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2022 MMA Awards

Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Vendetta Sports Media’s 2022 MMA Awards

2022 MMA Awards
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Vendetta Sports Media’s 2022 MMA Awards

With 2022 coming to a close, let’s put a bow on the incredible year it has been for the UFC by handing out some awards, shall we? Vendetta Sports Media’s best and brightest have come together to bring you their picks for the following categories for our 2022 MMA Awards:

  • Male Fighter of the Year
  • Female Fighter of the Year
  • Coach of the Year
  • Fight of the Year
  • Knockout of the Year
  • Submission of the Year

James Herrick, Jerry Walker, and Anthony Miranda are joining me in handing out these awards. Let’s take a look back at 2022 and name some winners.

Male Fighter of the Year: Alexander Volkanovski (3 votes) Runner Up: Alex Pereira (1 vote)

James: In 2022, Alexander Volkanovski was perfect. Yes, he went 2-0, but he looked perfect in each outing. I do not think he lost a single exchange in his bouts against Chan Sung Jung or Max Holloway. In each bout, he was able to control the fight, land massive strikes, and avoid taking damage. These performances were the MMA equivalent of a perfect game. Volkanovski was not the only fighter to have a great year in 2022, but I would rather reward Volkanovski’s perfection.

Jerry: Alex Pereira entered the UFC in November 2021 and is now the UFC middleweight champion. In 2022, he went 3-0 with two knockout victories. The story of his martial arts career has been the fact that he is Israel Adesanya’s kryptonite. Having beaten him twice in kickboxing the pair met again at UFC 281 and Pereira beat Adesanya for a third time to become the champion.

Anthony: He only fought twice in 2022 but he had two dominating performances that displayed he might be the best Featherweight of all time. Volkanovski had a KO/TKO over The Korean Zombie and a unanimous decision win over Max Holloway. This man deserves his flowers as simple as that so I believe Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski deserves to be the male fighter of the year.

Garrett: I think that this award likely goes to Alex Pereira due to the convincing finishes he had this year, culminated by his win over former UFC Middleweight Champ Isreal Adesanya to take the crown. However, it is very hard to go against Alexander Volkanovski. He may have only fought twice this year, but you would be hard-pressed to find a fighter who looked more dominant than Volk. He settled the score with Max Holloway in convincing fashion and finished The Korean Zombie. He gets the nod.

Female Fighter of the Year: Zhang Weili (Four Votes)

James: Weili Zhang had an outstanding year in 2022. She finished the year 2-0 with two finishes. The first came at UFC 275 where she knocked out MMA legend Joanna Jedrzejczyk with a highlight reel spinning back fist. The second came at UFC 281 where she submitted Carla Esparza to regain the UFC strawweight title. This historic year from Zhang is quite a turnaround after her 0-2 year in 2021.

Jerry: After a brutal 2021 that saw Zhang Weili lose twice in title fights against Rose Namajunas, she bounced back in a major way in 2022. China’s most successful fighter won both of her fights this year and in great fashion. First, it was a rematch of her legendary fight against Joanna Jędrzejczyk. This time it did not go the distance as Weili knocked out Jędrzejczyk with a spinning back fist. She then fought for the UFC women’s strawweight title against Carla Esparza and submitted the reigning champion. By beating Esparza, Weili became the third woman to be a two-time strawweight champion.

Anthony: Zhang had two great performances in 2022 including a stunning spinning backfist KO over Joanna Jedrzejczyk and a submission to win the belt against Carla Esparza. Zhang proved that she was good enough to climb back to the top of the mountain and reclaim her throne as the champion of the Women’s Strawweight division.

Garrett: What a turnaround it has been for Zhang Weili. In 2021, she went 0-2, both her losses against Rose Namajunas. How did she react entering 2022? By going 2-0 with two finishes to regain the UFC Strawweight Championship. Her ascent back to the top of the division puts her in a prime position entering 2023 to get some mega fights done.

Coach of the Year: Khabib Nurmagomedov (3 votes) Runner Up: Eugene Bareman (1 vote)

James: This is an interesting year for the coach of the year award. Typical candidates like Trevor Wittman, Eugene Bareman, and Mike Brown all saw some of their best fighters lose. I think that gives room for some new blood in the coach of the year talks. In 2022, I have to give the honor to Khabib Nurmagomedov. If you take a look at some fighters under his command you see a lot of fighters that had great years in 2022. This includes UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, Bellator lightweight champion Usman Nurmagomedov, Umar Nurmagomedov, Said Nurmagomedov, and others. The four names I listed are Nurmagomedov’s most popular fighters and they combined to finish the year at 9-0. You can not ask for much more. AKA head coach Javier Mendez also deserves a shoutout in this award because he works with a lot of these fighters alongside Nurmagomedov.

Jerry: After having an incredible career going 29-0 Khabib Nurmagomedov switched to coaching and has had just as much success there. He currently coaches both the UFC and Bellator Lightweight champions in Islam Makhachev and Usman Nurmagomedov respectively. “The Eagle” is getting high praise for his coaching ability so far from American Kickboxing Academy coach Javier Mendez, who believes Khabib could become the best MMA coach ever.

Anthony: Eugene Bareman is the head coach of City Kickboxing. His top fighters are Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski who are two of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Volkanovski is currently listed as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world. He had a great year as a coach with a lot of wins in 2022 including holding two belts throughout the year.

Garrett: I almost feel this is a slight upset in these 2022 MMA Awards as my vote goes to Khabib Nurmagomedov. When you look at the biggest coaches in the fight game today (Eugene Bareman and Trevor Whittman for example) they suffered huge losses as their guys (and gals) lost titles. But for Nurmagomedov, all he did was win. AKA is already adding to its title of one of the top gyms in the world by having another fantastic coach in their ranks.

