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Alexander Volkanovski of Australia faces Max Holloway during the UFC 276 event at T-Mobile Arena on July 02, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
Athletes

The Fighters | 2022 UFC.com Awards

These Fighters Left Their Fingerprints All Over 2022.

The highly unofficial awards season concludes with the best fighters of 2022...

More 2022 UFC.com Awards: The Newcomers | The Upsets | The Submissions | The Knockouts  | The Fights

1 - Alexander Volkanovski

Alexander Volkanovski of Australia celebrates his win in the UFC featherweight championship fight during the UFC 276 event at T-Mobile Arena on July 02, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Alexander Volkanovski of Australia celebrates his win in the UFC featherweight championship fight during the UFC 276 event at T-Mobile Arena on July 02, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

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.

RELATED: Volkanovski Discusses Upcoming UFC 284 Title Bout With Islam Makhachev

2 - Alex Pereira

Alex Pereira of Brazil punches Israel Adesanya of Nigeria in the UFC middleweight championship bout during the UFC 281 event at Madison Square Garden on November 12, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Alex Pereira of Brazil punches Israel Adesanya of Nigeria in the UFC middleweight championship bout during the UFC 281 event at Madison Square Garden on November 12, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)


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

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)

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 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

Zhang Weili of China reacts after defeating Carla Esparza in the UFC strawweight championship bout during the UFC 281 event at Madison Square Garden on November 12, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)

Zhang Weili of China reacts after defeating Carla Esparza in the UFC strawweight championship bout during the UFC 281 event at Madison Square Garden on November 12, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)


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

Leon Edwards of Jamaica reacts 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)

Leon Edwards of Jamaica reacts 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)


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

Marlon Vera of Ecuador reacts after his knockout victory over Dominick Cruz in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Pechanga Arena on August 13, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Marlon Vera of Ecuador reacts after his knockout victory over Dominick Cruz in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Pechanga Arena on August 13, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)


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

Aljamain Sterling reacts after his victory over TJ Dillashaw in their UFC bantamweight 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)

Aljamain Sterling reacts after his victory over TJ Dillashaw in their UFC bantamweight 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)


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

Jamahal Hill prepares to fight Thiago Santos of Brazil in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 06, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Jamahal Hill prepares to fight Thiago Santos of Brazil in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 06, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)


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

Jiri Prochazka of Czech Republic prepares to fight Glover Teixeira of Brazil in the UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 275 event at Singapore Indoor Stadium on June 12, 2022 in Singapore. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Jiri Prochazka of Czech Republic prepares to fight Glover Teixeira of Brazil in the UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 275 event at Singapore Indoor Stadium on June 12, 2022 in Singapore. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)


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

Roman Dolidze of Georgia reacts after his TKO victory over Jack Hermansson of Sweden in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Amway Center on December 03, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Roman Dolidze of Georgia reacts after his TKO victory over Jack Hermansson of Sweden in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Amway Center on December 03, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

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