The highly unofficial awards season continues with the best fights of 2022 and how we saw them on fight night...
1 – Jiří Procházka vs Glover Teixeria
In a division that has had its share of classic championship battles, Jiri Prochazka and Glover Teixeira added their own chapter to light heavyweight lore in the main event of UFC 275 in Singapore, with Prochazka seizing the 205-pound crown from Teixeira via fifth-round submission in just his third UFC bout.
Prochazka switched stances as the bout began as he looked for openings, but it was the champion who scored early before getting the fight to the mat in the second minute of the fight. On the mat, Teixeira fired off strikes and moved into side control as Prochazka tried to get back to his feet. With a little over two minutes left, the challenger got his wish, but moments later, he was back on the mat, this time with Teixeira in the mount position. The follow-up strikes were thudding, forcing Prochazka to give up his back, but he made it to his feet and fired off a series of ground strikes that were equally damaging before the round ended.
The challenger looked comfortable as round two commenced, and he had success with a variety of striking attacks. In the second minute, a right hand jarred Teixeira and prompted a pair of desperate takedown attempts. Prochazka defended well and kept the assault coming, but out of nowhere, Teixeira put Prochazka down on the mat and now it was the Brazilian’s opportunity to turn on the offense, which he did with a series of elbows that cut Prochazka over the left eye right before the horn sounded.
Prochazka defended Teixeira’s first takedown attempt of round three and again had success with his unorthodox striking. Most notably, a short left that jarred the champion. But just when it looked like Prochazka was going to pull away, Teixeira got a takedown two minutes in. This time, Prochazka got back to his feet quickly and landed a hard body shot on his bloodied foe, and moments later he was unloading strikes on the grounded Teixeira. The champion refuse to back down, though, and with under a minute left, it was Teixeira on top and landing the shots.
After some back and forth striking from the two 205-pounders to start the fourth, Teixeira took Prochazka down in the second minute and went to work, getting into the mount just before the midway point. Teixeira then looked for an arm triangle choke twice. After Prochazka got free, he got into the top position, but then it was Teixeira getting his opponent’s back briefly before another change in position, leaving Prochazka in control at the horn.
A right hand by Teixeira stunned and nearly stopped Prochazka early in the final round, but a subsequent guillotine choke attempt saw the challenger slip out and get his wits back as they grappled on the mat. Once standing, Prochazka fired off shots, but it was Teixeira getting the better of the exchanges, landing another big right midway through the frame before getting another takedown. In the full mount, Teixeira appeared to be in complete control, but it was Prochazka escaping once more, and out of nowhere, he sunk in a rear naked choke that forced a tap out at 4:32 of the fifth round. Wow.
With the win, the 29-year-old Prochazka moves to 29-3-1. The 42-year-old Teixeira falls to 33-8. At the time of the stoppage, Teixeira led on two scorecards, 39-37, 38-37, with the third scorecard reading 38-38 heading into the final round.
2 – Khamzat Chimaev vs Gilbert Burns
If rising welterweight star Khamzat Chimaev wanted a war from Gilbert Burns, he got one, but he left the Octagon with his unbeaten record intact as he won a close, but unanimous decision over the former world title challenger.
Scores were 29-28 across the board for the No.11-ranked Chimaev, now 11-0. The No.2-ranked Burns falls to 20-5.
It took only three strikes for Chimaev to get close for a takedown, and a minute in, he had dragged Burns to the mat. The Brazilian pulled out all the stops to get free and 90 seconds in, he got his wish and the two were standing again. The welterweights traded, Burns getting in some solid shots, and Chimaev responded in kind. With a minute to go, a right hand dropped Burns, and while “Durinho” recovered quickly, it was a big moment for Chimaev.
The standup exchanges drew roars from the crowd in round two, and rightfully so, as each man tagged the other. Two minutes in, Burns dropped Chimaev briefly and scored with more hard shots, but just as quickly, Chimaev roared back. With less than two minutes left, the fight went to the mat briefly, with Burns using an upkick to get to his feet. As they squared off, a bloodied Burns smiled confidently at the bloodied Chimaev, yet just as “Borz” went on the attack, Burns scored another knockdown just as the round closed.
In the second minute of the third round, a tired Burns was briefly in trouble, but he shook off the incoming fire from Chimaev, who kept the pressure on. Burns wasn’t going anywhere, though, and the two took turns throwing, Burns surging in the final minute to the appreciation of the crowd.
