The highly unofficial half-year awards season concludes with our picks for the best fighters of the first half of 2022…
5 (Tie) - Khamzat Chimaev
One of the most talked about fighters to hit the Octagon in years, Khamzat Chimaev tore through his first four UFC opponents in a brutally efficient manner. Then Gilbert Burns showed up and their UFC 273 bout wasn’t just one of the best fights of 2022, but proof that “Borz” wasn’t just a frontrunner, but a fighter who could dig deep when he needed to. And he got to keep his perfect pro record in the process.
5 (Tie) – Kevin Holland
After a rough end to his run at middleweight that saw him go 0-2 with 1 no contest, Kevin Holland needed a change. He found it 15 pounds south in the welterweight division, where he scored a pair of Performance of the Night finishes over Alex Oliveira and Tim Means in 2022.
4 – Shavkat Rakhmonov
It’s hard to come out of nowhere when you have a 16-0 pro record that includes four UFC wins (and finishes), but that’s just what Shavkat Rakhmonov has done this year thanks to a highlight reel knockout of Carlston Harris and a submission of veteran contender Neil Magny. Those victories earned “Nomad” two Performance of the Night bonuses and elite status in the welterweight division.
3 – Alexander Volkanovski
While he’s number three here, Alexander Volkanovski has to be seen as the frontrunner for 2022 Fighter of the Year after a win over Max Holloway that came in after the cutoff for these half-year awards. So why is the featherweight champ here? Only an MMA Master Class against Chan Sung Jung in April. If you’re still doubting Alexander “The Great,” you’re just not paying attention.
2 – Jiri Prochazka
To get a title shot in your third UFC fight is impressive. To win that title puts you on this list, and that’s just what Jiri Prochazka did at UFC 275, winning one of the best championship fights you’re going to see against Glover Teixeira. It was a fight that showed Prochazka isn’t just a knockout artist, but an MMA fighter with grit, determination, and the ability to stay on top for a long time.
1 – Charles Oliveira
Just like Alexander Volkanovski, Charles Oliveira has had plenty of doubters circling him since he won the UFC lightweight title in 2021, and while “Do Bronx” doesn’t have that belt anymore because he missed weight for his UFC 274 title defense against Justin Gaethje, by submitting Gaethje in the first round that May night in Phoenix, he proved that at 155 pounds, he is still the king…even without a crown.
VOTERS – James Cooney, Thomas Gerbasi, Christoph Goessing, E. Spencer Kyte, Steve Latrell, Zac Pacleb, Gavin Porter