It was another busy year for the fastest growing sport in the world. MMA fans got a taste of just about everything in 2012. Former champions Fedor Emelianenko and Matt Hughes retired. New champions like Benson Henderson, Demetrious Johnson, and Pat Curran emerged. Women’s MMA got a push from Invicta FC and cover girl Ronda Rousey. Georges St-Pierre and Cain Velasquez made championship comebacks. And, Jose Aldo, Anderson Silva, and Jon Jones managed to maintain their reigns of terror. Through it all, MMA continued to surge in popularity, selling out new arenas and giving people all over the world something to cheer about. FIGHT! was there to capture all the hits—in spite of predicted Mayan doom.
UFC 142 kicked off the year by going back to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes headlined the event, with Aldo landing a brutal KO at 4:59 of the first round to successfully defend his UFC Featherweight Title. Notorious weight watcher Anthony Johnson hit the scales at 11 pounds over the middleweight mark in his bout with Vitor Belfort, who submitted “Rumble” in a catchweight fight before the UFC released him. Edson Barboza landed a spinning heel kick to KO Terry Etim in spectacular fashion.
At UFC on Fox 2, Rashad Evans handed Phil Davis his first career loss, while Chael Sonnen bested a very game Michael Bisping. Charles Oliveira nabbed the first UFC submission via calf slicer.
Albeit controversially, Carlos Condit outpointed Nick Diaz at UFC 143 for the Interim UFC Welterweight Championship. Diaz failed his post-fight drug test and was forced to sit out the remainder of 2012.
UFC on Fuel TV 1 debuted with a back-and-forth affair between Diego Sanchez and a victorious Jake Ellenberger.
UFC action returned to Japan for the first time in 12 years with UFC 144. Benson Henderson captured the UFC Lightweight Title from Frankie Edgar in a close five-rounder, while Tim Boetsch staged a comeback TKO over Yushin Okami.
UFC on FX 2 marked the promotion’s third showing in Australia. It also boasted the first flyweight fights in UFC history, as Joseph Benavidez won via TKO over Yasuhiro Urushitani, and Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall fought to a majority draw that was erroneously announced as a split-decision win for Johnson.
In a different hemisphere, Strikeforce crowned a new Women’s Bantamweight Champion after Ronda Rousey turned Miesha Tate’s arm into a pretzel in the first round.
Pat Curran sent Joe Warren to lala land at Bellator 60 and became the new Bellator Featherweight Champion.
Super Fight League, India’s only MMA promotion, hosted its inaugural event in Mumbai, India.
Eduardo Dantas submitted Zach Makovsky with an arm-triangle choke at Bellator 65 to become the new Bellator Bantamweight Champion.
Selling out in three hours, the UFC debuted in Sweden with UFC on Fuel TV 2. Alexander Gustafsson out-pointed Thiago Silva for a decision win and Brian Stann KO’d Alessio Sakara.
Former Jackson MMA teammates Jon Jones and Rashad Evans finally got the chance to settle their grudge at UFC 145 in Atlanta, GA. Jones earned a unanimous decision to defend his UFC Light Heavyweight Title for the third time.
All-female fight promotion Invicta FC debuted in Kansas City, Kansas. Marloes Coenen defeated Romy Ruyssen in the main event, which was available via free video stream.
At UFC on Fox 3, Nate Diaz submitted Jim Miller via guillotine choke in the second round, while Johny Hendricks earned a split decision over Josh Koscheck.
“The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung submitted Dustin Poirier with a d’arce choke in a thrilling Fight of the Night at UFC on Fuel TV 3.
Daniel Cormier thoroughly dismantled Josh Barnett to become the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Champion.
In the UFC’s first ever all-heavyweights main card at UFC 146, Junior dos Santos TKO’d Frank Mir to retain the UFC Heavyweight Title, while Cain Velasquez hammered Antonio Silva to a pulp.
TUF 15 culminated as Michael Chiesa won via rear-naked choke over Team Faber teammate Al Iaquinta to become the lightweight winner of the season.
Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall got their re-do at UFC on FX 3. “Mighty Mouse” earned a split decision over “Uncle Creepy” to advance to the title shot against Joseph Benavidez.
Fedor Emelianenko KO’d Pedro Rizzo at M-1 Global in St. Petersburg, Russia. The MMA icon capped his career with a 35-4-1 record.
In the most bizarre fight strategy of the year, Clay Guida completely disengaged from Gray Maynard at UFC on FX 4. Maynard picked up the split decision in the lackluster affair.
The UFC was back in Brazil for UFC 147 and the finals of the first installment of TUF Brazil. Rony “Jason” Mariano won the featherweight tournament and Cezar Ferreira won the middleweight tournament, while Rich Franklin earned a unanimous decision over Wanderlei Silva.
