The 10 Best MMA Fights That Didn't Happen in 2012
Unless you’ve been living under a bridge, you’ve noticed that the injury bug has hit MMA in a big way over the last 12 months.
In an unprecedented rash of injuries, nine UFC main events had at least one of the fighters scheduled to compete be forced to pull out due to injury, and in the process lost a ton of highly anticipated bouts.
Throw in what felt like over a hundred fighters bowing out of various fights this year, and Zuffa may need to give Joe Silva and Sean Shelby a raise with all of the extra work they’ve had to do over the last 12 months.
Every single fight on this list was set to take place at one point of another in 2012, but due to injuries, suspensions, failed drug tests, and in one case a motorcycle accident, these high-profile matchups never quite made it to the cage.
10. Brian Stann vs. Hector Lombard
Losing a main event is always tough for the UFC to overcome, but when the promotion lost its headliner leading up to UFC on Fox 4, it had to sting a little more than usual.
While the battle between Brian Stann and Hector Lombard may not have had the intrigue of a title fight, it featured two of the more exciting fighters on the UFC roster.
At the very least, these two were going to put on a show for the fans.
However, the key to potentially gaining new fans on Fox is going to depend on the UFC’s ability to get viewers emotionally invested in their fighters, and there isn’t a more likable fighter on the roster than Stann.
Stann’s All-American persona has made him a favorite amongst fight fans, and there’s little doubt that casual fans would have jumped aboard Stann’s bandwagon once hearing his accomplishments in the military.
Throw in the intrigue of Lombard’s long winning streak heading into his UFC debut, and the promotion had a pretty solid main event set up for network television.
9. Vitor Belfort vs. Wanderlei Silva II
Fans may not have exactly been asking for a rematch between Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva, but the UFC decided to give us one anyway.
The MMA legends were selected as the coaches of the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil, and as per usual, the coaches were set to fight once the show concluded.
Most fans agreed that Belfort’s punching power was going to be a bit much for “The Axe Murderer” to overcome, but we learned a long time ago to never count Wanderlei out.
Unfortunately, Belfort suffered an injury preparing for the second fight with Silva and didn’t get a chance to duplicate the knockout win he earned in their first bout.
Silva went on to fight in an entertaining scrap with Rich Franklin (coincidentally, that was also a rematch from a UFC 99 bout that Franklin took by decision), but there’s no denying that the original bout with Belfort had a bit more hype behind it.
8. Shane Carwin vs. Roy Nelson
Last weekend featured the conclusion of The Ultimate Fighter 16, and in case you didn’t notice, both coaches didn’t quite make it to the event.
Shane Carwin survived through six weeks of TUF tapings and a few months of training after that, but eventually the injury bug caught up to him and he was forced to pull out of his scheduled bout against Nelson.
Both fighters are known for their ability to take a massive punch and fire back with an even more devastating shot, but over the course of five rounds someone was going to have to break.
Compared to past seasons of TUF, the rivalry between Carwin and Nelson could be considered tame, but there is a bit of legitimate heat between the two fighters and it would have been fun to see those issues resolved inside the cage.
7. Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir
Strikeforce didn’t exactly give fans much to get excited about over the last 12 months, but one of the few fights that the promotion put together in 2012 that drew interest was the heavyweight matchup between Daniel Cormier and Frank Mir.
Cormier has been one of the top heavyweight prospects to watch over the past few years, with his high-profile wrestling resume and improving striking skills slowly making him a force in MMA’s most popular division, and fans were excited to see him face a UFC-approved test in Mir.
Despite the fact that Mir is coming off a one-sided loss to heavyweight champ Junior dos Santos at UFC 146, the submission specialist still would have been the biggest test of Cormier’s young career.
If the AKA-based wrestler were to earn a win over Mir, it would prove his status as a top-five fighter in the heavyweight division.
This fight won’t happen under the Strikeforce banner in 2013, as the promotion is set to fold after their event in January, but don’t be surprised if Mir ends up being the man that welcomes Cormier to the Octagon when he makes his UFC debut next year.
6. Carlos Condit vs. Nick Diaz II
Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz already spent five rounds with each other inside the cage in 2012, but after an extremely close 25 minutes, it became obvious that fans were going to want at least three more rounds between two of the top welterweights in the world.
