2013 was packed with spectacular fights that did absolutely nothing short of top last year’s unparalleled excitement. This was certainly a great way to announce to the world that it was the UFC’s 20th anniversary and that things were only going to get bigger from here. As a fight fan for almost 4 years, I feel like I have seen and heard about anything that could possibly happen, and every year, every fight I am blown away. But if this year is your very first year for UFC, or you found yourself tuning in on and off, I have compiled a personal list of the eight fights this year that will make you a UFC Fan.
Georges St. Pierre v Johny Hendricks: UFC 167 (Split Decision)
This is one of those perfect fights that every UFC beginner was going to hear about and when the event actually started, you couldn’t look away. UFC 167 headlined long-running Welterweight Champion Georges “Rush” St. Pierre and the fast-moving, bomb-throwing number one contender, Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks. After months and months of hearing Johny Hendricks calling out Georges St. Pierre (and backing it up with a line of vicious KO’s) it was finally time for the head-to-head and it is just what we’ve been wanting to see. It has been quite a while since I’ve seen GSP’s face that brutalized at a post-fight presser and the immediate controversy made it very clear that the fans wanted and needed more from these two. This year has given us the loss of a lot of champions, and as odd as this may sound, it makes it the perfect time for newcomers to get acquainted with the sport. A much loved and well known fighter gave a vague and ominous message that hinted at retirement but gave way to the exciting young buck (and all the rest like him) that were ready to bring this division to a new level.
Cain Velasquez v Junior ”Cigano” Dos Santos III: UFC 166 (TKO)
Every fight fan loves a good trilogy. Rematches are usually the thing of legend in the UFC. Very few of them end up disappointing. But with Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez and former Heavyweight Champion Junior Dos Santos, there was a little something extra. There wasn’t really a grudge in this grudge match. There was always a deep respect since the very first fight, a palpable passion that no one can deliver like Velasquez, and “nice guys should finish first” determination that makes Dos Santos so admirable. Though Velasquez came out on top, the fight you watched wasn’t one of eager ladder climbing and boasting, it was one that came down to the purest elements of both men: love for what they do, pride in how they do it, and passion for all the people they were doing it for. This was a great fight to watch if you’ve rarely caught a UFC fight because it gave you the action you need but with a different air of true sportsmanship that made it feel like something totally different.
Gilbert Melendez v Diego Sanchez: UFC 166 (Decision, unan.)
This fight is certainly going to be on every list you see for 2013 but I don’t care. It. Was. Amazing. If you were just joining the millions of UFC fans this year, this fight was definitely in my top 3 fights that got you hyped about mixed martial arts. This fight didn’t have any fancy submissions, no bloody doctor stoppages, no gut-wrenching knockouts. That’s what makes it a perfect fight to get you ready for the excitement of the UFC. It was three rounds of two magnificent fighters showing you one of the best displays of focus and heart that could be shown. It is one of two fights on my list where you honestly didn’t care about who won. Either fighter would have made the same impact, and that impact came HARD.
John Dodson v Darrell Montague: UFC 166 (KO)
One weight class that I personally feel does not get a lot of respect right now is the flyweight division. It comes across as a lot of tiny guys with little to no knockout power dancing around the ring for 15 minutes and earning a decision. That was harsh, but that was also an honest opinion before I really started watching the Flyweight and Bantamweight fighters pre-UFC. Man, was I wrong. For fans just getting into the sport, this fight has earned its spot on my list because this fight will make you a fan of flyweights. John Dodson is no stranger to entertainment and showmanship in the ring, and this fight was no different. He proved the knockout power of the little guys and made you want to go back and do some research on these lighter divisions.
Chris Weidman v Anderson Silva: UFC 162 (KO)
Along with Melendez v Sanchez, I am aware of how many times this fight is going to appear on the many Best Of lists that round out this year. As a HUGE Anderson Silva fan, this was not my favorite fight. I hate going back and reliving the moment when I had to pick my jaw up off of the floor and eat crow for all of my Silva-hating friends. However, when I think of this fight from the perspective of a fighting newcomer, this was all the hype anyone ever needed. The press that follows Anderson Silva is always is nothing short of a tad overwhelming, and Chris Weidman was certainly not a household name. But when Anderson came in and began the cockiest teasing of his life, that gut wrenching ,ice cold rock of regret dropped into my stomach and I (and everyone else watching) knew that it was going to be another spectacular notch in his belt, or the beginning of the end.
