As 2012 winds to a close, TSN.ca looks back at the stories that made the year memorable. TSN.ca's MMA team reflects on the best in MMA from the past 12 months including choices for submission, knockout, fight and comeback fight of the year.
Submission of the Year
John Pollock, TSN Radio 1050 - Ivan Menjivar def. Azamat Gashimov at UFC 154 (Armbar, Rd. 1).
Yes, Ronda Rousey continued her streak of collecting arms in impressive fashion but if you want a brutal, no nonsense submission than this was it. Ivan Menjivar, a bantamweight that is allergic to boredom secures a nasty, belly down armbar that pops the arm of the Russian newcomer in destructive fashion.
James Lynch, TSN.ca - Matt Wiman def. Paul Sass at UFC on Fuel TV 5 (Armbar, Rd. 1).
I know this wasn't on many pundits lists, but I give Wiman full marks because he took out an up-and-coming, undefeated fighter and beat him at his own game. Leading up to this fight many fans predicted an easy Sass submission victory in his hometown, but Wiman came in and spoiled the party.
Jordan Cieciwa, TSN RADIO 1290 - Eduardo Dantas def. Zach Makovsky at Bellator 65 (Arm Triangle Choke, Rd. 2).
This category almost went to Vitor Belfort. Jon Jones is still recovering from the armbar Belfort had locked on Jones, prior to Jones' coming back to win the fight. Unfortunately for Belfort almost doesn't cut it in any sport or facet of life, however, it does get honourable mention. For the real deal it had to be Eduardo Dantas facing Zach Makovsky at Bellator 65. Dantas won the bantamweight title with a slick arm triangle. It put Makovsky right to sleep, and it showed the high calibre talent that is in the Bellator ranks. I wanted to list about ten fights here because submissions and the ground game overall do not get the respect they deserve. This is what sets MMA apart, and it separates the good fighters from the best.
Justin Boone, TSN.ca - Charles Oliveira def. Eric Wisely at UFC on FOX 2 (Calf Slicer, Rd. 1).
UFC on FOX 2 had several big names like Rashad Evans, Michael Bisping and Chael Sonnen, but it was Charles Oliveira who had the most memorable victory of the night as he executed the first ever successful calf slicer submission finish to beat Eric Wisely. Oliveira admitted that he had never done the move before in an actual fight, but had been practicing the calf slicer for some time in training. The submission earned him a quick $65,000 for Submission of the Night, as well as my vote for Submission of the Year.
Comeback Fight of the Year
Pollock - Martin Kampmann def. Thiago Alves at UFC on FX 2 (Guillotine Choke, Rd. 3).
Leave it to Thiago Alves to snag defeat from the jaws of victory. The two split rounds one and two and Alves landed a round changing shot in the third round that telegraphed an easy 29-28 decision for the ATT fighter. Enter the final minute and Alves decided to play the takedown game and finds himself locked in a guillotine and forced to tap with 0:48 left on the clock and Martin Kampmann comes back from "down under" in Australia.
Lynch - Tim Boetsch def. Yushin Okami at UFC 144 (Knockout, Punches, Rd. 3).
After two rounds it looked like Yushin Okami was on route to his typical dominating three round decision victory. However "The Barbarian" had other plans, lighting a spark in the third round and knocking out the Japanese fighter. Boetech joins Anderson Silva as the only fighter inside the octagon to knockout Okami.
Cieciwa - Chang Sung Jung def. Dustin Poirier at UFC on FUEL TV 3 (Submission, D'Arce Choke, Rd. 4).
Chan Sung Jung handed Dustin Poirier his first loss in five fights with a choke that would have made my Submission of the Year list, if I had more votes there. The first round and the third round went to Poirier. In fact, the first big punch thrown by Poirier in the opening round was a hook that wobbled Jung so bad, I thought it was going to end the fight. Both Jung and Poirier secured spots as top ten fighters in the featherweight division and both are fighters to watch over the coming year.
Boone - Tim Boetsch def. Yushin Okami at UFC 144 (Knockout, Punches, Rd. 3).
