By Alex Mattis
This Saturday night, Dana White and the fine folks over in the Ultimate Fighting Championship give us their annual year-end card with UFC 155. This loaded card boasts the colossal main event (and rematch) of Junior dos Santos defending his heavyweight title against Cain Velasquez. The co-main may end up an instant classic as Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon do battle. This card could give us some of 2012’s best action just before ’13, but let’s take this time to reflect of the best mixed martial arts action of the past 12 months. Feel free to debate in the comment section!
Honorable Mentions: Jake Ellenberger Vs. Diego Sanchez (2/15), Miesha Tate Vs. Ronda Rousey (3/3), Pat Curran Vs. Joe Warren (3/9), Nate Marquardt Vs. Tyron Woodley (7/14), Shogun Rua Vs. Brandon Vera (8/4), Frankie Edgar Vs. Benson Henderson (2/26 & 8/11)
5. Chan Sung Jung Vs. Dustin Poirier – UFC on Fuel TV: Korean Zombie Vs. Poirier (5/15)
It wouldn’t be an end of the year list without a mention of the Korean Zombie, would it? Of course not. The always reliable Chan Sung Jung battled a highly touted Dustin Poirier early in the summer in a bout that many thought was Poirier’s for the taking. In classic fashion, this one turned into an absolute war that would see both men gain the upper hand at different points. In the fourth round Jung dazed Poirier and followed up with a ferocious assault that eventually led to the Korean Zombie snatching a d’arce choke and tapping out the top prospect. This victory solidified, not only, Chan Sung Jung as one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC but as one of the best in the featherweight division.
4. Joe Lauzon Vs. Jamie Varner – UFC on FOX: Shogun Vs. Vera (8/4)
I’m hard pressed to think of a better example of “mixed martial arts” in 2012. Both men are known to be finishers, so it came as no surprise that they went right after one another. Late in the first round, Varner dropped J-Lau with a punch and looked to have a win in sight. Lauzon survived and pressed the action from that point on. By the third round, the difference in conditioning was clear as a sturdy Lauzon pushed a drained Varner until he was able to secure a triangle choke and submit the former WEC champion. Both these men compete at UFC 155 and I doubt anyone will complain if they’re matched up again.
3. Georges St-Pierre Vs. Carlos Condit UFC 154: St. Pierre Vs. Condit (11/17)
Attention will flock to a Georges St-Pierre fight because it’s a Georges St-Pierre fight. If GSP is defending his title, more people will flock to it. If GSP is returning from a layoff that exceeded a year, even more people will flock. Georges St-Pierre had all the eyes of the fight world locked on him. Add in the fact that he was fighting one of the UFC’s most dangerous welterweights and the “interim champion?” Audiences were interested, to say the least. Well, in a no-way-to-live-up-to-the-hype scenario, GSP and Carlos Condit delivered possibly the best UFC title fight since Edgar-Maynard at UFC 125. From the start, it looked to be another GSP title defense with constant take downs and ground-and-pound. By the end of the first round, GSP had opened on cut that Condit would bleed from for the following twenty minutes. A mid-fight head kick from Condit dropped GSP and had the champion in a world of trouble. However, the champion survived and controlled the fight from that point on. GSP retained his UFC strap in the best MMA title fight of 2012.
2. Miesha Tate Vs. Julie Kedzie – Strikeforce: Rousey Vs. Kaufman (8/18)
This was the most brutal MMA fight I witnessed in 2012. Simple as that. These two women beat the tar out of each other (I could color it up much more than that). This was Tate’s return fight after having her elbow dislocated by Ronda Rousey and most thought it was just that; a return fight. Julie Kedzie was a journeywoman in the MMA world that had a huge opportunity in front of her. From the start, Kedzie was determined to take that opportunity. Kedzie pushed the action and controlled Tate from the start. By the time the third round started Kedzie was riding a wave of confidence and Tate appeared absolutely exhausted. Shortly into the third, Kedzie dropped Tate with one of the most vicious head kicks of the year. Miesha Tate showed the will, and technique, of a true champion as she prevailed; snatching an armbar, refused to let go, and forced a tap out at 3:28 of the final round.
1. Jon Fitch Vs. Erick Silva – UFC 153: Silva Vs. Bonnar (10/13)
Emotion. Emotion can carry make the most mediocre of competition seem unequivocally epic. This fight is 2012’s proof of that. In a year that was a “changing of the guard,” as Mike Goldberg stressed to an annoying extent, Jon Fitch proved that some of the old dogs won’t go so easily. Erick Silva had a near unrivaled wave of momentum in 2012 that led him to Brazil for UFC 153. It’s no surprise that Silva (who had spent less than six minutes in the UFC in three fights) was heavily expected to run through Fitch (who hadn’t won a fight in two years and was KO’d in 12 seconds several months prior). Fitch, admittedly in need of money for his family, wanted a “Fight of the Night” performance and his win bonus. He received both. Though Silva took the fight’s opening stanza, his youth and hubris got the best of him. An overly cocky Silva was eventually taken down and beaten senseless by a superior Fitch. The third round of this bout was the one of the year’s most dominant. The sheer dejection in Silva’s eyes post-fight and the comfort in Fitch’s only added to the overall feel of this fight. Emotion helped this great fight reach another level. The best of 2012.