Top 20 Women MMA Fighters in 2012

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2012 was a milestone year for Women's MMA

25
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

There are two types of mindsets when it comes to women’s MMA.

On one side there are the fans who accept it because they have watched female fighters put their bodies on the line and have put on matches that are as good, if not better, than their male counterparts.

On the other side are critics and fans who believe that women have no place in the cage - other than being the ring girls - or the only reason they get any fights is because of their looks.

Regardless of whether or not fans accept women fighting in mixed martial arts, 2012 has been a breakout year for WMMA.

Invicta Fighting Championships, an all-female promotion, featured three successful events in their first year, including one that was headlined by a match to determine Invicta’s first atomweight champion. The promotion will hold its fourth event in January 2013 and will have the first Invicta Strawweight championship as the main event.

Bellator Fighting Championships also saw their 115-pound champion Zolia Grugel to the promotion. There is speculation that the promotion will do away with the strawweight division and hold a 125-pound women’s tournament in 2013.

Although Strikeforce will most likely be closing its doors in 2013, it featured several memorable women’s bouts, including a three-round war between Sarah Kaufman and Alexis Davis and the title match between Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate.

Perhaps the biggest news for women’s MMA in 2012 was the UFC making Rousey their first women’s bantamweight champion. She will make her first title defense against Liz Carmouche in February at UFC 157.

This list is about fighters who have done well in 2012 and does not reflect any official MMA rankings. If a fighter is low or not on the list, it does not reflect their abilities or standing as a fighter. It just means they did not compete as much as the other fighters on this list.

2 of 23

Honorable mentions

Honorable
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

Shayna “The Queen of Spades” Baszler

Baszler returned to MMA after a two-year absence. Her first match back was in the main event at Invicta FC 2 against Sara McMann.

The Queen of Spades would go on to defeat Sarah D’Alelio at Invicta FC 3 in the second round via submission. She will face Alexis Davis in a rematch at Invicta FC 4.

Sarah Kaufman

Kaufman, former Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight champion went 1-1 in 2012. Her decision victory over Alexis Davis in March helped propel her to a title shot against Strikeforce champion Ronda Rousey.

Unfortunately, Kaufman would lose to Rousey, who submitted her with an armbar, 54 seconds in the first round.

She was scheduled to face Kaitlin Young at Invicta FC 3, but had to withdraw due to injury. Kaufman is expected to return to action in 2013.

Sarah “Cheesecake” Moras

Moras spent almost two years away from the cage when she made her return in 2012.

She went 2-1 for the year that included a second round TKO over Julianna Pena in April and an impressive first-round technical submission win over Christina Barry last September.

Zolia Gurgel

The Bellator Women’s 115 pound champion made her return to the cage in 2012.

Gurgel grinded out a decision victory against Casey Noland at Bellator 78 in October, but came lost in her match against Jessica Eye in December after Eye submitted her with a standing triangle choke.

Leslie “The Peacemaker” Smith

Smith spent 2012 in a two-fight war with Young at the first and third Invicta FC events.

The first fight was a stand-up battle that was praised by fans and critics and even earned “Fight of the Night’ honors. In the end, the judges ruled it a split-draw.

In the third fight, the Peacemaker would take Young to the ground and catch her in a crucifix position before unloading a barrage of punches until the referee stopped the fight.

Smith, whose record is now 4-2-1, will face Raquel Pennington at Invicta FC 4 in January 2013.

3 of 23

"Rowdy" Ronda Rousey

Ronda
Greg Bartram-US Presswire

There is probably no fighter, man or woman, who had taken the world by storm this past year than Ronda Rousey.

Coming into 2012 with a record of 4-0, Rousey dropped to bantamweight to challenge then-Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight champion Miesha Tate.

Although it took her four minutes to do so, Rousey would catch Tate in an armbar, after the champion had gotten out of the first one, and submit Tate to become the champion.

Rousey’s first title defense would be against former champion Sarah Kaufman. It would only take Rousey 54 seconds to get another submission win.

Rousey challenged Strikeforce Women's Featherweight champion "Cyborg" Santos to a fight, though she said she would only fight Santos at bantamweight.

