10 Best UFC Fights from the First 6 Months of 2012
The addition of a flyweight division has brought added excitement to the Octagon, as Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson showed how fun the little guys can be to watch en route to earning spots in the UFC's first ever 125-pound title fight.
In his debut at flyweight, Benavidez scored a swift knockout of former Shooto champion Yasuhiro Urushitani. Meanwhile, Johnson fought his way to the championship bout by engaging in two instant classics with former Tachi Palace Fights champion Ian McCall.
Let's take a look at where the UFC's first few 125-pound contests stack up against the rest of the most exciting fights through the first six months of 2012.
10. Mike Easton vs. Jared Papazian
Mike Easton defeated Jared Papazian by majority decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-29).
After picking up a win over Byron Bloodworth in his UFC debut, Easton was scheduled to fight Ken Stone at UFC on FX. However, an injury forced Stone out of the bout and allowed UFC newcomer Papazian to fill the void.
Papazian entered the UFC as a former KOTC champion with wins in eight of his previous nine fights, but the 24-year-old had also already lost six fights, most against opponents who haven't made a name for themselves in the sport.
Meanwhile, Easton had already picked up wins over the likes of John Dodson and Chase Beebe before debuting in the Octagon, so he was heavily favored heading into the bout against Papazian.
For the better part of the three rounds they were inside the cage together, Easton and Papzian stood toe-to-toe and banged on the inside. As far as striking went, the fighters were evenly match, leading one judge to deem the bout a draw.
However, Easton was able to do a better job than Papazian of controlling the center of the Octagon and scoring a stray takedown to earn points on the scorecards. As a result, he walked away with a narrow decision win after a wildly entertaining bantamweight bout.
9. John Dodson vs. Tim Elliott
John Dodson defeated Tim Elliott by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Following his win over T.J. Dillashaw, which resulted in him winning The Ultimate Fighter, Dodson opted to return to the flyweight division for a bout against Darren Uyenoyama. However, Elliott later replaced an injured Uyenoyama and made his UFC debut against Dodson.
Though relatively unknown due to competing in the fledgling flyweight division, Elliott had won eight straight fights coming into his UFC debut, including a second-round knockout of former UFC champion Jens Pulver.
While Elliott threw some sloppy technique at Dodson throughout the fight, he was able to give The Ultimate Fighter winner a tough test in his return to 125 pounds. In taking the third round of the fight, Elliott showed that he could be a flyweight contender in the future as the UFC's newest division continues to take shape.
Dodson didn't beat Elliott in spectacular fashion as many predicted he should have, but the Greg Jackson-trained fighter displayed his ability to harness his explosiveness and use it intelligently. "The Magician" still landed with some entertaining attacks, but he demonstrated discipline in doing so.
8. Sam Stout vs. Spencer Fisher
Sam Stout defeated Spencer Fisher by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
When Stout stepped into the Octagon for the first time in his career, Fisher was the opponent standing across the cage from the Canadian. In that March 2006 bout, Stout and Fisher began what would become one of the more exciting, albeit insubstantial, trilogies in MMA history.
After winning the first bout in a split decision, Stout met Fisher once again in June 2007, when Fisher handed Stout a second straight UFC loss in another toe-to-toe slugfest. More than five years later, Stout and Fisher recently met in a rubber match to settle things once and for all.
Despite losing back-to-back fights and sitting out for nearly one year heading into his third matchup with Stout, Fisher's striking looked as crisp as ever at UFC on FX 4. Nonetheless, the longtime UFC veteran couldn't stuff the late-round takedowns of Stout.
While some argued Fisher deserved the win due to his striking success, Stout proved to be the more well-rounded fighter by employing a strategy rarely seen from him. By switching things up for the rubber match, Stout helped produce a fight that was pleasing to both striking fanatics and those equally appreciative of the ground aspects of the sport.
7. Rich Franklin vs. Wanderlei Silva
Rich Franklin defeated Wanderlei Silva by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46).
As a coach on Brazil's first season of The Ultimate Fighter, Silva was expected to square off against opposing instructor Vitor Belfort at UFC 147. However, an injury forced Belfort out of the long-awaited rematch and opened the door for another rematch to be booked.
Though he was already scheduled to meet Cung Le, Franklin was moved to the UFC 147 main event for a second fight against Silva, who he had defeated in a Fight of the Night performance more than three years prior.
Despite being out of commission for more than one year, Franklin got off to a strong start against Silva, staying on the outside and using a reach and apparent speed advantage. However, the second round saw Silva drop Franklin with a right hand and nearly finish the fight, but he ran out of time and allowed Franklin to recover between stanzas.
In a Frankie Edgar-esque performance, Franklin rallied back and won the remaining three rounds on the scorecards. After the fight, Franklin even admitted to not remembering the middle rounds of the contest.
6. Jake Ellenberger vs. Martin Kampmann
Martin Kampmann defeated Jake Ellenberger by knockout (knee) at 1:40 of the second round.
After a come-from-behind submission win over Thiago Alves, Kampmann was afforded an opportunity to stop the momentum of rising welterweight contender Ellenberger. Heading into his bout with Kampmann, Ellenberger had won 10 of his prior 11 fights, with his only loss during that span coming against interim champion Carlos Condit.
