Fight Network's Top 10 MMA Fights & Top 10 Upsets of 2012
Ariel Shnerer / January 2, 2013 - 5:27pm
TOP 10 FIGHTS
In a tremendous co-headliner at UFC 155, Miller came out swinging with one of his best offensive displays in the Octagon. A deep gash formed over Lauzon's eye, but he still threatened on the ground in the second round. With blood streaming down his face, a resilient Lauzon attempted to finish the fight until the final bell, but Miller's aggression caused significant damage and his punishing combinations earned him a hard-fought decision. It was another "Fight of the Night" performance for Lauzon, who now holds the UFC record for post-fight bonuses at 12.
These exciting featherweights waged war for four hotly contested rounds this past May. Jung continued to shock doubters as he mixed up his offense and secured a fourth-round D'Arce choke to put Poirier away. This was a great example of the benefit of making all main events five rounders.
In a back-and-forth tilt for the lightweight title, Henderson and Edgar took home "Fight of the Night" honors in Japan. It was a competitive bout with Edgar showcasing great resilience and Henderson mixing up his offensive tricks. In the end, Henderson came away with gold around his waist.
The first Fuel TV main event delivered fireworks as Ellenberger gave Sanchez all he could handle for two rounds. Sanchez showcased his warrior spirit in the third round, coming on strong and nearly putting Ellenberger away with a furious rally. It was too late, however, as Ellenberger came away with a unanimous decision.
The stakes were high for this one as St. Pierre made his long awaited return from a knee injury that sidelined him for over a year. The interim champion Condit was coming off a tactical decision win over Nick Diaz in February. St. Pierre turned in a dynamic performance, while Condit also had his moments with a head kick that dropped the champion in the third round. After a gutsy return effort, St. Pierre prevailed by unanimous decision in front of his home crowd in Montreal.
With a lot riding on this rematch, Silva and Sonnen had the world watching as they faced off in Las Vegas. Sonnen appeared to successfully replicate his strategy in their first meeting by taking Silva down and keeping him there for the first round. Silva caught the challenger in the second, catching him off balance, landing a brutal kick to the body on the ground and pummeling him into a shell. The magnitude of this fight should not be overlooked and it was fun while it lasted.
Probably not the name we're accustomed to associating with fights of the year, Fitch recorded one of his most impressive UFC wins in his opponent's home country. Silva was one of the division's best prospects, while Fitch hadn't competed since his 12-second knockout loss to Johny Hendricks. Fitch was as aggressive as ever, playing a strong positional game and earning a unanimous decision in a "Fight of the Night" effort.
In a back-and-forth lightweight tussle, Lauzon overcame some heavy shots from Varner throughout the contest before locking in a triangle choke for the dramatic third-round finish.
This was a significant fight as it marked the first 125-pound bout in UFC history. Fans got to see a wide array of skills, which helped legitimize the flyweight class. The controversy surrounding Johnson's initial victory and subsequent reversal to a majority draw didn't taint the quality of the fight.
In the Season 6 lightweight tournament quarterfinal, Woodard and Freire engaged in Bellator's most spirited fight of the year. The end came when both men were hurt from a flurry and Woodard rolled into a kimura to pull off the upset.
In a frenzied female fray, Tate and Kedzie went back and forth in a fight that wasn't aired on the main Showtime broadcast. It's a true shame since it was one of the most competitive female fights in recent memory. Tate submitted Kedzie via armbar in the third round, a fitting finish since Ronda Rousey's armbar cost her the title.
TOP 10 UPSETS
Sure, Varner was coming off a 40-second smashing of Drew Fickett in February. But few pundits really gave him much of a chance as he returned to the UFC on short notice against the highly regarded unbeaten Brazilian muay thai specialist Barboza. Varner didn't get the memo as he blitzed Barboza in the first round, putting him away by TKO at the 3:23 mark. It was a great comeback story for a fighter who was seriously contemplating retirement after dropping a decision to Dakota Cochrane in September 2011. A win over Melvin Guillard in December has now firmly repositioned Varner as a top lightweight contender heading into next year.
Le was coming off a unanimous decision over Patrick Cote in July, but Franklin was the widespread favorite going into this one. Franklin was coming off a unanimous decision win over Wanderlei Silva in June. After a few early exchanges, Le scored one of the year's most devastating knockouts, victimizing Rich Franklin with an overhand punch to lay him out cold at the 2:17 mark.
Although Jackson has been highly inconsistent throughout his career, he was favored going into his fight with the 29-year-old wrestler Bader. You just couldn't help but remember his first-round submission loss to Tito Ortiz in July 2011. Little did we know "Rampage" was injured and overweight. The former two-time NCAA Division I All-American controlled the former UFC light heavyweight champion for 15 minutes, notching a one-sided decision and significantly dropping Jackson's stock in the division.
Earlier in the night, fans were treated to another shocking upset. The Japanese grinder Okami was having his way with Boetsch for two rounds, as many observers were expecting. Suddenly, Boetsch rocked Okami with a head kick in the third round, pouncing on the opportunity to finish him with heavy punches. The only other man to finish Okami since 2003 is middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Boetsch proved himself as a top middleweight with his performance in February.
Expectations were high for Hioki when he joined the UFC in 2011. After a forgettable debut against George Roop last October, Hioki rebounded with a commanding decision over Bart Palaszewski in February. Lamas, who was coming off impressive showings against Matt Grice and Cub Swanson, wasn't being overlooked. Still, Hioki, a former Shooto, TKO and Sengoku featherweight champion, was favored. Lamas was the better man as he assumed key positions, landed better strikes and threatened with submissions. The outcome was a shocker for many fans who had followed Hioki's career from Japan.
The 21-year-old McDonald is one of the most impressive young prospects in the UFC. Ten years McDonald's elder, the former WEC champion Torres was not exactly a huge favorite. McDonald was definitely given a shot to win, but nobody was expecting him to lay Torres unconscious just 3:18 into the opening frame. The win sent Torres packing from the UFC and he's since dropped yet another fight to Marlon Moraes under the World Series of Fighting banner this past November.
Heading into the tourney final to crown the first-ever UFC flyweight champion, Benavidez was being favored. The Team Alpha Male product had closer fights with bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, in addition to finishing his first-round opponent Yasuhiro Urushitani. Johnson had to overcome a pair of fights with Ian McCall, but he was outstanding against Benavidez, threatening in all positions and utilizing his trademark movement to stifle his opponent's offense.
Jung was actually coming off a pair of impressive finishes of Leonard Garcia and Mark Hominick, but Poirier was crushing his opposition on what seemed like his path to a title shot. In a fantastic fight, Jung showcased a vast arsenal of skills against Poirier before submitting him with a D'Arce choke in the fourth round. The win has now positioned Jung at the forefront of featherweight contenders.
Hominick's downfall that led to his recent retirement began with a seven-second knockout loss at the hands of Chan Sung Jung last December. However, everyone was expecting an easy bounce-back fight against the unheralded Hawaiian Yagin. Instead, Yagin punished Hominick with heavy counter shots, dropping him several times over the course of their fight to earn a split decision.
With only six professional fights under his belt, Brimage had really flown under the radar as a featherweight contender. Meanwhile, the 25-year-old grappling wizard Hettes had yet to taste defeat, while defeating Alex Caceres and Nam Phan in the Octagon. Brimage stuck to a calculated game plan, battering the body and outworking Hettes to earn a unanimous decision much to the chagrin of many oddsmakers.