2012 was a big year for the UFC, who crowned a new flyweight, lightweight, heavyweight and women's champion. Here are some of the brightest spots of the 2012 season.
SUBMISSION OF THE YEAR
Charles Oliveira vs. Eric Wisely (Calf Slicer)- UFC on FOX 2
Oliveira was handling Eric Wisely on the feet and the ground, when he found himself suddenly on his back up against the cage. As Wisely stood up off of him, Oliveira locked a triangle onto the lower leg of Wisely. He reached up and pulled Wisely back onto him, putting serious pressure that first hits the calf and thigh. If you don't tap fast enough, the pain moves to your knee as it gets folded in half over the shin. It was the first calf slicer I can recall seeing in the UFC, which makes it my submission of the year.
Runner-up: Chan Sung Jung vs. Dustin Poirier (D'Arce)- UFC on FUEL 3
Honorable Mentions: Rousimar Palhares vs. Mike Massenzio (Heel Hook)- UFC 142
Demian Maia vs. Rick Story (Neck Crank)- UFC 153
Dustin Poirier vs. Max Holloway (Inverted Triangle/Wrist Lock)- UFC 143
KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR
Edson Barboza vs. Terry Etim (Spinning Heel Kick)- UFC 142
We all expected a standup battle when Barboza got matched up with Etim, who is known as a pretty good striker himself. Etim was down on the cards in the 3rd round, and Joe Rogan was commenting that it may be time for him to take a chance, but when you do that you could risk being knocked out. As the words "knocked out" came out of Rogan's mouth, Barboza's leg spun around and his heel hit Etim right in the jaw. Etim was stiff before he hit the mat, and was on the bad side of the UFC's highlight of the year.
Runner-up: Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon (Head Kick)- UFC 144
Honorable Mentions: Cung Le vs. Rich Franklin (Punch)- UFC on FUEL 6
Daron Cruickshank vs. Henry Martinez (Head Kick)- UFC on FOX 5
Ryan Jimmo def. Anthony Perosh (Punch)- UFC 149
FIGHT OF THE YEAR
Jim Miller vs. Joe Lauzon at UFC 155
The UFC saved the best for last in this one, as the co-main event to the last card of the year was a classic. Miller cut Lauzon early with punches and elbows, turning the mat into a bloody mess. Lauzon kept coming though, and he forced Miller to survive a knee bar attempt, a diving heel hook attempt and a deep guillotine in the last 10 seconds. Miller didn't tap, and would take a unanimous decision, but there was never a dull moment in this matchup of elite grapplers.
Runner-up: Benson Henderson vs. Frank Edgar at UFC 144
Honorable Mentions: Joe Lauzon vs. Jamie Varner at UFC on FOX 4
Chan Sung Jung vs. Dustin Poirier at UFC on FUEL 3
Demetrious Johnson vs. Ian McCall at UFC on FX 2
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR (Made UFC Debut in 2012)
Glover Teixeira (2-0 in 2012)
It was a long-time coming to get Glover Teixeira into the UFC, and he has made his presence felt from the start. After dominating the Brazilian Shooto circuit for years, his first UFC appearance came in May against Kyle Kingsbury, who had won 4 of 5 fights at the time. Teixeira battered him before taking him down and finishing with a first round arm-triangle choke. His next shot would come in October at UFC 153, where he dominated Fabio Maldonado in all aspects before the doctors stopped the fight at the end of the 2nd round. He will get a test early in 2013, as he is set to fight Rampage Jackson at UFC on FOX 6 in January.
Runner-up: Erik Perez (3-0 in 2012)
Honorable Mentions: Tim Means (2-0 in 2012)
Max Holloway (3-1 in 2012)
Khabib Nurmagomedov (2-0 in 2012)
CARD OF THE YEAR
When I first considered the possibility of an "all-heavyweight" main card, I admit that I cringed. I expected several fights where guys built like water buffalo laid on top of each other. That was far from the case. All 5 fights ended in finishes, including Roy Nelson's brutal KO of Dave Herman, Cain Velasquez dominating Bigfoot Silva, and Junior Dos Santos bludgeoning Frank Mir in his first title defense. The undercard saw three top prospects lose for the first time in the octagon (Diego Brandao, Daniel Pineda, Edson Barboza) as well as the UFC debut of Glover Teixeira and the return of "good" Dan Hardy.
Runner-up: UFC on FOX 4
Honorable Mentions: UFC 144
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR*
Renan Barao (2-0 in 2012)
This might not be a popular choice, and I am ok with that. In a year where most of the UFC's top fighters fought one or two times, Barao was the most dominant performer the UFC had this year. He fought 8 rounds, and not one of them left a shadow of a doubt as to who the better man in the cage was. He plowed through Scott Jorgensen at UFC 143, stuffing takedown attempts and dominating the standup the entire fight. This earned him a shot at Urijah Faber for the interim Bantamweight title. Anyone who doubted the validity of his 20 fight win streak stopped doubting after the 5-round schooling Barao gave to the "California Kid." A second ACL tear for Dominick Cruz means that Barao will put his interim title on the line against Michael McDonald in February. A win would set him up for a late 2013 fight with Cruz to unify the title.
Runner-up: Benson Henderson (3-0 in 2012)
Honorable Mentions: Alexander Gustafsson (2-0 in 2012)
Matt Brown (4-0 in 2012)
Stefan Struve (3-0 in 2012)