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MMA: The Best of 2022

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Alexander Volkanovski.
  • There was plenty to be thankful for in MMA in 2022, from dream fights being realized to new champions being crowned.
  • Fans witnessed memorable fights.
  • Here’s a list of the best MMA Men’s/Woman’s Fighter, Fight, Submission and Event of the Year.

There was plenty to be thankful for in MMA in 2022, from dream fights being realized to new champions being crowned.

Fans witnessed numerous upsets, memorable knockouts, and performances that elevated fighters to legendary status.

Here’s a list of the best MMA Men’s/Woman’s Fighter, Fight, Submission and Event of the Year.

Men’s Fighter of the Year: Alexander Volkanovski

Alexander Volkanovski

Alexander Volkanovski|PHOTO: CBS SPORTS|

In an unpredictable year in which champions fell short and heavy favourites were upset, one constant remained: Alexander Volkanovski.

The reigning and defending UFC featherweight champion cemented his position as The Men’s MMA Fighter of the Year with a pair of dominant victories. At the same time, his fellow UFC titleholders either relinquished their titles or struggled to hold on against the competition.

In 2022, Kamaru Usman, Israel Adesanya, Charles Oliveira, Brandon Moreno, Glover Teixeira, Julianna Pena, Rose Namajunas, and Carla Esparza relinquished their titles. But Volkanovski put a stranglehold on the world’s number one pound-for-pound fighter by refusing to join his peers as “former” champions.

The Australian kicked off his 2022 campaign by running roughshod over Chan Sung Jung, ending with a fourth-round knockout against “The Korean Zombie” in April. But that was only the beginning. Volkanovski ended his rivalry with Max Holloway by pitching a shutout against the man widely regarded as the greatest featherweight fighter in UFC history.

Volkanovski improved to 3-0 against Holloway by exclusively using his standup to batter the former champion with speed and pinpoint accuracy. Volkanovski will enter 2023 looking to become a two-division champion when he faces lightweight titleholder — and Men’s MMA Fighter of the Year runner-up — Islam Makhachev. If he ends Makhachev’s run, it will be difficult to deny Volkanovski a repeat victory the following year.

Women’s Fighter of the Year: Zhang Weili

Weili Zhang punch

Weili Zhang punch|PHOTO: CBS|

Zhang was caught between a rock and a hard place after losing two consecutive fights and the UFC strawweight title to Rose Namajunas in 2020.

The first Zhang vs Joanna fight was gold for the UFC, and round two was more of the same. Zhang ended the rivalry this time with a vicious spinning back fist. Joanna left soon after. That was the first indication that Zhang had returned!

Zhang then reclaimed the UFC strawweight title with an emphasis on dominance, winning over Carla Esparza. She outstruck Esparza 37-6, submitting her in the second round in what could be interpreted as a mercy move. It helped that she was the -360 favourite to Esparza’s -280 underdog at the time, according to Caesars.

Back on the throne, the strawweight queen will face several challengers next year, including Amanda Lemos, Yan Xiaonan, and Namajunas for a third time. She also wants to compete at flyweight against Valentina Shevchenko. If Zhang can repeat her violent performances from her revenge year, who knows what 2023 will bring for her?

Fight of the Year: Glover Teixeira vs. Jiri Prochazka

Nobody could have predicted the all-out war that ensued between a 29-year-old samurai-inspired warrior and a 42-year-old veteran inside the octagon in June.

Jiri Prochazka and Glover Teixeira fought for the latter’s light heavyweight title at UFC 275. Prochazka, a violent assassin, had a 12-fight winning streak and was 2-0 in the UFC. Teixeira finally reached the summit in 2021 after failing to win the UFC light heavyweight title in 2014.

Nobody expected Teixeira to go toe-to-toe with Prochazka, the -188 favourite. Someone Teixeira’s age should not have been able to keep up with Prochazka, but the Brazilian did just that. Prochazka beat Teixeira to become champion in the end, defying the odds.

Submission of the Year: Luca Poclit vs Dante Schiro

Luca Poclit puts Dante Schiro to sleep with insane choke

Luca Poclit puts Dante Schiro to sleep with insane choke.|PHOTO: MMA Junkie|

During the Bellator 285 prelims, two Bellator fighters engaged in a back-and-forth battle. Luca Poclit and Dante Schiro’s fight could have gone either way. Poclit then attempted a submission. It seemed easy enough, didn’t it?

The commentators, audience, and Schiro all had no idea what was happening until it was too late.

Poclit broke free from a mounted position and applied a reverse arm-triangle choke. With Schiro’s arms trapped, Poclit moved his head slightly, and Schiro was out for the count due to the pressure.

Event of the Year: UFC 281

UFC 281 inside Madison Square Garden had it all, from title changes to two warriors battling it out. It also had eleven fights that ended in a finish, including all five main card fights.

New York City was buzzing, thanks partly to the long-running rivalry between Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira. Pereira was already 2-0 against Adesanya in kickboxing and won the UFC middleweight title in his fourth UFC fight. Pereira needed one big shot to take down Adesanya in order to make a comeback. Before the fifth round, his corner gave Pereira a Hollywood-style pep talk.

Like he was the star of an actual Rocky movie, Pereira stormed back, getting the TKO win to the shock of the commentary team, Adesanya, and all of MSG.

 

I am an ardent sports enthusiast interested in writing about football, motorsport and athletics.

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