In addition to her accomplishments in competition, Rousey has graced the covers of several magazines. Her brash, but honest attitude has made her one of the most well-known fighters.

Rousey also made history by becoming the first female fighter to be signed by the UFC and was crowned organization’s first women’s bantamweight champion. She will make her first UFC title defense against Liz Carmouche at UFC 157.

4 of 23

Carla "Cookie Monster" Esparza

Esparza
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

While Carla Esparza is known for her ground game, 2012 was a year where the Cookie Monster displayed her punching prowess with two TKO victories.

Esparza made the move from XFC to Invicta Fighting Championships and faced Sarah “White Tiger” Schneider at Invicta FC 2. She finished Schneider in the second round, snapping the White Tiger’s two-fight winning streak.

Esparza returned to the Invicta cage in October where she stopped Lynn Alvarez, two minutes into the first round.

The Cookie Monster will face Brazilian fighter Claudia Gadelha for the Invicta FC Strawweight championship at Invicta FC 4 in January 2013.

5 of 23

Julia "The Jewel" Budd

Budd
Tracy Lee-Invicta FC

This past year saw Canadian fighter Julia Budd rebound from her loss to Ronda Rousey in 2011. Budd made her Invicta FC debut back in July where she finished Elina Nilsson late in the first round via TKO.

Budd would once again show her power in the Invicta cage as she took on Danielle West at Invicta FC 3. Just like with Nilsson, Budd overpowered West and dropped several elbows and strikes below the referee stopped the fight.

6 of 23

Barb "Little Warrior" Honchak

Honchak
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

Flyweight fighter Barb Honchak is 2-0 for 2012. She began the year by defeating the previously unbeaten prospect Bethany Marshall via second round TKO at Invicta FC 2. Her next opponent was Irish veteran fighter Aisling Daly at Invicta FC 3.

After a first round of back and forth action, Honchak controlled Daly for the next two rounds, ultimately getting the decision victory.

Honchak is currently riding a six-fight winning streak. In an interview with MMA Rising.com, she said she is scheduled to face Vanessa Porto for the Invicta FC Flyweight championship in April.

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Alexis "Ally-Gator" Davis

Davis
photo via MMAJunkie.com

Alexis Davis took a bigger step in her career when a war in her rematch against rival Sarah Kaufman back in March. Although Kaufman came away with the majority decision, Davis showed the world that she could trade leather with the best.

Davis would make a statement in her next fight against Hitomi Akano at Invicta FC 2. She submitted the Japanese superstar in the second round with a rear naked choke.

Davis is scheduled to rematch Shayna Baszler at Invicta FC 4 in January.

8 of 23

Bec “Rowdy” Hyatt

Bec
Mark J. Rebilas - US Presswire

After losing her debut match in 2011, Bec Hyatt went on a tear this past year, winning her next four fights.

In her most recent fight, Hyatt defeated newcomer Christina Nicole Tatnell in 37 seconds via TKO. In November it was announced that Hyatt had signed with Invicta Fighting championships.

Hyatt will face Joanne Calderwood at Invicta FC 4 on Jan. 5 2013.

9 of 23

Miesha "Cupcake" Tate

Tate
Jayne Kamin-Oncea -US Presswire

Former Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight champion Miesha Tate is one of many fighters who had her ups and downs in 2012. Back in March when she was champion, she made her first title defense against Ronda Rousey, who had said she would drop to bantamweight and challenge for the title.

After a heated exchange outside of the cage, Tate met Rousey in a fast-paced bout where she became the first person to escape Rousey’s armbar. Unfortunately, Rousey would catch the champion in a second armbar and Tate would submit at 4:27 in the first round.

Tate would rebound from her loss and face veteran Julie “Fireball” Kedzie in August. After enduring two rounds of punches from Kedzie, Tate submitted the Fireball in the third round. The fight received praise from fans, including UFC President Dana White.

Although she said she was planning to take some time off, Tate said that she has signed a contract with the UFC.

