The ballots are here and the winners are in! Who stood a cut above the rest in 2022?!
Here are your winners!
Photo of the Year: Manny Fernandes – “Wrestling in the Rain”
Podcast of the Year: Extra Rounds
Narrowly edging out Anik & Florian, Extra Rounds has officially hit the road. What was once a rag-tag production has turned into an experiment at the T-Mobile Arena. In 2022, Extra Rounds became an all-around traveling circus, hitting PPV location after PPV location. TJ and co. are yet to take the show international; is 2023 their year?
Journalist of the Year: Chase Hooper
He introduced Boogerbeard to the journalism game, went to the NCAA National Championships and still managed to break news about the Fury Pro Grappling card. It’ll be tough, but can The Dream avoid complacency after the biggest three-peat since Jordan?
UFC FIGHT PASS Graduate of the Year: Raul Rosas Jr.
Waldo Cortes Acosta has had a phenomenal rookie year in the UFC but after going 4-0 in UWC in 2022, punching his ticket in DWCS at 17 years old and pulling in a first round submission in his UFC debut, there’s just too much buzz around Raul Rosas Jr.
Storyline of the Year: Casey Jones Wins Days After His Mom’s Funeral – Fury FC 56
As rough of an estimate as it is, we can safely say almost all fighters would have pulled out if their mom passed away during camp. Casey Jones not only stayed in the fight but took home the most meaningful victory of his entire career.
Nickname of the Year: Charles “Mr. Cheeks” Cheeks – Fury FC
Walkout of the Year: Jordan Vucenic – CW 145
It was looking like an automatic win for Joel Pena after he walked out with roosters to give a nod to the “human cockfighting” era of MMA but then came Cage Warriors 145. Jordan Vucenic may not have come away with the main event W that night but he experienced a level of overwhelming welcome that the smallest handful of people on earth will ever know.
Interview of the Year: Joel Bauman – Fury FC 61
The most obvious pick in the history of the UFC FIGHT PASS Awards.
Folly of the Year: Alex Nicholson vs Oscar Sosa – Titan FC 75
How bad does a fight have to be to be worse than a fighter accidentally pulling down his pants before entering the cage? Well, if you haven’t seen it, feel free. If you don’t want to watch it, feel free to catch the Fight Bananas interview with Nicholson completely dedicated to the fight. There are few fights like it and few awards made for fights like it.
Upset of the Year - Adam Fugitt over Solomon Renfro – LFA 125
The narrative around Solomon Renfro’s LFA debut was that he was one win away from the UFC, and Cage Fury let him claim the last win of his regional career in front of his home crowd. Unfortunately for Renfro, that’s not what happened. In less than a minute, Fugitt had Renfro on the canvas. It was an upset so huge it landed Fugitt in the UFC.
Submission of the Year: Makoto Takahashi – Ninja choke - CFFC 114
It wasn’t the most difficult submission and it didn’t land him a belt, but when Takahashi met the hype with a rolling ninja choke over a Demian Maia black belt, the FIGHT PASS audience all seemed to react the same. “A star is born.” Aesthetically pleasing, exciting and the perfect coming out party for Cage Fury’s newest star.
Knockout of the Year: Manny Akpan – Cage Warriors 136
Narrowly edging out Aerdake Apaer’s KO in the vote, Manny Akpan had to earn the honors this year. With more flashy knockouts this year than ever before, Akpan’s wheel kick stood out above the rest. Coming off a loss, the second-round highlight reel KO was exactly what he needed. At 29 years old there’s still time to see even more from Akpan in the Cage Warriors cage.
Female Fighter of the Year: Bella Mir
No surprise here! After taking a year and a half off, Mir made her XFN debut looking to push her record to a perfect 3-0 before even leaving for college. Mir’s performance grabbed the attention of the UFC, MMA media and the entire crowd in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When her time is up in Iowa City, WMMA beware.
Male Fighter of the Year: Bo Nickal
Decisions don’t come more difficult than this one. Nickal made his MMA debut and seemed to bring the eyes and pressure of every wrestling fan with him. His iKON FC 3 performance was far different than a run-of-the-mill regional MMA debut. Every single fan of both folkstyle wrestling and mixed martial arts was either dialed in or texting somebody who was. He took the momentum straight into Dana White’s Contender Series, where he was almost too dominant twice in a row. He’s set the bar high for himself but that’s never been something Nickal has shied away from. It’s been a while since there’s been a prospect as “must see” in his debut than the Hodge Trophy winner.
Fight of the Year: Dimps Gillies vs Josh Kuhne – Eternal 65
It was a fight that was worth a 3am alarm clock in America’s west coast and it was undoubtedly worth every cent of admission and more for those in attendance in Queensland that night. Dimps Gillies and Josh Kuhne dug up every single ounce of athleticism, violence, grit and strength they had in the main event showdown on May 7. If this main event had the same eyeballs that a UFC PPV brings in, you’d be staring at two of the most highly touted brawlers on the roster.
It was everything diehards loved about the dark ages of MMA mixed with everything the late adopters love about present day mixed martial arts. If you haven’t watched Dimps Gillies vs Josh Kuhne, do yourself a favor.
Event of the Year: Cage Warriors 145
It’s very hard for every fight on a card to feel like a huge fight, but Cage Warriors nailed it at CW 145. From classic Cage Warriors regulars like Luke Shanks, Steve Aimable, Jamie Richardson, James Webb and more, to the rising stars like Mehdi Ben Lakhdar, Caolan Loughran, Ryan Shelley and more, Cage Warriors brought an absolute murderer’s row to the O2. The main card kicked off with a fight worthy of top billing and never let up. We’ll never understand how a crowd could still have the fuel in the tank they had by the main event, but the O2 was rocking off the hinges when it came time for Paul Hughes and Jordan Vucenic to square off with featherweight gold on the line.
It was a perfect storm that even Hollywood would have trouble duplicating.
To all the fans and subscribers, thank you all beyond words, and somehow, some way, 2023 will be even bigger!