Bleacher Report MMA: 2022 Mid-Year Awards | Launderer’s report


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Rewards are always difficult to analyze in MMA. Each card has its own highlight reel, great finishes, and title image implications.

In MMA, there is no Wizards-Pacers matchup in mid-February. Some cards are definitely better than others, but there’s no total throwaway.

Even though we’re only halfway through 2022, there are plenty of winners to choose from. We did our best to winnow it for these, our mid-year MMA winners.

We picked winners in four categories: Best Fighter, Best Fight, Best KO, and Best Submission. Additional points go to higher stakes matches. We’ve identified a few honorable mentions for each category alongside the outright winner.

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Submission of the Year: Tom Aspinall def. Alexander Volkov via Straight Armbar

Division: Heavy weights
Event: UFC Fight Night 204
Date: March 19
Official result: Tom Aspinall beats. Alexander Volkov by right armbar, 3:45, Rd. 1

Serious fans and supporters across the pond knew a lot about Tom Aspinall before this London fight card. Subsequently, the Englishman was also known to almost everyone.

Remarkably light on his feet, Aspinall (12-2) is a formidable finisher, having stopped all four of his UFC opponents in London. But that main event marked his toughest test yet, with lanky, battle-tested Russian Alexander Volkov (35-10) waiting for him on the canvas.

So it was a little shocking when Aspinall did such a short job on him.

Aspinall’s movement was on full display as he dodged big shots from Volkov while using fast hands to land big combinations. A takedown led to a long upper control fight for Aspinall, which he used to hit Volkov’s head with his elbows, breaking the Russian wide open.

Volkov managed to get up, but he was clearly down. Aspinall hit another takedown, and this time he had his man. The right armbar is a rare bird in MMA, but Aspinall made it look easy. Volkov’s elbow visibly went hyper and a frantic tapout soon ensued.

With the victory, Aspinall, 29, placed himself in the title picture at heavyweight, where he now sits at No. 6 on the official rankings. He has a fight scheduled for July with fourth-placed Curtis Blaydes, who has the kind of fight that could stifle Aspinall’s submission game. Emphasis on could.

Honorable Mentions:

– Charles Oliveira chokes Justin Gaethje
– Jiri Prochazka wins the light heavyweight title with a finish in the back of Glover Texeira
– Aleksei Oleinik defeated. Jared Vanderaa with a scarf outfit
– Claudio Puelles Clay Guida Kneepads
– Oliver Enkamp lands a “buggy choke” on Mark Lemminger at Bellator 281

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Knockout of the Year: Zhang Weili takes out Joanna Violence with a spinning back fist

Division: Straw weight
Event: UFC 275
Date: June 11
Official result: Zhang Weili defeats. Joanna Jedrzejczyk by KO (spinning backfist), 2:28, Rd. 2

With the winner promised a title shotthere was a lot at stake when Weili (22-3) and Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-5) entered the cage at UFC 275 in Singapore.

Returning to action after more than two years away, ring rust was in evidence for Jedrzejczyk. Still, it came as a shock when Weili uncorked a spinning backfist that landed flush with Jedrzejczyk’s jaw.

It’s rare to see a spinning backfist land with such precision, let alone land hard enough to score a full-throttle one-hit knockout. But there was no doubt about it; Jedrzejczyk collapsed on the canvas like a bag of potting soil.

It was over so quickly it almost felt like a disappointment. Their previous encounter, a split decision win for Weili, was widely hailed as arguably the best fight in women’s MMA history.

After the fight, 34-year-old Jedrzejczyk announced his retirement from the sport, expressing a desire to focus on his family and business interests. It was a bit of an unceremonious exit, but the former champion still leaves a strong legacy behind.

Despite Weili’s win, current champion Carla Esparza met her call with a nice welcome. Can you blame her? Weili is one of the most dangerous female fighters on the planet today.

Honorable Mentions:

– Michael Chandler melts Tony Ferguson with a front kick
– Molly McCann lands the back elbow on Luana Carolina
– Shavkat Rakhmonov lands a spinning hook kick on Carlston Harris
– Jamahal Hill crushes Johnny Walker
– Tai Tuivasa nudge against Derrick Lewis

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Fight of the Year: Jiri Prochazka defeats Glover Teixeira to win title in Instant Classic

Division: Mid-heavyweight
Event: UFC 275
Date: June 11
Official result: Jiri Prochazka beats. Glover Teixeira by submission (rear naked choke), 4:32, Rd. 5

You don’t have to take my word for it. Take it from the official UFC stats.

