With 2012 now long gone and 2013 in full swing, and because this is usually when I get these articles out when I used to do them at Inside Pulse, I felt this was a good time to put out my awards picks for MMA in 2012. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, and because of that I do have winners for the years I didn’t do an awards article. But I think this is more important to note than usual: I follow the Dave Meltzer awards voting method meaning the eligibility period for these awards is Dec. 1, 2011, to Nov. 30, 2012. And, as always, THIS IS BASED ON WHAT I’VE SEEN AT THE TIME THIS IS POSTED. THAT ALSO GOES FOR ALL 2009, 2010 & 2011 WINNERS IN THIS SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCE.
This section will be dedicated to the best of MMA in 2012 in the below categories.
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR
This is the fighter that has most impressed in competition. Titles don’t necessarily matter, though, they do help a fighter’s résumé for the year. More attention is given to the fighter’s performance and to fighters who didn’t lose during the year. There are no weight-class restrictions.
My Previous Winners:
2006: Mirko Cro Cop
2007: Quinton Jackson
2008: Georges St. Pierre
2009: Jose Aldo
2010: Cain Velasquez
2011: Jon Jones
2012 FIGHTER OF THE YEAR: Ronda Rousey (Strikeforce)
2nd Place: Johny Hendricks (UFC)
3rd Place: Jon Jones (UFC)
The first time I even have a female MMA fighter in my top three for a year turns out to be quite the pick. Rousey flat out destroyed her opponents in 2012, injuring one in submission and tapping out the second in under a minute. Hendricks barely lost this one because KO’ing two name fighters in UFC‘s welterweight division in under a minute was a staggering feat. However, he did have a tough time against Josh Koscheck in a very close fight that Hendricks won with a split decision. Jones also had another great year, but he did have trouble with Lyoto Machida before submitting him and was visibly hurt by an armbar from Vitor Belfort that had Jones in trouble early in their title fight. In terms of dominance throughout the year, Rousey was simply the best.
PROMOTION OF THE YEAR
This is the promotion of mixed martial arts that has had the best combination of the following: quality of cards, business success, expanding their name and brand, and advancing the sport of MMA.
2009: UFC (2)
2010: UFC (3)
2011: UFC (4)
2012 BEST PROMTOION: UFC
2nd Place: Bellator Fighting Championships
3rd Place: One Fighting Championship
Was there any doubt? Once again, UFC continued to produce more pay-per-views with solid buy rates or better. The better was helped by the feud between Anderson Silva & Chael Sonnen and the return of Georges St. Pierre. The promotion ran five nationally televised cards during the year with the quality of the cards getting better through the year. Bellator continued to expand and get word of mouth out about their brand, not to mention, that I love the tournament system and that Bellator went through another year without any tournament getting ripped to shreds due to injury. One FC began this year with bold declarations and even bolder ambition. And I like that.
CARD OF THE YEAR
This is the best MMA card during the year. This is strictly about quality of fights as the importance of the fight at the time only weighs in if the fight turns out to be an instant classic or fight of the year candidate or really good in some other way.
2008: UFC 91: Couture Vs. Lesnar
2009: WEC 41: Brown Vs. Faber II
2010: UFC 117: Silva Vs. Sonnen
2011: UFC 129: St. Pierre Vs. Shields
2012 CARD OF THE YEAR: UFC on Fox 4: Shogun/Vera
2nd Place: UFC 144: Edgar Vs. Henderson
3rd Place: UFC 148: Silva Vs. Sonnen 2
While both runner-ups were solid cards up and down, UFC’s fourth nationally televised card is still it’s best outing in terms of quality. The undercard was the standard mix of fun submissions and fights going the distance, and this card even had a no-contest thrown in for good measure. But the main card is what put this one over the top as the best card of the year. Two fabulous knockouts, one from Mike Swick in his return to the promotion and another by Machida after schooling Ryan Bader for almost a round and a half. In between those knockouts was a sure-fire fight of the year candidate from Joe Lauzon and Jamie Varner in a fight that switched from a standing war to a ground war several times. All of that was capped off by a main-event that was an even clearer fight of the year candidate.
BEST PROMOTIONAL MOVE
This is the best thing a promotion or promoter did during the year to benefit the promotion and its growth
2008: UFC uses Brock Lesnar’s previous career in WWE to promote his first UFC fight
2009: Strikeforce debuts on national T.V. with Fedor
2010: Bellator signs with Fox Sports Net
2011: UFC signs with Fox Sports
2012 BEST PROMOTIONAL MOVE: Strikeforce books Ronda Rousey in main-events of cards
2nd Place: UFC runs many nationally televised cards
3rd Place: Bellator uses TNA wrestling to help promote their promotions, future shows, and King Mo as a star
Rousey became the face of female MMA in 2012 and Strikeforce smartly saw that and gave her fights main-event treatment whether in advertising, in position on the card, or both. However it was done, her fights were one of the most anticipated fights or the most anticipated fight of the night. It produced some good numbers for Strikeforce on Showtime and the sport got a new star. UFC and Bellator were both right in their respective moves as both moves helped strengthen their relationships with their respective networks.
MOST UNDERRATED FIGHTER
This is the fighter that had success during the year, but didn’t get the attention they should have from the rankings, the matchmakers, or both.
2008: Eddie Alvarez
2009: Eddie Alvarez (2)
2010: Jorge Santiago
2011: Renan Pegado
2012 MOST UNDERRATED FIGHTER: Chan Sung-Jung (UFC)
2nd Place: Alexander Shlemenko (Freelance)
3rd Place: Renan Pegado (UFC)
How can this guy not be the most underrated fighter in MMA? His first fight during my designated period ended with him tying the quickest knockout in UFC history, and then he wins a fight that will likely be my pick for the fight of the year and is already been basically unanimously voted as such. The fact that those two fights took place and “The Korean Zombie” still hasn’t gotten a shot at the UFC featherweight title is proof of how underrated he is in my opinion.