3 – Dustin Poirier vs Michael Chandler
What a fight!
Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler turned in the best round of the year to open their lightweight grudge match in the middle of the main card, with each man landing massive blows and catching them in return over the first five minutes. After Chandler controlled the second following an early takedown, a scramble ensued early in the third where Poirier landed on Chandler’s back, sinking in the rear-naked choke.
This was every bit the amazing, competitive, entertaining scrap everyone was expecting, and these two savages deserve all the praise, respect, and applause possible for leaving everything out there on Saturday night.
4 – Stephen Thompson vs Kevin Holland
Holland started well, hurting Thompson with a clean right hand to the forehead in the opening round, but from that point forward, the veteran welterweight contender took control, rallying back in the second and pulling away more and more with each passing minute. A fight that started off extremely close and competitive turned into a one-sided drubbing by “Wonderboy,” who had Holland in a bad way for the majority of the fourth round.
When Holland got back to his corner after the round, his head coach Kru Bob Perez stopped the fight, protecting his fighter.
This was a throwback effort from the 39-year-old Thompson, who snaps a two-fight skid with one of the best performances of his lengthy UFC career.
5 – Matt Schnell vs Sumudaerji
The first was a more technical round, with Schnell hitting a lovely takedown and attacking off his back, while Sumudaerji used his length to wriggle free and have quality moments of his own. In the second, “The Tibetan Eagle” found his range and took it to Schnell, freezing him in place with a series of left hands and short, framed-off elbows that had referee Jacob Montalvo taking a close look.
Somehow, Schnell not only survived the onslaught, but turned the tables, hitting a well-timed takedown and quickly climbing into mount after stinging Sumudaerji on the feet. From there, “Danger” unleashed a storm of elbows that split the Chinese athlete open before locking in a triangle choke and putting his opponent to sleep.
Just an absolutely chaotic affair and a tremendous show of resiliency from Schnell. The Louisiana native picked up his sixth UFC victory and 16th career win overall with the second-round submission finish.
A fourth fight anyone? In the UFC 270 co-main event, Brazil’s Deiveson Figueiredo eked out a five-round unanimous decision over Brandon Moreno, taking back his UFC flyweight title in another memorable battle that put the 125-pound stars even at 1-1-1 after three bouts.
“Today is my day,” said Figueiredo, 21-2-1. “I’m ready for a fourth fight with Brandon. In Mexico.”
“Obviously, I feel I won, but it is what it is right now,” said Moreno, now 19-6-2.
Scores were 48-47 across the board for Figueiredo, who regained the crown he lost to Moreno in June of 2021.
The flyweights were cautious in the early going, neither getting reckless in order to implement their offensive gameplan. With under two minutes left, things started heating up, with Moreno getting Figueiredo’s attention with a flush right hand upstairs and the Brazilian answering with a takedown and some hard calf kicks.
A wild scramble highlighted the opening stages of round two, both fighters rising to their feet back where they started scoring-wise. There, the chess match continued, Moreno more active with his hands while Figueiredo continued to focus on his opponent’s legs. With a minute left, the pair opened up, Moreno holding the edge as he tagged the challenger and drew roars from the crowd.
Figueiredo put the fight on the mat in the opening minute of round three, but Moreno wasted no time getting back to his feet. Figueiredo proceeded to knock Moreno off balance with a left hand, but the Mexican roared back to sting his foe several times with his own left. “Deus da Guerra” had the last word, though, as he caught Moreno with a right hand, dropped him and tried to sink in a choke before the horn sounded.
In the fourth, Moreno’s rhythm had him a step ahead throughout, but Figueiredo’s power was still enough to keep the “Assassin Baby” on his toes and the challenger one shot away from putting momentum on his side.
In the fifth, Figueiredo hurt Moreno several times, but as the clock ticked down, it was the champion drilling the Brazilian with plenty of his own power shots, leaving the crowd roaring until the final horn.
There were nervous moments, but French heavyweight Ciryl Gane closed out the debut UFC event in Paris in spectacular fashion, putting away a game Tai Tuivasa to the delight of the vocal, partisan at Accor Arena.
After a patient first round where neither man really let loose, the heavyweights got after it in the second, with each man teetering on the brink of being finished at different points. Both responded and steeled themselves away, with Gane taking control of the action in the latter stages of the round.
In the third, he kept the pressure on, chipping away at the body of the titanium-jawed Tuivasa, causing him to double-over before crashing home a right hand and finishing with a thudding left that ended the night.
