Top 15 MMA Heavyweight Fighters of 2012

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MMA in 2012: Top 15 heavyweight fighters

Top 15 heavyweights
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The heavyweight weight class is one of the most established divisions in mixed martial arts.

Fighters like former champion Bas Rutten (28-4-1), former UFC Superfight champion Ken Shamrock (28-15-2) and Mark “The Hammer” Coleman (16-10), who became the first UFC Heavyweight champion back in 1997, were just a few of the greats who helped establish the heavyweight division back in the early days of the UFC.

All though a heavyweight bout may not the speed as the lighter weight classes, the power and skill these bigger fighters display will leave fans breathless.

This past year has been eventful for the heavyweights in MMA. The UFC had its first main card that featured all heavyweight bouts in May, at UFC 146 which included a main event between UFC Heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos and former champion Frank Mir.

The Strikeforce promotion finished its heavyweight grand prix tournament, which also took place in May. Many of their heavyweight fighters have made the transition to the UFC, which resulted in Strikeforce dissolving their heavyweight division. The promotion will have their final show in 2013, which will feature undefeated grand prix champion Daniel Cormier taking on newcomer Dion Staring (28-7).

Bellator’s heavyweight division also took a hit when champion Cole Konrad (9-0) announced his retirement from mixed martial arts. The winner of the promotion’s seventh season tournament final will be crowned the new Bellator Heavyweight champion.

In no particular order, here are the top 15 MMA Heavyweight fighters of 2012.

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15. Jeff “The Snowman” Monson

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After ending 2011 with a loss to former Pride champion and MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko, Monson took 2012 by storm, winning five of his last six fights, with the sixth resulting in a draw.

In addition to racking up five more wins on his record, Monson was also able to get a measure of revenge when he submitted Alexander Emelianenko on November 15, nearly a year after he had lost to the Pride champion, who is Alexander Emelianenko’s older brother.

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14. Fedor Emelianenko

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Fedor Emelianenko began 2012 by in standing in the ring next to Japanese superstar Antonio Inoki and celebrating the New Year just moments after he knocked out Satoshi Ishii in the main event of Fight for Japan: Genki Desu Ka Omisoka 2011.

Emelianenko, whose tenure in Pride helped him become one of MMA’s most beloved stars, would take on Pedro Rizzo in June. In front of his home country of Russia, Emelianenko would knock out Rizzo in 84 seconds. He would then announce his retirement from mixed martial arts.

The former Pride champion is still involved in mixed martial arts, as the president of the Russian MMA Union.

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13. Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira

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As one Pride heavyweight champion left the sport, another champion made his comeback in 2012.

Antonio Rodrgio Nogueira , who suffered a broken arm in his fight against Frank Mir, returned to action against Dave Herman in October. Herman, who claimed that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu “doesn’t work,” was tapping out in the second round after Nogueira caught him in an armbar.

He was originally supposed to face Chieck Kongo at UFC 149. Nogueira pulled out of the bout because the injury he sustained in the Mir fight had not healed.

Nogueira will coach against Fabricio Werdum in next season of the Ultimate Fighter: Brazil.

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12. Alexander Volkov and 11. Richard Hale

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At Bellator 84, Bellator Fighting championships will crown a new heavyweight champion in the final match of their season seven tournament.

On one side of the cage is Richard Hale, a former season four light heavyweight tournament runner up who defeated Thiago Santos and Mike Wessel to advance to the finals of the tournament. His last three fights have also ended in first-round TKO stoppages.

On the other side of the cage is Alexander Volkov, a Russian fighter who is currently on a nine-fight winning streak, with victories over Strikeforce veteran Brett Rogers and former UFC champion Ricco Rodriguez in 2012.

Both men have earned their place in the Bellator finals, but only one can be crowned champion.

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10. Mark Hunt

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Former K-1 kickboxing champion Mark Hunt earned the biggest win in his UFC career when he defeated Cheick Kongo at UFC 144, two-minutes into the first round.

Outside of the octagon, Hunt gained popularity as fans created the Twitter campaign #RallyforMarkHunt, in which fans rallied for Hunt to be named the challenger for Junior Dos Santos’ UFC Heavyweight title in May. He was set to face Stefan Struve at UFC 146, until he pulled of the fight due to injury.

Hunt will face Struve in March at UFC on Fuel TV 8.

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9. Travis Browne

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Travis Browne started 2012 by defeating Strikeforce prospect Chag Griggs by first round submission back in April.