In the opening round, it appeared Ellenberger would continue his roll with another knockout victory, as he rocked Kampmann multiple times and nearly forced a stoppage. However, Kampmann survived the frame and another barrage early in the second round before landing a series of knees that caused Ellenberger to face plant into the canvas.
The fight was quickly stopped by referee Steve Mazzagatti, resulting in a third straight win for Kampmann, who will meet Johny Hendricks in November in a bout that could earn him a shot at the welterweight title.
5. Chan-Sung Jung vs. Dustin Poirier
Chan-Sung Jung defeated Dustin Poirier by submission (D'Arce choke) at 1:07 of the fourth round.
"The Korean Zombie" entered the UFC on a two-fight losing streak. However, after submitting Leonard Garcia with a twister and knocking out former top featherweight contender Mark Hominick, Jung quickly worked his way into a main event slot against rising 145-pound fighter Poirier.
Poirier had gone undefeated in his first four Octagon appearances and was quickly making an argument for a featherweight title shot. A win over Jung could have given Poirier the win he needed over a well-known opponent to make an argument for a spot in a championship bout.
Though showing continued improvement in his technique, Jung's performance against Poirier was as entertaining a showing as fans had come to expect from the fighter who had engaged in a wild slugfest with Garcia during his WEC career.
After landing a chain of uppercuts and a flying knee, Jung forced Poirier to attempt a sloppy double-leg takedown. From a sprawled position, Jung locked up a D'Arce choke and put himself in contention for 145-pound champion Jose Aldo's belt.
4. Demetrious Johnson vs. Ian McCall II
Demetrious Johnson defeated Ian McCall by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28).
The original flyweight semifinal bout between Johnson and McCall was intended to have a sudden-death fourth round to avoid a draw that would delay the UFC's first 125-pound championship bout. However, an incorrect tabulation of the scorecards resulted in Johnson initially being named the winner before it was later discovered the bout had actually been scored a draw.
As a result, Johnson and McCall met months later in a rematch. On the line in said rematch was a shot at the UFC flyweight title against Joseph Benavidez, who had already earned his spot in the championship bout by knocking out former Shooto champion Yasuhiro Urushitani.
Johnson's wrestling was much improved from his first meeting with McCall, who kept the fight close despite having more trouble dealing with the speed of "Mighty Mouse" than he had in his first bout with the former bantamweight title contender.
With a decision victory over McCall in a closely contested and fast-paced bout, Johnson took a step toward earning his first UFC title. Later this year, Johnson will take on another former bantamweight title contender in Benavidez in a fight to become the UFC's first flyweight champion.
3. Jake Ellenberger vs. Diego Sanchez
Jake Ellenberger defeated Diego Sanchez by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Coming off of a knockout win over Jake Shields, Ellenberger took what many people considered a step back against Sanchez, who had controversially defeated Martin Kampmann in his prior appearance.
Still, Sanchez has never been an easy opponent for any fighter, so the former top lightweight contender was expected to provide a solid test for the rising Ellenberger.
As most expected, Ellenberger was the better fighter than Sanchez through the first two rounds of action. However, after taking his opponent's back toward the end of the final frame, Sanchez made a late charge at victory and nearly stopped the fight with punches.
Still, Ellenberger survived and extended his winning streak to six. Meanwhile, the loss is believed to result in a return to the lightweight division for Sanchez.
2. Demetrious Johnson vs. Ian McCall
Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall fought to a majority draw (29-28, 29-29, 28-28).
In March, former Tachi Palace Fights champion McCall joined the UFC to take part in the organization's 125-pound tournament to determine its first flyweight champion. McCall's opponent for his semifinal bout was Johnson, who had moved to flyweight after suffering a loss to bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.
The winner of the semifinal bout was to meet Joseph Benavidez in the UFC's first ever flyweight title fight. To ensure the fight didn't end in a draw, a sudden-death fourth round was worked into the contract in the event of a tie after three rounds.
After two closely contested rounds that appeared to slightly favor the quicker Johnson, McCall stormed back in the third frame and nearly finished the former top bantamweight contender with ground-and-pound. However, Johnson survived the third round and was announced the winner of the bout.
However, it was later discovered that the scorecards had been tabulated incorrectly. The fight had actually been scored a draw and should have gone to a deciding fourth round. As a result, an immediate rematch was scheduled, and Benavidez was forced to await his opponent.
1. Benson Henderson vs. Frankie Edgar
Benson Henderson defeated Frankie Edgar by unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 49-46).
After fighting in rematches for three straight fights, then-champion Edgar was given the chance to defend his lightweight title against a fresh opponent in Henderson.
With a loss to Anthony Pettis in the WEC's final event, Henderson missed out on a title shot that never came for his opponent. However, Henderson went on to win his first three UFC bouts and ended up earning a spot in a UFC championship bout before Pettis.
At UFC 144, Edgar engaged in another instant classic, but he came out on the losing end of a closely contested bout and lost his title to Henderson.
After a strong first round from Edgar, Henderson swayed the momentum with an upkick that rocked the champion. From there, Henderson was able to find more success, and even took four out of five rounds on the scorecards of two judges.
Because Edgar was forced to defend his belt in immediate rematches against B.J. Penn and Gray Maynard, it was hard for the UFC to deny "The Answer" a shot a reclaiming his title. In August, Edgar will have that chance to prove he is still the best 155-pound fighter in the world.