There are two men that have made triumphant returns to the UFC this year and have made for the feel-good stories of 2012. Those two men are Mike Swick and Jamie Varner.
Varner, a former WEC champion, had to earn his way into the UFC despite being on the WEC roster when it was absorbed.
He found himself in a stall at the end of the WEC, going winless in his final four bouts. In addition to drawing with Kamal Shalorus, he dropped the title before that fight to Benson Henderson and lost back-to-back against Donald Cerrone and Shane Roller.
The loss to Roller was at WEC 53, the final event in the company's history. With that, he was not brought over to the UFC and was forced to find work in the regional scene.
He would win his first fight since the cut, submitting Tyler Combs quickly. That small amount of momentum was halted when he was decisioned against eventual The Ultimate Fighter contestant Dakota Cochrane in the Titan Fighting Championship promotion.
Varner then took work with the XFC, another top regional promotion in the United States. In a combined one minute and 49 seconds of action, Varner submitted Drew Fickett with punches and knocked out Nate Jolly.
Then, the biggest call he could receive came. Evan Dunham was injured, and the UFC wanted Varner to replace him against top lightweight prospect Edson Barboza.
With limited time to prepare and many people not giving him a chance, Varner still said yes and got to work.
With 25 days to prepare, in comparison to the multiple months Barboza spent getting in fighting shape, Varner came into UFC 146 and knocked out the powerful Brazilian striker in less than one round.
It was a shocking ending, one that hoisted Varner back into the spotlight. A once-forgotten lightweight star had reintroduced himself to the fight world.
Although he lost in his latest outing against Joe Lauzon, a fight that was also fought on short notice, Varner's story is one of the best of the year. He went from down in the dumps to gaining big-time fights in no time.
Mike Swick's story is maybe even more feel good than that of Varner. Swick was viewed as a top contender a few years ago and then was halted by medical problems.
A stomach disease kept Swick out of action for a very long time, draining his muscle mass and restricting his diet.
A year later, in 2011, it seemed it was time for Swick to return against David Mitchell. Although Mitchell would get injured, Swick would pull out of the fight, as well, due to his stomach ailment not being fully healed.
Back on the mend, Swick would attempt to return again in late 2011 at UFC 134 against Erick Silva. While it seemed that he had left the stomach disease behind, Swick then suffered a knee injury which kept him out of action again.
It seemed as if Swick were never again going to fight. Between the stomach ailment and numerous injuries, the man could not catch a break.
Finally, a year after dropping out of UFC 134, Swick returned to the UFC, with a highlight-reel knockout of DaMarques Johnson. The fight was his first in two-and-a-half years.
The win was monumental. The welterweight striker showed that he still had talent despite the huge layoff.
For Swick and Varner, 2012 has been a blessed year. That is why they have the two most feel-good stories of the year.
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