It was a fight that had people buzzing like nothing else, as hardcore and casual fans alike longed for Saturday night to arrive. The out-of-ring antics of Nick Diaz sold the fight, both for fans of the rebellious Stockton native and fans of Georges St. Pierre that wanted to see him unleash hell upon his opponent.
The first fight of its kind inside the Octagon, Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche did well to represent the female mixed martial artists of the world in their title clash at UFC 157. Defending champion Rousey found herself in trouble right away in this bout, yet using her judo skills and a good bit of patience and grit, she was able to avoid the disaster of a first round submission. Back in control, Rousey turned the tables on her foe, and once again found her trademark armbar before the end of the first round.
The first UFC title bout in many years to occur on English shores, Renan Barao and Michael McDonald put everything out there for four hard rounds. When the dust settled, it was Barao who has puzzled out his young foe and found a submission towards the end of the fourth round, having defended his interim title and golden ticket to face Dominick Cruz.
A year away from the cage and an elite challenger to shake it off is a daunting task for any fighter, but at UFC 156, Jose Aldo looked beyond ready. Facing former Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar at 145 lbs, Aldo proved to not only be the faster fighter, but his precision striking and takedown defense were on point like never before. While Edgar had his moments and made it a fight, Aldo's laser-like jab and counter striking turned his opponent's face to a bloody mess for most of the fight, taking a well-earned unanimous decision.
The saying goes "You're not the champion until you defend the title", and after his bout with John Dodson, "Mighty Mouse" Demetrious Johnson was finally the champion. Having perhaps the highest fight IQ in the game, an amazing ability to morph his style mid-fight and being an absolute sponge for techniques in the gym, DJ will improve time after time he steps into the cage.
Headlining the lackluster UFC 155 card, Cain Velasquez came to Las Vegas with revenge on his mind. Facing the man who had beaten him for the title at the inaugural UFC on Fox show, Velasquez was counted out by many in the rematch against Junior Dos Santos. A violent punching machine with fast hips and a rock-hard head, Junior Dos Santos hadn't found himself in a lick of trouble since coming to the UFC, and considering he'd dispatched Velasquez in under a minute last time out, it was hard to imagine anything had changed.
Spearheading the highly-successful UFC on Fox 5, Benson Henderson executed a perfect game plan against opponent Nate Diaz. Using his foot work and long range attacks coupled with his clinch wrestling, Henderson attacked Diaz at his two weakest ranges (fighting from his back or in close) and never let the challenger get into gear. After five rounds, Henderson walked away with a painless decision win, looking every bit the champion.
On November 17th, after a 19 month layoff due to a knee injury, Georges St-Pierre returned to his division to unify the titles. Taking on a game challenger in Carlos Condit at UFC 154, GSP showed that not only was he back in fighting form, he was perhaps even better than he left. We saw not only his pure athletic abilities and prowess in different aspects of MMA itself, but the grit of a champion as he went five hard rounds, and bounced back from a near fall in the third round.