Top 10 MMA Fighters in 2012

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MMA in 2012

UFC Belt Ron Chenoy - US Presswire

Strikeforce cancels two of their events due to a combination of a fighter being injured, a champion refusing to take a fight on short notice and a lack of a strong main card.

Ronda Rousey is the first woman signed to the UFC and becomes the promotion’s women’s bantamweight champion.

Georges St-Pierre returns to action and defeats interim champion Carlos Condit to solidify his place as the undisputed king of the 170-pound weight class.

These are just some of the newsworthy events that happened in MMA this past year. To say that 2012 has been a memorable year for mixed martial arts is a bit of an understatement.

New promotions like Invicta FC came out of the gate with three successful fight cards while older promotions like Strikeforce held what could be their last events. As the UFC found its home on Fox, Bellator became partners with Spike TV.

There were some fighters whose careers declined, while there were others who stepped up and etched their names in the history books whether it was winning their first world championships, extending an already impressive winning streak or just standing out in their own way.

Here is the top 10 MMA Fighters of 2012. This list does not reflect any type of MMA rankings, but rather showcases fighters who stood out in 2012.

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Renan Barão

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After UFC Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz was injured and unable to defend his title against Urijah Faber, the UFC decided to make an interim title belt between Faber and Renan Barão at UFC 149.

Barão had come off of a decision victory over Scott “Young Guns” Jorgensen at UFC 143. In the fight against Faber, he used leg kicks to wear down the former WEC champion, similar to the strategy Jose Aldo used in his fight against Faber back in 2010.

After five rounds, Barão was declared the winner and the new UFC Interim Bantamweight champion. With his two victories in 2012, he remains unbeaten in 29 fights.

Barão will defend the interim bantamweight title against Michael McDonald in February 2013.

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Ronda Rousey

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In the span of one year, Ronda Rousey went from a Strikeforce prospect to one of the most recognized fighters in all MMA.

Her brash and genuine personality combined with her killer instinct and grappling skills that resulted in six first-round submission victories have caught the eye of everyone, including UFC President Dana White.

Her accolades in 2012 include: winning and successfully defending the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight championship, gracing the cover of several publications and being the first woman to be signed by the UFC.

The next year also looks to be a big one for Rousey as she will make her first title defense against Liz Carmouche in February.

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Francis Carmont

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After making his UFC debut in 2011, Francis Carmont used 2012 to slowly climb up the ranks of the middleweight division.

In April he spoiled the UFC debut of Swiss fighter Magnus Cedenblad. He submitted Cedenblad in the second round with a rear naked choke and snapped the Swiss fighter’s seven-fight winning streak.

Carmont’s next challenge came in July, in the form of Karlos Vemola. Just like he did with Cedenblad, Carmont submitted Vemola with a rear naked choke early in the second round. This was Vemola’s first submission loss.

Carmont would then face UFC veteran Tom Lawlor. Unlike in his previous two fights, Carmont was pushed to the limit by Lawlor, who many had thought won all three rounds. In the end Carmont came away with a controversial split-decision win.

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Rafael dos Anjos

dos Anjos
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

After ending 2011 with a loss to countryman Gleison Tibau, Brazilian fighter Rafael dos Anjos spent 2012 adding three wins to his MMA record.

The first back was in May when he submitted Iranian fighter Kamal Shalorus early in the first round at UFC on Fuel TV: Korean Zombie vs. Poirier. Dos Anjos would return to action Anthony “The Assassin” Njokuani, who was originally scheduled to face Paul Taylor. After three rounds of scoring takedowns and landing some solid low kicks and strikes, dos Anjos came away with the decision.

The third fight for dos Anjos came against UFC veteran Mark Bocek at UFC 154. Dos Anjos was able to keep Bocek from gaining any solid offense while also using his striking to damage Bocek’s face.

If this past year is a reflection of things to come, then 2013 will be an even bigger year for dos Anjos.

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Roy "Big Country" Nelson

Ron Chenoy-US Presswire

Whether fans love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny that Roy “Big Country” Nelson made his presence known throughout 2012.

He began the year by welcoming back Fabricio Werdum in the octagon at UFC 143. Although he lost by decision, Nelson’s performance during the fight helped earn him and Werdum “Fight of the Night Honors.”

Nelson’s next fight would come at UFC 146 where he scored a 51-second knockout over Dave Herman that earned him his second “Knockout of the Night” bonus.

In July it was announced that Nelson would coach against Shane Carwin in season 16 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” Nelson’s laid back approach to coaching would raise the eyebrows of critics and fighters on the show.

