The 411 MMA Top 10 01.14.13: Top Ten Welterweight and Lightweight Fights of 2012
Hey there gentle readers, I am Alex Rella and this is the MMA Top Ten. This week we will be looking at the top ten fights of 2012 in the welterweight and lightweight divisions. These two divisions probably had the best fights of the year. Both lists are comprised based on the fight quality, significance of the fight, and some personal opinion.
Some thought this fight was a little dull but I thought it was pretty good. Coming into this one Koscheck was trying to keep his place as the number two welterweight in the UFC and Hendricks was coming off a 12 second knockout of Kos’ former teammate, Jon Fitch. This was an interesting matchup as both fighters were Division 1 All-American wrestlers. You figured this would come down to who was the better striker but I wanted to see who the better wrestler was. The first round was incredibly close but Hendricks took the second as he was the better striker. Kos came back in the third as he finally decided to wrestle. I thought Koscheck won the first time I watched this, but it was so close and his face was a mess after the fight. A big win for Hendricks as he continued to make his push for a title shot.
This was Mike “The Quick” Swick’s first fight since 2010 and it was against TUF 9 runner up DaMarques Johnson. Up until this point Johnson was a solid fighter in the UFC, but Swick looked like he hadn’t missed anytime in the cage. Both guys came out swinging for a very exciting first round. Swick came out strong early but Johnson battled back and nearly won with a d’arce choke. Swick was able slam Johnson in the second and followed it up with a punch to win Knockout of the Night.
I didn’t have high hopes for this fight but it turned out to be a nice surprise. This was Marquardt’s debut fight at welterweight and first since being cut after UFC 128. Tyron Woodley was undefeated at this point, but he had a less than exciting style. But this turned out to be quite the battle. Woodley came at the UFC veteran full force and came close to finishing it a few times, but Marquardt kept his cool and won by KO in the fourth round. Marquardt showed some of the sickest striking combinations you’ll see in MMA, which made his performance this weekend all the more disappointing.
Stephen Thompson had a great debut at UFC 143 when he karate kicked Dan Stittgen for the Knockout of the Night. He was prematurely being touted as the future of the welterweight division until he ran into The Immortal. 2012 was the best year of Matt Brown’s career as he went 4-0. Thomson would get the first loss of his career as he was just no match for Brown when it came to his grappling and ground and pound. Though, it wasn’t one sided as Thompson got in plenty of heavy shots. I’m looking forward to seeing both guys fight in 2013. Brown should get a chance at a top fighter next and Thompson hasn’t fought since this loss.
Both guys were on a roll in the welterweight division as Kampmann won two in a row and Ellenberger six. Ellenberger came out real strong in the first round. Only seconds into the fight he connected with a brutal left hook that dropped Kampmann. But the Hitman recovered and came back in the second round. Kampmann was all busted up, but he got Ellenberger in a thai clinch and finished it off. Kampmann pulled off another great comeback after delivering some vicious knees. But then he would get knocked out in 46 seconds by Johny Hendricks.
This was one of the best comebacks of the year. Kampmann came out strong winning the first round, but Alves came back and won the second. Alves was looking very strong in the third round until he went for a takedown in the final minute of the fight. Kampmann locked in the guillotine choke as Alves went in and earned the Submission of the Night.
After GSP had to step out of the title main event, Carlos Condit took on Nick Diaz for the UFC’s interim welterweight title. This was a great fight and one of the closest of the year. Carlos Condit won the interim title and later a shot at GSP. Condit fought very intelligently, he effectively used leg kicks and out boxed Diaz for most of the fight. I also thought Diaz should have been more aggressive in the later rounds. I thought Condit won, but it was one of those fights that you could have seen it go either way. It worked out for Diaz in the end anyway as he’ll get his title shot against GSP in 2013.
This was a very important fight for both men. Ellenberger had won five fights in a row but still needed that big win to get him to the top of the division. He just knocked out Jake Shields in 53 seconds but Shields’ father had just passed away so it wasn’t as a big of a win as it should have been. Diego Sanchez was also looking to make another run in the welterweight division. The former TUF winner and lightweight number one contender was on a two fight winning streak in which both were Fights of the Night. This one also took place on Ellenberger’s home town of Omaha, Nebraska. The first main event on Fuel was awesome. Ellenberger won by unanimous decision and this rightfully won Fight of Night. I don’t know why this didn’t get five rounds but it might have ended differently if it had two more rounds. Sanchez was coming back real strong at the end. Sanchez has since announced that he’ll be moving back down to lightweight in 2013.
The much anticipated return of GSP took place at UFC 154 and he did not disappoint. It had been nearly a year and a half since GSP last defended his title against Jake Shields at UFC 129. Condit had won his past five fights coming into this one and was sitting out since he defeated Nick Diaz for the welterweight title at UFC 143. There was some questioning as to whether GSP would be the same fighter mentally and physically. GSP looked his best in this really exciting fight against the Natural Born Killer. Condit came into this fight knowing that he couldn’t beat GSP on the ground and his best chance was striking with him. So after a year and a half GSP came back and won by unanimous decision. As expected GSP dominated Condit with his wrestling but GSP outstruck him as well. Condit was a bloody mess after the first round but he came as close as anyone since Serra to defeating GSP. In the third round Condit railed GSP with a sick head kick that would have knocked out most fighters. Condit came real close to finishing it but GSP evaded it like he always does. It’s been said that GSP hasn’t looked to finish guys in his last couple fights but this wasn’t the case. GSP was aggressively looking to finish it but Condit was too good for that. This got the top spot on GSP’s top career fights a few weeks ago.