10 of 23

Vanessa Porto

Porto
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

The year 2012 will be a memorable one for Vanessa Porto. In her first fight of the year, Porto scored a 41 second knockout over Luana Teixeira at Pink Fight 2, back in March.

Although she lost Sarah D’Alelio at Invicta FC 2, Porto’s would defeat longtime fighter Tara LaRosa at Invicta FC 3.

In addition getting the biggest win of her career, Porto also snapped LaRosa’s three-fight winning streak.

11 of 23

Sarah “The Monster” D’Alelio

Sarah
Tracy Lee-Invicta FC

Sarah D’Alelio spent 2012 making her home in the Invicta FC cage. At the promotion’s first event, D’Alelio defeated Vanessa Mariscal by submission via strikes in the second round.

The Monster’s next opponent was Vanessa Porto at Invicta FC 2 where she caught Porto with a reverse triangle armbar, at 3:16 in the first round.

D'Alelio would face Shayna Baszler at Invicta FC where she fell to a rear naked choke in the second round.

D’Alelio will face Brazilian knockout artist Amanda Nunes at Invicta FC 4.

12 of 23

Michelle "The Karate Hottie" Waterson

Waterson
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

After nearly two years away from the cage, Michelle Waterson made her return to mixed martial arts in January where she fought Diana Rael. After being taken to the ground by Rael, Waterson quickly gained control and caught her in a rear naked choke, two minutes into the first round.

Waterson would make her Invicta FC debut in October, where she fought a war with Lacey Schuckman. In the end, Waterson walked away with the split-decision victory. Both she and Schuckman would end up getting "Fight of the Night" honors.

13 of 23

Tecia "The Tiny Tornado" Torres

Torres
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

Tecia Torres came made her professional MMA debut back in October at Invicta FC 3. Prior to making the transition to pro, she won seven of her amateur MMA bouts, a 16-4 record in kickboxing and Muay Thai fights and accumulated a plethora of titles.

Torres went up against Kaiyana Rain at Invicta FC 3 in a back and forth match where she came away with the decision victory.

Torres will face Paige VanZant at Invicta FC 4 in Jan. 5 2013.

14 of 23

Claudia Gadelha

Claudia
Rafael Suanes-US Presswire

Claudia Gadelha is an undefeated Brazilian prospect who went 2-0 in 2012.

Back in April, Gadelha fought Canadian veteran Valeria Letourneau to a split-decision, which snapped the Canadian fighter’s three-fight winning streak.

In her next fight, Gadelha made short work of Adriana Viera by TKO, 95 seconds in the first round.

Gadelha will face Carla Esparza for the Invicta FC Strawweight championship at Invicta FC 4. With both fighters having a total of 12 submission wins between them, this title fight promises to be a back and forth ground battle.

15 of 23

Sara McMann

McMann
Tracy Lee-Invicta FC

Olympic wrestler and MMA prospect Sara McMann took the next step in mixed martial arts career this past year. In January, she defeated Japanese MMA veteran Hitomi Akano by decision.

In July, she headlined her first event against Shayna Baszler at Invicta FC 2. After a back and forth battle, McMann came away with the decision victory and the biggest win of her young career.

In addition to her wins inside of the cage, McMann also made after signing a contract with Strikeforce in September. She was scheduled to face Liz Carmouche in November, until she had to pull out of the fight due to injury.

16 of 23

Liz "Girl-Rilla" Carmouche

Liz
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

Liz Carmouche is one of more powerful fighters in women’s MMA and she showed it in 2012.

At Invicta FC 1, she quickly finished Ashleigh Curry, winning the fight by TKO, two minutes in the first round.

At Invicta FC 2, she once again displayed her power and ground prowess as she submitted MMA veteran Kaitlin Young in the second round with a rear naked choke.

Carmouche has recently made headlines after being named the number one contender to Ronda Rousey’s UFC Women’s Bantamweight title. She will face Rousey at UFC 157 in February 2013.

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Ayaka Hamasaki

Ayaka
Tracy Lee-Invicta FC

Jewels Lightweight champion Ayaka Hamasaki spent 2012 asserting her place as one of the more dangerous fighters at 115 pounds as well as extending her undefeated streak to 9-0.

