The 411 MMA Top 10 01.07.13: Top 10 Light Heavyweight & Middleweight Fights of 2012
What’s up everybody, I am Alex Rella and this is the MMA Top Ten. This week we will be looking at ten fights in the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions. But first,
Thoughts from last week and other random stuff:
• Last week was the top heavyweight fights of 2012 and the main discussion was the UFC 155 main event getting the top spot. Some of you disagreed with my weighing the significance of the fight as high as the fight’s quality. It’s a fair point and something I considered while making this week’s list.
• Last week I said that Cain may not be able to win again with that style against an Overeem or even a third fight with Dos Santos. I’m not saying he can’t beat them, just that he probably won’t be able to using that same strategy. It was effective but it was also sloppy and he wont be able to catch Dos Santos off guard again.
• I also commented that you don’t see north couth choke’s very often. To which “ZWarrior2″ replied, “Unless you’ve seen Monson fight since he has won 9 fights with it.” I’m glad you went on his Wikipedia page, but can you really remember the last time someone besides Monson won with that hold?
Back to this week’s list
So I decided to double up this week and do two top ten lists. It would just take too long to give each weight class it’s own week. This week is the top light heavyweight and middleweight fights of last year. Each list is based on the fight quality, significance, and some of my opinion.
Rampage’s return to Japan got ripped on by a lot of people but the actual fight was good. Yes I know was technically a catchweight fight as Rampge came in at 211lbs. The first two rounds had some nice action as both guys were trying to knock each other out and we even got to see Rampage slam Bader down on his head. Bader recovered surprisingly fast from it too. I admit the last round wasn’t good as Bader just held Jackson on the ground because he knew he had the decision victory at that point. I was hoping Bader would follow it up with a nice performance against Machida but he ran face forward into Machida’s face.
I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you haven’t seen this fight but it was a fun one. This one happened on the preliminary card of Cormier vs Barnett. This was Zwicker’s first fight at light heavyweight and Inocente’s first fight in Strikeforce. Inocente came out real strong and beat the crap out of Zwicker in the first round but Zwicker just kept coming. It was just crazy to watch as he just kept moving forward. Inocente would win by unanimous decision and Frank Shamrock was still talking about this fight once the main card started. I hope both of these guys get a chance in the UFC.
I was hoping this fight would be a lot better but it was good for it was. I thought Bonnar would be able to hang in there a little longer but it was still a fun fight like Dana White said it would be. The main event of this event was supposed to be Jose Aldo defending his featherweight title but he had to pull out of the event after sustaining injury while driving his motorcycle. So Silva volunteered to fight someone at 205 pounds. Stephan Bonnar came out of his unannounced retirement to fight the best ever. Much of the first round was spent up against the cage with Bonnar throwing shots at him. Some of them connected but Silva moved his head out of the way so smoothly. Then Silva kneed Bonnar in the solar plexus and he couldn’t move for the rest of the fight as Silva finished him with strikes. Imagine if Bonnar won while on steroids, that would have been interesting afterwards.
This was the Mexicutioner’s return fight in the UFC. Beltran went 3-4 in the UFC as a heavyweight but returned as a light heavyweight to take the fight with James Te-Huna on short notice. This was a fun brawl. Te-Huna looked great and had his endurance tested in this one. He laid in a lot of heavy shots but Beltran kept coming. Te-Huna broke bones in his hand and foot but still pulled out the unanimous decision victory.
Everyone expected Jones to win but nobody expected Belfort coming this close to winning the light heavyweight title. After all the UFC 151 nonsense Vitor Belfort stepped in to take a title shot in a weight class he hasn’t fought at since 2007. Belfort came closer to beating Jones than anyone else has in the UFC when he locked in an armbar in the first round. I was screaming at my tv for him to snap it. But Jones escaped and went back to owning Belfort like everybody else. Belfort got submitted in the fourth round in a surprisingly good fight.
Maldonado’s 2012 will be most remembered for getting his face wrecked by Teixeira but back in May he had a pretty good fight with Igor Pokrajac. With both men having backgrounds in boxing this was a slugfest with both guys just exchanging shots standing up nearly the entire time. This back and forth battle would have won Fight of the Night on any other card but Korean Zombie vs Poirier was the main event. Pokrajac won the fight by unanimous decision, some thought Maldonado was robbed but I agreed with the judges on this one.
This fight was in the making since Jon Jones defeated Shogun Rua for the UFC light heavyweight title. It took awhile for the two to meet up because of untimely injuries but the two former training partners finally met at UFC 145. This was the biggest test at the time for Jones as the fight went the full five rounds. Evans hurt the champion quickly in the first round but Jones was able to recover and fought a very intelligent fight for the rest of the night. Using his reach effectively and throwing elbows like punches. I was hoping for a little more aggression from Evans but Jones is one of the best.
This was the breakout performance for Alexander Gustafsson. The Mauler has been slowly rising through the light heavyweight division and in December he took on the former champion Rua. Shogun’s dedication had been called into question lately but there was a lot on the line in this one as he was hoping to stay in the title picture. The first two rounds were close with the two men in a back and forth battle. But the Swede ran away with it in the third round as Shogun was exhausted. Gustafsson is now one of a few light heavyweights hoping for a title shot after Jones/Sonnen. Shogun may never challenge for the title again but I don’t think he’s a gatekeeper like many claimed after the loss. There’s still many top fights waiting for the former Pride and UFC champ.
