In the past year the world of MMA has had its fair share of problems. Injury blighted UFC cards, sub-par main events, the slow and meandering death of Strikeforce are to name but a few. But the year has also been loaded with a plentiful number of things to cheer about. MMA fans witnessed the welcome return of Georges St-Pierre after his injury. Ronda Rousey blew up so much that Dana White was forced to renege on his promise that no women would fight in the UFC. So to celebrate all the good things of the year past and to usher in the new year, here is Fox News Latino’s MMA awards:
Fighter of the Year: Benson Henderson
The year 2012 has been dominated by non other than Benson Henderson. How could it not be? The man won the UFC lightweight belt in his first fight of the year with a unanimous decision against a tough as nails Frankie Edgar. The same Frankie Edgar who seemed to have had possession of the lightweight belt for what seemed to be eons.
That was the first statement of intent. The rematch with Edgar in an even tougher encounter saw Henderson’s arm raised once more courtesy a split decision. With two bouts of monumental difficulty what did Henderson do? Well he squeezed in another fight high up on the difficulty scale by fighting and distributing a festive beat down on Nate Diaz. How good was Henderson this year? Well, the fact that he won all three of his bouts with relative ease against opponents who have cemented permanent spots in the upper echelons of the sport shows Henderson is not merely a hype. Henderson is a legitimate pound-for-pound fighter who will be feared in the sport for years to come and 2012 was the year he fulfilled his promise.
Knockout of the Year: Edson Barboza
At UFC 142, in the middle of the third round of an evenly contested fight against Terry Etim, Edson Barboza delivered what will easily go down as the knockout of the year. As Etim advanced towards Barboza in the middle of the Octagon, the Brazilian did something that generally happens only in movies and daydreams. He pivoted on one foot, swung his other leg like a sickle 360 degrees and chopped down Etim like a mere blade of grass. Etim was lifeless way before he hit the canvas, while Barboza walked away soaked in nonchalance as if nothing special had happened. But something special had happened. Barboza had delivered the first spinning heel kick knockout in the history of the UFC and ensured that people’s jaws would be left ajar for quite a long time.
Fight of the Year: Chan Sung Jung SUB4 Dustin Poirier
Going into the fight on UFC on Fuel TV 3 Poirier had never been defeated at 145 pounds. But in the fourth round the fight was waved off after he had been choked out by Jung, “The Korean Zombie” in a fight of the year that few would forget. In a matchup that produced back and forth action, with oodles of blood what more could fans have wished for? Flying elbows and kicks, late second reversals, incredible chins. The fight had it all. As for the ending? Who could have foreseen the brabo choke being handed out to Poirier? The result saw Jung catapult himself into title contention against featherweight supremo Jose Aldo. He had finished all three of his previous opponents since being signed by the UFC as part of the World Extreme Cagefighting merger and the win against Poirier will surely mean "The Korean Zombie" will live to fight on an even bigger stage.
Igor Guryashkin is a freelance journalist whose extensive work on combat sports has been featured in ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. He splits his time between New York and Louisville. Follow him on Twitter @IGuryashkinESPN.