The 20 Biggest MMA Stories Thus Far in 2012

Kyle SymesCorrespondent IIIJune 21, 2012

The 20 Biggest MMA Stories Thus Far in 2012

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    Every MMA fan can safely say they've become experts on the subjects brought about by these stories. They've not only held our interest long after the fact, but they have filled headlines on a number of MMA websites.

    2012 is only halfway done, yet we've seen a fair amount of stories that will continue to be remembered by fans even as the year comes to close. Some of them have even become the biggest stories in MMA history, let alone just the biggest in this year.

    MMA fans have seen it all this first half of 2012. Everything from failed drug tests, arrests, injuries, megafueds and the rise and fall of a number of MMA fighters.

    Whether you loved the juicy gossip surrounding these stories or couldn't stand to read another headline, they all have become the biggest stories thus far in 2012.

Anthony Johnson Misses Weight... Again

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    Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is no stranger when it comes to creating controversy on weigh-in day. The former UFC fighter had missed weight a total of three times during his tenure with the promotion. Although it was nothing new for Johnson, the final time was perhaps the most shocking.

    Johnson missed weight badly as he tipped the scales at 197 pounds. “Rumble” cited health concerns that sounded eerily similar to what people go through when enduring extreme dehydration, but that judgment is for each fan to make on their own. 

    The bout against Vitor Belfort was supposed to be a new beginning for Johnson as he was fighting a weight class above what he normally competed at. Instead Johnson missed weight again and was subsequently handed his walking papers after the loss. 

    In his post-UFC career, Johnson fought for Titan Fighting Championships and missed weight again, this time weighing in at 194.2 pounds.

The Ultimate Fighter Goes International

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    As the UFC toiled with changes to the American version of TUF, a decision was also made to have the first international season of The Ultimate Fighter. The first country to receive the honors was of course, Brazil.

    The episodes aired late Sunday nights, and if you were looking for a mass amount of viewers, this show definitely didn't deliver on ratings. But for anyone who watched the show, it was arguably the best season of TUF in years. The fighters were entertaining, and most of the fights were incredible to watch.

    The limited success of TUF: Brazil has lead the UFC to also announce the production of TUF: Australia as well.

Nate Diaz's Rise to Title Contender

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    His older brother may have not be having a good year in 2012, but Nate Diaz has quickly become a legitimate title contender at 155 pounds.

    Looking to build momentum after a strong showing against Donald Cerrone, Diaz was pitted against Jim Miller in the main event of the UFC on Fox 3 event. Prior to the bout, it was revealed that Diaz could earn a title shot with a victory over Miller.

    Diaz would go on to secure the submission victory and will now await his title shot. For a fighter that seemed to have little direction in his career despite a wealth of talents only a few years ago, Diaz has made a remarkable turnaround in his career.

    2012 may be the year in which Diaz finally casts his own shadow instead of being stuck in his big brother's.

Demetrious Johnson vs. Ian McCall Highlights the Flyweight Tournament

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    When the Flyweight tournament was announced, Demetrious Johnson was matched up against Ian McCall. McCall was widely considered one of, if not the, top flyweights in the world and certainly would be a tough fight for Johnson.

    Their first meeting in Australia was an entertaining three round fight that initially ended with Johnson's hand raised. However, in the post-fight press conference, Dana White let it be known that there was a scoring error, and the fight was officially scored as a draw.

    A rematch was quickly set up between the two men. The second bout lived up to expectations placed upon it from the first fight and saw Johnson control most of the action en route to winning a decision victory.

    Johnson and McCall's battles have been the hallmark of the UFC's flyweight tournament and have left Joseph Benavidez feeling perhaps a bit unappreciated given he had already punched his ticket to the finals at the UFC on FX: Alves vs. Kampmann event.

Urijah Faber, Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao

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    The fighters are supposed to be the main focus on The Ultimate Fighter, but to MMA fans, the attention has clearly been refocused on the coaches. No more true was this than when discussing Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz.

    The two men have effectively became the faces of the bantamweight division, and their rivalry has helped introduce fans to the exciting lighter weights.

    Cruz and Faber were expected to meet at UFC 148, but an ACL injury forced Cruz out of the fight. An interim title match will be contested between Faber and Renan Barao.

Michael Chiesa's Cinderella Story

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    Although declining ratings plagued this season of The Ultimate Fighter, there was one shining light throughout the season; Michael Chiesa. 

    Chiesa left the show for a bit shortly after the season began due to his father dying. The ensuing episodes allowed MMA fans to create a kind of bond with Chiesa as everyone could relate to what the fighter was going through. 

    Despite the fact that Al Iaquinta was selected over Chiesa in team picks, Chiesa completed his Cinderella story by winning The Ultimate Fighter. 

    Winning TUF may not mean what it once did, but Chiesa can say he has something that recent TUF winners don't have: the fans.

