Mid-Year MMA Awards: January – July

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At the halfway point of the year, we take a look at some mid-year MMA awards. You can check out MMASucka’s end-of-year awards from last year here, but for now, we’ll focus on just 2022, January – July.

This will be a scaled-down version of our traditional end-of-year awards, including just: Male Fighter of the year, Female Fighter of the Year, Fight of the Year, Submission of the Year, Knockout of the year, Event of the Year and Breakout fighter of the Year.

Male Fighter of the Year

Last year’s male fighter of the year was Charles Oliveira and rightfully so. He had two fights, two finishes, won and defended the lightweight belt and did so in an exciting fashion. This year, he’s only had one fight, defeating Justin Gaethje, however, he missed weight and was stripped of the 155lbs belt. If he is to compete again for the belt later in the year and win, who knows, we could be seeing him back on top of the MMASucka rankings for the second year in a row!

The mid-year award winner is, undeniably, Alexander Volkanovski. The featherweight champion is 2-0 in 2022 already with two dominant title defences. He returned in April with a brutal, dominant victory over Chan Sung Jung, finishing him in the fourth round via TKO. Realistically, it could have been stopped before the actual stoppage as Volkanovski was so dominant.

He then returned in the trilogy against Max Holloway on the stacked UFC 276 card. Many thought that this time, Holloway would get the better of the champion. What played out, however, was absolute dominance from Volkanovski. Not only did he win every round (cruising to a 50-45 unanimous decision victory), but he pretty much won every minute. He announced that he’d broken his thumb in the aftermath of the fight and therefore will have surgery before returning, however, don’t be surprised to see him in and around 155lbs by the end of the year.

Female Fighter of the Year

Rose Namajunas won MMASucka’s female fighter of the year for 2021. With two wins over Weili Zhang, there was no one close to achieving what Namajunas did. There is little to no chance that she’ll be in the conversation this year, however. She put in a lacklustre title-losing effort against Carla Esparza and if her previous schedule is anything to go by, she’s unlikely to return this year.

There hasn’t been a standout female fighter in 2022 thusfar, however, we have narrowed it down to three candidates. Weili Zhang, Kayla Harrison and Angela Lee.

Zhang is 1-0 in 2022, with a stunning knockout over former rival, Joanna Jedrzejczyk. At UFC 275, Zhang and Jedrzejczyk clashed for an unofficial #1 contenders fight for Esparza’s 115lbs title. China’s first-ever UFC champion landed a devastating spinning backfist, knocking the former Polish champion out cold and confirming her as the next challenger for the belt. We expect her to return later in 2022 to clash with Esparza, where she will likely enter a heavy favourite.

Harrison is 2-0 in 2022, with one decision and one TKO victory. She cruised to victory against Marina Mokhnatkina in May, before dominating Kaitlin Young in July. Young was a late replacement for Julia Budd, which would have undoubtedly been the toughest test of Harrison’s career. She’s scheduled to face Martina Jindrova in the semi-finals of the Women’s Lightweight tournament in August at Martina Jindrova in the Semifinals off the Women’s Lightweight tournament on August 20, 2022 at PFL 9.

Angela Lee is 1-0 in 2022 but that one performance was stunning. She headlined ONE:X, defeating Stamp Fairtex in order to retain the ONE atomweight belt. Not only did she win, but she submitted Fairtex to gain the performance of the night.

We’re narrowly giving it to Harrison based on strength of schedule. She’s already fought twice this year with a third fight lined up. If she gets through Jindrova in August, hopefully, the Budd fight will be rescheduled and she could potentially progress to 4-0 in 2022. The fans, however, think that the award should have gone to Zhang Weili!

Fight of Year

The UFC 266 main event between Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega won our fight of the year last year. The title clash had it all from fight-ending moments, momentum shifts and an exciting rivalry beforehand.

Our mid-year, fight of the year is the UFC 275 main event between Glover Texeira and Jiri Proachzka. This fight had it all and delivered in a huge way. The champion, Texeira surprised a lot of people with his resilience and ability to take the challenger down and work his ground game. Proachzka was able to constantly land on the champion but with over 300 total strikes landed between the two men, it was competitive throughout. We broke down the entire fight on our MMASucka podcast, so be sure to check that out. What made this fight so great was arguably the finish. With just 28 seconds left of the fight, Proachzka tapped out the champion, Texiera when he was down on the cards. An amazing end to an amazing fight and it’ll be hard to top the fight all year.

Honourable mentions certainly go out to Gilbert Burns and Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 273 and Calvin Kattar vs. Giga Chikadze for their fight night clash in January.

