Let me be clear right off the bat here: This was not a banner year for MMA. I mean, it's not like it was a completely unbridled series of horrible calamities. But the bridle wasn't securely fastened at all times, either.
There were good spots. Of course there were. It's still the best sport ever. But by and large, I think the year's entries into the MMA history books will be more negative than positive. I don't necessarily mean just fighters or fights here. I'm talking about the business end of things. About the sport itself. And about those things that humans simply can't control.
First, there was the DWI car wreck. Then there was the UFC 151 wreck. Following both was a PR death spiral that left some pretty deep dings in the previously unbesmidged armor of the sport's Next Big Thing.
If someone called Jon Jones one of MMA's biggest losers in 2012, I probably couldn't quibble. Well, except on one small point: Over the course of the year, Jones twice defended the difficult-to-defend UFC light heavyweight belt.
In April he bested top contender Rashad Evans in a grudge match, and in September he fought through a nasty armbar to outclass Vitor Belfort. Both performances were exciting, brilliant, convincing, even stirring (especially in the case of the latter).
No question the guy had a bad year. That's why I'm mentioning him. But one of the year's 10 biggest losers? Not with that record.
Another year, another 12 pages ripped off the calendar without an MMA event in the Empire State.
A bill to legalize professional MMA in New York died in May before it reached the floor of the state assembly.
There may be some glimmers on the horizon, though. Amateur MMA is not barred and those events are not uncommon; Ithaca, N.Y. will host an amateur MMA event in January. Here's to baby steps and wishful thinking, eh?
Or NASS, as it's known to familiars.
Unfortunately, the UFC and Big Sauna collided late in the year when lightweight Tim Means slipped and fell in the sauna, knocking him out (literally) of his UFC on Fox 5 fight with Abel Trujillo.
Surely Big Sauna would have us believe it was, like, a freak injury or something. MMA fans know better.
Not because UFC bantamweight lineal champ Dominick Cruz is a loser himself, but because he came up on the losing end of a bad situation.
After spending the entire year rehabbing from a knee injury, Cruz tearfully announced earlier this month that he'll be out at least another year after re-injuring the knee.
Hard not to feel for the champ, though I think he'd agree that he lost out in a big way in 2012.
It goes beyond the purview of this slideshow (and the capacity of this slide) to fully dissect the issue of drug testing and drug use (performance-enhancing and otherwise) in MMA. But suffice it to say that VADA, as an organization, didn't exactly enjoy a banner year.
A poorly conceived article on their website damaged VADA's integrity, and its ability to convince Shane Carwin to take a test in the runup to his fight with Roy Nelson.
Meanwhile, Nelson and B.J. Penn (fighting Rory MacDonald) both essentially used VADA testing as a method of gamesmanship. MacDonald would go on to call the process "annoying," while Nelson opponent Matt Mitrione called the idea "a distraction."
Taken together, kind of a series of unfortunate events for an organization with "voluntary" in its name.
Houston Casualty Insurance Company is the insurance carrier for the UFC's new policy that covers fighters for injuries suffered during training. Sure, you could argue that the nearly 70 injury-related fight withdrawals this year hurt the sport, the promoters, the fighters themselves and the fans.
But what about the real victim here? What about the insurance company shedding out all those dollars? I saw the Houston Casualty Insurance Company begging for nickels on the street the other day. Begging. You can't unsee that kind of thing, bro. It really sticks in your mind.
Fighter injuries and other things took their toll on the UFC title picture in 2012. A UFC lineal belt was only on the line 11 times in 2012. That's only twice more than in 2010, when the UFC year began with three fewer weight classes than it had this year.
Furthermore, only in the lightweight division was the lineal title defended more than twice in 2012. Thanks, Benson Henderson.
The ratings were not great this year. One episode from the 16th season of The Ultimate Fighter lost to a repeat of Ink Master, for Pete's sake.
Injuries to coaches Dominick Cruz and Shane Carwin also threw the brakes on two main events for the show's finales.
Four times in 2012, MMA referees seemed to fall asleep in the cage. How you do that I have no idea, but it resulted in some rather ignominious decision-making.
The Ohio Athletic Commission reviewed Jerry Poe's shockingly late stoppage of Andrey Koreskov and Marius Zaromskis at Bellator 78.
In March, Jeff Malott allowed Pat Curran to pummel Joe Warren about 150 times too many at Bellator 60.
And in June, Kim Winslow (who seems like a truly good and interesting person) erroneously thought John Albert had submitted against Erik Perez and stopped the fight. Albert, having done no such thing, protested, and ultimately received a win bonus from the UFC.
The Event That Never Was. It's the 13th floor of the skyscraper that is the UFC.
All told, the instantly infamous cancellation cost all involved parties an estimated $40 million.
In December, the axe officially fell on Strikeforce when it announced that its next event will indeed be its last.
The move was good news for Strikeforce fighters like Ronda Rousey who will migrate over to the UFC. But the promotion itself experienced a lifetime of bad decisions and bad fortune since UFC parent company Zuffa purchased it in 2011.
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