This was the final fight in their trilogy and it was pretty good. Tito Ortiz requested to fight Griffin in the final fight of his career as they split the first two fights. Ortiz came out strong in the first two rounds but he ran out of gas towards the middle of each one. The third round went in Ortiz’s favor as he was able to knock down Griffin with a right hand and then took him down. But Ortiz wasn’t able to capitalize as he was too tired at that point. Griffin out struck Ortiz 2:1 and pulled out the unanimous decision victory 29-28. A lot of people criticized Griffin for not being able to put away Ortiz but it was his first fight in eleven months so it’s understandable. Also it’s always been hard to put away Tito Ortiz even in his later years. The fight won Fight of the Night honors and it was a nice way to close out the rivalry and Ortiz’s career.
This was Shogun’s first fight since his fight of the year performance against Dan Henderson in November 2011. He was originally supposed to face Thiago Silva but he got injured and Shogun stepped up to fight on Fox’s main event. There was a little drama as he turned down a fight with Glover Teixeira but it was finally announced that his opponent would be Brandon Vera. Nobody was excited to see Brandon Vera in the main event but with a potential title shot on the line, he came to fight. This was a brutal fight with Vera using his Muay Thai striking to hang in there with one of the best light heavyweights of all time. Both guys were visibly tired by the end of the fight but they kept throwing shots at each other. Shogun would finally put away Vera in the fourth with strikes. It wasn’t the fight of the year Joe Rogan kept touting it as but still quite good.
Ed Herman has been with the UFC since he was a runner up on TUF season 3 and is actually the last person to defeat Glover Teixeira. Herman took almost two years off after a knee injury and returned to win three fights in a row. This one took place at UFC 143 and was Stark’s debut in the UFC. Stark won the first round leaving Herman’s face a swollen mess but Herman came back and won by rear naked choke in the second. It looked like Herman was gonna break through to the top of the 185 lb division but he ran into a juiced Jake Shields. A win at Strikeforce next month would help him get back on track.
Adlan Amagov was a rising middleweight prospect who looking to move up in Strikeforce’s rankings and Robbie Lawler was a veteran with two losses in a row. The fight was stopped in the first round as Amagov illegally kneed Lawler in the face while both of his knees were on the ground. Lawler then came back immediately with an awesome flying knee to end it.
This was Cung Le’s second fight in the UFC and Cote’s first since he was cut back in 2010. Wanderlei Silva beat him pretty good in his debut but he looked much better in this one. He fought a little more conservative and out struck Cote for most of the fight. The win would give Le the chance to headline the UFC’s first show in China.
Luke Rockhold’s first title defense took place in January against Keith Jardine. This was Jardine’s first fight at middleweight and he didn’t really deserve a title shot but Strikeforce’s middleweight division isn’t very deep. At least it was a guy who’s had some big wins over the years. It only went one round but it had some nice action as Rockhold won by TKO.
This was some of the highest level ground work you’ll see in MMA and you got to see it on free tv. This was a huge fight for both guys as they had both won three in a row. The story going into this one was whether Belcher would be able to defend against the heel hook. Surprisingly Belcher would end up being better on the ground going for submissions of his own, defending the heel hook, and finally winning by TKO. I thought Belcher would be able to follow this up but he couldn’t get going at all against Okami at UFC 155.
This was an entertaining fight in which Michael Bisping fought very intelligently. Both guys were out for a little while with injuries and this one took place at UFC 152. Bisping just outpointed Stann for fifteen minutes with his technical striking and wrestling. It wasn’t as one sided as it sounds but it was a quality win for Bisping to get back on track.
This was one of the best comebacks of all time in the UFC. UFC 144 was took place in Japan and this was Okami’s first fight since losing to Anderson Silva for the title. Okami dominated Boetsch for the first two rounds using his boxing to just neutralize the Barbarian. But Boetsch threw all caution to the wind when the third round started just unloading on Okami. He just grabbed his head and kept connecting with uppercuts until it was over.
This was Chris Weidman’s breakout performance. This was a big fight as his previous fight against Maia was complete trash and Munoz was trying to break through to the top of the middleweight division himself. Weidman just owned Munoz for two rounds. I don’t know if Weidman is ready to challenge Silva just yet but he definitely has potential to make a run for it.
This was the number one contender fight to decide who would face Anderson Silva. Sonnen was originally supposed to face Mark Munoz but this was the better fight. Sonnen won by unanimous decision and it was seen as a bit of a controversial win as many thought Bisping won. I did think Bisping won the first time I watched it but the second time around I agree with the judges. But the loss didn’t set Bisping that far back as he’s now one fight away from a title shot.
Their rematch from UFC 117 was one of the most anticipated fights in the history of MMA. There was nearly two years of build and trash talk leading up to this one. Sonnen was suspended for a year after UFC 117 for having elevated levels of testosterone. When he returned, Sonned defeated Brian Stann and Michael Bisping to earn another title shot. The first round was very similar to the first fight as Sonnen took down Silva almost immediately. Sonnen connected with 76 strikes but he isn’t the most powerful striker so Silva didn’t take too much damage. But one judge did score it 10-8 for Sonnen. The second round was very different as Sonnen was unable to take Silva down. Silva got out of Sonnen’s clinch and started throwing some crazy strikes. Then Sonnen went for that spinning back fist and was finished with a knee to the chest followed by strikes to the head.
• So let me know how you guys would rank them. Also let me know if you liked the two lists at once. It’s something I could do more often or never again.
• As always, let me know if there are any topics or fighters you would like to see ranked in the future.
• Next week will be the top welterweight and lightweight fights of 2012.
Try not to die til next week.