MMA's Top Unsung Heroes of 2012
An unsung hero is a person who makes a substantive, yet somewhat unrecognized contribution.
An unsung hero in MMA terms is a fighter or promoter that goes above and beyond the call, yet doesn't receive the amount of credit that he or she deserves. You better believe 2012 was filled with many of them.
Immediately you start to think of UFC matchmaker Joe Silva or Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. These men embody those characteristics
But who else embodied those attributes in 2012? Who were MMA's top unsung heroes?
Somebody buy a round for Silva—he's earned it.
The show must go on, but that's a lot easier said than done. Just ask Silva.
Whenever a main event went down (which happened quite often), Silva did everything he could to find a replacement matchup just as exciting.
Silva faced cards, such as UFC 149, where the main card served as a game of musical chairs. But still, Silva managed to always put fights together that could still excite fight fans.
Gilbert Melendez, you sir are a company man.
You hardly ever hear any whining or complaining coming from Melendez, and if anyone in MMA deserves to be throwing a fit, it's him.
For the entire year, Melendez was stuck in Strikeforce fighting lesser competition and being showcased on a much smaller stage than the UFC, despite being one of the best lightweights in the world.
For remaining quiet and staying humble throughout this entire frustrating process, Melendez deserves credit for being a team player.
Oh yes, that's right. Everyone thank the villain.
Sonnen gets ripped to shreds by most MMA fans, but in 2012, he stepped up to the plate to try to keep UFC 151 in tact. Though Jon Jones would eventually turn the fight down, you still have to give Sonnen credit for stepping up when the fans and the UFC needed him.
But that's not all he did in 2012.
Sonnen was involved in the biggest fight of the year, and if it weren't for his brilliant trash talk and success in his first bout against Anderson Silva, the rematch in 2012 would have been much less significant. He brought the fire out of the greatest fighter in MMA history, and it takes courage to stand within firing range after doing so.
Michael Bisping gets a bad rep, but he started to gain some cheers in 2012.
The biggest reason for that revolves around his decision to step up for the UFC last January.
After Mark Munoz was injured and forced off of the UFC on FOX 2 card, the UFC asked Bisping to step up and fight Sonnen on short notice. Bisping accepted the challenge.
Facing a powerful wrestler like Sonnen on short notice is no easy feat (just ask "Bones" Jones and Greg Jackson). However, Bisping stepped up, made the fight competitive and nearly defeated Sonnen. Cheers, mate.
Most fans tend to remember the end result rather than the journey involved in making fights.
For Melvin Guillard's sake, let's hope that's not the case.
At UFC 150, Guillard's old teammate, Donald Cerrone, was scheduled to fight in his hometown until the injury bug struck his opponent. The UFC struggled to find an opponent for Cerrone, until Guillard stepped in to fight so that his former teammate could fight in his hometown.
After a thrilling one-minute fight full of nonstop action, Cerrone claimed the knockout victory over Guillard. A loss will show up on Guillard's record, but his willingness to step in to support his friend should be recognized.
When challenges arose in the heavyweight division, Frank Mir accepted them without hesitation.
First, he fought the baddest heavyweight of them all in Junior dos Santos at UFC 146. Then, he choose to step up and fight Daniel Cormier in Strikeforce.
Though Mir would eventually be injured and unable to fight Cormier, he should still receive praise for be willing to fight Cormier.
Many UFC fighters would be opposed to the idea of moving down to Strikeforce to fight somebody, but Mir was willing to take on a young, hungry lion in Cormier at a second-tier level.
Fight Wanderlei Silva in Brazil on short notice? Sure, no problem.
Rich Franklin is a gamer. He always has been and he always will be.
So when Vitor Belfort had to pull out of his bout with Silva heading into UFC 147, Franklin stepped up on short notice and fought for the first time in over a year.
More importantly, Franklin went to war with Silva in the main event and sent the fans home happy after an entertaining five-round battle.
Bellator has yet to fall off the map. That in itself is an accomplishment.
Going up against a juggernaut like the UFC can be bad for business. Just ask the Elite XC, Affliction, Strikeforce, etc.
However, Bjorn Rebney and Bellator have managed to not call out the UFC and do their own thing. Spike is a completely different story.
But as for Bellator, the company has managed to grab some marquee fighters, get picked up by Spike and gain backing by Viacom. Credit Rebney's leadership and game plan to not call the UFC out for Bellator's success.
Patience is a virtue.
No man should know this any better than Anthony Pettis in the UFC. Despite being named the No. 1 contender in 2010, Pettis has yet to gain his title shot.
What has he done since defeating Benson Henderson at WEC 53? Well, he lost to Clay Guida, therefore losing his title opportunity.
But since then, he defeated Jeremy Stephens and had a thrilling head-kick knockout against Joe Lauzon. Should Pettis defeat Cerrone at UFC on FOX 6, his patience should finally pay off.
Vitor Belfort stepped up to fight Jones like it was nothing.
On short notice, Belfort stepped in to secure the UFC 152 main event against Jones for the light heavyweight title.
Like an old-school fighter, Belfort stepped up, brought it to the champion and nearly defeated him with an armbar in the first round.
Go on and add unsung hero to Anderson Silva's resume.
Can the G.O.A.T., himself, be an unsung hero? Sure, he can.
After UFC 153 was left without a main event because of Jose Aldo's foot injury, Silva became the new main event.
Though he stepped in to fight Stephan Bonnar at light heavyweight, the champion deserves credit for being a company man and bailing the UFC out (taking notes, Jones?).
Daniel Cormier is an all-around stud.
After being left in purgatory, AKA Strikeforce, Cormier has had to sit around and wait for an opponent to emerge. After winning the Strikeforce Grand Prix, the Strikeforce heavyweight champion has yet to fight anyone.
With someone at the age of 33 and in their prime, sitting on the shelf should be considered a no-no.
Here's a guy who could legitimately contend for the heavyweight championship in the UFC, and he hasn't fought since May. Still, no whining was heard from Cormier.
DaMarques Johnson got the shaft in 2012.
All the time, we hear how fighters should step up and take fights on short notice, because really, what's the worst that could happen?
The UFC would appreciate the fighter stepping in on short notice and not fire him for losing, right? Well, that's not how it went with Johnson.
Johnson stepped up to fight Gunner Nelson on short notice, though he was knocked out by Mike Swick less than two months prior. Johnson did miss weight before the fight, but that doesn't derail the fact that he was cut after stepping up for the company.
Prepare to be inspired.
Winning a world championship at any level in MMA is noteworthy, but winning a championship with a physical handicap is downright inspirational.
Because Nick Newell didn't win a championship on a more mainstream level, his accomplishments might not have been as praised as it should have been. Still, Newell received fairly strong publicity for becoming XFC champion, despite his handicap.
When talking unsung heroes, Newell needs to be mentioned with all the others, because enough can't be said about him overcoming adversity.
We appreciate you, "Mighty Mouse."
Demetrious Johnson had a terrific 2012. He put on great fights and turned in a phenomenal performance against Joe Benavidez to become the UFC's first flyweight champion.
Yet, Johnson and Benavidez were booed. They received thunderous boos for an entertaining fight, and it left hardcore fans shaking their heads.
Johnson beat a very game Ian McCall and one of the best fighters in the world in Benavidez in 2012, and yet he received about as much respect as his weight carries. Johnson deserves higher recognition.