Back in May, Hamasaki successfully defended her Jewels title against Yuka Tsuji after submitted her with a kimura, three minutes into round one.

For her next fight she changed scenery and traveled to Kansas where she fought Lacey Schuckman at Invicta FC 2. After controlling most of the fight, Hamasaki took down Schuckman and moved to a mounted crucifix, which led to the armbar and the submission victory.

Hamasaki was originally scheduled to face Carla Esparza for the Invicta FC Strawweight title, but ended up defending her Jewels Lightweight championship against Emi Fujino on Dec. 15. After three rounds, Hamasaki came away with the decision victory and retained her title.

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Jessamyn "The Gun" Duke

Duke
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

Jessamyn Duke is one of several women’s MMA fighters who made their pro debut in 2012. She fought her last amateur bout in March against Elizabeth Phillips and won by guillotine submission in the second round.

Duke’s first professional fight was against Suzie Montero at Invicta FC 2 where she scored a TKO victory in the third round.

For her second fight, Duke fought rival Marciea Allen. Late in the first round, Allen gained top position after a failed leglock attempt and delivered some ground and pound. After tossing her mouth guard, Duke was able lock in an armbar and get the submission.

Duke’s performance would earn her “Submission of the Night” honors.

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Jessica "Evil" Eye

Evil
photo via MMAJunkie.com

Jessica Eye fought four times in 2012 and she emerged victorious in every bout.

Eye earned a decision victory over Kelly Warren at NAAFS: Caged Vengeance 10 back in February. Following that match, she would earn another decision victory over Anita Rodriguez at Bellator 66. NAAFS: Rock N Rumble 6, she would go the distance with Angela Magana and walk away with the decision.

The biggest moment in Eye’s career would come at Bellator 83 against Bellator 115-pound champion Zolia Gurgel. After Eye had Gurgel locked in a standing arm triangle choke, the referee stopped the fight, giving Eye the victory via technical submission.

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Felice "Lil' Bulldog" Herrig

Herrig
Courtesy of SuckerPunch Entertainment and Tomba Images

Every year, Felice Herrig continues to improve her fight game and in 2012 the Lil’ Bulldog went 3-0 in competition.

Herrig, who had signed a multi-fight contract with XFC, began the year with a match against Patricia Vidonic at XFC 17 back April. The Lil’ Bulldog maintained control for the entire fight and would get the decision. Her next bout was against British fighter Simona Soukupova where she once again controlled the cage with her striking and clinch work.

Herrig was originally supposed to face Michele Gutierrez in a rematch at Bellator 84, but Gutierrez pulled out of the fight due to a hand injury.

Vidonic would step up to fight Herrig once again; however Herrig would once again command the cage and defeat Vidonic by decision.

21 of 23

Joanne Calderwood

Calderwood
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

Scottish Muay Thai fighter Joanne Calderwood decided to try her hand at mixed martial arts. Making her professional debut in February, Calderwood won her first four fights, with three of them being finishes.

Calderwood made an impression at her Invicta FC debut back in October against Ashley Cummins when she scored a first round knockout after delivering a knee to the body. She was awarded “Knockout of the Night” honors.

In addition to mixed martial arts, Calderwood also plans to continue fighting in Muay Thai. She will meet Bec Hyatt at Invicta FC 4 on Jan. 5 2013.

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Jessica Penne

Penne
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

Jessica Penne came had spent over a year away from the cage when she made her Invicta FC debut back in May. She fought Lisa Ellis a bloody battle that ended when Penne scored a TKO in the third round.

Invicta would later announce Penne as one of the contestants in the atomweight title match at Invicta FC 3, the other fighter being then-undefeated Naho Sugiyama.

Halfway through the second round, Penne locked in a triangle choke on Sugiyama, who had top position. At 2:20, Sugiyama tapped out and Penne became the first Invicta FC Atomweight champion.

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Who is missing from this list?

who?
Ron Chenoy-US Presswire

Is there a fighter who should be on this list? Answer with a comment below or send a tweet to @alstover with the hashtag #RantMMA.

2012 year-in-review of the crazy MMA moments.