Cain Velasquez Makes a Statement

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    Cain Velasquez ended 2011 on a low note as the former champion endured his first defeat, losing his UFC title to Junior dos Santos. Fans still believed Velasquez to be the best heavyweight outside of dos Santos, and they also believed he would showcase his full arsenal at UFC 146. 

    Originally scheduled to face Frank Mir, Velasquez would eventually fight Antonio “Big Foot” Silva. Although “fight” may be the wrong word to choose when describing Velasquez vs. Silva. 

    It was nothing short of a massacre in MMA form as Velasquez came out strong and cut Silva with some devastating ground and pound. The cageside doctor took a look at the cut and would allow Silva to continue despite half his body weight in blood laying on the canvas. 

    Velasquez quickly finished off Silva following the restart and has now earned his rematch with dos Santos. It wasn't just the fact that Velasquez earned a rematch with this victory but rather the destructive manner in which he accomplished that goal that made this a big story with MMA fans.

Jon Jones' Driving

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    If the vindicating over Rashad Evans was the high point for Jon Jones thus far in 2012, the low point definitely has to be his DWI charge.

    Jones was taken in after blowing over the legal limit and crashing his custom luxury car. Sentencing has since been delayed a few weeks for the UFC champion, but jail time is highly unlikely for Jones.

    Although crimes like this happen on a daily basis in the United States, the story became a huge hit with every single fan who dislikes Jones. It's become a rallying cry for those attempting to point out the fakeness of Jones.

Brock Lesnar's Rumored Return to MMA

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    Brock Lesnar is still making headlines on UFC pages despite stepping away from the Octagon in Dec. of last year.

    Lesnar signed a deal with WWE, and MMA fans had finally accepted the polarizing fighter had moved on from the sport only to see Lesnar among the crowd at UFC 146. Immediately fans rushed to their keyboards to talk about a potential return of Lesnar.

    It even came out that Lesnar met with Dana White although reports later indicated the meeting didn't go too well. Whether the meeting went well or not, it's clear that Lesnar is still a huge draw with MMA fans, despite not competing in the sport at the moment.

Frankie Edgar's Luck Finally Runs out Against Benson Henderson

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    Frankie Edgar didn't need a miraculous comeback in this lightweight title defense. Instead, Edgar found a five round war with challenger Benson Henderson. The bout was action packed and razor close as the scorecards were read.

    In the end, Edgar's run of luck finally ran out and Henderson found his hand raised as the victor and new UFC Lightweight champion.

    The fight was extremely close, and MMA fans were quick to take sides in the subsequent arguments. Realizing fans and the fighters needed a rematch, White was quick to give Edgar his rematch and another shot at defeating Henderson.

The Return of BJ Penn

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    After being beaten in resounding fashion by Nick Diaz at UFC 137, BJ Penn made it clear he needed some time away from the Octagon. Although he didn't say the “r” word, fans were up in the air as to whether the career of “The Prodigy” was truly over. 

    It soon became a common understanding that Penn's competitive drive wouldn't allow the Hawaiian to follow a schedule that didn't involve MMA. Earlier this year, Rory MacDonald mentioned Penn as a possible opponent, and a bout was soon made official.

    For Penn, it will be his first bout since Oct. of 2011 and will be contested at welterweight. The fight seems to also serve a dual purpose as Penn has made it clear that MacDonald's Tri Star gym training is helping to motivate him.

Nick Diaz Being Nick Diaz

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    Nick Diaz was already an enigma when making his UFC return in 2011. His refusal to “play the game” forced Dana White to remove him from a scheduled title bout at UFC 137. Diaz, however, would get his title shot only a few short months later at UFC 143.

    After being unable to mount any offense against Carlos Condit, visibly upset, Diaz walked away from the sport of MMA. As with BJ Penn, many fans concluded that Diaz would be back after collecting his thoughts.

    Not only has Diaz not returned to the sport of MMA, but he's also created even more headlines with his failed drug test following UFC 143 and no-showing a grappling superfight.

    It seems a zebra truly cannot change its stripes.

Jon Jones and Rashad Evans

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    The biggest rivalry outside of Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen in recent years, Jon Jones and Rashad Evans simply did not like each other. The former training partners had spent months exchanging a war of words and were paired up on numerous occasions, only for the bout to fall through. 

    The two men finally met at UFC 144. The contest saw Jones control nearly every facet of the fight, and he visibly wobbled Evans on a number of occasions. The fight was supposed to be Jones' biggest test to date and toughest challenger, yet the champion passed with flying colors once more. 

    Jones was so dominant over Evans that fans have nothing left to do but shrug their shoulders when attempting to come up with future title challengers beyond Dan Henderson. 

#RallyforMarkHunt

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    Prior to the great battle between Frankie Edgar and Benson Henderson at UFC 144, Mark Hunt was making his case for one of the greatest career comebacks in any sport. 

    Hunt dropped Cheick Kongo and had his hand raised for the third-straight time inside the Octagon. Perhaps the only thing that topped Hunt's performance was his post-fight speech with Joe Rogan. 

