With each passing year, the standards for truly memorable fights get higher. Fights have to not only stand on their own merits, but prove themselves worthy of consideration among a massive, constantly growing library of classics. Despite these lofty requirements, a handful of this year’s tussles were up to the task.
Here are MMAmania.com’s “Fights of the Year” for 2022 ...
5. Nate Landwehr vs. David Onama
As much as I appreciate high-level technique and robust gameplans, sometimes you have to just sit back and enjoy two people beating the absolute tar out of each other.
The fight initially looked like it would follow the obvious script: Onama, the physical specimen, obliterating Landwehr before “The Train” could get his signature attrition going. He had Landwehr dead to rights early, but the latter’s indomitable will allowed him to claw his way back in and brutalize an increasingly exhausted Onama.
Landwehr likely could have ridden out the third round on top, but instead elected to let Onama back to his feet, where Landwehr continued to pour on the hurt. Onama somehow dredged just enough out of his empty gas tank for a last-second rally that ultimately came up short but gave the battle an appropriately dramatic conclusion.
Landwehr’s emerged as one of the most consistently entertaining fighters on the roster after a disastrous UFC start, and I can’t wait to watch him sacrifice more brain cells for our amusement.
4. Mateusz Gamrot vs. Arman Tsarukyan
Fights between top grapplers tend to follow one of two scripts: either one has enough of a wrestling advantage to neutralize the other or they just elect to strike.
Not the case here. Mateusz Gamrot and Arman Tsarukyan combined for 29 takedown attempts over 25 minutes in an incredible display of wrestling skill, scrambling ability, and cardio.
Tsarukyan controlled the first two rounds with his effective, versatile kickboxing, which looked a step above Gamrot’s powerful-but-limited boxing. Soon, however, attrition began to take its toll as Gamrot ramped up his barrage of takedowns. Though he still proved unable to hold Tsarukyan down, it was enough to turn the tide.
Tsarukyan soon turned it right back with a clutch spinning back fist, but Gamrot was not to be denied. With the relentlessness to match his skills, “Gamer” ultimately eked out a decision in 2022’s best grappling match.
3. Stephen Thompson vs. Kevin Holland
It may not have worked out for him, but bless Kevin Holland for deciding to strike. After watching Stephen Thompson get grappled time and again, it was nice to see “Wonderboy” back in full swing against a willing dance partner.
And what a dance it was. The pair combined for nearly 500 strike attempts in the span of four rounds, and all but 22 were significant.
The bigger, younger Holland initially controlled the action, buckling Thompson with a nasty right hand and never letting him find a proper striking groove. It wasn’t to last, as Thompson soon got his way into gear and unleashed the wicked-fast kicks and vicious punching flurries that have long been his trademark.
Things went from bad to worse for Holland when he suffered a hand injury, but to his credit, he never stopped trying to fight back. Even as Thompson outlanded him four-to-one in the fourth, he refused to go down, only bowing out at the behest of his corner.
Nothing but respect.
2. Khamzat Chimaev vs. Gilbert Burns
Both men entered this matchup with a lot to prove. For Khamzat Chimaev, this was a chance to show that his heretofore unstoppable attack would work against an elite Welterweight. For Gilbert Burns, it was a shot at redemption after falling apart against Kamaru Usman.
In the beginning, it looked as though Chimaev was more up to the task. His wrestling and top control proved effective despite Burns’ jiu-jitsu pedigree, and a heavy knockdown late in the first seemed like the beginning of the end for “Durinho.”
If there were any concerns about Burns’ heart, though, he addressed them spectacularly, landing a staggering 56 power-punches with 62% accuracy in the second round. He answered the knockdown with one of his own and looked to be in a good position to take the third round.
Chimaev, in turn, proved his own determination. With his takedowns no longer producing results, he stalked Burns from bell to bell and unleashed nearly 100 significant strikes in the process. Burns responded with bomb after bomb after bomb, but Chimaev’s aggression and durability carried him to the toughest victory of his career.
Chimaev may have done some downright stupid things lately, but he’ll always have that war.
1. Jiri Prochazka vs. Glover Teixeira
Was there ever any doubt? The greatest Light Heavyweight title fight of all time, a jaw-dropping war of heart, technique, and will with more twists and turns than three Stephen King novels put together.
Prochazka’s all-action, semi-improvisational striking and Teixeira’s mix of elite grappling and brutal power-punching promised a scrap for the ages, and that was exactly what we got. The first three rounds were a whirlwind of offense; any protracted standup exchange saw Prochazka’s avalanche of offense seemingly put Teixeira on the ropes, only for the Brazilian to drag Prochazka to the mat and pound away until Prochazka somehow slipped out from underneath it and the process began again.
Once they hit the championship rounds, however, Teixeira’s experience in deep waters began to show itself. Prochazka’s endless engine looked to finally be giving out, and Teixeira nearly put him away in the opening seconds of the fifth with some vicious punches. His decision to go for a guillotine backfired, however, and Prochazka weathered the storm until the opportunity arose to slap on a no-hooks RNC and hand the storied black belt the first submission loss of his MMA career.
From violence to drama to technique, this was everything you could possibly want out of a main event, and it more than deserves its spot atop this year’s list.
- Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler
- Ciryl Gane vs. Tai Tuivasa
- Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno 3
- Matt Schnell vs. Sumudaerji
- Matt Brown vs. Bryan Barberena
- Mike Trizano vs. Seung Woo Choi
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