Watch for these 20 hot female athletes in 2013.

1 of 23

2012 was a milestone year for Women's MMA

25
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

There are two types of mindsets when it comes to women’s MMA.

On one side there are the fans who accept it because they have watched female fighters put their bodies on the line and have put on matches that are as good, if not better, than their male counterparts.

On the other side are critics and fans who believe that women have no place in the cage - other than being the ring girls - or the only reason they get any fights is because of their looks.

Regardless of whether or not fans accept women fighting in mixed martial arts, 2012 has been a breakout year for WMMA.

Invicta Fighting Championships, an all-female promotion, featured three successful events in their first year, including one that was headlined by a match to determine Invicta’s first atomweight champion. The promotion will hold its fourth event in January 2013 and will have the first Invicta Strawweight championship as the main event.

Bellator Fighting Championships also saw their 115-pound champion Zolia Grugel to the promotion. There is speculation that the promotion will do away with the strawweight division and hold a 125-pound women’s tournament in 2013.

Although Strikeforce will most likely be closing its doors in 2013, it featured several memorable women’s bouts, including a three-round war between Sarah Kaufman and Alexis Davis and the title match between Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate.

Perhaps the biggest news for women’s MMA in 2012 was the UFC making Rousey their first women’s bantamweight champion. She will make her first title defense against Liz Carmouche in February at UFC 157.

This list is about fighters who have done well in 2012 and does not reflect any official MMA rankings. If a fighter is low or not on the list, it does not reflect their abilities or standing as a fighter. It just means they did not compete as much as the other fighters on this list.

2 of 23

Honorable mentions

Honorable
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

Shayna “The Queen of Spades” Baszler

Baszler returned to MMA after a two-year absence. Her first match back was in the main event at Invicta FC 2 against Sara McMann.

The Queen of Spades would go on to defeat Sarah D’Alelio at Invicta FC 3 in the second round via submission. She will face Alexis Davis in a rematch at Invicta FC 4.

Sarah Kaufman

Kaufman, former Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight champion went 1-1 in 2012. Her decision victory over Alexis Davis in March helped propel her to a title shot against Strikeforce champion Ronda Rousey.

Unfortunately, Kaufman would lose to Rousey, who submitted her with an armbar, 54 seconds in the first round.

She was scheduled to face Kaitlin Young at Invicta FC 3, but had to withdraw due to injury. Kaufman is expected to return to action in 2013.

Sarah “Cheesecake” Moras

Moras spent almost two years away from the cage when she made her return in 2012.

She went 2-1 for the year that included a second round TKO over Julianna Pena in April and an impressive first-round technical submission win over Christina Barry last September.

Zolia Gurgel

The Bellator Women’s 115 pound champion made her return to the cage in 2012.

Gurgel grinded out a decision victory against Casey Noland at Bellator 78 in October, but came lost in her match against Jessica Eye in December after Eye submitted her with a standing triangle choke.

Leslie “The Peacemaker” Smith

Smith spent 2012 in a two-fight war with Young at the first and third Invicta FC events.

The first fight was a stand-up battle that was praised by fans and critics and even earned “Fight of the Night’ honors. In the end, the judges ruled it a split-draw.

In the third fight, the Peacemaker would take Young to the ground and catch her in a crucifix position before unloading a barrage of punches until the referee stopped the fight.

Smith, whose record is now 4-2-1, will face Raquel Pennington at Invicta FC 4 in January 2013.

3 of 23

"Rowdy" Ronda Rousey

Ronda
Greg Bartram-US Presswire

There is probably no fighter, man or woman, who had taken the world by storm this past year than Ronda Rousey.

Coming into 2012 with a record of 4-0, Rousey dropped to bantamweight to challenge then-Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight champion Miesha Tate.

Although it took her four minutes to do so, Rousey would catch Tate in an armbar, after the champion had gotten out of the first one, and submit Tate to become the champion.

Rousey’s first title defense would be against former champion Sarah Kaufman. It would only take Rousey 54 seconds to get another submission win.

Rousey challenged Strikeforce Women's Featherweight champion "Cyborg" Santos to a fight, though she said she would only fight Santos at bantamweight.

