Every year in MMA, new prospects rise and shine on the brightest stages that the sport has to offer. In 2012, we've seen the rise of a number of prospects.
Some are working their way towards title shots, and others have already earned them. A lot can change for a fighter in a year, as their stock can change with just one big win.
Let's take a look at the top 20 rising prospects from 2012.
Coming into 2012, Erick Silva was 13-1 in MMA and just 1-0 in the UFC. He would fight on the first card of the year and prove to everyone that he is the real deal.
Silva earned a TKO in just 29 seconds over Carlo Prater, or so we thought. Silva was disqualified for "strikes to the back of the head," although almost everybody out there disagreed with the DQ.
Silva returned with a first-round submission over Charlie Brenneman, and he then earned the biggest fight of his career.
At UFC 153, Silva faced former title challenger Jon Fitch, and in a back-and-forth Fight of the Night performance, Fitch defeated Silva.
Many have said that Silva's fight against Fitch could be the equivalent of Georges St-Pierre's first fight against Matt Hughes.
Khabib Nurmagomedov was signed to the UFC and had his first fight for the company in 2012. Nurmagomedov came into the organization at 16-0 with 12 finishes.
In his first fight, he faced off against Kamal Shalorus. With just two minutes left in the fight, Nurmagomedov submitted Shalorus with a rear-naked choke.
He followed that up with a unanimous decision victory over Gleison Tibau at UFC 148.
His record now stands at 18-0, and at only 24 years of age, Nurmagomedov has a bright future ahead of him.
Chris Weidman came into 2012 with some hype behind him. He was 7-0 and had wins over Tom Lawlor and Alessio Sakara.
In his first fight in 2012, he took on Demian Maia at UFC on Fox 2 on just 11 days notice. He won the fight by unanimous decision.
After that win, he earned a step up in competition, and he faced off against Mark Munoz at UFC on Fuel TV 4.
Weidman completely dominated the grappling in the first round, then in the second round, he knocked Munoz out cold with a short elbow as Munoz charged in.
Alex Caceres may be surprising to see on here, but if not for some unfortunate groin kicks, Caceres would be 4-0 at bantamweight and 3-0 in 2012.
However, he is 3-1 at the weight class and has gone 2-1 thus far in 2012. At UFC 143, Caceres lost by split decision after having two points deducted for kicks to the groin of Edwin Figueroa.
After that fight, Caceres faced Damacio Page, who he submitted with a triangle choke in the second round. He earned Submission of the Night for his performance.
In his most recent fight of 2012, Caceres earned a split decision over Motonobu Tezuka at UFC on Fuel TV 6.
At the end of 2011, Dustin Poirier was 11-1 in his career and 4-1 in the UFC and WEC combined.
In the first fight of 2012, Poirier faced off against Max Holloway at UFC 143. Holloway was a late replacement, and Poirier was expected to steamroll him.
That is exactly what happened, as Poirier submitted Holloway with a mounted triangle armbar in the first round.
In his next fight, he put on a Fight of the Night with Chan Sung Jung, although it was a losing effort, as Poirier was submitted in the fourth round.
He came back resoundingly, though, as he submitted Jonathan Brookins in the first round of his next fight, which took place at The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale.
Renan Barao was one of the most promising prospects coming into 2012. He had a record of 27-1 with four wins in the UFC and WEC combined.
His first fight of 2012 saw him defeat Scott Jorgensen, a top five bantamweight at the time, by unanimous decision.
In his next fight, he earned a fight against Urijah Faber for the interim bantamweight championship while Dominick Cruz is out dealing with a torn ACL. Barao earned his second victory of 2012 when he beat Faber by unanimous decision.
Darren Elkins may be a surprise for some to see on here, but he has quietly put together a very nice run at featherweight.
Coming into 2012, Elkins was 13-2, while 2-0 at featherweight. Then, in 2012, he got two big wins over two really tough fighters.
First, he beat Diego Brandao, who many will remember as an absolute killer while he was on The Ultimate Fighter, by unanimous decision.
He followed that up with another unanimous decision win over a streaking Steven Siler at UFC 154.
Costa Philippou is 11-2 in his career and has gone 2-0 so far this year.
Philippou earned a unanimous decision over Court McGee at UFC on FX 2. With that win, Philippou was the first to defeat McGee since he got off the show.
He followed that up with a unanimous decision over Riki Fukuda at UFC 148.
He has a chance to close out 2012 with a huge win when he faces off against Tim Boetsch at UFC 155 this Saturday.
He only had one fight in 2012, but I think we can all agree that Ryan Jimmo is definitely someone to watch in the future.
Jimmo was the MFC Light Heavyweight Champion, but was criticized by many for his lack of finishes as of late.
He changed all that talk in just seven seconds, when he tied the record for fastest UFC knockout by beating Anthony Perosh.
James Te-Huna came into the year with a record of 13-5 with some solid wins here and there, but he got two of his best in 2012.
In his first fight of the year, he knocked out Aaron Rosa in just over two minutes at UFC on FX 2.
