The 411 MMA Top 10 12.31.12: Top 10 Heavyweight Fights of 2012
Posted by Alex Rella on 12.31.2012
From Junior Dos Santos' fights with Cain Velasquez at UFC 155 and UFC on FOX 1 to Mir to the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix finale and more, 411's Alex Rella counts down the top 10 heavyweight fights of 2012!
Top Ten Heavyweight 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 the top ten heavyweight fights to take place in 2012. But first,
Thoughts from last week and other random stuff:
• Last week's list was the top ten non-finalist TUF competitors. The comment section was quiet for the most part except a few of you thought that Gray Maynard should have topped Josh Koscheck for the number one spot. It's very close but I give it to Kos because he's been a top fighter for a little longer and he's getting up there on some all time UFC lists.
• One person said James McSweeney should have won been on there but I hope that was a joke.
Back to this week's list
I wanted to do something different for a couple of year in review columns but all the staff members come together to write a best of edition covering the general topics like best knockouts, fights, etc. So I decided to rank the best fights in each weight class. Some weight classes had more quality fights than others but it should balance out fairly well. I'm starting off with the heavyweights and after that I'll be doubling up with two weight classes a week so it doesn't go into February. Anyway, this week's list is based the fight quality, significance of the fight, and some of my opinion.
• Roy Nelson vs. Matt Mitrione- Nelson vs. Carwin would have been much better but this was a fun quick heavyweight fight.
• Mark Hunt vs. Check Kongo- A nice win for Hunt as he picked up his third victory in a row
• Pat Barry vs. Christian Morecraft- a first round knockout for Barry as both men would win Fight of the Night honors.
10: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Pedro Rizzo: M-1 Global
The fight itself wasn't great but it makes the list because of its historical significance. The Last Emperor was the greatest heavyweight of all time and he took on former UFC number one contender Pedro Rizzo in his last fight. Fedor's last three fights in Strikeforce were pretty bad as he lost to Werdum, Antonio Silva and Dan Henderson. But he rebounded about as nice as one could with two straight wins fighting at lower level promotions. Jeff Monson has had a solid career but Ishii is a nobody. Rizzo was once a top fighter but he hadn't fought in two years since he beat Ken Shamrock at Impact FC. There was speculation leading up to it that he would retire after the fight but nobody knew for sure. It took only took him about a minute and a half to win his last fight in his home country.
9: Antonio Silva vs. Travis Browne: UFC on FX
Bigfoot Silva had a good run in Strikeforce before coming over to the UFC. He defeated former champs Fedor Emelianenko and Andrei Arlovski while with Strikeforce but he got wrecked in his UFC debut against Cain Velasquez. Travis Browne was undefeated coming into this fight and many were picking this to be his breakout performance. Browne came out really aggressive and showed off some moves we hadn't seen from him yet. But this would turn out to be pretty dumb as he tore his left hamstring throwing a high kick. Silva noticed he was hurt and capitalized on it winning by TKO. Silva will be taking on Overeem in 2013 and we'll have to see if Browne goes back to fighting like himself.
8 Jeff Monson vs. Alexander Emelianenko: M-1 Challenge 35
These two heavyweights met in St. Petersburg in a battle to decide who had the worst tattoos. Joking aside this was a pretty good fight between two veterans. Monson had a nice year going 5-0-1 while mostly competing at M-1. Fedor's little brother did quite well too going 3-1. We saw some striking but this fight was spent mostly on the ground. This may not be for everyone but there were some nice exchanges on the ground by the two decorated grapplers. Monson would win by submission in the second round with a north-south choke, a move you don't see very often. Emelianenko would retire shortly afterwards and Monson would win his next fight nine days later. I don't get why Monson hasn't gotten another chance in a major promotion in the last couple years. I know he had the one loss in Strikeforce but he's better than any of the heavyweights in Bellator right now.
7 Lavar Johnson vs. Pat Barry: UFC on Fox 3
This was the opener to UFC on Fox 3 and it got the show started in exciting fashion. The kickboxer Pat Barry took on Lavar Johnson who had just come over from Strikeforce. Both guys are never going to be title contenders but they usually make for entertaining fights. Both were also coming off of knockout victories. Johnson used his height and reach advantage wisely as he came out strong with some nice punching combinations and some good knees. Barry got in some good shots and actually tried to submit Johnson on the ground but I'm pretty sure most of you guys reading could slip out of that one. Johnson got back up and pushed Barry up against the cage with some good knees. Then he just started teeing off of him until it was over.
6 Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva: UFC 146
The all heavyweight card definitely delivered earlier this year. Cain Velasquez was originally supposed to face Frank Mir and Antonio Silva was supposed to take on Roy Nelson. But there were some injuries and some suspensions that moved the card around and we got this fight instead. I do hope both of those fights happen at some point though. This was Velasquez's first fight since losing the title and he was looking to get the rematch with Dos Santos. Cain immediately tossed Bigfoot to the ground and then just mauled him. Silva got busted with an elbow and bled out like crazy. They paused the fight so the doctor could wipe away some of the blood but it would have been understandable if they stopped it then. The fight restarted and Velasquez went back to wrecking him. Velasquez won by TKO in the first round to earn his rematch for the heavyweight title.