Best Jon Fitch Fight Ever. I can see where some may argue for GSP’s return, but I think this one has the edge. Fitch had been the number two welterweight for years using his dominate wrestling to just smother guys for decision victories but the past few years haven’t been great for him. Fitch’s last win was at UFC 117. Before the fight he was talking about retiring as he was trouble providing for his family. Up against him was the impressive prospect Erick Silva. There was just so much good about this fight. Silva disrespected the veteran and ending up getting the crap punched out of him. Silva battled back in the second round but Fitch refused to get submitted. Fitch came so close to actually finishing the fight in the third, but it was still great as he would end up saving his career. Now it looks like he may be back in the title picture if he beats Maia at UFC 156.
This fight wasn’t for everyone. Some MMA purists disliked it for the lack of defense and unnecessary brutality. The Toronto crowd and I thought it was pretty exciting though. Both guys just beat each other’s faces in for fifteen minutes. Grant won by unanimous decision but this was very close. The lightweight slugfest won Fight of the Night on a good card. Grant has now gone 3-0 at lightweight and has a big fight with Matt Wiman coming up in a few weeks.
Nate Diaz looked great since moving back down to lightweight but he just owned Jim Miller in this one. This was a fight to determine the next number one contender on Fox. Diaz was very well rounded in this fight. His boxing, clinch work, takedown defense, and eventually submission were all nice. This was the first time Jim Miller had been finished in his career. I thought he had a legitimate chance for the UFC lightweight title after this.
The two met after coaching TUF: The Smashes. This was a hate filled season that had an interesting and kinda funny incident. This wasn’t caught on camera but, Sotiropoulos punched a member of Pearson’s training staff because of something that was said on twitter. The guy he punched was boxing coach Erin Beach, who fought back and knocked Sotiropoulos unconscious. This was Pearson’s return to lightweight after a brief run at featherweight and Sotiropoulos’ first fight since July 2011. The first round was close but Pearson’s boxing was too good in the second and third round. Pearson won by TKO in the third and it’s going to be interesting to see where he goes from here either at 155 or 145 lbs.
You should all know why this fight made the list. Edson Barboza was on quite a roll in the UFC’s lightweight division and it was looking like he had some serious potential at this point. The undefeated Barboza took on Terry Etim at UFC 142. The two were having a good close back and forth fight but then things got awesome in the third round. Barboza connected with a beautiful spinning wheel kick. This would win Fight of the Night, Knockout of the Night, and Knockout of the Year in almost every MMA award show.
Spencer Fisher and Sam Stout had one of the most underrated action packed trilogies. The two guys were never more than midlevel fighters but together they had some great fights. They first met at UFC 58 in the first lightweight fight since the UFC disbanded the division in 2004. They split the first two meetings and met for the third time this summer on UFC on FX 4. This one would win Fight of the Night as the younger Stout would pick up the deciding win. Fisher announced retirement after the fight, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he came back as he expressed interest in fighting at featherweight.
Some of the most exciting 76 seconds you’ll ever see. The two training partners met at UFC 150 and stole the show. Guillard hit the cowboy with a left hand that sent him to the ground only seconds into the fight. It looked like Guillard was going to win but Cerrone recovered. He threw a high kick that looked like it grazed Guillard’s head, but it was enough to stun him. Cerrone followed it up with a right hand to end it. This won Knockout and Fight of the Night honors.
Frankie Edgar finally finished his trilogy with Gray Maynard and moved on to defend his title against Benson Henderson in Japan at UFC 144. The former WEC lightweight champion earned his title shot after defeating Clay Guida in 2011. Edgar was undersized yet again in this fight but he made it a battle. Henderson inflicted the most damage in the second round with a nice up kick that sent Edgar to his knees. The fight was exciting to the finish as both guys just kept going. Henderson would win by decision but there were those that thought Edgar won, so we got the rematch at UFC 150. I thought the first fight could have gone either way but Edgar definitely won the rematch. Hopefully we see a third fight at some point down the road. I’m also pumped to see Edgar vs Aldo next month.
The end of 2012 for Strikeforce was beyond awful but it actually started out pretty solid. On May 19, both the lightweight and heavyweight titles were on the line. This was the third time both men fought and I think it was their best fight. These two guys just have that kind of chemistry together that they’ll have an awesome fight every time they meet. The first two fights were probably a little more action packed but this one was just so close.Melendez won by split decision, but I thought this was a legitimate tie. This is one of those rare situations where you want to see a fourth fight. Hopefully they meet again at some point in the UFC. This fight also just represented what was good about Strikeforce. Scott Coker was right when he said the trilogy was a huge part of Strikeforce’s legacy.
I was really torn watching this fight as two of my favorite lightweights were going up against each other. Lauzon was originally supposed to fight Terry Etim but he got hurt and we got to watch one of the best fights of the year instead. Jamie Varner returned to the UFC after redeeming himself in 2012 and was coming off a great upset victory over Barboza. Varner would break his hand in the second but he kept going and these two never let up. Lauzon would rightfully get Fight and Submission of the Night awards after the show. Lauzon might be the most exciting fighter ever.
Joe Lauzon just had to go and top his last awesome fight against Varner. I was originally disappointed when Gray Maynard had to back out of the fight but Jim Miller surprised me. Miller came out far more aggressive than usual and busted Lauzon up almost immediately. The cage was absolutely soaked with his blood as Lauzon had a huge gash in his head. Lauzon was on the defense for most of the fight but he held in there and was the star of the fight even though he lost. I was screaming at the tv when he went for the anklelock in the third round.
• So let me know how you guys would rank them or maybe I left a fight out that you thought should be in the top 10.
• 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 last 2012 review column as I rank the featherweight and bantamweight divisions.
Try not to die til next week.