Top 10 UFC and MMA Fighters of 2013

Sean SmithAnalyst IDecember 31, 2013

Top 10 UFC and MMA Fighters of 2013

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    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

    Jon Jones has walked away from the World MMA Awards with Fighter of the Year honors over the past two years. In 2013, Demetrious Johnson, Chris Weidman, Vitor Belfort and others did their best to ensure the light heavyweight champion doesn't make it three in a row.

    Still, Jones did go undefeated over the past 12 months. Along the way, he defeated Chael Sonnen and Alexander Gustafsson to retain his 205-pound strap.

    Was that enough for "Bones" to win Fighter of the Year again?

    Based on record and level of competition, here are the 10 best fighters from 2013.

Honorable Mentions

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    Jon Jones

    While he remained on top through 2013, Jon Jones' calendar year fell well short of what he accomplished in 2011 and 2012. A bout with Chael Sonnen was viewed as a gimme win. Then, "Bones" barely edged Alexander Gustafsson in a narrow decision at UFC 165.

    Ronda Rousey

    Ronda Rousey had a strong 2013, defending her new women's bantamweight title two times. However, a coaching gig on The Ultimate Fighter 18 kept her from remaining active throughout the past 12 months. Wins over Liz Carmouche and Miesha Tate, whom she had already beaten under the Strikeforce banner, simply weren't enough to make her one of the 10 most accomplished fighters in 2013.

    Georges St-Pierre

    It was another unbeaten year for Georges St-Pierre, but just barely. After beating Nick Diaz, who was coming off of a loss and didn't deserve a shot at the Canadian champion, St-Pierre met Johny Hendricks.

    While St-Pierre did enough to retain his belt on the scorecards in his second bout during 2013, many felt Hendricks should have dethroned the long-reigning titleholder, who ended up relinquishing his strap for personal reasons anyway.

    Glover Teixeira

    With a 3-0 2013 campaign, Glover Teixeira emerged as the top light heavyweight contender heading into 2014. The Brazilian defeated Quinton Jackson, James Te Huna and Ryan Bader over the past 12 months. While those wins can't be ignored, Teixeira didn't beat any current top-10 fighters, which hurt his Fighter of the Year candidacy. 

    Cain Velasquez

    It was a year of Brazilian rematches for Cain Velasquez in 2013. First, the heavyweight champion picked up another dominant win over Antonio Silva. Then, in a more awe-inspiring performance, Velasquez stopped rival Junior dos Santos during the fifth round of a rubber match. 

10. Robbie Lawler

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    2013 Record: 3-0

    Wins: Josh Koscheck, Bobby Voelker, Rory MacDonald

    Ending 2012 with a loss to Lorenz Larkin, Robbie Lawler decided to make a move to the welterweight division upon his return to the Octagon.

    That decision has turned the Strikeforce veteran into a contender at 170 pounds.

    Lawler stopped Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker before picking up a surprising decision win over Rory MacDonald at UFC 167. With Georges St-Pierre stepping down as welterweight titleholder, Lawler is now expected to meet Johny Hendricks in a fight for the vacant championship. 

9. Chad Mendes

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    2013 Record: 3-0

    Wins: Darren Elkins, Clay Guida, Nik Lentz

    Chad Mendes stormed back into title contention in 2013.

    Carrying two straight wins into January, Mendes knocked out Darren Elkins and Clay Guida before finishing off the year with a decision victory over Nik Lentz. With a strong 3-0 campaign, Mendes solidified his position as the No. 1 contender in the featherweight class.

    By beating three ranked opponents, Mendes edged Robbie Lawler, who earned one of his three victories over a slumping Bobby Voelker.

8. Renan Barao

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    2013 Record: 2-0

    Wins: Michael McDonald, Eddie Wineland

    Renan Barao used 2013 to set the stage for a title merger with fellow bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.

    The Brazilian defeated Urijah Faber in 2012 to become the interim 135-pound champion. Over the past 12 months, Barao defended his belt from dangerous challengers in Michael McDonald and Eddie Wineland. 

    It was a very impressive year for Barao, who finished both his opponents. However, competing only twice held the 26-year-old back from being one of the most decorated UFC fighters in 2013.