Condit used a smart, yet unpopular stick-and-move strategy to frustrate the elder Diaz during their UFC 143 bout that earned him a close decision win, but Diaz fans were quick to argue that the fight should have gone to the Stockton native and for a while it seemed like a rematch was inevitable.
Sadly, Diaz tested positive for marijuana metabolites following their fight in February, and his subsequent suspension kept him out of action for the rest of 2012 and put a hold on any plans to match these two up in the near future.
5. Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber III
Here’s yet another fight between coaches from The Ultimate Fighter that never quite made it into the Octagon.
With their lifetime series currently tied at 1-1, Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber were set to settle their rubber match with the UFC bantamweight title on the line before Cruz went down with a serious ACL injury towards the end of filming on the reality show.
Faber went on to fight Renan Barao for an interim belt at UFC 149 in July, and since “The California Kid” fell short in his attempt to earn the title, it doesn’t look like he’ll be getting the first crack at Cruz when the champion returns.
However, a second knee injury for Cruz in less than six months has made it unclear as to when “The Dominator” will be back inside the cage, so if Faber can earn a couple of big wins in early 2013, there’s an outside chance of this fight getting put together at some point in the next 12 months.
4. Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson
UFC 151 is going to go down as one of the lowest moments in the history of the organization.
Dan Henderson was injured just 10 days out from his light heavyweight title fight with Jon Jones, and when “Hendo” was forced to pull out of the bout, the UFC started calling around and looking for replacements.
They found one in former middleweight contender Chael Sonnen, but Jones decided he wasn’t ready to accept a fight with anyone other than Henderson in such a short amount of time and the promotion was forced to cancel the entire event.
The cancelled event was the low point in a tough year for the UFC, but fans have still shown quite a bit of interest in a potential bout between Jones and Henderson, and if both men win their scheduled fights in the first few months of 2013, don’t be surprised to see them finally step into the cage against each other at some point next year.
3. Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar
Finally some good news: barring another injury, Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar are actually going to fight early next year.
These two were originally set to scrap at UFC 153 in October, but an injury to Aldo following a motorcycle accident forced the bout to be pushed into early 2013.
MMA fans have been talking about a potential Aldo-Edgar showdown since the WEC merger almost two full years ago, and now that Edgar finds himself firmly outside of the lightweight title picture following back-to-back losses to Benson Henderson, the fight is finally coming together.
Aldo has been one of the most dominant champions in recent memory, completely overwhelming every fighter the promotion has thrown in front of him over his UFC career, but he’ll have his hands full against a former world champion in Edgar.
With Edgar’s stick-and-move boxing and underrated wrestling ability, he may have all the tools to give Aldo the toughest fight of his career.
2. Junior Dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem
As excited I am for the upcoming UFC 155 main event between Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez, I can’t help but feel that the anticipation for this fight would be much bigger if Dos Santos and Velasquez had defeated their original opponents at UFC 146 this summer.
Dos Santos was set to take on a fellow devastating striker in Alistair Overeem heading into the UFC 146 card, but a suspension forced Overeem to give up his spot in the title picture and caused Velasquez’s original opponent, Frank Mir, to move into the headlining slot opposite “Cigano.”
Dos Santos completely destroyed Mir within 10 minutes, and although it was an incredible performance by the champion, fans had to be wondering what would have happened if Overeem had made it to the Octagon that night.
1. Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz
The biggest fight announced for 2013 so far may have been the bout fans missed the most over the last 12 months.
Following his three-round destruction of BJ Penn late last year, Nick Diaz made it perfectly clear that he wanted Georges St-Pierre the next time he stepped inside the cage, and for a short time we actually believed it was going to happen.
The highly anticipated bout between GSP and Diaz was set for the UFC 143 card on Super Bowl weekend, and after watching Diaz rile up St-Pierre in a way that even famed trash talker Josh Koscheck was unable to do, fans were eager to see how the welterweight champion would deal with the enigmatic Diaz inside the Octagon.
Alas, St-Pierre further damaged his already injured knee while trying to prepare for his bout against Diaz, and the fight ended up being cancelled and replaced by the interim title fight between Diaz and Carlos Condit.
Now with both fighters finally active at the same time in over a year, the UFC has wasted little time in rescheduling one of the most anticipated fights of 2012, and we’ll finally figure out who the better man is when they fight at UFC 158 in March.