In his first main event he went up against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in October, who finished him via TKO in the first round. Browne would end up tearing his left hamstring during the fight.

Despite the loss, Browne can still be considered one of the UFC’s top prospects.

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8. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva

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Antonio Silva was one of several Strikeforce fighters to make their way to the octagon. In his UFC debut, Silva found himself facing former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, who easily dispatched the fighter known as “Bigfoot” in the second round.

Despite the loss, Silva was able to rebound from defeat and take on the previously undefeated Travis Browne in October, where he finished Browne three-and-a-half minutes into the first round.

Silva will face former Strikeforce Heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem at UFC 156 in February.

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7. Roy Nelson

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The year 2012 has been an eventful year for Roy Nelson. “The Ultimate Fighter 10” winner went 1-1 in competition, losing to Fabricio Werdum in “Fight of the Night” performance in February, and then knocking out Dave Herman in 51 seconds, back in May.

Aside from competition, Nelson was also one of the coaches on the latest season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” coaching against former UFC Interim Heavyweight champion Shane Carwin. As a coach, Nelson was known for making his team train only once a day having Nick and Nate Diaz, Jake Shields and Gilbert Melendez as assistant coaches.

Nelson was going to face Carwin at the TUF: Team Carwin vs. Team Nelson finale on Dec. 15, until Carwin pulled out due to injury. He will now face Matt Mitrione.

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6. Fabricio Werdum

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One Strikeforce fighter who has made the most of his current UFC tenure is Fabricio Werdum.

Returning after a three-and-a-half-year absence, Werdum defeated Roy Nelson back in at UFC 143 in a match that earned “Fight of the Night” honors. He then went on to defeat Mike Russow via first round TKO at UFC 147.

Werdum was also an assistant coach for Wanderlei Silva on “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil.” He will coach on the second season of the show against former rival Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

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5. Stipe Miocic

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Croatian Prospect Stipe Miocic was another heavyweight who went 2-1 in 2012.

In February, Miocic defeated Phil De Fries with knockout in 43 seconds, earning "Knockout of the Night" honors. Back at May, he finished the previously undefeated Shane del Rosario by TKO in the second round.

In his first main event back in September, he would face Stefan Struve, who finished him in the second round by TKO and handed Miocic the first loss in his career.

Even though it was a loss, Miocic earned “Fight of the Night” honors in his match against Struve.

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4. Daniel Cormier


Daniel Cormier made the biggest leap in his mixed martial arts career when he defeated Josh Barnett in the finals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix and he was not originally supposed to be in the tournament to begin with.

Cormier came in as an alternate, replacing Alistair Overeem in the semi-finals of the tournament.

After the tournament win, he was supposed to face former UFC champion Frank Mir in a UFC-Strikeforce crossover fight in November. Mir would pull out of the fight due to injury and the event was scrapped.

Cormier will now face Dion Staring at the last Strikeforce event in January.

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3. Stefan Struve

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Stefan Struve’s knockout power and submission skills have made him one of the more dangerous fighters in the UFC’s heavyweight division in the last year.

The Dutch fighter went 3-0 in 2012, finishing all three of those fights.

In February he scored a TKO victory over Dave Herman, submitted Strikeforce veteran Lavar Johnson in May and finished the previously unbeaten Stipe Miocic by TKO in the second round.

His next fight is against Mark Hunt in March.

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2. Cain Valesquez


Former UFC Heavyweight champion Cain Velazquez rebounded from his 2011 loss by taking on Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva back in May.

Velasquez had little difficulty in dispatching Silva three-and-a-half minutes into the first round, leaving Bigfoot in a bloody mess.

The impressive win was enough to earn Velasquez a rematch against Junior Dos Santos for the UFC Heavyweight championship, which will take place Dec. 29.

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1. Junior Dos Santos

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UFC Heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos was originally supposed to face Alistair Overeem in a highly anticipated match up, until the Nevada Athletic State Commission denied Overeem’s request for a license after he failed a pre-fight drug test.

Dos Santos would face former champion Frank Mir in a match where he used his boxing and takedown defense to control the fight and finish Mir in the second round. With his win over Mir, Dos Santos currently has the longest winning streak in the heavyweight division.

He will defend the UFC heavyweight title against Cain Velasquez at UFC 155 on Dec. 29.

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Who else should be on this list?

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Well fight fans are there any heavyweights you think should be on this list? Let us know with a comment below or get on Twitter and tweet to @alstover with the hashtag #RantMMA.