7. Travis Browne

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    2013 Record: 3-0

    Wins: Gabriel Gonzaga, Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett

    In 2012, Travis Browne suffered a huge setback, injuring his knee and getting knocked out by Antonio Silva.

    After sitting out for six months, Browne made the most of the final eight months of 2013. Although he didn't compete until April, Browne was able to stop Gabriel Gonzaga, Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett in the first round.

    Finishing three ranked heavyweights was enough to vault Browne ahead of Renan Barao in the Fighter of the Year race, as the Brazilian was only able to pick up two wins. 

6. Jose Aldo

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    2013 Record: 2-0

    Wins: Frankie Edgar, Chan Sung Jung

    Jose Aldo had the potential to have an even bigger 2013 than he did.

    The featherweight champion was scheduled to meet Anthony Pettis, but "Showtime" pulled out of that bout and was replaced by Chan Sung Jung. Aldo still defeated "The Korean Zombie" and former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, but a win over Pettis really would have put him near the top of the Fighter of the Year conversation.

    Still, beating a former champion like Edgar, who nearly regained his 155-pound belt in his prior meeting against Benson Henderson, puts Aldo ahead of other champions who only earned two wins.

5. Anthony Pettis

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    2013 Record: 2-0

    Wins: Donald Cerrone, Benson Henderson

    Due to his previously mentioned injury, Anthony Pettis was held back from competing more than twice over the past 12 months, but he still had an impressive 2013 campaign.

    In January, Pettis landed a body kick on Donald Cerrone and became the first fighter to stop "Cowboy" via strikes. That eventually was enough to earn Pettis a shot at lightweight champion and former WEC opponent Benson Henderson, whom "Showtime" defeated again with an armbar in the first round.

    Aside from Chris Weidman, Pettis was the only fighter to dethrone a UFC champion in 2013. Despite the fact that he earned only two wins, that's enough to make the final WEC lightweight titleholder one of the five best UFC fighters in the past 12 months.

4. Urijah Faber

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    2013 Record: 4-0

    Wins: Ivan Menjivar, Scott Jorgensen, Iuri Alcantara, Michael McDonald

    When Urijah Faber ended 2012 with another title fight loss against Renan Barao, it looked as though he'd seen his last chance to capture UFC gold. Then, "The California Kid" stormed back into the mix with an outstanding 2013.

    By picking up four wins, Faber earned the best UFC record over the past 12 months. More than that, he submitted three ranked bantamweights while going undefeated for the entirety of 2013.

    Another title shot could be on the horizon for Faber, who would be looking at a rematch should he meet the winner of an upcoming bantamweight title clash between Barao and rival Dominick Cruz.

3. Vitor Belfort

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    2013 Record: 3-0

    Wins: Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold, Dan Henderson

    Vitor Belfort may have been aided by Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT), but he had one of the strongest runs in 2013 without breaking any rules.

    Competing in his home country of Brazil, Belfort scored knockout wins over highly ranked opponents Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson. Known for having one of the best chins in MMA history, Henderson had never been knocked out prior to his rematch with Belfort at UFC Fight Night 32.

    The only thing holding Belfort back from 2013 Fighter of the Year honors is his lack of a title fight win. Still, he's easily among the most accomplished during the past 12 months.

2. Chris Weidman

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    2013 Record: 2-0

    Wins: Anderson Silva, Anderson Silva

    Chris Weidman looks to be the future of the middleweight division.

    Heading into 2013, no fighter had beaten Anderson Silva inside the Octagon. In the past 12 months, Weidman defeated "The Spider" on two separate occasions, ending the Brazilian's record reign as UFC 185-pound champion.

    Had Weidman's wins been more satisfying, he'd undoubtedly be the Fighter of the Year in 2013. However, although there's nothing he could really do about it, both of Weidman's wins over Silva left some questions unanswered. 

1. Demetrious Johnson

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    2013 Record: 3-0

    Wins: John Dodson, John Moraga, Joseph Benavidez

    It's time flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson receives his due recognition. What better way than to name him Fighter of the Year in 2013?

    "Mighty Mouse" is the only UFC champion to record three title defenses in the past 12 months. Moreover, Johnson silenced questions about his finishing ability by submitting John Moraga at UFC on Fox 8 and sleeping Joseph Benavidez in the first round at UFC on Fox 9.

    Johnson won decisively against three worthy challengers. He accomplished more than any other fighter in 2013.