That honor goes to none other than UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson.
According to the UFC's official website, "Bendo" proved himself to be the promotion's best fighter of 2012, thanks to a slew of flawless performances inside the Octagon.
Moreover, no other champion defended their belt as often as "Smooth" did last year, and in a season laden with devastating injuries, the 155-pound champ managed to stay healthy and maintain an unbeaten 3-0 record against top competition like Frankie Edgar and Nate Diaz:
Three championship fights. Three wins. 15 rounds of action. Doing that alone earns UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson the top spot as Fighter of the Year for 2012, but in a year when injuries were a constant and crippling issue in the sport, Henderson also gets kudos for being one of MMA’s true iron men.
Henderson’s goal right now is to clean out the division and make a run at Anderson Silva’s all-time title defense record. Well, right now, Henderson looks like he just may have a shot at it.
Most interestingly, the UFC rated Henderson ahead of Jon Jones, arguably the promotion's most dominant champion today. However, Jones' 2012 was much more controversial than his 2011—the year the promotion crowned "Bones" fighter of the year.
Who was the best fighter of 2012?
For added context, here's the full list of fighters whom the UFC cited as the year's top 10 performers, along with their 2012 records and achievements:
1. Ben Henderson (3-0)
2. Jon Jones (2-0)
3. Demetrious Johnson (2-0-1, new champion)
4. Matt Brown (4-0)
5. Cain Velasquez (2-0, returning champion)
6. Stefan Struve (3-0)
7. Cub Swanson (3-0)
8. Mike Pyle (3-0)
9. Anderson Silva (2-0)
10. Constantinos Philippou (3-0)
Out of the list, the UFC's top 10 includes a new champion in Johnson (flyweight), a returning champion in Velasquez (heavyweight), with welterweight veteran Matt Brown leapfrogging several fighters to come in at No. 4. Brown is also the only fighter in the promotion who pitched a perfect game over four fights, with his last win coming over Mike Swick at UFC on Fox 5.
Bantamweight belt-holders Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao are the only current champions to not make the list this year, with Cruz out of action since 2011 and Barao yet to defend his title. Runners-up included several contenders such as Chris Weidman, Fabricio Werdum, Johny Hendricks, Alexander Gustafsson, Rory MacDonald, John Dodson and Donald Cerrone.