Well yet another year has come and gone, 2012 was an odd year for MMA but the year will not easily be forgotten. This year saw the UFC all over network TV, Bellator stumble its way into next year and smaller promotions like RFA, LFC and XFC make a name for themselves. Unfortunately it also saw Strikeforce take a nosedive and the UFC cancel an event for the first time.
2012 had its ups and downs but glance back at the year that was and it would be hard to argue that the highs didn’t outweigh the lows. To mark the end of the year and close 2012 out we have compiled our first-ever year-end awards. Enjoy and remember that without you the reader we are nothing, Happy New Year!
Fighter of the Year: Johny Hendricks
- Welterweight Johny Hendricks went into this year on a massive high, having knocked out the highly ranked Jon Fitch in just 12 seconds on December 30, 2011 at UFC 141. With the division in a holding pattern waiting for champion Georges St. Pierre to return from injury, Hendricks took on two top ranked welterweights in 2012. He defeated Josh Koscheck via split decision and then capped the year off with a first round brutal KO of Martin Kampmann at UFC 154. In a perfect world Hendricks would be fighting for the title at UFC 156, instead he’ll be fighting Jake Ellenbeger while GSP fights Nick Diaz.
Honorable Mention: Benson Henderson, Stephan Struve, Ronda Rousey, Daniel Straus
Fight of the Year: Georges St. Pierre vs. Carlos Condit (UFC 154)
- In a year full of spectacular bouts, this one stood out the most for us at MMA Valor, with many classic FOTY elements. With a title on the line, a dominant champion returns for injury to defeat a game rival. A grueling twenty-five minutes of action with near falls on both sides, blood, sweat and tears on the mat, and each man having to dig deep to keep going during the match. Both fighters came out of this with their stock raised higher than ever before and made for one of the best title fights, not only of this year, but any year.
Honorable Mention: TJ Grant vs. Evan Dunham (UFC 152), Benson Henderson vs. Frankie Edgar (UFC 150) Miesha Tate vs. Julie Kedzie (Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Taufman), Gilbert Melendez vs. Josh Thompson (Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier)
Knockout of the Year: Edson Barboza against Terry Etim at UFC 142
- It was merely a formality to wait a year to give Barboza his due here, as anyone that saw this knew it would take KOTY. An out of nowhere wheel kick landed flush on the face of Terry Etim, sending him to the canvas stiff as a board, and Barboza’s hometown crowd roars at the sight. You know when a KO finds its way into a national sports broadcast that it was just that damn good.
Honorable Mention: Johny Hendricks against Martin Kampmann (UFC 154), Brian Rogers against Vitor Vianna (Bellator 61), Cung Le against Rich Franklin (UFC on FUEL TV 6), Pat Curran against Joe Warren (Bellator 60)
- It’s hard not to give Ronda Rousey the submission of the year when she currently has the left arm of former Strikeforce champion Miesha Tate on her mantel. Known for her armbars, Rousey bent the arm of Tate in all the wrong places to capture the Strikeforce Bantamweight championship. Rousey is 9-0 overall in MMA (Pro & Amateur) all with first round armbar submission.
Honorable Mention: Lloyd Woodard against Patricky Freire (Bellator 62), Martin Kampmann against Thiago Alves (UFC on FX), Marcin Held against Rich Clementi (Bellator 81)
Chin of the year: Fabio Maldonado against Glover Teixeira at UFC 153
- The name Glover Teixeira strikes fear in many light heavyweights in the UFC but at UFC 153 Fabio Maldonado stepped up on short notice to face the Brazilian wrecking machine. For 10 minutes Teixeira hit Maldonado with everything legally possible and he could not put him away. With a mixture of heart, courage and stupidity, Maldonado kept pressing forward despite the ongoing assault Teixeira was putting on. The fight was stopped between rounds two and three but Maldonado was willing and ready to touch gloves in round three.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Healy against Jesse Ronson (Score Fighting Series 7), Virgil Zwicker against Guto Inocente (Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier), Roy Nelson against Fabricio Werdum (UFC 143)
Comeback Fighter: Dan Hardy
- From four consecutive losses and one foot out the door to a 2-0 2012 is what Nottingham,England’s own Dan Hardy accomplished. Hardy fought the top guys in the welterweight division in 2010 & 2011 to a disappointing 0-4 record but his exciting style and fan favorite personality kept him on the UFC roster. This year Hardy scored a quick knockout of Duane Ludwig as well as a dominate decision win against Ultimate fighter winner Amir Sadollah in Nottingham,England.
Honorable Mention: Demian Maia, Mike Swick, Jon Fitch
- While we’ll see the swan song of Strikeforce at the beginning of 2013, their outing in May was, P4P, one of the best events of all time. Back and forth battles on the prelims, including an insane fight between Virgil Zwicker and Guto Inocente set up the main card that didn’t fail to disappoint with two title fights, both of which were inconsideration for FOTY. Gilbert Melendez took on Josh Thomson for the 3rd time, and the very best incarnation of both men came to battle. We also had the culmination of the Strikeforce HW Grand Prix, where a replacement fighter took the crown in a bloody and brutal match against Josh Barnett. From top to bottom, Strikeforce Barnett vs. Cormier was the event of the year and possibly one of the best broadcasts in MMA history.
Honorable Mention: UFC 146 (May 26th in Las Vegas, Nevada), UFC 142 (January 14th in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), UFC on FOX 5 (December 8th in Seattle, Washington)
2012 MMA “Valor” Award (Fighter who shows personal bravery/Strength): Michael Chiesa (Dad died and won TUF)
- While the opinions of TUF are violently varied between all fans of MMA, it can sometimes bring a very human element to our sport. Enter Michael Chiesa, cast member of TUF: Live, who walked into the Ultimate Fighter house knowing his father was on Death’s Door. With his father passing away the day he entered the house, Chiesa was left with the decision to stay in the competition, or drop out to be with his grieving family, but wanting to honor his father’s memory, decided to continue in the competition. I’ll be the first to say I didn’t expect someone with such a heavy heart to do well against this murderer’s row of fighter, but Chiesa was more than happy to prove me wrong. Facing three more matches in the midst of his personal tragedy, Chiesa took apart Jeremy Larsen, Justin Lawrence and James Vick as he climbed through the bracket, facing the highly-regarded Al Iaquinta in the live finale. With this season being shot live, Chiesa had literally no time to himself to grieve, being thrown into the biggest fight of his life a week after leaving the TUF house. Three minutes later, he was holding the TUF trophy and dedicated his bout to his late father and mother to having been there for him. It was the kind of story book ending Hollywood writes about, but seldom plays out in reality, yet Chiesa rose above his pain to achieve his dreams in front of millions.
Honorable Mention: Jon Fitch, Nick Newell
Disappointment of the Year: Injuries in the UFC
- The one constant throughout 2012 were the injuries in the UFC and the events they turned upside down. The “injury bug” hit main events, co-main events and complete main cards. Nearly every event in 2012 was affected in some way by injuries and several great fights never happened because of it. Injuries happen in every sport but what the UFC went through in 2012 was off the charts.
Honorable Mention: Cancellation of UFC 151, Bellator Heavyweight division, Strikeforce crashes and burns
Thanks to @JoshWoodMMA, @MikeHammershith and @The_Fleek for their work on the 2012 MMA Valor Year End Awards