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411’s Fighter of the Month 1.28.13: December & Fighter of the Year

January 28, 2013 | Posted by Larry Csonka

How It Works
Each staff member picks five fighters and ranks them. I’ll assign a point value to those rankings. Points are determined as:

1st – 5
2nd – 4
3rd – 3
4th – 2
5th – 1

The fighter with the most points is our Fighter of the Month and then new points are assigned that will go towards Fighter of the Year. Those points are:

1st – 15
2nd – 12
3rd – 9
4th – 6
5th – 3
6th – 1

The Voting
Larry Csonka
1) Cain Velasquez
He did THIS to Junior Dos Santos…

 photo jdsface_zpsafa2cabd.gif

And then took his title. I rest my case.

2) Ben Henderson: At UFC on FOX 5, Ben Henderson defeated Nate Diaz via unanimous decision, and to be honest it looked easy. I take nothing away from Diaz, but Henderson looked as it he had it all figured out before he went into the cage, and walked away from the bout with his title in hand. Henderson ended the year with the title and looking dominating as champion. Up next, Gilbert Melendez.
3) Alexander Gustafsson: Defeated Shogun Rua at UFC on FOX 5 via unanimous decision. Gustafsson had been doing well, but lacked that “big name” on his résumé. With the victory over Shogun he has that now, and is looking to earn his title shot. He was supposedly granted that with this win, but looks to be fighting Mousassi in April before that.
4) Rory MacDonald: Defeated BJ Penn with ease and looks to be the player many thought he would be in the UFC. The only question is this: will he actually fight GSP?
5) Alexander Volkov: Your new Bellator Heavyweight Champion.

Jon Butterfield
1) Cain Velasquez:
There are occasions when a result occurs and it looks so comprehensive and convincing that people just can’t see past a repeat in the return bout. One of those occasions was when Junior dos Santos knocked Cain Velasquez out in seconds. Plastered all over the internet were predictions of how Cain wouldn’t be able to strike with JDS, couldn’t take him down, certainly couldn’t KEEP him down, and how this was just a matter of when, not if, as far as a JDS KO went. However, a true champion learns lessons from his losses, corrects them, and comes back stronger than ever. That isn’t a guarantee of victory, of course, but in Cain’s case, he closed the distance on Junior, beat him up, ground him down, TOOK HIM DOWN time and time again, and exhausted him in one of the finest tactical performances ever seen in MMA. We all knew what Junior wanted to do – we all knew how tough it was going to be to stop him – but when Cain came out, got in Junior’s face, looked for takedowns, pressed him to the cage, beat him up with dirty boxing, and never stopped coming forward, it was obvious that this time around, Junior had no answer. Now, it’s Junior’s time to go away and correct his faults – and when the third bout rolls round, you can bet your bottom dollar it will be worth a watch. The feud continues…

2) Benson Henderson: 50-43. Whether you agree with the scoring or not, those four digits tell you everything you need to know about Benson Henderson vs Nate Diaz. Diaz, who had torn through a succession of top lightweight contenders, was expected to test Henderson’s mettle as Lightweight Champion, but as the fight wore on, it was clear Henderson was head and shoulders above his opponent. Diaz, with all his boxing and submission skills, was no match for Benson in any department. Henderson lit his legs up with incredibly powerful kicks on the feet, took him down at will, and defended against any and all submissions on the mat in the same manner he always does – in other words, by looking virtually unsubmittable (if that’s a word). It will take an incredibly well-rounded fighter with an outstanding work ethic to beat Henderson for his title – but who that man is, I’m not sure.
3) Alexander Gustafsson: Everybody knew how talented Alexander Gustafsson was before his fight with ‘Shogun’ Rua. We’d all seen his boxing, his footwork, his movement, and his takedown defense. He’d run through a plethora of takedown specialists, and finished all of them (save for Phil Davis). He’d also beaten a couple of solid strikers in Thiago Silva and James Te Huna, but ‘Shogun’ still represented a significant step up in class, and easily the toughest challenge of the young Swede’s career – particularly on the feet, where Rua had even KO’d the great Lyoto Machida. But Gustafsson out-struck Rua for three full rounds, beating the Brazilian to the punch consistently and effectively, en route to a unanimous and unquestionable win. Gustafsson now represents Europe’s best chance for a UFC champion.
4) Jim Miller: Jim Miller made a horrific mess of Joe Lauzon in their contender-eliminator bout, busting him open with a succession of brutal elbows on the feet, mixing up his striking superbly, and pushing the kind of pace that would finish off a normal man from exhaustion alone. Miller looked awesome in this exciting, non-stop bout, but having already lost to Benson Henderson, it’s not surprising that the UFC now look to Gilbert Melendez for their next top contender.
5) Shinya Aoki: Antonio McKee has made a career out of going the distance – and winning while he does it. Against Shinya Aoki, though, many suspected the submission wizard may be a little bit too much on the mat – somewhere McKee insisted he would be taking the bout. But it wasn’t on the mat that this fight ended, and though Aoki did notch up another submission win, it wasn’t the usual method – instead, McKee tapped out after appearing to suffer an injury to his orbital bone from an Aoki punch.

