COMMENTARY | In 2012, the UFC showcased a plethora of memorable moments in mixed martial arts. The following highlights 10 of the most defining and awe-inspiring events of the past 12 months.
1.) UFC 153: Anderson Silva vs. Stephan Bonnar - On October 13, undisputed middleweight champion Anderson Silva put his undefeated UFC record on the line when he battled perennial light heavyweight journeyman Stephan Bonnar. This fight was significant because 1.) it was only the third time that Silva fought at light heavyweight and did so on short notice. In that, 2.) he dominated a steroid-induced Bonnar. The "American Psycho's" attempt to gain an artificial advantage over the middleweight champion was thwarted by Silva's "jedi" fighting skills, veteran experience, and greatest of all time stature.
2.) UFC 155: Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos II - At the last UFC event of the year, December 29, Cain Velasquez faced off against Junior dos Santos. It was a five round heavyweight affair, as Velasquez became a part of a select few to become a two-time UFC heavyweight champion. The California native avenged a 64 second knockout and only loss to dos Santos at UFC on Fox 1. In their second meeting, Velasquez used a combination of elite wrestling and powerful striking to secure the win, battering dos Santos' face until it was almost unrecognizable at the end of the final round. At the same time, as Velasquez/dos Santos I & II were both one-sided affairs, a trilogy between the two men is all but imminent.
3.) UFC 154: Georges St. Pierre vs. Condit - After 17 months away from the octagon due to an ACL injury, on November 17, Georges St. Pierre (GSP) returned to face a game opponent and the then interim UFC welterweight champion, Carlos Condit. GSP controlled the fight with his wrestling, and put on a tremendous showing in his hometown of Quebec. After surviving a head kick in the third round that heavily wobbled the champion, GSP regained his composure and secured the win via unanimous decision. The victory cemented his status as the undisputed welterweight champion.
4.) UFC 148: Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen II - With a dominant performance at UFC 117, Chael Sonnen was just 1:50 away from becoming the new UFC middleweight champion when he suddenly found himself caught in a desperate, last minute triangle choke, courtesy of Anderson Silva. Sonnen tapped out at 3:10, squandering his chance to secure the title. However, Sonnen's dominance during most of the fight leading up to the submission warranted a Silva/Sonnen II.
On July 7, 2012, at their second meeting, Silva ended the fight with a barrage of punches, set up by a huge knee delivered to Sonnen's solar plexus. This fight ended all talk regarding the best middleweight in the UFC, and forced Sonnen to leave the division all together.
5.) UFC on Fox 5: B.J. Penn vs. Rory MacDonald - After a 14 month layoff, B.J. Penn returned to the octagon to test his skills against George St. Pierre protégée, Rory MacDonald. On December 8, Penn was subjected to vicious elbows, painfully accurate leg kicks, and brutal body blows. Following the fight, the "Prodigy" was deeply battered. The mauling of the former lightweight and welterweight champion prompted the president of the UFC, Dana White, to call for Penn's retirement. For the 34 year old Hawaii native, as likely as his induction is into the UFC Hall of Fame, retirement, at this point, may seem even likelier.
6.) UFC on Fox 2: Demetrius Johnson vs. Ian McCall I & II - In what could easily be labeled as one of the greatest fights of 2012, on March 3, Demetrius Johnson and Ian McCall put the flyweight division on the map with their impeccable performance. They fought to a highly disputed draw in which many thought that McCall had won. The draw warranted a rematch between the two men, which occurred three months later. Again, the flyweights put on a show of skill and intense cardio that lasted three rounds. In the end, Johnson pulled out a unanimous victory at UFC on FX 3. He then went onto defeat Joseph Benavidez three months later to become the first ever UFC flyweight champion.
7.) UFC 154: Johny Hendricks vs. Martin Kampmann - In his quest to challenge Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre for the title, on November 17, Johny Hendricks knocked out a game opponent in Martin Kampmann. The Oklahoma native did so in just 46 seconds. His quick victory over Kampmann was reminiscent of his even quicker win over and seven second knockout of perennial gatekeeper Jon Fitch at UFC 141. Following his win over Kampmann, Hendricks' request to fight for the title fell on deaf ears. However, "Bigg Rigg" will have the opportunity to piece together another highlight reel knockout when he faces Jake Ellenberger at UFC 158.
8.) UFC 153: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Dave Herman - At 36 years of age, and after his devastating loss to Frank Mir at UFC 140 in which his arm was broken, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's career appeared bleak. However, the former Pride and UFC interim heavyweight champion made a remarkable recovery and faced Dave Herman on October 13. To make matters even more interesting, prior to the bout, Herman professed that he was "unsubmittable." Nogueira, well-known for his high level Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skills, welcomed the challenge to defeat the boastful Herman. Fought in Nogueira's home country of Brazil, "Minotauro" made a successful comeback and defeated Herman via armbar. In that, Nogueira submitted his "unsubmittable" foe and secured his position as one of the top heavyweights in the world.
9.) UFC on Fuel TV 6: Cung Le vs. Rich Franklin - On November 10, at the first ever UFC event held in China, the main card featured former middleweight champion Rich Franklin (38) and former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le (40). This bout sported two fighters seemingly at the end of their careers. However, it was the spark that Le needed to cement his standing within the UFC. In the first round, the Vietnam-born fighter knocked out Franklin with one punch, putting him to sleep before even hitting the canvas. The undefeated kickboxing champion was humble in his receipt of the win, labeling one of the most devastating knockout punches in UFC history as "lucky." However, lucky or not, Le may have just sent into retirement a future hall of famer and one of the greatest middleweight fighters in UFC history.
10.) UFC 142: Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes - UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo battled highly-touted and previously undefeated fighter Chad Mendes on January 14. In the closing seconds of round one, Aldo, greatly known for his unorthodox fighting style, delivered a knee to the face of Mendes that sent the California native flying backwards and unconscious. The bout was deemed over with one second left in the first round. Aldo, fighting in his home country of Brazil, ran out the octagon and was placed on the shoulders of his fellow countrymen. The out-of-octagon celebration was surely a spectacle, as the UFC brought in 2012 with a bang.
Clinton Alexander Bullock lives in California and has been a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner for many years. He has studied mixed martial arts for 12 years and has been published in the Philadelphia Sunday Sun Newspaper, Next Step Magazine, and Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twiitter @clintonbullock.
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