Fight of the Year Watch: March 2013 Edition
The injury bug that pained UFC fighters and fans in 2012 has not been nearly as widespread in 2013, as most of the organization's big fights have held up in the year's early months.
For that reason, MMA fans have been treated with a number of outstanding scraps between some of the best fighters in the world.
Already, a number of titles have been on the line under both the UFC and Bellator MMA promotions, and many more championships will be up for grabs in the coming months.
With a rare break from UFC events this week, we have a chance to look back at what has happened thus far in 2013. So, let's take a look at the best fights that have taken place in the first few months of the year.
5. Pat Curran vs. Patricio Freire
Event: Bellator 85
Official Result: Curran defeated Freire by split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47).
When it was first announced that a title fight would open Bellator MMA's first event on Spike TV, many were surprised that the organization would place a featherweight championship bout between Pat Curran and Patricio Freire so early on a fight card.
However, Bellator MMA's unique decision paid off in the form of a Fight of the Year candidate kicking off its new television partnership.
A slow start built into a constant barrage of strikes between two of the scrappiest and most skilled fighters on Bellator MMA's featherweight roster.
In the end, Curran held on to his 145-pound title with a close decision win. Though Bellator MMA had the ability to book an immediate rematch between the elite featherweights, CEO Bjorn Rebney said Freire would instead have to earn his way back into a championship bout through the organization's regular tournaments.
Curran, meanwhile, is now set to fight Shahbulat Shamhalaev at Bellator 95 in April.
4. Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Event: UFC on Fox 6
Official Result: Johnson defeated Dodson by unanimous decision (48-47, 49-46, 48-47).
With the opportunity to headline a Fox-televised event, Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson moved the flyweight division a step forward by putting on a highly entertaining title fight at UFC on Fox 6.
Dodson brought rare finishing ability for the 125-pound class into that bout and gave Johnson a scare with knockdowns in both the first and second rounds. Despite his early troubles, Johnson was able to keep his senses about him and rally back in the later rounds.
Because Johnson had more recent experience in five-round fights than Dodson, the champion was more capable of continuing at the incredible pace that the fighters set early on.
Although Dodson made it difficult for Johnson to keep the fight on the ground, "Mighty Mouse" did have success controlling "The Magician" against the fence and keeping the center of the Octagon throughout the final three rounds.
In the end, the flyweights combined for 184 significant strikes landed and six takedowns. Despite all the back-and-forth action, the contest was decided by only a slim margin on the scorecards.
Given that three of Johnson's past four fights have now been decided by narrow decisions, it is starting to look like the flyweight division will have many more competitive title fights in its future.
3. Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Event: UFC 156
Official Result: Aldo defeated Edgar by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47).
Just when it looked as though Jose Aldo was running short on serious challenges in the featherweight division, former lightweight titleholder Frankie Edgar decided to make the move to 145 pounds for an immediate shot at the Brazilian champion.
Early on in his bout with Edgar, dubbed a superfight, Aldo appeared to be on a whole other level than an opponent who was expected to be his toughest test to date. The featherweight champion battered Edgar's legs with kicks and landed his jabs with incredible precision.
In typical Edgar fashion, though, the challenger did not go away easily.
Edgar made things interesting in the championship rounds, utilizing his excellent conditioning to overcome the lack of spring remaining in his legs as a result of the damage he had taken from Aldo's leg kicks. Although his late rally was too little, too late on the scorecards, Edgar's performance at UFC 156 was another great display of heart from the real-life Rocky Balboa of MMA.
Although Aldo wasn't able to put Edgar away, he picked up one of the biggest wins of his career in that matchup and solidified himself as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport.
2. Dennis Bermudez vs. Matt Grice
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Event: UFC 157
Official Result: Bermudez defeated Grice by unanimous decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28).
Had Dennis Bermudez and Matt Grice met in a bout of more importance instead of competing on the UFC 157 preliminary card, their fight probably could have topped this list for all of 2013.
After being dropped in the first round, Bermudez battled back and rocked Grice in the third stanza. Though he was essentially out of it on his feet, Grice refused to be finished. Even more surprising, the staggered Grice began to willingly engage Bermudez in wild exchanges throughout the final round.
Grice somehow survived to hear the judges' scorecards read, but he came out on the wrong side of a controversial decision.
Regardless of the official outcome, the fight between Bermudez and Grice was one where there were no losers. Both fighters received Fight of the Night honors and bonus checks for their efforts.
1. Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann
Event: UFC on Fuel TV 8
Official Result: Silva defeated Stann by knockout (punches) at 4:08 of the second round.
Heading into UFC on Fuel TV 8, many wondered how long Wanderlei Silva would put himself through unnecessary punishment with nothing left to prove in MMA. However, "The Axe Murderer" proved he still has the ability to create memorable moments in an amazing fight with Brian Stann.
From start to second-round finish, Silva went blow for blow with the powerful Stann. While his aggression left him staggered on more than one occasion, Silva and his oft-questioned chin stood tall at the fight's conclusion, which was brought about by a wild left hook to Stann's head.
Though many had been calling for his retirement, Silva now has wins in three of his past five fights, and all of those wins came against high-level opposition in Stann, Cung Le and Michael Bisping.
However his career eventually ends, Silva is one of the greats. His win over Stann furthered his already outstanding MMA legacy.