So often fighters find themselves down two rounds to none with only five minutes left to steal a victory by knockout or submission. Tim Boetsch found himself in that exact scenario and instead of going quietly into the night he unleashed a barrage of strikes on his opponent Yushin Okami. after staggering Okami, Boetsch pounded and earned an unlikely win that left Joe Rogan screaming over and over "What a comeback!"
Knockout of the Year
Edson Barboza def. Terry Etim at UFC 142 (Spinning Wheel Kick, Rd. 3), by unanimous decision.
Pollock - The lasting image of Barboza landing a spinning wheel kick flush to Etim as Ari Shaffir leaps from his ringside seat in astonishment is one that will remain in my memory bank for years to come. This was the highlight of what I felt was the best card of 2012.
Lynch - How can this not be knockout of the year? In what looked like a finishing move off the Street Fighter video game, Barboza silences the crowd (after three lackluster rounds) with a beautiful spinning back kick knockout to finish the fight in his native Brazil. As Joe Rogan pointed out during the night of the broadcast, Barboza lands the first spinning wheel kick KO in UFC history.
Cieciwa - Barboza's victory over Etim had to be the Knockout of the Year. This one went down in Rio on January 14, and it started the year with a bang. Barboza is an excellent striker and he showed it by throwing a spinning heel kick, one of the hardest strikes to land, especially against an opponent with the talent of Etim. His heel landed flush on Etim's chin, and meant lights out, collect his bonus, and enjoy a great night out on Zuffa. For Nate Quarry, you have to think Knockout of the Year was Cung Le over Rich Franklin. Sorry, I had to throw that in there.
Boone - It's almost impossible not to award Barboza the Knockout of the Year. Etim left his head completely unprotected and Barboza capitalized with an outstanding spinning wheel kick that rendered Etim limp as he made the long fall to the canvas. It's one thing to knock someone out with your fist, but the timing and athleticism that it took for Barboza to connect with a spinning wheel kick was truly impressive.
Fight of the Year
Pollock - Joe Lauzon def. Jamie Varner at UFC on FOX 4 (Triangle Choke, Rd. 3).
The story going into this was great with Varner making an improbable comeback to the UFC and upsetting Edson Barboza and then getting a spot on the FOX main card. This fight showcased all facets of MMA and looking back on my scorecard, I had this fight even going into the third round where Varner attempted to overpower Lauzon with takedowns and ended up in Lauzon's triangle to cap off an incredible fight.
Lynch - Mauricio Shogun Rua def. Brandon Vera at UFC on FOX 4 (Knockout, Punches, Rd. 4).
In what many considered a total mismatch, Brandon Vera put on a fight for the ages as he slugged it out in a back and forth affair against the former UFC light heavyweight champion Rua. Flying knees, submission attempts and a knockout finish, this fight had it all! While Shogun won the fight, Vera gained a ton respect of not only by the fans, but UFC president Dana White who decided not to release him.
Cieciwa - Ronda Rousey def. Miesha Tate at Strikeforce 39/ Sarah Kaufman at Strikeforce 42.
This is going to actually be Fights of the Year. It's not because of the excitement factor, which there was. It's also not because of a quick submission, which again, there was. Ronda Rousey fought twice this year and both bouts ended in arm bars. Rousey defeated Miesha Tate to win the Strikeforce title. Rousey stopped Sarah Kaufman in a title defense. It took Rousey just over five minutes combined to earn victories in the two fights. In less than one year, Rousey arrived on the scene, earned armbar victories over five women and won the Strikeforce title. Now, Rousey is set to fight in the main event at UFC 157, making history. Rousey changed Dana White's mind on women's MMA and her explosive wins proved women have a place in the sport.
Boone - Ben Henderson def. Frankie Edgar at UFC 144 (Unanimous Decision, Rd. 5).
To be the Fight of the Year, you have to be able to deliver when the spotlight is on you and that's exactly what Frankie Edgar and Benson Henderson did in the main event of UFC 144. Edgar looked like he was on his way to defending his title, before Henderson landed and up-kick directly to Edgar's face that changed everything. Edgar continued to catch Henderson's kicks, while Henderson used his size to punish the smaller, quicker Edgar. Neither fighter took a break for five of the most exciting rounds of 2012, with Henderson pulling out a controversial decision victory.