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MMA in 2022 – Highlights, Lowlights and Honourable Mentions

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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

January

Highlight – UFC 270

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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.

Ngannou dominates Gane

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 22: Francis Ngannou of Cameroon (top) tackles Ciryl Gane of France in their heavyweight title fight during the UFC 270 event at Honda Center on January 22, 2022 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

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.

February

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.

Mousasi was dominant in Dublin

Dublin , Ireland – 25 February 2022; Gegard Mousasi, left, in action against Austin Vanderford during their Middleweight world title bout at Bellator 275 at the 3Arena in Dublin. (Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

March

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 PimblettArnold 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.

Aspinall doesn't give Volkov a chance in the capital

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 19: (R-L) Tom Aspinall of England punches Alexander Volkov of Russia in a heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at O2 Arena on March 19, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

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.

April

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 VolkanovskiAljamain 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.

Andrade submits Lemos

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – APRIL 23: (L-R) Jessica Andrade of Brazil secures a choke submission against Amanda Lemos of Brazil in a strawweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on April 23, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

May

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.

UFC 274's co-main event was a disappointment

PHOENIX, ARIZONA – MAY 07: (L-R) Opponents Rose Namajunas and Carla Esparza face off prior to their UFC strawweight championship fight during the UFC 274 event at Footprint Center on May 07, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

We have to pay homage to one of the veterans of the game, Paul DaleySemtex went out in traditional fashion, in his home country with a massive knockout.

June

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.

SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE – JUNE 12: Joanna Jedrzejczyk of Poland announces her retirement after her TKO loss to Zhang Weili of China in a flyweight fight during the UFC 275 event at Singapore Indoor Stadium on June 12, 2022 in Singapore. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

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.

July

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.

Moreno lands a slick body kick

DALLAS, TEXAS – JULY 30: (R-L) Brandon Moreno of Mexico lands a kick to the body of Kai Kara-France of New Zealand in the interim UFC flyweight championship fight during the UFC 277 event at American Airlines Center on July 30, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

August

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.

Edwards defeats long-time champion, Usman

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – AUGUST 20: Leon Edwards of Jamaica celebrates after defeating Kamaru Usman of Nigeria in the UFC welterweight championship fight during the UFC 278 event at Vivint Arena on August 20, 2022 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

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.

September

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.

Diaz bows out with a win

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – SEPTEMBER 10: Nate Diaz reacts after his submission victory over Tony Ferguson in a welterweight fight during the UFC 279 event at T-Mobile Arena on September 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

October

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.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – OCTOBER 22: Islam Makhachev of Russia celebrates after his victory over Charles Oliveira of Brazil in their UFC lightweight championship fight during the UFC 280 event at Etihad Arena on October 22, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

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.

November

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.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – DECEMBER 11: Coach James Krause provides instruction to Darrick Minner in the corner between rounds of his featherweight bout during UFC 269 on December 11, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

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.

December

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.

Pimblett got a favourable decision in Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – DECEMBER 10: (L-R) Paddy Pimblett of England reacts after defeating Jared Gordon in a lightweight fight during the UFC 282 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

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!

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Frazer is a 26 year old MMA and boxing enthusiast from Coventry, England.

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