In addition to her accomplishments in competition, Rousey has graced the covers of several magazines. Her brash, but honest attitude has made her one of the most well-known fighters.

Rousey also made history by becoming the first female fighter to be signed by the UFC and was crowned organization’s first women’s bantamweight champion. She will make her first UFC title defense against Liz Carmouche at UFC 157.

4 of 23

Carla "Cookie Monster" Esparza

Esparza
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

While Carla Esparza is known for her ground game, 2012 was a year where the Cookie Monster displayed her punching prowess with two TKO victories.

Esparza made the move from XFC to Invicta Fighting Championships and faced Sarah “White Tiger” Schneider at Invicta FC 2. She finished Schneider in the second round, snapping the White Tiger’s two-fight winning streak.

Esparza returned to the Invicta cage in October where she stopped Lynn Alvarez, two minutes into the first round.

The Cookie Monster will face Brazilian fighter Claudia Gadelha for the Invicta FC Strawweight championship at Invicta FC 4 in January 2013.

5 of 23

Julia "The Jewel" Budd

Budd
Tracy Lee-Invicta FC

This past year saw Canadian fighter Julia Budd rebound from her loss to Ronda Rousey in 2011. Budd made her Invicta FC debut back in July where she finished Elina Nilsson late in the first round via TKO.

Budd would once again show her power in the Invicta cage as she took on Danielle West at Invicta FC 3. Just like with Nilsson, Budd overpowered West and dropped several elbows and strikes below the referee stopped the fight.

6 of 23

Barb "Little Warrior" Honchak

Honchak
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

Flyweight fighter Barb Honchak is 2-0 for 2012. She began the year by defeating the previously unbeaten prospect Bethany Marshall via second round TKO at Invicta FC 2. Her next opponent was Irish veteran fighter Aisling Daly at Invicta FC 3.

After a first round of back and forth action, Honchak controlled Daly for the next two rounds, ultimately getting the decision victory.

Honchak is currently riding a six-fight winning streak. In an interview with MMA Rising.com, she said she is scheduled to face Vanessa Porto for the Invicta FC Flyweight championship in April.

7 of 23

Alexis "Ally-Gator" Davis

Davis
photo via MMAJunkie.com

Alexis Davis took a bigger step in her career when a war in her rematch against rival Sarah Kaufman back in March. Although Kaufman came away with the majority decision, Davis showed the world that she could trade leather with the best.

Davis would make a statement in her next fight against Hitomi Akano at Invicta FC 2. She submitted the Japanese superstar in the second round with a rear naked choke.

Davis is scheduled to rematch Shayna Baszler at Invicta FC 4 in January.

8 of 23

Bec “Rowdy” Hyatt

Bec
Mark J. Rebilas - US Presswire

After losing her debut match in 2011, Bec Hyatt went on a tear this past year, winning her next four fights.

In her most recent fight, Hyatt defeated newcomer Christina Nicole Tatnell in 37 seconds via TKO. In November it was announced that Hyatt had signed with Invicta Fighting championships.

Hyatt will face Joanne Calderwood at Invicta FC 4 on Jan. 5 2013.

9 of 23

Miesha "Cupcake" Tate

Tate
Jayne Kamin-Oncea -US Presswire

Former Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight champion Miesha Tate is one of many fighters who had her ups and downs in 2012. Back in March when she was champion, she made her first title defense against Ronda Rousey, who had said she would drop to bantamweight and challenge for the title.

After a heated exchange outside of the cage, Tate met Rousey in a fast-paced bout where she became the first person to escape Rousey’s armbar. Unfortunately, Rousey would catch the champion in a second armbar and Tate would submit at 4:27 in the first round.

Tate would rebound from her loss and face veteran Julie “Fireball” Kedzie in August. After enduring two rounds of punches from Kedzie, Tate submitted the Fireball in the third round. The fight received praise from fans, including UFC President Dana White.

Although she said she was planning to take some time off, Tate said that she has signed a contract with the UFC.