Eddie Bravo presented UFC color commentator Joe Rogan with his 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu black belt.
The long-awaited grudge match between UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva and master self-promoter Chael Sonnen took place at UFC 148. Silva earned his 16th consecutive UFC win and 11th title defense with a TKO in the second round. Tito Ortiz became the ninth inductee into the UFC Hall of Fame and retired following his unanimous-decision loss to Forrest Griffin.
Chris Weidman continued his undefeated streak and made short work of Mark Munoz at UFC on Fuel TV 4, KO’ing him in 1:37 of the second round.
Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey appeared “artistically nude” on the cover of ESPN the Magazine: The Body Issue.
Nate Marquardt KO’d Tyron Woodley to become the new Strikeforce Welterweight Champion.
UFC 149 traveled to Calgary, Alberta, Canada for the Interim UFC Bantamweight Championship that saw Renan Barao defeat Urijah Faber. Tim Boetsch spoiled Hector Lombard’s UFC debut with a split-decision win.
Headlining Invicta FC 2, Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann defeated Shayna Baszler via unanimous decision.
UFC on Fox 4 produced some great action, including Joe Lauzon’s triangle submission over Jamie Varner, Lyoto Machida’s KO of Ryan Bader, and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua’s TKO over Brandon Vera.
UFC 150 pitted UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson against former champion Frankie Edgar in their second matchup. Bendo won a split-decision victory to retain the strap, and Donald Cerrone KO’d Jackson MMA teammate Melvin Guillard.
After Dan Henderson injured his MCL and Jon Jones refused to fight Chael Sonnen on eight days notice, Dana While cancelled UFC 151.
Jon Jones fought off an early armbar attempt and defeated Vitor Belfort via Americana to retain the UFC Light Heavyweight Title. Demetrious Johnson became the inaugural UFC Flyweight Champion by defeating Joseph Benavidez in split-decision fashion.
Following Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez’s knee injury, Scott Coker announced the cancellation of Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Healy.
Strikeforce announced the cancelation of its second consecutive show, which was to feature Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir. Injuries to Mir and Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold were cited as deciding factors.
In his last fight under his current Bellator contract, Eddie Alvarez KO’d Patricky Freire at Bellator 76.
For the third time in 2012, the UFC visited Brazil. UFC 153 featured Anderson Silva TKO’ing Stephan Bonnar, who tested positive for steroids and retired post-fight.
MMA pioneer Jeff Blatnick passed away after heart surgery. Blatnick was an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling who went on to serve as an MMA judge, commentator, and author.
UFC on Fuel TV 6 featured former UFC Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin and former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Cung Le in the UFC’s first trip to China. Le delivered a devastating overhand right that KO’d Franklin in the first round.
Las Vegas-based MMA promotion World Series of Fighting hosted its first event, which was televised on NBC Sports Network and featured a host of familiar names, including Andrei Arlovski, Anthony Johnson, Miguel Torres, and new MMA prospect Tyrone Spong.
Strikeforce announced that the promotion’s final event was to be held on January 12, 2013.
After being sidelined with an injury for 19 months, Georges St-Pierre successfully retained the UFC Welterweight Championship Title at UFC 154, defeating Interim Champion Carlos Condit in five rounds. In other welterweight action, Johny Hendricks put Martin Kampmann to sleep with a left hand in 46 seconds.
Marcin Held submitted Rich Clementi with a slick toe hold at Bellator 81.
Andrey Koreshkov defeated Lyman Good to win the Welterweight Tournament Final at Bellator 82.
UFC 157: Rousey vs. Carmouche is announced for Feb. 23, 2013. It marks the first female fight in the UFC and headlines the pay-per-view event alongside co-main events of Dan Henderson vs. Lyoto Machida and Urijah Faber vs. Ivan Menjivar.
The much-anticipated UFC on Fox 5 did not disappoint. Benson Henderson defended his UFC Lightweight Title in convincing fashion over Nate Diaz, while Rory MacDonald punished BJ Penn for three rounds.
Double your pleasure, double your fun. The UFC hosted two events in two time zones with UFC on FX 6 in Queensland, Australia, and the TUF 16 Finale in Las Vegas, NV.
Cain Velasquez dominated Junior dos Santos to regain the UFC Heavyweight Title at UFC 155. Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon earned Fight of the Night honors in a bloody three-rounder that went to Miller on the scorecards.
UFC Welterweight Champion Anderson Silva signed a 10-fight deal, keeping the most dominant champion in UFC history with the promotion for the foreseeable future.
Dream 18 closed out the MMA year in Saitama, Japan. Shinya Aoki submitted Antonio McKee, while Tatsuya Kawajiri defeated Michihiro Omigawa via unanimous decision.