've ever seen) and it just never materialized. To me the fight was a let-down.

    • It was the magnitude of the bout and the way Silva avenged a fight many thought he was destroyed in. There were better fights top-to-bottom for sure. But the atmosphere around this fight was unparalleled

      • @ Mike

        The atmosphere might have been unparalleled, however, the fight was not. And in terms of setting it as a top five fight, I'm just not buying it. The only reason this fight got noticed is / was because it was Anderson Silva and he was seeking revenge (as you stated). Sure he got his revenge, after his opponent fell down and gave up. I wouldn't call that exciting. Had that fight happened with anyone other than a divisional champion, let alone Silva, it would not be on this list.

        It is Silva's name / reputation which garners the attention, not the actual fight, IMO. Another reason this fight is getting attention, is because Anderson only had 2 fights in 2012; Sonnen and Bonnar. Despite additional high-light reel moments in both fights for The Champion / 205 dabbler, the fights themselves were not that exciting. The Bonnar fight in particular was predictable. Again, the only people that might think the fight was exciting would be Silva fans. Understandably, so. Their boy won and he won impressively, but it doesn't mean it was fight of the year.

        The way I see it, Anderson had two fights in 2012, with two clean and dominant victories, but neither were worth mentioning as FOTY or top 5 FOTY. That's how I see it, at any rate.

        • @MMatruth….you do have a point regarding the silva 2 bout when you compare it to a fight like the shogun vs rua fight in 2011…a five round war. The Silva fight however is a fight we all remember in 2012 with the first round takedown by Chael and then the crazy spinning backfist and bruce buffer 360 gone wrong stumble to the canvas.

      • @Mike D….I thought cung lee's fight against Rich was a big highlight of 2012. Massive Ko in round one. First time in china. Cung lee coming back one fight after a complete beating by wanderlie.

  • Seriously, no love for Varner-Lauzon? That was the best fight of 2012 IMO.

  • What about Alvarez vs Friere? Not FOTY by a long shot but if Silva Sonnen on this list then this must be on there too.

    • PS for me FOTY was Etim Barboza. So evenly matched until that finish of the year.

  • Barry and Del Rosario? It was a pretty disappointing fight until the finish… Rasario grinding and going for sloppy sub with Barry surviving until the bell.

    Not sure about anyone else but Shogun vs. Gus? That was a true war!

    • @Keith…I agree that was a war….Shogun earns his money !

  • @ Mike, this would actually have been a good article to do as a poll – FOTY! What do you think?

  • Silva= fixed fights. Forest big flop.Foot flying up in the air plus he is a really bad actor. His buddie American Psycho another big flop for retirement money by the UFC. James Irvin another big flop,one tiny hit to the face. Ever wonder why Dan Henderson never got a second chance? Got cut, and still is not getting a second chance, because he told Dana White to fuck off on throwing the fight…Think about it. Dan had to chance organizations and kiss ass to get back in the UFC. Fuck Dana White and the UFC. It's fixed. Look at all the problems. Steroids, fixed fights, really bad judges.

    • some truth to that im afraid, just remember its easy to fix fights if they want

  • I wouldn't count any of those as best fight of the year. They were all great fights and I am not insulting you or anything but there were definitely better fights from my point of view. What about Fitch V Silva?