Patrick Mullin
1) Cain Velasquez
How do you rebound from an embarrassing one punch first round loss? You come back to dominate the guy who did it to you for twenty five minutes and make his face look like a catcher’s mitt. Velasquez controlled every aspect of his rematch with Junior dos Santos including the striking and pulled off the upset to reclaim the UFC heavyweight title. His brutal and efficient demolition of JDS was much more telling than a flash KO loss. It was a 25 minute evisceration of the then-best heavyweight in the world. Cain had the best performance of his career and is a no brainer as December’s fighter of the month.

2) Benson Henderson: Nearly as impressive as Velasquez was the lightweight champion Ben Henderson. In a fight that was supposed to be his toughest challenge he consistently beat challenger Nate Diaz to the punch and used his superior wrestling ability to prevent Diaz from attacking effectively with submissions. A complete performance from Bendo.
3) Jim Miller: After the beating he took against Nate Diaz, Miller came back strong with a beating of his own to Joe Lauzon. His newfound aggression saw him take control of the fight and never let it go, making Joe Lauzon look like Frankenstein’s monster.
4) Eddie Wineland: The new and improved Eddie Wineland continued his winning ways with a clear cut decision over Brad Pickett. Wineland hurt Pickett several times with his long right cross and picked up even more momentum making his case as one of the top bantamweights in the world.
5) Bibiano Fernandes: Arguably the best non-UFC fighter in the world continued his winning ways. At DREAM 18 Fernandes made short work of the durable Yoshihiro Maeda with a triangle choke in under two minutes.

Mark Radulich
1) Cain Velasquez :
I may not like but I have to respect it. Cain Velasquez made 2012 his year. He wrecked Bigfoot Silva and then went to reclaim the HW title. He’s the man right now and barring any unforeseen calamity, he’ll be fighting Alistair Overeem sometime in the summer. JDS can claim he was distracted by splitting up with his wife or blame over training but the bottom line is Velasquez owned JDS for 5 straight rounds. It was one of the most dominant, one-sided decision victories all year. Hats off to Brown Pride!

2) Benson Henderson : Speaking of dominant decision victories, Henderson successfully defended his lightweight title against the always dangerous Nate Diaz. The man can’t sell PPV’s if his life depended on it but he sure can put on a hell of free fight. Kudos to Black Jesus!
3) Alexander Gustafsson : Due to the disfunctionality of the UFC light heavyweight division, for about 5 min Gustafsson was in line to take on Jon Jones once he’s dispatched with Chael Sonnen. He did this but soundly defeating a legend in Shogun Rua. He’s slowly moving up the ranks and more importantly steadily making himself look like a serious contender without having to resort to shenanigans.
4) Alexander Volkov : He won the vacant Bellator Heavyweight championship in an uneventful unanimous decision. That’s it. He won a title. Move on, nothing to see here.
5) Todd Duffee : Back from exile, the prodigal son returns! But seriously folks, Todd Duffee was once looked at as a hot prospect in the puddle that is the UFC heavyweight division. Then he copped an attitude, got knocked silly by Mike Russow and was unceremoniously fired. After going 1-1 outside the UFC he answered the call and is now back after defeating Phil De Fries by round 1 TKO. Hopefully Duffee has learned from his mistakes and will make the most of his opportunity coming out of UFC 155.