It was the beginning. The challenger Chris Weidman made his mind a steel trap, showed no emotion, and swiftly and effectively sent the spider back down the spout. This fight set in motion an excitement for the end of the year that has never been generated before and thank God I was here for it.
Kenny Robertson v Brock Jardine: UFC 157 (crazy pulled hamstring submission)
I will be the first to admit that I am “that” fan. I am the fan that wants to see insane knockouts, constant movement, standup, drag-around striking. The intelligent art of the ground game is not totally lost on me and I still exhibit an odd amount of excitement when seeing a well-executed kimura (my favorite move). However, I want to see someone get punched hard in the face at the end of the day. Sorry. With that being said, this fight makes the list because it was the craziest, coolest way to force a submission I have seen and even for a girl that loves stand up action, this fight stuck out and brought to my attention just how quickly you have to be able to think on your feet, how vulnerable you really are, even when you’re a professional, and how much you always have to learn.
Midway through the first round, Robertson had the back of an active Jardine, who was trying to get back on his feet by using a tripod method to shift Robertson’s weight and regain safer footing. Seemingly out of nowhere, Robertson grabs the left leg of Jardine and just begins to stretch it outwards making it seem sort of like a kneebar and sort of like the worse thing to ever happen to your hamstrings. This nameless move quickly became a very early contender for Submission of the Year (it definitely won Submission of the Night) and taught beginning fans that action isn’t always balled up in a fist.
Cat Zingano v Miesha Tate: TUF Finale 17 (TKO)
2013 became the year of women’s fighting and I am obviously ALL about that. Women’s Bantamweight Champion and Olympian Ronda Rousey and former Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight champion Miesha Tate were turning the sport on its ear and not because of soft decisions and mild chokes. Brutal TKOs and disgusting armbars started to litter the airwaves and even Dana White had to take notice. When Rousey fought Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 and clinched another armbar victory, the public was ready to see women get down and dirty. We wanted strikers. We wanted blood. Enter Miesha Tate, already known for her takedowns and solid strikes, and Cat Zingano, who had effortlessly placed a few TKO’s and KO’s under her own belt. I am adding this fight the list of fights that made you a fan because this fight was both, what you didn’t expect, and exactly what you did expect. For people that may have been introduced to women’s fighting a little earlier, the tenacity shown in that fight was customary. To all of the newbies to women’s fighting (including myself), it was violence I wasn’t sure I was ready for, and quickly found out I couldn’t live without.
Mark Hunt v Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva: UFC Fight Night 33 (DRAW)
This fight was one of the best heavyweight fights I had seen in years. The UFC has often taken a little flack for its lackluster heavyweight performances. New recruits were piling into smaller weight classes and creating quite a stir in their divisions at a time when the greats of the heavyweights were retiring or starting to wind themselves down. For a while, I started to miss the hard hitting, no holds barred gargantuan action that heavyweights were known for. As a fan whose first live UFC event was UFC 115, headlining Chuck Liddell and Rich Franklin, I’ve been spoiled by the actions of some the most entertaining fighters ever.
But then this fight happened to me and rekindled my old flame for the heavyweight division. This brought up the first feelings I had ever had about the UFC. Now, before anyone gets mad, I know that there are TERRIFIC heavyweight fighters and there always were, but when you start at 115 and go backwards to try and learn more, you become spoiled by the fighters and Hall of Famers that were no longer among you or quickly making their exit. But the back and forth, all-or-nothing, Bonner vs. Griffin effort of these two men took me back to UFC 115. These are not necessarily numbered in any particular order, but personally, this fight was the fight to see in 2013 that would sink you in as a fan.Tags: Anderson Silva, Antonio Silva, Brock Jardine, Cain Velasquez, Cat Zingano, Chris Weidman, Darrell Montague, diego sanchez, georges st. pierre, Gilbert Melendez, john dodson, johny hendricks, Junior Dos Santos, Kenny Roberstson, Liz Carmouche, Mark Hunt, miesha tate, Ronda Rousey