Fighting at home for the first time, Gane showed his class, rebounding from his first career loss with a blistering effort to close out the evening.
A year ago, Calvin Kattar was on the receiving end of a tough loss to Max Holloway. Saturday in Las Vegas, Kattar turned it all around in the UFC Fight Night main event as he won a hard-fought, but dominant, five-round unanimous decision over fellow featherweight contender Giga Chikadze.
Scores were 50-45, 50-45 and 50-44 for the No.5-ranked Kattar, now 23-5. The No.8-ranked Chikadze falls to 14-3.
Chikadze was throwing hard with his kicks and punches from the start, and as soon as he landed, he used his movement to keep Kattar from getting his own shots off. But in the second minute, a slip by Chikadze on a missed kick led to a Kattar takedown, and the New Englander had his chance to get to work. Chikadze briefly rolled into top position, but Kattar didn’t allow him much daylight other than that as he worked for a submission.
Chikadze’s punches and kicks continued landing with thudding regularity to the body and head in round two, but Kattar was unmoved by the blows, and he kept pressuring his foe while landing his own shots, putting a different look on the fight as the round progressed. Elbows by Kattar stunned Chikadze briefly in the final minute, and a takedown punctuated a round to remember.
Kattar’s pressure remained relentless in the third, but just when Chikadze appeared to be slowing down, the Georgian roared back with a flurry of offense before Kattar attempted a takedown and bought some time. Once they separated, the Methuen product resumed his forward motion as the bloodied Chikadze attempted to hold him off with his punches and sporadic kicks.
In the fourth, a bloodied and tired Chikadze wouldn’t back down, and while he still kept throwing and trying to turn things around, Kattar’s attack didn’t slow in the slightest as he extended his lead. There was still plenty of fight left in the Georgian, though, and he showed it in round five, as he made a last-ditch effort to beat Kattar, who didn’t stop throwing, simply refusing to be stopped on this night as he dropped his foe in the final seconds of the bout.
Scores were 48-47 across the board for the No.12-ranked Gamrot, now 21-1, 1 NC. The No.11-ranked Tsarukyan falls to 18-3.
The first minute of the fight produced a wild series of takedown attempts by both men, and in the second minute, it was Tsarukyan who put the action on the mat for the first time. The scrambles continued, with Gamrot getting out of trouble and back to his feet, where the pair grappled briefly until separating, Tsarukyan landing with kicks to the head and body as the round progressed.
Tsarukyan’s kicks continued to pay dividends in the second frame as the pair kept it standing, and in the third, the Armenian battler mixed up his attacks well as he extended his lead. Gamrot did get a brief takedown with under three minutes to go and while Tsarukyan got up quickly, the Poland native remained locked on his foe until the two broke with 1:40 left. A spinning back kick to the body was a solid shot by Tsarukyan in the final minute, but Gamrot didn’t flinch.
Each fighter got in his licks on the feet in round four, with a spinning back fist by Tsarukyan producing a knockdown. Gamrot shook it off and went back to work, leading the action and getting a takedown with a little over a minute left. Gamrot then took his opponent’s back briefly, but Tsarukyan got free.
In the second minute of the final round, Gamrot got a slick takedown and was able to keep Tsarukyan grounded for an extended period until Tsarukyan fought his way free. Another takedown followed, with Gamrot putting more points in the bank as the bout wound down.
This was an absolutely phenomenal contest that not only answered every question that lingered about Sean O’Malley, but showed once again the quality of Petr Yan, with “Sugar” earning the split decision victory.
O’Malley delivered an outstanding performance, hurting Yan in the first and cutting him with a big knee in the third, while the former champion constantly made adjustments and had long stretches where he controlled the action. It was an incredible back-and-forth where each man needed to dig deep and find ways to be successful, and each did that many times over throughout the contest.
This is a massive victory for O’Malley, who is now unbeaten in his last five and takes a gigantic step forward in the bantamweight division. As for Yan, he’s in an odd position, having gone 1-3 over his last four fights, with the victory earning him the interim title and all three of the setbacks being close, debated contests.
High drama and tremendous theatre; you couldn’t ask for more.
Voters – Thomas Gerbasi, Christoph Goessing, Maddyn Johnstone-Thomas, Cory Kamerschak, E. Spencer Kyte, Steve Latrell, Zac Pacleb, McKenzie Pavacich, Gavin Porter