Jeffrey Harris
1) Cain Velasquez :
Cain Velasquez put on a performance of a lifetime in shutting down the only who was ever able to beat him. For 25 minutes, Velasquez used his wrestling, striking, and relentless, non-stop pace to beat up and dominate the reigning champion Junior dos Santos. Many believed JDS had Velasquez’s number and the fight might go a little longer but still end the same, including me. The irony though was this fight ended up going much the way I thought the first one would. Regardless, Velasquez took home his second UFC title and returned to Mexico a hero.

2) Benson Henderson : After an underwhelming and controversial defense over Frankie Edgar, UFC on Fox 5 was the perfect opportunity for Bendo to once again prove how good he really is. It was a long night for Diaz as Bendo out striked and out wrestled him just about everywhere. Bendo lived up to his Smooth nickname and also showed some amazing flexibility when he practically did a split when Diaz tried to lock up his leg. All that and he performed the whole fight with a toothpick in his mouth.
3) Alexander Gustafsson : Gustafsson’s stock continues to rise as he picked up his sixth straight win in one of MMA’s most competitive and popular divisions and he did it against a former Pride and UFC champion in Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Gustafsson showed how much he has grown from the guy who got submitted in his second UFC fight by Phil Davis.
4) Jim Miller: Miller and Lauzon put on amazing show in a fight that will surely be put in the Fight of the Year nominations group for the World MMA Awards. Miller came out to make a statement and went after Lauzon relentlessly in the first round. Lauzon showed amazing heart and spirit, but Miller used a diverse striking arsenal and wrestling to edge out Lauzon and take the last round.
5) Erik Perez: At UFC 155 it really looked like a star was born with the young Perez, who could be crucial for UFC’s upcoming planned expansion into Mexico. UFC figured out Perez was onto something with his Goyito luchador mask, which they were selling at their souvenir stands. Perez continues to look impressive and dominant and quickly took care of business over Byron Bloodworth. I think bringing him along gradually is a smart idea, but being there live it looked like Perez could truly become something special.

Robert Winfree
1) Cain Velasquez:
No ifs ands or buts, Cain Velasquez was the biggest winner in the month of December. It wasn’t just that he beat Junior dos Santos, because we all knew that could happen, it was the total domination that stunned most of us. Over five full rounds the defending champion JDS landed maybe a dozen legitimate blows. That fight was all about Cain reclaiming the title, and if that fight was any indication he’ll be the man until he decides to retire.

2) Benson Henderson: I almost gave Smooth the top spot for his total domination of challenger Nate Diaz, but couldn’t because of the surprising and dominant nature of Velasquez’s victory. Henderson dominated the younger Diaz brother, but it wasn’t totally unexpected. This was a great fight for Henderson, and a great main event for a free TV card.
3) Jim Miller: Jim Miller has been close to title shots on more than one occasion in the UFC, but has always been unable to get over that last hurdle. Miller erased all memories of his submission loss to Nate Diaz in his fight with Joe Lauzon. Miller looked like a killer this time around, hopefully a sign of things to come for him.
4) Alexander Gustafsson: The Mauler continued his march towards a title shot with a decision win over MMA legend Shogun Rua. Not totally unexpected, but still impressive.
5) Eddie Wineland: Eddie Wineland scored a decision over Brad Pickett in a pretty fun fight. After knocking out Scott Jorgensen earlier this year Wineland kept his momentum going by winning in December.

Jack McGee
1) Cain Velasquez
Cain Velasquez not only avenged his loss to Junior Dos Santos, but also picked apart the champion to take back his title. Velasquez looked fantastic in the bout and showed off the skills that had everyone raging about him when he was about to defeat Lesnar to take the title. Quite simply an impressive performance for the new champion, but the question is, can he actually defend the title this time?

