One of the biggest changes to occur in the MMA rankings in 2012 happened with just 48 hours remaining in the year as Cain Velasquez regained the UFC heavyweight title with a dominant win over Junior dos Santos at UFC 155. It was arguably Velasquez’s best performance and considering who he was fighting, the win was all the more impressive.
Not only did he reclaim the top spot in the heavyweight division, but he also made a big leap up the pound-for-pound rankings. When he’s healthy and on his game, there may not be any fighter on the planet that can beat him.
Towards the end of the year, there was some major shuffling in the middleweight division. Contenders like Alan Belcher and Tim Boetsch suffered setback losses, while fans finally saw what Hector Lombard is capable of, knocking out Rousimar Palhares in brutal fashion.
Ronda Rousey staked her claim as the top female fighter in 2012, Demetrious Johnson claimed top spot in the flyweight division, and Benson Henderson is now the firm ruler of the lightweight division.
As for Canadians, Georges St-Pierre returned to action in fine form, proving he’s the most well-rounded mixed martial artist in the sport. Other Canadians like Rory MacDonald and TJ Grant cemented their spots at the top of the Canadian rankings.
With these things in mind, here are Sportsnet.ca’s year-end MMA rankings:
Guaranteed title shot with win over Belfort in January.
3. Hector Lombard
We saw the real Lombard with his KO of Rousimar Palhares.
4. Chris Weidman
Recovering from shoulder surgery.
5. Vitor Belfort
Fighting in home country against Bisping.
6. Luke Rockhold
Recovering from injury but will return in 2013.
7. Ronaldo Souza
Meets Lorenz Larkin in January.
8. Yushin Okami
Outmuscled Belcher at UFC 155.
9. Alan Belcher
Was held down by Okami and couldn’t do anything about it.
10. Constantinos Philippou
Still improving but win over Boetsch was big.
Honourable mention: Tim Boetsch, Brian Stann, Rousimar Palhares
Note: Chael Sonnen was No. 2 but has since moved up to the 205-pound division.
1. Georges St-Pierre
Meets Diaz at UFC 158 in Montreal.
2. Carlos Condit
Looking to beat MacDonald for a second time.
3. Nick Diaz
Gets his chance against GSP in enemy territory.
4. Nate Marquardt
The Strikeforce champion meets Tarec Saffiedine in January.
5. Johny Hendricks
Planked Kampmann at UFC 154. Gets Ellenberger next.
6. Rory MacDonald
Battered BJ Penn on FOX and got desired rematch Condit.
7. Demian Maia
Faces Fitch at UFC 156.
8. Jon Fitch
He impressed at UFC 153 and fights Maia next.
9. Martin Kampmann
Got caught by a perfect Hendricks punch.
10. Jake Ellenberger
Looks to regain contender status with win over Hendricks.
Honourable mention: Mike Pierce, Dong Hyun Kim, Josh Koscheck, Thiago Alves, Erick Silva, Mike Pyle
1. Benson Henderson
On his way to becoming the most dominant lightweight in UFC history.
2. Nate Diaz
Dominated by Bendo but showed his toughness.
3. Gilbert Melendez
The UFC is next for the Strikeforce champ.
4. Gray Maynard
Injury forced him out of a UFC 155 bout with Joe Lauzon.
5. Anthony Pettis
A bout with Cerrone is set for January.
6. Donald Cerrone
Doesn’t like Pettis and will have the chance to settle the score.
7. Michael Chandler
Defends his title against Rick Hawn at Bellator 85.
8. Jim Miller
Steps in for Maynard against J-Lau.
9. Eddie Alvarez
Being courted by the UFC. Knocked out Patricky Freire at Bellator 76 with spectacular head-kick.
10. Rafael dos Anjos
On a good streak and coming off big win over Mark Bocek.
Honourable mention: Joe Lauzon, Jamie Varner, TJ Grant, Matt Wiman, Evan Dunham, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Gleison Tibau, Shinya Aoki
1. Jose Aldo
Headlines UFC 156 against Edgar.
2. Pat Curran
Defends belt against Patricio Freire at Bellator 85.
3. Chad Mendes
KO’d Yaotzin Meza with ease at UFC on FX 6.
4. Eric Koch
Title bout with Aldo fell apart several times. Now fights Lamas.
5. Chan Sung Jung
Closing in on a title shot.
6. Ricardo Lamas
A win over Koch could get him a title shot.
7. Dustin Poirier
Submitted TUF winner Jonathan Brookins his last time out.
8. Frankie Edgar
Got an immediate title shot when he made the drop to 145.
9. Cub Swanson
Meets Siver in London in February.
10. Dennis Siver
Looks to remain unbeaten at 145 against Swanson.
Honourable mention: Diego Nunes, Hatsu Hioki, Nik Lentz, Rani Yahya, Hacran Dias, Darren Elkins, Tatsuya Kawajiri
1. Dominick Cruz
His return was pushed back after a setback in his knee’s rehab.
2. Renan Barao
Will defend interim belt against McDonald in February.
3. Urijah Faber
Takes on Menjivar at UFC 157.
4. Brian Bowles
Only career losses to Cruz and Faber.
5. Michael McDonald
Will fight Barao for interim strap.
6. Eddie Wineland
His striking was on point against Pickett.
7. Brad Pickett
Was a half step behind Wineland at UFC 155.
8. Ivan Menjivar
Performed brilliantly at UFC 154. Faber is next
9. Bibiano Fernandes
Finished the year by choking Yoshiro Maeda unconscious at DREAM 18.
10. Scott Jorgensen
Earned Submission and Fight of the Night at UFC on FOX 5.
Honourable mention: Raphael Assuncao, Mike Easton, Eduardo Dantas, Takeya Mizugaki, Erik Perez
1. Demetrious Johnson
His first title challanger will be Dodson.
2. Joseph Benavidez
Heartbroken after close, split decision loss to Mighty Mouse.
3. Ian McCall
Currently dealing with some legal troubles.
4. John Dodson
Can he go from TUF champ to UFC champ?
5. Jussier da Silva
Was unsuccessful in his UFC debut.
6. John Moraga
2-0 in the UFC with two great stoppages.
7. Darren Uyenoyama
Has possibly the most dangerous ground game in the division.
8. Darrell Montague
Only loss at flyweight was to McCall.
9. Tim Elliott
Has won nine of his last 10.
10. John Lineker
Looked great against Yasuhiro Urushitani in Macau.
Honourable mention: Chris Cariaso, Ulysses Gomez, Jose Maria Tome, Louis Gaudinot, Mamoru Yamaguchi, Rambaa Somdet, Yasuhiro Urushitani
MMA rankings are subjective, and ultimately have no real bearing on how fights should or do play out, but they inevitably get fans talking about the sport and its best fighters. Send your thoughts and arguments to @MikeyJ_MMA.