The 2013 MLB All-Star game is in the books and fans were able to witness some of baseball’s best going head to head. The game saw some memorable performances that helped cap off a first half of a season full of them. MMA has also enjoyed many memorable moments thus far into 2013 and fans have witnessed a few fighters emerge from the pack.

These fighters are truly worthy of the “All-Star” moniker. They’ve stood out above the rest both in and out of the cage. Some division champs may not be the leading vote-getters if fans had to choose and there would certainly be some notable snubs, just as there is with any All-Star game. These fighters would comprise anyone’s All-Star ballot if votes were tallied between fighters and fans alike.

Heavyweight
  1. Junior dos Santos
  2. Cain Velasquez
  3. Daniel Cormier

In the first half of 2013, no heavyweight (other than Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva) had an “OMG!” moment quite like Junior dos Santos. The Brazilian was coming off an ugly five-round lopsided loss to Cain Velasquez to close out 2012. JDS-Velasquez III was a bout on the tip of everyone’s tongue, but both men would need to pick up victories at UFC 160. Prior to Velasquez defending his title, dos Santos faced off against the tough and dangerous Pride and K-1 veteran Mark Hunt. The two engaged in a thrilling battle of wills that came to a climactic conclusion as dos Santos landed a beautiful spinning kick to drop Hunt. The victory will likely contend for “Knockout of the Year” at the MMA Awards later this year.

Velasquez makes the ballot based on the fact that he’s wearing the UFC heavyweight title. He has defended his title once this year, and although the victory was impressive, it was a fight he was supposed to win.

Daniel Cormier takes the final spot based on his dominant showing against former UFC heavyweight champ Frank Mir. Although the fight wasn’t as action-packed as MMA fans would’ve hoped, it showed that Cormier could hang with one of the best UFC heavyweights in MMA history. Cormier also happens to be one of the fastest rising stars in the UFC due to his impressive skill set and the potential big-money fights that lie down the road for him.

Light Heavyweight

  1. Jon Jones
  2. Glover Teixeira
  3. Alexander Gustafsson

Jon Jones may be a polarizing figure in the MMA world, but he has no shortage of supporters when it comes to the casual fans. For the fans who don’t care about how he acts outside the cage, Jones is perhaps the UFC’s biggest attraction inside it. His rare blend of size, athleticism and raw talent has made Jones the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world. Oh, and he’s only 25 years old. Jones began 2013 in style by coaching on The Ultimate Fighter and had the challenge of keeping up with Chael Sonnen in promoting their UFC 159 clash. Jones chose not to engage in verbal warfare, instead letting his actions do the talking inside the Octagon, where he absolutely dominated Sonnen. A nasty toe injury seems to be the only thing capable of stopping Jones in 2013.

Two men who’ve been pegged as the guy to dethrone Jones are Glover Teixeira and Alexander Gustafsson. Teixeira had an impressive first fight of 2013 as he soundly defeated Pride and UFC champ Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Teixeira has looked amazing up to this point, but definitely welcomes a step up in competition when he faces Ryan Bader later this year. Gustafsson, on the other hand, hasn’t fought in 2013 due to a last-minute cut sustained in training. Despite not being active, Gustafsson would likely be picked to represent the light heavyweight division over someone far more worthy like Lyoto Machida, based on popularity. Gustafsson shares similar traits to that of Jones and has looked impressive since his loss to Phil Davis.

Middleweight

  1. Chris Weidman
  2. Vitor Belfort
  3. Anderson Silva

We’re only halfway through 2013, but Chris Weidman has already pulled off one of the biggest upsets in MMA history. That alone warrants a place on the MMA All-Star team. However, when you consider he defeated the seemingly invincible Anderson Silva, Weidman could easily be the UFC’s top vote-getter among fans. With all the fighters picking Weidman prior to UFC 162, it appears his peers would have no qualms about voting him in as well.

Vitor Belfort and Silva could easily trade places at No. 2 and No. 3. On one hand, Belfort has delivered two thunderous knockouts in the first half of 2013 to take a firm grasp on the No. 1 contender slot. Yet, the topic of TRT and Belfort’s recent attitude could linger in fans’ minds when picking their All-Stars of the middleweight division. Silva’s antics would likely do the same, since they’re fresh in everyone’s minds and create quite a divide among fans. Despite his clowning/baiting tactics (or whatever you want to call them), Silva is still one of the biggest names in the sport and still boasts a full bandwagon of fans.

Welterweight

  1. Georges St-Pierre
  2. Johny Hendricks
  3. Rory MacDonald

Georges St-Pierre is one of the few fighters we can count on as a lock for an All-Star selection. GSP is among the most popular fighters in the game today for his dominance and good-guy attitude outside the cage. Inside the cage in 2013, he displayed his trademark dominance when he trounced Nick Diaz for five rounds. Being one of the sport’s most recognizable faces and names undoubtedly would put GSP near the top of leading vote-getters for the UFC All-Star ballot.

Johny Hendricks makes the cut for providing hype with substance. He took out perennial top contender Jon Fitch with a single punch and was game enough to defeat Carlos Condit at UFC 158. The hype surrounding Hendricks, along with his victories, have propelled him into title contention with fans proclaiming him to be the GSP-killer the welterweight division has been waiting for.

