January 3, 2013

Raphael Garcia's Best of 2012: The Year That Was

By Raphael Garcia

As we sat and sipped champagne, we at MMA Ratings decided to look back at the moments that stood out over this past year. There were a lot of different events that deserved to be catalogued for consumption many times in the future. Although everything can’t be pointed out here, here are some of the moments that stole the show in 2012:

Fight of the Year: The Reaffirmation of a Star and the Birth of a New One 
Erick Silva vs. Jon Fitch at UFC 153

This was a fight that caught the attention of many from the moment it was announced. On one side you have Jon Fitch, the immoveable object at welterweight that fans loved to hate, no matter how often he found a way to win. Coming off of his first defeat in years, it seemed as though people were hoping for him to lose once again, due to the fact that he uses what is considered a “boring” fighting style. Unfair or not, Fitch’s back was against the cage going into the fight, and he knew it.

On the other side was Erick Silva, a fighter that with only three UFC bouts under his belt, but who had caught the attention of nearly everyone watching, and the comparisons to high level strikers were rolling in. People were picking him to not only knock Fitch out, but do so in highlight reel fashion.

Right from the start of the fight, viewers could tell it was going to be something special. Both Fitch and Silva came out of their corners and threw caution to the wind. Silva was landing crisp shots, forcing Fitch to take him down and control the bout there, which he did. When the first round was over, Fitch had the positional advantage and took the round.

The second round was the exact opposite, as Silva landed more hard shots and found himself on the former title challenger’s back. But the legend of Fitch being “unchokeable” came true once again, as he found a way out of the rear naked attempt and back into a dominant position to end the round. While it wasn’t enough to give Silva the round on all three judges’ cards, he did enough to win over two of their opinions.

The third round was a clinic, as Fitch reminded everyone why he has been a top three welterweight for years. He dragged Silva to the ground and put a beating on him that was unlike anything else we had seen from him in quite some time. When everything was over, it was clear that Fitch was the winner and could bring exciting fights to the UFC. At the same time, it was also clear that Erick Silva was a star in the making, and while he may be a little while away from challenging the big names in the division, he will become a force to be reckoned with.

Event of the Year: The Legends Represent at UFC 153

Every time the UFC announced a big card, everyone took a collective deep breath, in hopes that the fighters scheduled to fight would make to the card injury-free. It never really happened, however, as names were forced to drop off the schedule left and right for one injury or another. UFC 153 was hit the hardest, as the main and co-main event fell apart within hours of each other. Instead of cancelling yet another event this year, the UFC found a big star to ride in on his white horse.

Middleweight champion Anderson Silva volunteered to fight an opponent of his selection at 205 for the Brazilian crowd. While his selection of Stephen Bonnar was not the most thrilling, the UFC spun the fight correctly to catch the attention of both mainstream and hardcore fans alike. Along with Silva, legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira also stepped in to compete, against a fighter who claimed Brazilian Jiu Jitsu doesn’t work. Jon Fitch faced Brazilian surging star Erick Silva in what would be the fight of the night, and Demian Maia looked like a man possessed going after the neck crank submission win over Rick Story.

The main card kept the Brazilian fans electric, and the energy that they gave off could be felt through the screen. If the UFC could capture this atmosphere and force it upon all those who attend future events, they would.

Submission of the Year: Paul Sass gets Paul Sass’ed 
Paul Sass vs. Matt Wiman, UFC on Fuel TV 5

Paul Sass had a lot of submission hype going into his bout against Matt Wiman. It was almost a forgone conclusion that whomever he was facing would be tapping out. Matt Wiman stepped up to that challenge and not only did hold his own on the mat, he exceeded expectations.

From the very moment that his back touched the ground, Wiman stayed active and kept his hips moving back and forth. Moments later he was wrapping Sass up in an armbar that forced the undefeated lightweight to submit. It was almost as if Wiman was the only individual not surprised in the building. Wiman only competed once this year, but he made the most of it by catching a well-versed submission specialist with one of the more basic submission moves available to a grappler.

Knockout of the Year: Mark Munoz’s face meets Chris Weidman’s elbow 
Chris Weidman vs. Mark Munoz, UFC on Fuel TV 4 

Since everyone is going to suggest that Edson Barboza’s spinning wheel kick is the knockout of the year, I’m going to go in a different route, highlighting another knockout, one that was impressive in its own right.

The striking aspect of mixed martial arts continues to evolve to include in intricacies that can catch anyone off guard. Last year we witnessed the emergence of the standing elbow strike, and Chris Weidman landed the most beautiful of the lot during the last 12 months. After a simple bob and weave, Weidman landed an elbow across Mark Munoz’s face that sent the former collegiate wrestler scrambling. Immediately his legs went wobbly and Chris pounced on him, landing a bevy of strikes that was almost too tough for squeamish fans to watch. With that win, Weidman became the next hot thing in MMA, and while that may have cooled off a bit, expectations remain high for the Serra-Longo team member in 2013.

With another 12 months behind us, there is quite a bit to look back on for memory’s sake. Mixed martial arts brought us a lot of highs and lows last year, but overall, the sport is still headed in the right direction. We can only hope that 2013 is an improvement and that the sport keeps jumping over the hurdles that are placed in its way.


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