Fighter of the Year Watch: April 2013 Edition

Sean SmithAnalyst IApril 1, 2013

Fighter of the Year Watch: April 2013 Edition

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    Georges St-Pierre closed the first quarter of 2013 with his first title defense of the year—a dominant win over rival Nick Diaz. Following the victory, the race for Fighter of the Year has heated up.

    In April, light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and lightweight champion Benson Henderson will attempt to defend their titles for the first time in 2013. Jones will be meeting opposing The Ultimate Fighter coach Chael Sonnen, while Henderson will be challenged by former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez.

    The winners of those title bouts are sure to begin receiving consideration for 2013 Fighter of the Year, too. 

    Here are the fighters they will be joining as candidates for the most successful MMA competitor of the calendar year. 

5. Renan Barao

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    2013 Record: 1-0

    Wins: Michael McDonald


    After beating Michael McDonald in February, it appeared Renan Barao would finally be set up for a title-merging bout with fellow bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.

    However, Cruz still is not ready to return from a knee injury.

    Instead, Barao will defend his interim championship for a second time. A bout with Eddie Wineland has been booked for UFC 161 and will give Barao a chance to climb closer to the top of this list of great fighters.

4. Ronda Rousey

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    2013 Record: 1-0

    Wins: Liz Carmouche


    At UFC 157, Rousey won the first female fight to take place inside the Octagon by submitting Liz Carmouche with her signature armbar. The women's 135-pound champion overcame the adversity of having Carmouche on her back with a neck crank before turning the tables and defending her belt for the first time.

    Rousey is now set to coach on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter. Opposing her will be the winner of an upcoming bout between Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano.

    Since she has developed a rivalry with Tate over the years, Rousey would probably benefit most from a rematch with her, as it would likely be the matchup to draw more attention to the newest UFC champion.

3. Demetrious Johnson

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    2013 Record: 1-0

    Wins: John Dodson


    Demetrious Johnson had already been scheduled to defend his flyweight title against John Moraga, which would have given him a chance to take the lead for fighter of the year by defending his belt for a second time within the first four months of 2013.

    Unfortunately, Johnson suffered a torn labrum that required surgery and put his chances of becoming the best fighter of 2013 in jeopardy.

    "Mighty Mouse" is now hoping to make his return in July at UFC on Fox 8, which will be held in Johnson's current home state of Washington.  

2. Georges St-Pierre

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    2013 Record: 1-0

    Wins: Nick Diaz


    Georges St-Pierre completely shut down Nick Diaz in March, extending his impressive reign as UFC welterweight champion. 

    Now healthy and picking up a title defense early in 2013, it's not outside the realm of possibility that St-Pierre could defend his belt three times in a calendar year for the first time in his career. An upcoming acting role in Captain America: The Winter Solder will put that to the test, though.

    St-Pierre's next contender is lined up and will be ready to go as soon as the champion is. Johny Hendricks is on an outstanding run and poses a real threat to St-Pierre's streak of successful title defenses.  

1. Jose Aldo

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    2013 Record: 1-0

    Wins: Frankie Edgar


    While there are some contenders starting to make names for themselves in the 145-pound division, UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo was running out of serious challenges.

    Then, former lightweight titleholder Frankie Edgar decided to make a long-awaited move to 145 pounds and was given an immediate title shot. Edgar provided Aldo with a serious test and a rare blockbuster fight in the featherweight division. 

    After surviving the early rounds, Edgar gave Aldo everything he could handle in the championship rounds, but the Brazilian champion held on for a decision victory. Beating a lightweight great like Edgar finally cemented Aldo as one of the truly elite pound-for-pound fighters in the sport.

    Now, Aldo has another former lightweight dropping down to challenge him. Should Aldo beat Anthony Pettis later this year, he'll likely have a huge lead in the race for 2013 fighter of the year.