    With Alistair Overeem's removal from the main event at UFC 146, social media pundits went into overdrive with their support of Hunt. The #RallyforMarkHunt movement became an instant hit with MMA fans and no doubt weighed heavily in the mind of Dana White. 

    Hunt didn't exactly have the resume to warrant a title shot, but there's no question he had the fan's vote of confidence. 

    It was also the best thing on Twitter until #frankmirface came along.

WMMA Sees One Star Leave While Another Rises

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    Women's MMA has always been a very small niche within a niche sport. Fans seem to be either for it or against it, with very few feeling apathetic about the divisions. 

    While the sport's biggest star was unquestionably Gina Carano for the past few years, another woman had risen through the ranks to take over that title, Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos. “Cyborg” left a path of destruction in her wake as she became not only the best female fighter, but also the face of WMMA. 

    That all changed with the revelation of Santos testing positive for PED's following her fight in Dec. of 2011. It seemed WMMA was destined for the dark ages once more, until another woman assumed the duties of being the face of the sport: Ronda Rousey. 

    Both brash and talented, Rousey immediately gained a large fan following for her nasty armbar victories and even more fans by calling out top fighter, Miesha Tate. Despite only competing in a handful of fights, Rousey was awarded a title shot against Tate. 

    Rousey talked a big game and backed it up once the cage door closed. Adding another armbar submission victory, Rousey became a star despite the sport of WMMA still being light years behind the men's division.

Testosterone Replacement Therapy and the Low Testosterone Epidemic in MMA

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    This has become the religion/politics topic in MMA. Not that testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) has anything to do with either. Rather, it's a topic that ignites heated debates between MMA fans whenever it is mentioned.

    Fighters with low testosterone levels have begun going through the process as a means to find a sort of temporary fountain of youth. Fighters have reported to feel years younger and healthier after using TRT.

    MMA fans tend to view the topic in two ways: either it needs to be banned in MMA or accepted as a genuine medical treatment. Whatever side of the fence MMA fans find themselves on, you're likely to find yourself mentioning TRT on an almost daily basis when discussing the sport these days.

Carlos Condit's Performance at UFC 143

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    Prior to Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz stepping into the cage at UFC 143, fans were on the edge of the seats as they expected a barnburner of a fight. 

    Intending not to fight Diaz's game, Condit harnessed his usual aggressive style and complete a picture perfect gameplan en route to a decision victory. Diaz was visibly upset during and after the bout, even announcing his retirement following the fight. 

    Immediately after Condit's victory, the Internet lit up like a west coast wild fire with both praise and criticism for Condit. It seemed fans were either applauding Condit's gameplan or breaking him down as running away from Diaz for five rounds; there was no middle ground. 

    The Condit-Diaz bout remains the most discussed main event thus far into 2012.

Chael Sonnen vs. Anderson Silva II

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    This is perhaps the most anticipated rematch in UFC history, maybe even MMA history. When Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen met at UFC 117 Silva entered the contest with an aura of invincibility surrounding him.

    Silva had just finished dancing his way to a decision victory over Demian Maia and images of Silva's destruction of Forrest Griffin were still fresh in their minds. Fans laughed at Sonnen's pre-fight talk of beating Silva which gave the standout wrestler little hope.

    However, not only did Sonnen talk the talk, he walked the walk.

    Sonnen would dominate the contest only to lose to poor submission defense while minutes away from being crowned middleweight champion. The loss did little to humble Sonnen who has told anyone who will give him the time of day just how little he thinks of Silva.

    Their rematch at UFC 148 could stand to be the biggest money maker and most hyped bout in UFC history.

Injuries, Injuries and More Injuries

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    Not really one specific incident, but injuries have definitely plagued the UFC so far in 2012. This year could see virtually every single main card feature some sort of change due to injury.

    Georges St. Pierre, Dominick Cruz, Jose Aldo, Michael Bisping and Mark Munoz are only a handful of names that have been forced out of fights due to injury this year. For example, just take a look at plethora of changes that occurred on the UFC 146 card.

    Another good example was the original lineup of UFC 148 that was set to feature two title matches, future hall of famer Tito Ortiz and Bisping, among other top talents. Now take a glance at the fight card; it barely resembles the original pairings.

    Fans have come up with a number of theories such as fighter insurance, steroids and over-training, but the injury epidemic cannot be pegged to one single cause but rather a collection of problems in the sport of MMA.

Alistair Overeem's Testosterone Levels

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    “The failed drug test heard around the world.”

    Alistair Overeem had been under scrutiny from MMA fans and fighters for years after his transformation from a scrawny looking light heavyweight to a massive heavyweight title holder. Overeem had always passed his scheduled drug tests, but skeptics remained steadfast in their beliefs.

    Their doubt was proven correct when Overeem would fail a random drug screening following a press conference for his title fight against Junior dos Santos at UFC 146. With a reported 14:1 testosterone level, Overeem was subsequently suspended for nine months and removed from his title fight.

    Plenty of fighters have failed drug tests before, but this has been the biggest incident and perhaps the biggest story of 2012 so far.