2022 was been a hell of a year from MMA. We announced our end-of-year awards on the latest MMASucka podcast, so be sure to check that out, however, we haven’t looked at the year as a whole as of yet. This is where we’ll do that. We will take it month by month, looking at the highlights and lowlights, give honourable mentions for each month, and review the year as a whole. Strap it, it could get emotional.
MMA in 2022
Highlight – UFC 270
Lowlight – 20 cancelled/changed UFC bouts across just two events
Honourable Mention – Calvin Kattar putting on a clinic
UFC 270 was certainly the highlight during January. Francis Ngannou surprised many by out-wrestling, Ciryl Gane to regain his heavyweight title. The event overall was a good one, with plenty of solid performances throughout the card. The co-main event between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno was the stand-out fight on the card, providing plenty of talking points and setting up the fourth fight between the two men early in 2023.
The low point of January was certainly having only two UFC events, especially when there were a combined 20 cancelled fights across both cards. It’s disappointing because it plays havoc with the cards themselves and also affects fighter performances if they’re filling in on late notice, however.
Calvin Kattar’s main event performance is also worth a mention. He bounced back from a devastating, dominant loss to Max Holloway to put on a similar performance against Giga Chikadze. Beating Chikadze from pillar to post, Kattar got himself back in the win column.
Highlight – Jamahal Hill’s headline knockout
Lowlight – William Knight’s Weight Miss
Honourable Mention – Gegard Mousasi blowing away Austin Vanderford
February was a slower month for MMA without any huge talking points. Israel Adesanya yet again beat Robert Whittaker, however, the fight never caught fire and merely ticked over for 25 minutes. There were four UFC events, two ONE championship cards and two Bellator events. The highlight was Jamahal Hill‘s knockout of Johnny Walker. It was a stunning knockout which earned him a performance of the night bonus and helped him on his way to a title shot at UFC 283.
The lowlight was definitely William Knight‘s weight miss. He weighed in at 218lbs for a scheduled 205lbs bout, breaking the record for the biggest weight miss in UFC history. It wasn’t a good look for the sport at all.
Honourable mention has to go to Gegard Mousasi. Mousasi took on the undefeated Austin Vanderford in Dublin and many believed Mousasi was the underdog going into the bout. It didn’t play out that way, however, as he blew away the American in a little under a minute and a half.
Highlights – UFC London and ONE Championship X
Lowlights – Covington vs. Masvidal & Cain Velasquez’s arrest
Honourable Mentions – ONE Championship: Lights Out
Without a doubt, UFC London in March was one of the best cards of the entire year. The card consisted of nine finishes across 12 fights, saw the breakout performances of Molly McCann, Paddy Pimblett, Arnold Allen and Tom Aspinall. ONE Championship X was also a standout event. The three-part card featured a headline of two key bouts where Demetrious Johnson defeated Rodtang in a mixed rules bout before Angela Lee put on a great performance against Stamp Fairtex, defending her atomweight strap.
The UFC 272 main event between bitter rivals was a bit of a letdown. Jorge Masvidal was largely outclassed by his former friend turned foe, Colby Covington. Masvidal was dominated and controlled for a total of 16:14 of the bout. At no point did it feel as if Masvidal could beat Covington and as a result, the fight was a disappointment.
Former UFC heavyweight champion, Cain Velasquez was also arrested for attempted murder after shooting at a man who allegedly molested a family member of Velasquez’s.
ONE Championship: Lights Out was a great event and the two main fights on the card produced two great finishes. John Lineker won in the co-main event via knockout and Thanh Le brutally knocked out Gary Tonan in the main event.
Highlights – Plenty of huge fights
Lowlight – The highest number of UFC pullouts/cancellations of the year
Honourable Mention – Jessica Andrade’s submission
UFC 273, UFC 274, Bellator 277, Bellator 278, Bellator 279 and the beginning of the PFL playoffs all occurred during April. UFC 273 gave us a phenomenal performance from Alexander Volkanovski, Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan 2 and a fight of the year contender in Khamzat Chimaev vs. Gilbert Burns. Bellator had three events, where we saw AJ McKee suffer his first defeat and Liz Carmouche finally capture gold in a major organisation and the start of the bantamweight Grand Prix. The PFL regular also began with two events.