2) Ben Henderson: Defeated Nate Diaz to retain the UFC Lightweight Title. Henderson has proven that the WEC fighters can deliver on the UFC stage (along with Cruz and Aldo in other divisions) in a division everyone said was too deep
3) Alexander Gustafsson: Defeated Shogun Rua and earned a title fight, but is not waiting and is already booked for another fight. The young man’s stock keeps rising.
4) Alexander Volkov: Your new Bellator Heavyweight Champion,
5) Colton Smith: Won the Ultimate Fighter 16 finale and a UFC contract.

Jonathan Solomon
1) Cain Velasquez:
Junior dos Santos looked unstoppable in his UFC career…until he fought Cain last year. Velasquez was all over him from the first second of the fight and did not let up until the final bell sounded. Wrestling and his striking left JDS a bloody, swollen mess. Despite his inability to finish the fight, you don’t do that to a heavyweight champion and not gain a ton of respect. Cain is now back atop the division and recognized as the baddest man in MMA and for good reason.

2) Benson Henderson: Over the 25-minutes Bendo fought Nate Diaz, he was in trouble for not even a second. He pushed the pace and took Diaz out of his comfort zone whether standing or on the ground.
3) Costa Philippou: Sure, you can classify his win against Tim Boetsch behind an accidental head butt and a broken hand, but a win is a win. Philippou took the fight on short notice and all of a sudden is a top 10 middleweight.
4) Will Brooks: An unknown American fight heads to Japan to fight Satoru Kitaoka on New Year’s Eve and now, he’s unknown no longer. He manhandled Kitaoka around the ring, ultimately finishing him with strikes. Now, Brooks has signed with Bellator and is participating in this season’s lightweight tournament which begins this week.
5) Rory MacDonald: As expected, Rory pounced all over B.J. Penn and made a statement that he was no joke. After the impressive win, he called out Carlos Condit and with that fight in sight, Rory Mac looks to be a one man wrecking crew.

Honorable Mention: Rory MacDonald, Costa Philippou and Eddie Wineland – (3 points)

5th Place Alexander Volkov – (5 points)

4th Place – Jim Miller – (10 points)

3rd Place – Alexander Gustafsson – (17 points)

Defeated Shogun Rua to lay claim to a top spot in the UFC Light Heavyweight Division!

2nd Place – Benson Henderson – (32 points)

Defeated Nate Diaz to retain the UFC Lightweight Title!

411’s Fighter of the Month for DECEMBER- Cain Velasquez – (40 points)

Your NEW UFC Heavyweight Champion!

2012 Year-End Standings
Here are the FINAL standings below…

A NEW RULE FOR 2012 is as follows: if a fighter ranked on the yearend list LOSES a fight they will lose 5 points. Also, after much discussion, if a fighter is suspended by an athletic commission, they lose any points accumulated.

1. Ben Henderson – 39pts. : Ben Henderson defeated Frankie Edgar via unanimous decision at UFC 144 to win the UFC Lightweight Title. He then followed that up with another victory (split decision) against Edgar at UFC 150, and finally the unanimous decision victory over Nate Diaz at UFC on FOX 5 to close out the year. Henderson not only proved that the former WEC stars could survive in the UFC environment, but that they can also thrive,

T~2. Ronda Rousey – 30pts.: Ronda Rousey took women’s MMA by storm in 2012, first defeating Miesha Tate via RD1 arm bar to win the Strikeforce Women’s bantamweight Title. She then followed that up with a victory over former champion Sarah Kaufman, via RD1 arm bar; and all of that turned into a huge year of mainstream attention and then became the first ever woman signed to a UFC contract.
T~2. Anderson Silva – 30pts. : Anderson Silva defeated nemesis Chael Sonnen via RD2 TKO at UFC 148, putting an end to the feud and also putting an end to people that thought Sonnen outclassed him at UFC 117. Silva then fought at Light Heavyweight at UFC 153,destroying Stephan Bonnar via RD1 TKO.

4. Jon Jones – 24pts. : Jon Jones entered 2012 as the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, and left the year as the champion. He defeated rival Rashad Evans at UFC 145 via unanimous decision, and then followed that up with a RD4 submission victory over Vitor Belfort. Jones is coaching the Ultimate Fighter, and will be facing Chael Sonnen in a title bout.