Submission of the Year

Our submission of the year was Anthony Hernandez‘s shock guillotine over Rodolfo Vieira. Our mid-year award goes to Tom Aspinall for his straight armbar victory over Alexander Volkov in the main event slot in London in March. This was certainly an impressive submission as it isn’t one that we often see in MMA as well as the fact that Aspinall has previously not shown his ground game to any great effect during his UFC tenure thus far. It’s also impressive because Volkov hasn’t been submitted since 2010, showing that he can handle himself on the ground.

Honourable mentions go to Stevie Ray, who landed a modified twister/body triangle to crush the ribs of Anthony Pettis as well as Oliver Enkamp who landed a buggy choke at Bellator London in May.

Knockout of the Year

Sergio Pettis‘ crazy spinning backfist title-winning knockout over Kyoji Horiguchi sailed to victory and rightfully so, it was phenomenal. Unfortunately for Pettis, injury has kept him out of action since, forcing him to withdraw from Bellator’s bantamweight grand prix.

There have been a number of phenomenal knockouts thusfar and the winner of our 2022 mid-year awards knockout of the year is Michael Chandler‘s jaw-dropping (and jaw-swinging) front-kick knockout over Tony Ferguson. The shocking knockout amazed fans both in the arena as well as everyone watching at home. The type of the finish, the unpredicted nature, the skill level needed as well as the fact that Chandler was likely down on the scorecards made the knockout the spectial that it was.

Honourable mentions go to the stunning spinning backfist landed by Zhang Weili at UFC 275 as well as the brutal spinning elbow that was landed by Molly McCann at UFC London. Both of these could easily win the award, however, it’s Chandler that get’s this one.

Event of the Year

UFC 268 from Madison Square Garden won our event of the year for 2021. Kamaru Usman defeated Colby Covington for the welterweight strap in the main event and Namajunas defeated Zhang to reclaim her strawweight belt. The event also saw the barnburner Michael Chandler vs. Justin Gaethje fight, the debuts of Ian Garry and Alex Pereira as well as a whole host of other talking points.

There were really two contenders for ‘Event of the year’ so far. UFC London and UFC Austin. Both of these cards delivered in a huge way, with multiple knockouts, submissions and entertaining fights. UFC Austin saw 10 post-fight bonuses handed out, with nine performance bonuses and a fight of the night. UFC London saw nine post-fight bonuses, with no fight of the night bonus being awarded.

We’ve given it to UFC London on the basis that it was the first time that the promotion has returned to the UK since the pandemic. Not only that but there were a number of breakout stars in Molly McCann, Paddy Pimblett and Muhammad Mokaev who all featured on the card. The atmosphere was electric and we can hope that the upcoming July 23rd card will be the same!

Breakout fighter of the Year

2021’s breakout fighter of the year went to Ciryl Gane. In 2021, the French heavyweight went 3-0 with three dominant performances, of which one saw him lift the interim strap. He began 2022 with a shot at the undisputed belt, where he entered the bout as a slight favourite. Unfortunately for Gane, he was largely dominated by the champion, Francis Ngannou in the wrestling realm. He’s expected the headline UFC Paris in September, which will be a huge step forward for the UFC themselves.

The breakout fighter of the year is a difficult one as a breakout fighter often has to have multiple times in order to qualify. They have to really get themselves into the thoughts of the fans and media alike and prove something. Muhammad Mokaev made a devastating start to his UFC career and is set to compete again in London in July, Jalin Turner has broken into the top 15 at lightweight with two devastating finishes this year and Jack Della Maddalena is also 2-0 and has looked impressive thus far. Honourable mentions go to Danny Sabatello, who has become the ‘bad boy’ of Bellator, progressing into the semi-finals of the bantamweight grand-prix. UFC’s Chidi Njokuani has also had a solid 2022, with two finishes over two respected opponents. Expect to see the hard-hitting middleweight out at least once more this year.

Our 2022 breakout fighter of the year (so far) has gone to Alex Pereira. Pereira is 2-0 in 2022, most recently notching a brutal knockout over Sean Strickland at UFC 276. He’s positioned himself for a grudge match against Israel Adesanya later this year for the middleweight belt. If he can overcome Adesanya, it will be hard to deny him the fighter of the year spot, let alone the breakout fighter of the year!

Be sure to keep an eye out on MMASucka at the end of the year for our full list of MMA awards alongside a whole host of other exciting content throughout the year.

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Frazer Krohn has been with MMASucka for nearly 5 years. He is the host of the MMASucka podcast, which is released every Monday. He's the author of a series of six books about MMA, which were published in 2023.

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