The final spot for the welterweight division is a toss-up. Rory MacDonald could very well be one win away from a title shot, but he hasn’t resonated with fans after his antics against B.J. Penn. There’s also the fact that MacDonald has said he won’t fight GSP, which kind of makes his career beg the question, “what’s the point?” Also in the running for the final spot would be Demian Maia, who has looked nothing short of amazing in his drop to 170 pounds, and Condit, who despite two straight losses remains one of the more popular fighters in the division.

Lightweight

  1. Benson Henderson
  2. Anthony Pettis
  3. T.J. Grant

The ballot for the lightweight division looks much like the UFC rankings for the weight class. Benson Henderson is the clear-cut top choice, as he holds the UFC lightweight belt. He does lose some ground to the No. 2 slot after yet another close split decision victory against Gilbert Melendez this year.

Holding down that second slot is Anthony Pettis, the last man to defeat Henderson. Pettis experienced a rough patch upon entering the UFC, but has since become one of the top 155-pound fighters in the world. He was scheduled to drop down to 145 pounds to face Jose Aldo, but will now face Henderson in a rematch at UFC 164.

T.J. Grant was the original selection to face Henderson at UFC 165, but an injury forced him off the card. Regardless of his withdrawal from the title bout, Grant remains an All-Star based on his destruction of Gray Maynard at UFC 160. Grant had been riding an impressive winning streak prior to the Maynard fight, but he remained a relative unknown. His trouncing of the widely respected Maynard officially put him on everyone’s radar.

Featherweight

  1. Jose Aldo
  2. Frankie Edgar
  3. Cub Swanson

Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar are no-brainers here. Both men have enjoyed success in the Octagon in 2013. Although Edgar came up short in his title bid against Aldo, the New Jersey native rebounded emphatically by defeating Charles Oliveira. These two men are likely to remain near the top of the featherweight rankings so long as they compete, because they seem just a step above (and ahead) of the rest of the competition.

Chan-Sung Jung or Ricardo Lamas would be obvious choices for the No. 3 slot, but Cub Swanson has been the biggest standout in 2013. Lamas, despite his victories, remains an unknown to many fans and “The Korean Zombie” hasn’t competed since last year due to injuries. Swanson, on the other hand, has picked up two impressive victories with both ending before the final bell. Swanson has always had the talent, but now it seems as though he’s put together his talent with mental strength as well. The results have been very fun to watch.

Bantamweight

  1. Renan Barao
  2. Urijah Faber
  3. Dominick Cruz

The bantamweight division features two champions that have rendered the opposition irrelevant due to their performances. My personal opinion aside, Dominick Cruz remains the UFC bantamweight champion and after looking nearly unbeatable at 135 pounds, he has cemented his place in bantamweight history. Think of him as the injured star who still makes the All-Star game even though he hasn’t exactly earned it in 2013.

After Cruz went down with an injury, another dominant fighter took his place. Renan Barao seized the interim UFC bantamweight belt. Not only is Barao riding an incredible winning streak, but he has also defeated many of the top contenders at 135 pounds.

Urijah Faber remains the division’s most popular fighter. Despite his record in title fights recently, he also remains one of the best fighters in the division. His victories over Ivan Menjivar and Scott Jorgensen have made Faber the best fighter without a belt at 135 pounds.

Flyweight

  1. Demetrious Johnson
  2. John Dodson
  3. Ian McCall

The flyweight division has perhaps the biggest gap between the top spot and the rest of the competition. Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson has looked untouchable thus far at 125 pounds outside of a few moments of trouble in his contest with John Dodson. Johnson has managed to make winning the title and holding onto it look easy.

Of the contenders Johnson has defeated, two would still make the All-Star ballot based on fan popularity. Dodson and Ian McCall are two of the more well-known names in the division and Dodson came within moments of defeating Johnson in their fight. Dodson also has a fan base due to his time on The Ultimate Fighter. McCall’s popularity comes from his “out in left field” personality, which earned him the nickname “Uncle Creepy.” McCall has had a rough go of it in his UFC tenure, but he could certainly earn a spot on the roster from his fan popularity alone.

Women’s Bantamweight

  1. Ronda Rousey
  2. Miesha Tate
  3. Cat Zingano

Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate are two of women’s MMA’s most recognizable athletes. Rousey has combined her looks with her fighting ability to become the top star on the women’s side of the sport. She could also rival Cris “Cyborg” Justino as the top pound-for-pound female fighter in the world. Rousey’s ability to armbar everyone who comes within breathing distance is other-worldly and has provided a formula that nobody in the bantamweight division has been able to stop.

Tate will get her shot at redemption later this year when she faces Rousey for the title after coaching against her on the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter. It’s a slot that Tate finds herself in despite losing to the original scheduled opponent for Rousey. Cat Zingano may have earned her spot with a victory over Tate, but for many people that fight remains the only time they’ve seen Zingano. Tate has a history with MMA fans and will likely see her popularity rise with her appearance in the ESPN the Magazine Body Issue.

Photo: Ronda Rousey (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.