One disappointment for April is that we saw 27 alterations across four events. Huge alterations to cards meant that sometimes, we didn’t get the best cards possible.
Jessica Andrade also pulled off the first standing arm-triangle submission in UFC history which is definitely worth a note.
Highlights – UFC 274
Lowlights – Namajunas vs. Esparza 2
Honourable Mentions – Paul Daley retires off the back of a big knockout
UFC 274 provided us with a great fight in the main event between Justin Gaethje and Charles Oliveira as well as Michael Chandler‘s knockout of the year contender against Tony Ferguson.
The biggest disappointment during May was when Rose Namajunas took on Carla Esparza in a rematch for the strawweight belt. It is no doubt one of the worst UFC title fights of all time with both women being extremely timid, reluctant to engage and throwing just 68 total strikes between them across 25 minutes.
We have to pay homage to one of the veterans of the game, Paul Daley. Semtex went out in traditional fashion, in his home country with a massive knockout.
Highlight – Jiri Prochazka vs. Glover Teixeria
Lowlight – Mousasi getting old overnight and Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s retirement
Honourable Mentions – UFC Austin
Jiri Prochazka vs. Glover Teixeria is arguably the best fight of the year. The two men went back and forth for almost 25 full minutes until Prochazka pulled off a last-ditch submission to capture the belt away from the Brazillian.
The lowlight of June has to either be Gegard Mousasi’s age seemingly catching up with him as he was dominated by Johnny Eblen and lost his belt or when we saw the retirement of another legend in Joanna Jedrzejczyk as the former strawweight queen hung up her gloves for the final time.
An honourable mention has to go to the entire UFC Austin card and could very much have been seen as the highlight of the month. A 13 fight card which saw nine finishes and 11 post-fight bonuses awarded. A truly spectacular card.
Highlight – The start of the PFL play-offs
Lowlight – Juliana Pena’s lacklustre performance & UFC London
Honourable Mention – Brandon Moreno’s knockout
July was certainly a slower month for MMA as a whole. The highlight has to be the start of the PFL play-offs. Live from the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden, Stevie Ray, Omari Akhmedov, Olivier Aubin Mercier and Rob Wilkinson all picked up wins on the night.
The lowlights included Juliana Pena‘s lacklustre defence of her bantamweight title. Going into the bout, everyone wondered if she would turn out to be Amanda Nunes‘ cyrptonite. What played out, however, was the opposite. Nunes dominated Pena, knocked her down multiple times and didn’t give the defending champion a chance. The UFC returned to London, however, it didn’t catch fire like the previous London event and it was disappointing.
An honourable mention has to go to Brandon Moreno’s brutal finish of Kai-Kara France. A beautiful liver kick to collapse the Australian was all it took.
Highlights – British MMA
Lowlight – No broken records
Honourable Mentions – Marlon Vera and Jamahal Hill and ONE on Prime Video 1
British MMA took over in August. The PFL made their UK debut in both Cardiff and London and in-particular Brendan Loughnane stood out as a brilliant patreon of the sport and a British standout. On the same night, Leon Edwards brought the welterweight title back to his home of Birmingham following an emphatic knockout of long-time champion, Kamaru Usman.
Following Edwards’ knockout of Usman meant that Usman didn’t tie the record of most consecutive wins in UFC history. Although this wasn’t the end of the world, August was a pretty good month and this appeared to be the only ‘lowlight’ of the month.
Marlon Vera and Jamahal Hill scored big knockouts over Dominick Cruz and Thiago Santos respectively. Both knockouts were shocking, deserved and devastating in nature, meaning that they had to be mentioned. ONE on Prime Video 1 saw Demetrious Johnson recapture the ONE flyweight belt in the same manner that he lost the belt, via flying knee.
Highlights – The UFC’s debut in Paris
Lowlights – Khamzat Chimaev’s weight miss
Honourable Mentions – Nate Diaz played out his UFC contract with a win
The UFC finally made their French debut on September 3rd after the sport of MMA was legalised in France in 2020. In the main event, Frenchman, Ciryl Gane went to war with Tai Tuivasa in an instant classic. In the co-main event, Robert Whittaker dominated Marvin Vettori to cement himself as one of the best middleweight contenders.