T~5. Cain Velasquez – 21pts.: In late 2011 Cain Velasquez lost the UFC Heavyweight Title to Junior Dos Santos, and due to the loss many wrote him off. In 2012, Velasquez came back with a vengeance, as he made Antonio Silva look like a murder victim in a vicious RD1 TKO. With that he earned a rematch with Junior Dos Santos, and this time, Velasquez out worked and picked apart Dos Santos en route to winning back the title.
T~5. Alexander Gustafsson – 21pts. : Alexander Gustafsson closed out 2012 as a contender for the UFC Light Heavyweight Title. He defeated both Thiago Silva and Shogun Rua in 2012, both via decision.

Georges St. Pierre – 15pts.
Demitrious Johnson – 15pts.
Jose Aldo – 15pts.

Eddie Alvarez – 12 pts.
Johny Hendricks – 12pts.
Stefan Struve – 12pts.
Chris Weidman – 12pts.
Pat Curran – 12 pts.

Junior Dos Santos – 10pts. (Deducted 5 points for loss to Cain Velasquez)

Daniel Cormier – 9pts.
Jon Fitch – 9pts.
Cung Le – 9pts.
Lyoto Machida – 9pts.
Renan Barao – 9pts.
Michael McDonald – 9pts.

Nate Diaz – 7pts. (Deducted 5 points for loss to Ben Henderson)
Carlos Condit – 7pts. (Deducted 5 points for loss to GSP)
Rashad Evans – 7pts. (Deducted 5 points for loss to Jon Jones)

Demian Maia – 6pts.
Matt Wiman – 6pts.
Donald Cerrone – 6pts.
Nate Marquardt – 6pts.
Luke Rockhold – 6pts.
Anthony Pettis – 6pts.
Andrey Koreshkov – 6pts.

Rory MacDonald – 4pts.
Jim Miller – (4 pts.) (Deducted 5 points for loss to Nick Diaz)
Martin Kampmann – 4pts. (Deducted 5 points for loss to Johny Hendricks)
Jake Ellenberger – 4pts. (Deducted 5 points for loss to Martin Kampmann)
Chael Sonnen – 4pts. (Deducted 5 points for loss to Anderson Silva)

Alexander Volkov – 3 pts.
John Dodson – 3pts.
Attila Vegh – 3pts.
The Korean Zombie – 3pts.
Ryan Jimmo – 3pts.
Tyrone Spong – 3pts.

Costa Philippou – 1pt.
Eddie Wineland – 1pt.
Rafael Dos Anjos – 1pt.
Antonio Rogrigo Nogieira – 1pt.
Glover Teiveira – 1pt.
Michael Bisping – 1pt.
Alan Belcher – 1pt.
Siyar Bahadurzada– 1pt.
Mark Hunt – 1pts.
Kazou Misaki – 1pt.
Karl Amoussou – 1pt.
Richard Hale – 1pts. (Deducted 5 points for loss to Alexander Volkov)
Eduardo Dantas – 1 pts. (Deducted 5 points for loss to Tyson Nam)
Joseph Benavidez – 1pts. (Deducted 5 points for loss to Demitrious Johnson)

Tim Boetsch – (-2 pts.) (Deducted 5 points for loss to Constantinos Philippou)
Brad Pickett – (-2 pts.) > (Deducted 5 points for loss to Eddie Wineland)
Miesha Tate – (-2 pts.) (Deducted 5 points for loss to Ronda Rousey)
Lloyd Woodward – (-2 pts.) (Deducted 5 points for loss to Rick Hawn)
Vitor Belfort – (-4pts.) > (Deducted 5 points for loss to Jon Jones)
Joe Lauzon – (-9pts.) (Deducted 5 points for loss to Anthony Pettis & Jim Miller)

  • Year-End Rankings Key:

    UFC Contracted Fighters are represented in BLUE.

    Strikeforce Contracted Fighters are represented in RED.

    Japanese Contracted Fighters are represented in MAROON.

    Bellator Contracted Fighters are represented in GOLD.

    Other Fighters are represented in BLACK.


    Year One (2009) Winner: Lyoto Machida

    Year Two (2010) Winner: Cain Velasquez

    Year Three (2011) Winner: Jon Jones

    Year Four (2012) Winner: Benson Henderson

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