10 of 23

Vanessa Porto

Porto
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

The year 2012 will be a memorable one for Vanessa Porto. In her first fight of the year, Porto scored a 41 second knockout over Luana Teixeira at Pink Fight 2, back in March.

Although she lost Sarah D’Alelio at Invicta FC 2, Porto’s would defeat longtime fighter Tara LaRosa at Invicta FC 3.

In addition getting the biggest win of her career, Porto also snapped LaRosa’s three-fight winning streak.

11 of 23

Sarah “The Monster” D’Alelio

Sarah
Tracy Lee-Invicta FC

Sarah D’Alelio spent 2012 making her home in the Invicta FC cage. At the promotion’s first event, D’Alelio defeated Vanessa Mariscal by submission via strikes in the second round.

The Monster’s next opponent was Vanessa Porto at Invicta FC 2 where she caught Porto with a reverse triangle armbar, at 3:16 in the first round.

D'Alelio would face Shayna Baszler at Invicta FC where she fell to a rear naked choke in the second round.

D’Alelio will face Brazilian knockout artist Amanda Nunes at Invicta FC 4.

12 of 23

Michelle "The Karate Hottie" Waterson

Waterson
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

After nearly two years away from the cage, Michelle Waterson made her return to mixed martial arts in January where she fought Diana Rael. After being taken to the ground by Rael, Waterson quickly gained control and caught her in a rear naked choke, two minutes into the first round.

Waterson would make her Invicta FC debut in October, where she fought a war with Lacey Schuckman. In the end, Waterson walked away with the split-decision victory. Both she and Schuckman would end up getting "Fight of the Night" honors.

13 of 23

Tecia "The Tiny Tornado" Torres

Torres
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

Tecia Torres came made her professional MMA debut back in October at Invicta FC 3. Prior to making the transition to pro, she won seven of her amateur MMA bouts, a 16-4 record in kickboxing and Muay Thai fights and accumulated a plethora of titles.

Torres went up against Kaiyana Rain at Invicta FC 3 in a back and forth match where she came away with the decision victory.

Torres will face Paige VanZant at Invicta FC 4 in Jan. 5 2013.

14 of 23

Claudia Gadelha

Claudia
Rafael Suanes-US Presswire

Claudia Gadelha is an undefeated Brazilian prospect who went 2-0 in 2012.

Back in April, Gadelha fought Canadian veteran Valeria Letourneau to a split-decision, which snapped the Canadian fighter’s three-fight winning streak.

In her next fight, Gadelha made short work of Adriana Viera by TKO, 95 seconds in the first round.

Gadelha will face Carla Esparza for the Invicta FC Strawweight championship at Invicta FC 4. With both fighters having a total of 12 submission wins between them, this title fight promises to be a back and forth ground battle.

15 of 23

Sara McMann

McMann
Tracy Lee-Invicta FC

Olympic wrestler and MMA prospect Sara McMann took the next step in mixed martial arts career this past year. In January, she defeated Japanese MMA veteran Hitomi Akano by decision.

In July, she headlined her first event against Shayna Baszler at Invicta FC 2. After a back and forth battle, McMann came away with the decision victory and the biggest win of her young career.

In addition to her wins inside of the cage, McMann also made after signing a contract with Strikeforce in September. She was scheduled to face Liz Carmouche in November, until she had to pull out of the fight due to injury.

16 of 23

Liz "Girl-Rilla" Carmouche

Liz
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

Liz Carmouche is one of more powerful fighters in women’s MMA and she showed it in 2012.

At Invicta FC 1, she quickly finished Ashleigh Curry, winning the fight by TKO, two minutes in the first round.

At Invicta FC 2, she once again displayed her power and ground prowess as she submitted MMA veteran Kaitlin Young in the second round with a rear naked choke.

Carmouche has recently made headlines after being named the number one contender to Ronda Rousey’s UFC Women’s Bantamweight title. She will face Rousey at UFC 157 in February 2013.

17 of 23

Ayaka Hamasaki

Ayaka
Tracy Lee-Invicta FC

Jewels Lightweight champion Ayaka Hamasaki spent 2012 asserting her place as one of the more dangerous fighters at 115 pounds as well as extending her undefeated streak to 9-0.

