Hall Of Fame
The highly unofficial awards season concludes with the best fighters of 2022...
UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski answered his doubters in late 2021 with a Fight of the Night win over Brian Ortega. In 2022, he obliterated any that were left with a one-sided stoppage of Chan Sung Jung and an equally dominant decision victory over Max Holloway in their third fight. So what does Alexander “The Great” want to do for an encore? Fight Islam Makhachev for the lightweight crown in February. That’s why he’s the pound-for-pound king and 2022’s Fighter of the Year.
2 - Alex Pereira
The hype on Alex Pereira began long before he stepped into the Octagon for the first time in 2021, but it built and built and built in 2022 thanks to wins over Bruno Silva and Sean Strickland, and then he went and stopped the reign of former kickboxing rival Israel Adesanya in the main event of UFC 281 in November. That’s quite a year, Mr. Pereira.
3 - Islam Makhachev
The quick finish of short-notice opponent Bobby Green was expected, but when Islam Makhachev did the same thing to Charles Oliveira in October to win the 155-pound crown, it may have kicked off a new era in the lightweight division, as the Dagestani mauler has been looking unstoppable as of late. More impressively, he chose featherweight boss Alexander Volkanovski as his first title defense. That’s the mark of a champion.
4 - Zhang Weili
The exploits of the first three fighters on this list may have overshadowed the 2022 campaign of Zhang Weili, and that’s unfortunate, because as good as she looked on the way to her first strawweight title in 2019, she looked even better in regaining the title, as she turned one of the greatest fights of all-time with Joanna Jedrzejczyk into a rout in their June rematch, and then dominated Carla Esparza before submitting her in the second round in November. This is a new fighter, and a scary one.
5 - Leon Edwards
MMA is a game of inches. If Leon Edwards was a couple inches to the left or right with his kick to the head of Kamaru Usman with less than a minute to go in their August fight for the welterweight title, he wouldn’t be here on this list. But “Rocky” was right on target, and in the rematch of his life, Edwards came up big and seized the moment, dethroning one of the most dominant champions to ever wear UFC gold. And now we call Edwards champion.
6 - Marlon Vera
It’s almost hard to believe that Marlon Vera has been on the UFC roster since 2014, you know, the year recent Octagon debutant Raul Rosas Jr. was 10 years old, but it’s true. And at 30, with a quartet of wins over Davey Grant, Frankie Edgar, Rob Font and Dominick Cruz in his last four fights, the latter two taking place in 2022, “Chito” may very well be in his prime and ready to take aim at the bantamweight belt in 2023.
7 - Aljamain Sterling
No one took more abuse in the court of public opinion for being the victim of a foul than Aljamain Sterling did after his first fight with Petr Yan in 2021. Then injuries kept him out for a year, but in 2022, he silenced the critics with a second win over Yan in defense of his UFC bantamweight title in April and a second-round stoppage of TJ Dillashaw six months later, proving that the true champion at 135 pounds is truly the “Funk Master.”
8 - Jamahal Hill
A 2021 loss to Paul Craig was only a momentary stumble on Jamahal Hill’s march to a fight with Glover Teixeira for the vacant UFC light heavyweight title next month, but take that away, and Hill is 5-0 with 1 NC in the Octagon, which proves that he’s not just a rising star, but perhaps the heir apparent to the throne, especially after three 2022 knockouts of Jimmy Crute, Johnny Walker and Thiago Santos. Yeah, “Sweet Dreams” is for real.
9 - Jiri Prochazka
To make it on this list with just one fight, it had better be a special one, and like Leon Edwards, Jiri Prochazka made the most of his single 2022 appearance, as he submitted Glover Teixeira for the UFC light heavyweight title in one of the greatest title fights in the promotion’s history. Unfortunately, a rematch with Teixeira in December was scrapped due to a shoulder injury, one that prompted the Czech Republic native to vacate his crown. But when he comes back, expect to see him right back at the top and doing whatever is necessary to regain title title.
10 - Roman Dolidze
By the end of 2021, Roman Dolidze was clearly a talent to watch in the middleweight division, but the Georgia native wasn’t must-see TV as he relied on a smothering grappling attack to win his fights. Fast forward a year and Dolidze has knocked out Kyle Daukaus, Phil Hawes and Jack Hermansson, and if you’re missing one of his fights, you’re missing out. Don’t make that mistake in 2023.
Voters – Thomas Gerbasi, Christoph Goessing, Maddyn Johnstone-Thomas, Cory Kamerschak, E. Spencer Kyte, Steve Latrell, Zac Pacleb, McKenzie Pavacich, Gavin Porter