THIS YEAR WAS always going to be an acid test for the UFC and some of its biggest stars but not many could have predicted the way it all panned out.
Two of the sport’s all-time greats, GSP and Anderson Silva, finished the year in very different circumstances but both were without their long-held titles.
Ronda Rousey’s broad shoulders have coped with the pressure of singlehandedly putting women’s MMA on the map in the UFC while Jon Jones has remained the only constant throughout the organisation.
Conor McGregor exploded onto the scene with a verbal style and panache that was matched only by his performances in the cage while Antrim’s Norman Parke quietly established himself in a manner that suggests there is more to come.
Of course it wasn’t all good news as some fighters like Dan Henderson, Frank Mir and Chael Sonnen had a year to forget but here’s a quick look back over January’s to June’s major events.
The year started with a bang for Vitor Belfort as he took only a couple of rounds to see off Michael Bisping in this ill-fated affair in Brazil. The win was the first of three this year for Belfort but all of his fights took place in Brazil and the controversy of his TRT exemptions means some questions still hang over his head.
Demetrious Johnson saw off the toughest challenge to his flyweight title John Dodson in a hard fought win to establish himself as the best flyweight while UFC mainstay and former champion left the organisation after a defeat against Glover Teixeira.
YouTube creit: TheMontanaMMA
Jose Aldo continued his understated impressive form with a win over the always game Frankie Edgar at UFC 157 on a card that produced a number of shocks. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira overcame a very lacklustre Rashad Evans while Antonio Silva KO’d an over complacent Alistair Overeem.
Jon Fitch was surprisingly cut from the UFC after his loss to Damian Maia before the UFC moved its road-show to England when the first of the John Kavanagh trained phenoms, Gunnar Nelson, continued to make his ice-cold mark on the UFC in his second fight.
Cub Swanson marked a return to form on that same card as Renan Barao kept hold of his interim title with a win over Michael McDonald.
Ronda Rousey makes her way to the octagon. Jae C. Hong/AP/Press Association Images
February was also the debut of the women’s bantamweight division in the UFC and Ronda Rousey introduced her first armbar victory to a receptive and captive audience as Lyoto Machida inflicted the first of three 2013 defeats for Dan Henderson.
YouTube credit: ShlomoMetzenbaum
In March Wanderlei Silva turned the lights out on Brian Stann and his career while Mark Hunt produced one of the KO’s of the year against Stefan Struve. March also saw one of the first real grudge matches take place as GSP defended his title against long-time foe Nick Diaz at UFC 158.
Johnny Hendricks started his impressive year with a close fought win over perennial contender Carlos Condit on the same card while Jake Ellenberger spectacularly KO’d Nate Marquardt to pick up a tasty bonus cheque.
YouTube credit: Big Rigg
Despite having four events in April this month will forever be remembered as the month the Conor McGregor exploded onto international screens with a comprehensive win over the previously undefeated Marcus Brimmage.
His 67 second KO sparked the start of an extraordinary year for the Dublin native which has whet the appetite for a whole army of fans all over the world. His performances both inside and outside of the cage captured the imagination of many and his is already on the way to becoming a huge UFC star.
Urijah Faber continued his winning ways with a win over Scott Jorgensen while Kelvin Gastelum upset the odds with a win over the well-fancied Uriah Hall in the TUF series finale. Ben Henderson scraped a victory over Gilbert Melendez to keep hold of his lightweight belt before the ever reliable Jon Jones easily despatched Chael Sonnen in a predictably invincible manner.
YouTube credit: Isa29
After “Awesome April” everyone needed a bit of rest before Vitor Belfort rolled back the years with a highlight reel KO over promotional newcomer Luke Rockhold.
Cain Velasquez issued his heavyweight stamp of authority over “Bigfoot” Silva as Junior dos Santos emerged as a threat to the Mexican with a comprehensive KO over Mark Hunt. Glover Teixeria continued to show his championship potential with a lethal submission over James Te Huna.
YouTube credit: Justin Auvil
The Brazilian influence continued in June as TUF Brazil concluded as Fabricio Werdum submitted Minotauro Nogueria in the second round.
Rashad Evans piled more misery on Dan Henderson as he bounced back to take a split decision as Stipe Miocic dispelled any lingering thoughts Roy Nelson had of a title shot with a decision victory in the heavyweight division.