5 Junior Dos Santos vs. Frank Mir: UFC 146
One of the biggest stories of 2012 was when Overeem tested positive for horse meat. He was going to take on Junior Dos Santos for the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 146 but the UFC was left looking for a replacement. Plenty of names were thrown out like Dan Henderson and Mark Hunt but it would end up going to Frank Mir. Mir had won three fights in a row since his last title fight back in 2010 and had made the most sense to fill in for Overeem. I don't like Mir personally but one thing I've always respected about him is that he always wants the title. A lot of veterans and former champs are content making money off the easier fights but that isn't Mir. The UFC tried to build this up as a kind of blood feud as Mir just broke Big Nog's arm in his last fight and he is Dos Santos' mentor. It was a good marketing idea but it just seemed kinda forced. Mir tried to take the champion to the ground in the first round but he was unsuccessful. Most of the first round was spent with both guys feeling each other out until Dos Santos started connecting with some good shots at the end of the round. Dos Santos dropped Mir at the beginning of the second round but he wouldn't engage him on the ground. Mir got in some quality shots in the stand up but it wasn't enough as he would get finished with two minutes left in the round. Dos Santos looked very impressive in his first title defense over the former champion.
4 Stefan Struve vs. Stipe Miocic: UFC on Fuel
The Skyscraper did pretty well in 2012. He went 3-0 and emerged as one of the top heavyweights in the world. In September he took on Stipe Miocic in England. Miocic was undefeated in 2012 and his career coming into this fight. Miocic was favored by many in this one as he was considered to be a top prospect with the combination of his wrestling and boxing backgrounds. Miocic came out to an early advantage but eventually Struve remembered his huge reach advantage and started to connect with some good shots. By the second round Struve was connecting with some slow but heavy punches that put Miocic away. They won Fight of the Night and Struve takes on Mark Hunt next in 2013.
3 Daniel Cormier vs. Josh Barnett: Strikeforce
The eight-man Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament started in February 2011. The tournament was stacked with Fedor, Overeem, Bigfoot Silva, Werdum, Arlovski, Kharitonov, Bret Rogers and Barnett. Barnett would reach the finals by submitting both Rogers and Kharitonov via arm triangle. Daniel Cormier was selected to replace Overeem after he was released by Zuffa due to their disagreements with Golden Glory. Cormier took on Silva in the semis who had just defeated Fedor in a huge upset. Cormier knocked out Silva to reach the finals but broke his hand in the process so the fight would get delayed until May 2012. This fight was a big deal as Daniel Cormier was a former Olympic wrestler and had been a rising prospect for years. Barnett on the other hand was the former UFC heavyweight champion who hadn't lost since 2006. Most heavyweight fights that end up going to the judges are slow crapfests but this was a star making performance for Cormier. He won the bloody brawl by unanimous decision. the highlight of the fight was when he picked up the Warmaster and slammed him down to the mat in the third round. But unfortunately he broke his hand again so he didn't fight for the rest of 2012.
2 Fabricio Werdum vs. Roy Nelson: UFC 143
This brutal battle won Fight of the Night honors at UFC 143. This was Werdum's return fight to the UFC as he had been fighting in Strikeforce since he was cut after losing to Dos Santos at UFC 90. Werdum went 3-1 in Strikeforce and became the first person to truly beat Fedor. Nelson had just defeated Mirko Cro Cop in his last fight. Werdum's Muay Thai strikes probably would have knocked out any other heavyweight in this fight but Nelson just kept coming. Nelson got busted open in the first round but he was able to battle back and get in some good punches that really hurt Werdum. This was just a complete slugfest as both fighters just kept throwing shots at each other for fifteen minutes. They were both exhausted at the end of the fight as Werdum would win by unanimous decision.
1 Cain Velasquez vs. Junior Dos Santos: UFC 155
This was a great fight and having watched it in a bar full of Cain Velasquez fans made it even more entertaining. Most people were picking the champion Dos Santos because of the 64 second knockout in the first fight and completely writing off Velasquez. I didn't do the roundtable last week, (sorry to those who missed my brilliant insight) but I would have picked Dos Santos too. Though I did think it would be a different and much more competitive fight. But Velasquez came out real fast and shocked everyone including Dos Santos. Velasquez owned the champion for five rounds. This wasn't the most competitive fight and some will disagree with its placement. I give it the number spot for a few reasons. It was a nice upset, Cain became a two time UFC champion, and the first fighter in UFC history to post triple digits in significant strikes landed and double digits in takedowns landed in a single fight. Velasquez landed 111 significant strikes and 11 takedowns against Dos Santos. Cain may not be able to win again with this style against an Overeem or even a third fight with Dos Santos but right now he's the heavyweight champion.
• 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 I'll be ranking the top ten light heavyweight and middleweight fights of 2012.