Top 10 Athletes to Watch in 2012

A new year gives athletes at the top of their respective games another opportunity to rise to the top amid brutal competition. The following list of stars have proven that they have the potential to take the world of sports over in 2012, and all eyes will be watching in their quest to do just that this year.

1. Jon Jones

In 2011, Jon “Bones” Jones became the youngest UFC champion in history.

After successfully defending his title twice, the UFC champion has even captured the attention of the organization’s president.

"Jon Jones is the real deal," UFC President Dana White said of the 24-year-old fighter in his final 2011 bout. "I just don't see anybody beating this guy any time soon."

As the first 205-pound champion to make consecutive successful title defenses, all eyes interested in the world of UFC will be focused on the young fighter.

2. Aaron Rodgers

*After leading his team to win a championship in 2010, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was named The Associated Press athlete of the year. Since then, he has given fans another reason to be hopeful for a return to the super bowl in 2012.

The team is 14-1 this season, with the best record in the league.

Aside from being a leading QB to watch for in 2012, Rodgers has also acknowledged his Christian faith.

"We all have a platform, we all have a message in our lives," Rodgers told The Baptist Press. "I just try to follow Jesus' example, leading by example."

3. LeBron James

Countless eyes have been on Lebron James since he was chosen for the USA Today All-USA First Team as a high school sophomore. After leading his Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat teams to the NBA finals, all eyes will be on James to win his first ring in Miami, who came into the 2011-2012 season with a powerful start.

4. Danica Patrick

Danica Patrick overcame a challenging year in 2011: she shook off an accident, announced her participation in NASCAR, and lost her friend Dan Wheldon in an accident during a race in which she drove.

Patrick, who became the first woman to win an Indy car race in 2008, has admitted to being shaken up by the dangers of racing. Still, she has decided to participate in this NASCAR season, beginning with her first Daytona 500 race.

Many eyes will be on Patrick to see how far she can take her first NASCAR run this year.

5. Floyd Mayweather

After returning with a historic knockout from a 16-month hiatus, boxing fans will be watching Floyd Mayweather’s next move in 2012.

The WBC welterweight champion was vocal about participating in the long-awaited bout against Manny Pacquiao in May, but will spend the beginning of the year in jail. With his possible training time now being spent behind bars, all eyes will be on Mayweather to see how he bounces back from this obstacle in 2012.

6. Dorial Green-Beckham

Dorial Green-Beckham is arguably the top high school football offensive prospect in the country, and as a 2012 graduate, all eyes will be on the young star.

Colleges all over the country are vying for Green-Beckham’s attention, and fans are keeping their attention on the Missouri athlete who would make a lofty addition to any college football fan’s team.

7. Tim Tebow

All eyes were on Tim Tebow’s internet meme about fourth quarter comebacks and public prayer in 2011, and in 2012 it will be no different. The Denver Broncos’ quarterback is gearing up for his first playoffs appearance, which will give him a bigger platform to play and pray on.

Fans of Tebow can also look forward to the star quarterback proclaiming his love for God and Jesus Christ.

8. Keegan Bradley

Keegan Bradley bean his PGA career in 2011 and managed to win the championship in his rookie year, as only the third person to accomplish the feat behind Ben Curtis and Francis Ouimet.

Now, all eyes will be on Bradley in 2012 to prove that the 25-year-old’s first PGA performance was more than just beginner’s luck.

9. Allyson Felix

Allyson Felix has her eyes set on the gold in the 2012 London Olympics, and she has many fans willing to watch her complete the task.

At 26, Felix has already broken records as the only woman to win the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 400-meter races at the U.S. track and field championships. Fans of Felix are already hoping for the gold medal during the Olympics, thinking the young athlete will make a good run this year.

10. Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant will have some tough obstacles to face in 2012 while trying to secure his legacy with another championship ring.

A new coach and divorce settlement have proven to shake things up for the Lakers guard and his championship winning franchise. Now, all eyes will be on Bryant to overcome all of the issues that are adding up in his life and prove that he can win a ring without former coach Phil Jackson.