Fight of the Year: Jiri Prochazka vs. Glover Teixeira (3 votes) Runner Up: Gilbert Burns vs. Khamzat Chimaev (1 vote)

James: There were a lot of tremendous fights in 2022, in all honesty, I could justify giving this award to a handful of fights, but I have to pick Gilbert Burns vs. Khamzat Chimaev. I mean this fight was the definition of madness. Once these two began to throw down, they did not stop. It helps that this fight was competitive. I truly did not know who won when the fight was over. This fight also holds some novelty because it was Chimaev’s first test against elite competition. Coming in expectations were all over the place and it truly lived up to the hype.

Jerry: I was torn between Glover Teixeira vs Jiri Procházka and Gilbert Burns vs Khamzat Chimaev for the fight of the year but leaned toward the light heavyweight fight since it was a five-round war for the belt. Procházka ultimately won the fight and became the new UFC light heavyweight champion. However, he was losing on two of the three scorecards when he submitted Teixeira with 28 seconds left in the fifth and final round. This fight had it all. Teixeira really should have finished off Procházka on the feet but decided to take him down instead causing him to lose the position. The biggest bummer about this fight was that the rematch set for UFC 282 had to be canceled due to Procházka picking up an injury.

Anthony: This fight had it all great striking, wrestling, and beautiful Jiu-jitsu. It had one of the best older fighters in Teixeira facing a younger star, who is the future of the Light Heavyweight division, in Procházka. Both fighters landed over 150 strikes and had each other in danger throughout the fight before Procházka pulled off an insane late 5th-round submission finish.

Garrett: My fight of the year for these 2022 MMA Awards has changed at least 3 times since sending out the prompts to the team. At first, I was torn between Holloway and Rodriguez. Next was Volk and Ortega. But what about Burns and Chimaev? 2022 was filled with great fights, but after going back and watching the Prochazka/Teixeira fight, it had to be done. While it may not be the technical masterpiece some thought it might, what it was was a back-and-forth brawl that saw a late submission by Prochazka to claim the UFC Light Heavyweight crown.

Knockout of the Year: Leon Edwards head kick KO of Kamaru Usman (3 votes) Runner Up: Michael Chandler front kicks Tony Ferguson (1 vote)

James: Only one fighter finished the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world with a head kick and that was Leon Edwards. Edward’s knockout of Kamaru Usman was a historic knockout and is tough to top for knockout of the year. Not to mention, this was one of the greatest comebacks in the history of MMA and Edwards left Usman out cold. This knockout has an interesting story and is as violent as it gets.

Jerry: Down on the cards Leon Edwards needed to do something remarkable in the fifth round of UFC 278’s main event to beat UFC Welterweight king Kamaru Usman. He did just that. After an inspiring speech by his coach, Edwards dug deep and landed a beautiful head kick that sent the former champion to sleep with under a minute left. This was one hell of a knockout that was essential for Edwards to win and become the second-ever English champion in the UFC.

Anthony: I think this was the clear KO of the year and one of the best KOs of all time. A picture-perfect head kick to win the belt against arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world Kamaru Usman. Edwards pulled off one of the craziest 5th-round KOs to snatch the Welterweight belt from the jaws of defeat. “Headshot. Dead. That’s it.” -Leon “Rocky” Edwards.

Garrett: I am going to throw a monkey wrench into this selection for KO of the Year in our 2022 MMA Awards post by casting my vote for Michael Chandler sending Tony Ferguson into the shadow realm with a front kick to the face. This was the fight that made me realize that Ferguson should never fight in the UFC again. The Leon Edwards head kick of Kamaru Usman was a hard choice to pass up, but when I think of the best KO of the year, Chandler gets the slight nod.

Submission of the Year: Islam Makhachev dethrones Charles Oliveira (2 votes) Runners Up: Matt Schnell vs Sumudaerji at UFC Long Island (1 vote) Charles Oliveira Rear Naked Choke vs Justin Gaethje (1 vote)

James: Matt Schnell’s triangle choke against Sumudaerji is a sleeper pick for submission of the year. The most important aspect of this finish is that it came at the end of one of the best fights of the year and helped Schnell finish a ridiculous comeback. That makes it special in its own right. Ultimately, my favorite thing about this submission is the aftermath. Once Schnell lets go of the choke, you see Sumudaerji’s bloody face as he is out cold. To make it even nastier his head was propped up on Schnell’s leg. To top it all off, the crowd at UFC Long Island was going crazy.

Jerry: This may not have been the most spectacular submission, but it was the most telling. Charles Oliviera has the UFC record for most submission wins with 16 and had not been submitted since 2016 when he lost two straight fights by submission. Enter Islam Makhachev. We know that he has the wrestling skill to be considered one of the best grapplers in the UFC, but it had not been put on display against a top opponent. What made this win at UFC 280 more impressive was how quickly Makhachev pounced on Oliviera when he was knocked down. The submission of the UFC’s submission king was enough to earn Makhachev the UFC lightweight belt.

Anthony: Oliveira had the submission of the year in my opinion when he rear naked choked Justin Gaethje at UFC 274. This submission got him his 11th straight win as well as gave him the record for most UFC finishes and submissions. This beautiful submission further cemented his name as one of the best UFC fighters to ever do it.

Garrett: Our first real split in these 2022 MMA Awards comes down to the very end. I believe all that there is to digest surrounding the submission win by Islam Makhachev over Charles Oliveira is the reason it gets my vote. Oliveira is the UFC submission king. No one better. For him to be submitted is a cold twist of fate, but it is also how it happened. Islam dropped him and absolutely swarmed the former champion, relentlessly looking for the finish and finally securing the win.

These are our picks for the 2022 MMA awards!

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