Back in May, Hamasaki successfully defended her Jewels title against Yuka Tsuji after submitted her with a kimura, three minutes into round one.

For her next fight she changed scenery and traveled to Kansas where she fought Lacey Schuckman at Invicta FC 2. After controlling most of the fight, Hamasaki took down Schuckman and moved to a mounted crucifix, which led to the armbar and the submission victory.

Hamasaki was originally scheduled to face Carla Esparza for the Invicta FC Strawweight title, but ended up defending her Jewels Lightweight championship against Emi Fujino on Dec. 15. After three rounds, Hamasaki came away with the decision victory and retained her title.

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Jessamyn "The Gun" Duke

Duke
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

Jessamyn Duke is one of several women’s MMA fighters who made their pro debut in 2012. She fought her last amateur bout in March against Elizabeth Phillips and won by guillotine submission in the second round.

Duke’s first professional fight was against Suzie Montero at Invicta FC 2 where she scored a TKO victory in the third round.

For her second fight, Duke fought rival Marciea Allen. Late in the first round, Allen gained top position after a failed leglock attempt and delivered some ground and pound. After tossing her mouth guard, Duke was able lock in an armbar and get the submission.

Duke’s performance would earn her “Submission of the Night” honors.

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Jessica "Evil" Eye

Evil
photo via MMAJunkie.com

Jessica Eye fought four times in 2012 and she emerged victorious in every bout.

Eye earned a decision victory over Kelly Warren at NAAFS: Caged Vengeance 10 back in February. Following that match, she would earn another decision victory over Anita Rodriguez at Bellator 66. NAAFS: Rock N Rumble 6, she would go the distance with Angela Magana and walk away with the decision.

The biggest moment in Eye’s career would come at Bellator 83 against Bellator 115-pound champion Zolia Gurgel. After Eye had Gurgel locked in a standing arm triangle choke, the referee stopped the fight, giving Eye the victory via technical submission.

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Felice "Lil' Bulldog" Herrig

Herrig
Courtesy of SuckerPunch Entertainment and Tomba Images

Every year, Felice Herrig continues to improve her fight game and in 2012 the Lil’ Bulldog went 3-0 in competition.

Herrig, who had signed a multi-fight contract with XFC, began the year with a match against Patricia Vidonic at XFC 17 back April. The Lil’ Bulldog maintained control for the entire fight and would get the decision. Her next bout was against British fighter Simona Soukupova where she once again controlled the cage with her striking and clinch work.

Herrig was originally supposed to face Michele Gutierrez in a rematch at Bellator 84, but Gutierrez pulled out of the fight due to a hand injury.

Vidonic would step up to fight Herrig once again; however Herrig would once again command the cage and defeat Vidonic by decision.

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Joanne Calderwood

Calderwood
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

Scottish Muay Thai fighter Joanne Calderwood decided to try her hand at mixed martial arts. Making her professional debut in February, Calderwood won her first four fights, with three of them being finishes.

Calderwood made an impression at her Invicta FC debut back in October against Ashley Cummins when she scored a first round knockout after delivering a knee to the body. She was awarded “Knockout of the Night” honors.

In addition to mixed martial arts, Calderwood also plans to continue fighting in Muay Thai. She will meet Bec Hyatt at Invicta FC 4 on Jan. 5 2013.

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Jessica Penne

Penne
Esther Lin-Invicta FC

Jessica Penne came had spent over a year away from the cage when she made her Invicta FC debut back in May. She fought Lisa Ellis a bloody battle that ended when Penne scored a TKO in the third round.

Invicta would later announce Penne as one of the contestants in the atomweight title match at Invicta FC 3, the other fighter being then-undefeated Naho Sugiyama.

Halfway through the second round, Penne locked in a triangle choke on Sugiyama, who had top position. At 2:20, Sugiyama tapped out and Penne became the first Invicta FC Atomweight champion.

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Who is missing from this list?

who?
Ron Chenoy-US Presswire

Is there a fighter who should be on this list? Answer with a comment below or send a tweet to @alstover with the hashtag #RantMMA.


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