At UFC 279, Khamzat Chimaev butchered fight week after he started a fight with Kevin Holland backstage and went on to disrespect the sport and lose his main event slot all because of a huge weight miss. Scheduled for a welterweight bout, Chimaev weighed in 7.5lbs over and consequently, the whole card suffered a shake-up.
An honourable mention has to go out the Nate Diaz, however. He kept his UFC 279 main event slot, faced Tony Ferguson and bowed out of his UFC contract with a victory.
Highlights – Islam Makhachev’s UFC 280 performance
Lowlights – TJ Dillashaw entering a championship fight with an injury
Honourable Mentions – The whole UFC 280 main card
The main talking point during October surrounded Islam Makhachev‘s dominant performance to capture the lightweight title. From minute one Makhachev took the fight to the champion, Charles Oliveira. He dictated where the fight took place, dominated the BJJ phenom on the ground, dropped him and consequently submitted him to become the champion.
The let-down saw TJ Dillashaw enter his championship bout with a shoulder injury which lead to a lacklustre performance. The champion, Sterling, didn’t get the recognition he deserved for the win and we consequently saw Dillashaw retire from the sport.
A shout-out has to go to everyone who competed on the UFC 280 main card. We’ve already touched on the main and co-main events, but Beneil Dariush and Manon Fiorot put on exciting performances and Sean O’Malley and Petr Yan put on a three-round fight-of-the-year contender.
Highlights – PFL Finals and UFC 281
Lowlights – James Krause, Darrick Minner and the betting scandal
Honourable Mentions – Chandler vs. Poirier
November was an exciting month for MMA. We had the PFL finals where six millionaires and champions were crowned. The biggest story to come out of this event was the undefeated poster girl of the PFL, Kayla Harrison suffering her first professional defeat at the hands of Larissa Pacheco. UFC 281 also provided us with plenty of headlines as the dominant Israel Adesanya fell at the hands of his long-time combat sports rival, Alex Pereira. Pereira rallied in the final round to finish The last Stylebender and capture the 185lbs title.
The low-point of November and arguably of 2022 as a whole was the James Krause and Darrick Minner betting scandal. It is alleged that Minner entered a UFC bout with an injury and Krause informed his Discord of this news, causing a huge change in the betting lines in favour of Minner opponent to win via first-round knockout. As of yet, nothing concrete has been established, however, Minner has been released by the UFC and Krause and anyone from his gym is banned from UFC events.
An honourable mention has to go to the violence dished out between Michael Chandler and Dustin Poirier at UFC 281. The three-round lightweight bout only lasted seven minutes, however, it was all action. Back and forth, blood, both men battered and a finish is what forced us to mention this epic bout.
Highlights – Thompson vs. Holland
Lowlights – MMA Judging
Honourable Mentions – Pimblett vs. Helwani
Rounding out the year we had a lacklustre UFC PPV with UFC 282, a BellatorXRizin card to see out the year and an entertaining ONE Championship card from Manila. The highlight came when Stephen Thompson faced Kevin Holland in an exciting clash of strikers in a Fight Night main event. The two men went to war, respectfully, and were able to put on a great show for the fans. Thompson got his hand raised after Holland broke his hand and was unable to continue. A great showcase for the sport.
From a great showcase for the sport to a real dark cloud over the sport. On back-to-back nights, judge, Doug Crosby submitted extremely questionable cards, resulting in massive questions being asked. He submitted a 50-45 card for the losing fighter in the Bellator 289 main event before submitting a questionable 30-27 in favour of Paddy Pimblett in which was a much closer fight than the scorecard suggested.
A mention also has to go to Pimblett for his strange fight-week beef with Ariel Helwani. Talking to Dana White on his podcast, Pimblett launched an attack on Helwani stating that he asked Pimblett for payment for an interview and went on the call Helwani names. It was all very strange and didn’t go down well within the community.
It’s been an extremely strange year for MMA. Bellator never quite got going, the PFL did well, got more eyes than ever before and importantly set themselves up for a big 2023. The UFC continues to be the flagship organisation with, predictably ONE Championship dominating the Asian market. 2023 should be an exciting year with plenty of prospects making their way through and even bigger and better fights predicted!