He was scheduled to face Carwin on Dec. 15 on the TUF finale, but Carwin pulled out of the fight due to injury. Nelson would instead face Matt Mitirone and eventually win the fight via TKO in the first round.

After the Mitrione fight, Nelson pointed over to Dana White, possibly signaling that he wants a shot at the UFC Heavyweight championship.

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Anderson "The Spider" Silva

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Regarded as the number one fighter in the world, 2012 was another great year for UFC Middleweight champion Anderson “The Spider” Silva. He had spent the majority of the time feuding with contender Chael Sonnen which led to their rematch at UFC 148.

Silva was able to finish Sonnen in the second via TKO, after Sonnen slipped and Silva delivered a knee to the chest, followed by a barrage of strikes.

The Spider had planned to take the rest of the year off although he had offered to fight at UFC 151 before it was canceled. Dana White would later call and ask him to fight Stephan Bonnar in a light heavyweight match in October at UFC 153. Silva accepted and defeated Bonnar via TKO late in the first round.

Although Silva has said he would fight fellow UFC champions Jon Jones or Georges St-Pierre, there is speculation that he will face Michael Bisping if the British fighter defeats Vitor Belfort in January 2013.

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Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson

Mighty Mouse
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Demetrious Johnson was one of four fighters who were destined to make history by becoming the UFC’s first flyweight champion.

Johnson faced Ian “Uncle Creepy” McCall back in March where the fight ended in majority decision win until UFC President Dana White said there was an error in the judges’ scoring and the match was ruled a majority draw.

The rematch between Johnson and McCall would take place in June. It was as fast-paced as their first encounter. In the end, Mighty Mouse would get decision.

Johnson would face Joseph Benavidez for the flyweight title at UFC 152. Both men fought at a quick pace, capitalizing on small openings and countering each other. After five rounds, Johnson would earn a split-decision victory and become the UFC Flyweight champion.

Johnson will make his first title defense against John Dodson in the main event of UFC on Fox 6, in January 2013.

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Stefan "Skyscraper" Struve

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UFC heavyweight Stefan Struve went 3-0 in 2012, and these are no mere wins.

Back in February, he snapped Dave Herman’s three-fight winning streak in the second round after dropping him with a combination of kicks, followed by a vicious ground and pound.

At UFC 146, he made short work of Lavar Johnson by submitting him with an armbar in 65 seconds.

Struve’s most impressive victory of the year would come in his fight against the previously unbeaten Stipe Miocic back in September.

After Miocic won the first round, Struve came back and backed Miocic against the cage before delivering several right-handed strikes until the fight was stopped by referee Herb Dean.

Struve will face Mark Hunt on March 3, 2013 when the UFC returns to Japan.

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Matt "The Immortal" Brown

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Matt Brown is no stranger to competing in several fights in a year. He won four of seven fights back in 2006 and then went 2-3 in 2007.

The fighter known as the Immortal established his place as a welterweight contender by going 4-0 in 2012.

Back In February he scored a second round TKO over Chris Cope and then went on to defeat Stephen Thompson at UFC 145 by decision, giving Thompson the first loss in his professional career. In June, Brown would replace the injured Matt Riddle and fight Luis Ramos, finishing him by TKO in the second round.

However Brown’s most impressive victory of the year had to be in his fight against Mike Swick at UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Diaz. After controlling the first round, Brown delivered a right that sent Swick to the canvas.

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Benson "Smooth" Henderson

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Current UFC Lightweight champion Benson Henderson had spent most of 2012 feuding with former champion Frankie Edgar over the title.

At UFC 144, Henderson and Edgar engaged in a close match but in the end, Henderson walked away with a unanimous decision victory, a “Fight of the Night” bonus and most importantly, the UFC Lightweight belt.

Henderson and Edgar would rematch at UFC 150. Although many had thought Edgar had won the fight, Henderson would come out on top with a split-decision victory.

In his second title defense, Henderson took on Nate Diaz in what should have been the champion’s hardest challenge. In all five rounds Henderson used his power and submission defense to neutralize Diaz’s striking and ground game.

Henderson’s next opponent has not been named, although the winner of the Anthony Pettis vs. Donald Cerrone fight in January 2013 would be more than worthy of a title shot. Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez has also voiced his desire to fight Henderson.

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Who is missing from this list?

Rafael Suanes - US Presswire

How do you think these fighters will fare in 2013? Is there a fighter on this list that is missing? Answer with a comment below or get on Twitter and send a tweet to @alstover with the hashtag #RantMMA2012