Then in his next fight, he took on "The Mexecutioner," Joey Beltran. Beltran is notorious for having an iron jaw, and it was no different in this fight, as Te-Huna was unable to finish him.
Te-Huna ended up walking away with a unanimous decision victory and a Fight of the Night award.
At the beginning of 2012, Tim Boetsch was just 2-0 at middleweight, with wins over Kendall Grove and Nick Ring.
Then in 2012, Boetsch got his first big fight against a top 10 opponent. At UFC 144, Boetsch squared off against former title challenger Yushin "Thunder" Okami, and he knocked Okami out in the third round.
Then in his next fight, he fought the former Bellator middleweight champion, Hector Lombard, at UFC 149. Boetsch won the fight by split decision.
He will now face off against Costa Philippou at UFC 155 this Saturday.
Rory MacDonald is one of the most talked about prospects in MMA these days. MacDonald has been training in MMA since he was just a kid and is being heralded as the next big thing.
In his first fight of 2012, MacDonald took on Che Mills, and it was expected that MacDonald would plow through Mills. That is exactly what happened, as he TKO'd Mills in the second round.
His next fight was against BJ Penn at UFC on Fox 5, where he won a unanimous decision as he battered the former lightweight and welterweight champion.
His next fight will be against the former interim champion, and the first and only person to defeat him, Carlos Condit.
Michael McDonald is one of the best fighters in the bantamweight division today. His final fight of 2011 was a 56-second Knockout of the Night against Alex Soto.
McDonald didn't really have any wins over big names at that point, but that all changed in his first fight of 2012 at UFC 145.
McDonald squared off against the former WEC bantamweight champion, Miguel Torres, and it was the biggest win of McDonald's career.
He knocked out the former champion in just over three minutes, and from that win, earned a shot at the interim bantamweight title.
John Dodson looked like he was going to be a star coming off of The Ultimate Fighter. He had just won the show fighting a weight class up from where he normally fights, and he looked impressive doing it.
After winning the show, he dropped back to flyweight, where he got his first win of 2012 by beating Tim Elliot.
In his next fight, which was a No. 1 contender fight, Dodson knocked out Jussier Formiga late in the second round and earned a title shot against Demetrious Johnson.
Jimi Manuwa had only one fight in 2012, but it was his first UFC fight, and he looked incredibly impressive in it.
The lone fight took place at UFC on Fuel TV 5 against Kyle "Kingsbu" Kingsbury.
Manuwa put an absolute beating on Kingsbury, but Kingsbury refused to go down. Finally, mercifully, at the end of 10 minutes, the doctor stopped the fight, and Manuwa had his first UFC win.
Glover Teixeira was one of the most talked-about fighters who was not in the UFC. Teixeira was 17-2 with a lot of finishes, a lot of big names on his resume and Chuck Liddell as a trainer. He was destined for big things.
When he was finally signed by the UFC, it was a big deal. Teixeira faced off against Kyle Kingsbury, who he submitted in less than two minutes at UFC 146.
His next fight was against Fabio Maldonado at UFC 153. In a situation that was similar to Jimi Manuwa and Kyle Kingsbury, Maldonado was battered by Teixeira for 10 minutes until the doctor finally called a stoppage.
Max Holloway made his UFC debut as a late replacement to face Dustin "The Diamond" Poirier at UFC 143. He was thoroughly outclassed by Poirier, and many didn't think much of Holloway afterwards.
Boy, were they wrong.
Since that time, Holloway has won two straight and has looked fantastic in both fights. First, he earned a unanimous decision over Pat Schilling at The Ultimate Fighter 15 Finale.
His next fight was against Justin Lawrence at UFC 150. Holloway earned the win, as he got a TKO late in the second round.
He has one more fight this year, against Leonard Garcia at UFC 155 on Saturday.
Gunnar Nelson fought two times this year after taking all of 2011 off, and he still looked very impressive.
His first fight was in a regional promotion in Ireland, a fight which Nelson won by first-round armbar.
After that win, he was signed to the UFC, where he squared off against DaMarques Johnson. They were to meet at a catchweight of 175 pounds, but Johnson missed weight and weighed in at 183.
The weight didn't matter to Nelson, as he submitted Johnson with a rear-naked choke in three-and-a-half minutes.
You didn't think this would only be UFC fighters, did you?
Ronda Rousey started 2012 as one of the top prospects in the women's division. She exceeded the hype when she faced Miesha Tate for the bantamweight title in Rousey's first fight of the year.
In an outstanding match, Rousey submitted Tate with an armbar late in the first round. Talk about a shocker, am I right?
She followed that up with another armbar submission over Sarah Kaufman, this time in just 54 seconds.
Now, she has moved on to the UFC, where she will face Liz Carmouche in the main event of UFC 157.
Daniel Cormier finished 2011 with a win over Antonio Silva. It was the biggest win of Cormier's career and put him on the radar of the MMA community.
Nobody could have expected that he would outclass Josh Barnett the way that he did, though.
It was Cormier's only fight of 2012, but it was the most impressive of his career, as he completely dominated the former UFC heavyweight champion.
Tim McTiernan is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. For the latest news on everything MMA, follow him on Twitter @TimMcTiernan.