Prochazka and Teixeira combined to land 231 important strikes. Their accuracy rates – 68% for the defending champion Teixeira, 58% for the challenger – were exorbitant, especially for such volume. To compare, Jon Jones directs all active light heavyweights in this category with an accuracy of 57.9%.

Some valuable leg kicks in this one, with both men hammering head and body. Each fighter connected on 12 body shots each. Who doesn’t love a good body shot?

In a literal nod to the back-and-forth nature of the fight, the pair combined for six position reversals. In the fourth, Teixeira, who racked up almost 10 minutes of total control time, appeared to snatch the advantage by spending about half the lap in a commanding position as Prochazka was seemingly gassed.

Adam Martin @MMAdamMartin

I had the same scorecard as Judge Ben Cartlidge until the stoppage. I don’t know what Clemens Werner was thinking. 10-8 Jiri in the third round? He’s on an island with this one. Same judge who had 49-46 Shevchenko. Jiri needed a finish to win the belt and he got it. Wow. #UFC275

The fight was already an instant classic heading into the fifth, with both men exhausted and bleeding. Teixeira rocked Prochazka with right hooks early on, but instead of following up with more punches, he jumped in for the guillotine choke, which was begging.

In the final minute of the fight, Prochazka snatched the win – and the belt – from the jaws of defeat, shoving himself into a rear-end choke, which he clenched without even setting his hooks. It was an honorable loss for the 42-year-old. Teixeira, the oldest first-time champion in UFC history, and a star turn for the new champion.

It was perhaps the best title fight in the history of the light heavyweight division. If another fight is going to topple this one for Fight of the Year, I can’t wait to see it.

Honorable Mentions:

– Deiveson Figueiredo reclaims the flyweight title from Brandon Moreno
– Gilbert Burns gives Khamzat Chimaev everything he can handle
– Calvin Kattar wins high yield slugfest with Giga Chikadze
– Clay Collard pulls the shock off Jeremy Stephens at PFL 1
– Matt Frevola stops Genaro Valdez in a frantic lap

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Fighter of the Year: Charles Oliveira

Division: Lightweight
Record 2022: 1-0
Results: Charles Oliveira def. Justin Gaethje by submission (rear naked choke), 3:22, Rd. 1

This one is a bit tougher than the others, considering most contenders only have one fight under their belt so far in 2022. Even so, with apologies to Francis Ngannou and Alex Volkanovski, Charles Oliveira stands out as the most deserving.

Even with UFC lightweight gold wrapped around his waist, people seemed to be still sleeping on Oliveira. So it’s fitting that Oliveira had to lose the title to earn a new level of respect.

It certainly didn’t start out that way. The haters were given a dose of fresh meat ahead of Oliveira’s May 7 showdown with Gaethje, one of the most dangerous headhunters on the UFC roster.

As most fans will recall, Oliveira lost half a pound of weight before the event. It was just half a pound, but the rules are the rules, and Oliveira was stripped of his title. It wasn’t the first time the Brazilian had struggled to gain weight, although his previous failures ended up at a featherweight.

Not exactly fighter of the year stuff there. But what he did in the cage that Saturday night more than made up for it.

Both men landed early, with Oliveira’s chin holding up surprisingly well. As Gaethje fired leg kicks and looked for a home for his curtain-closing left hook, Oliveira responded with volume. The two men landed an identical percentage of 63% of their important strikes, but Oliveira landed 33 shots to Gaethje’s 21.

In the second half of the fight, Oliveira managed a takedown, a rarity for Gaethje, who is known for his fierce defensive struggle. That defensive struggle couldn’t save him on the court, where Oliveira quickly got to work positioning herself for a submission. The end came at 3:22 of the first round.

Oliveira is so good that one top fighter recently suggested this retired light goat Khabib Nurmagomedov could have walked away partly out of fear of Oliveira. I don’t know about it, but the fact that it wasn’t universally dismissed as nonsense says a lot about Oliveira’s greatness.

The champ is the UFC all-time leader in finishes with 19 and submissions with 16. He is on an 11-game winning streak. He will fight to regain his lost belt in his next fight, which has yet to be announced. Oliveira has always called for a big scrap with Conor McGregor. The Dagestan destroyer Islam Makhachev would present a formidable test.

But if Charlie Olives continues at this rate, no opponent, except perhaps the scales, can stand in his way.

Honorable Mentions:

– Alexander Volkanovski
-Deiveson Figueiredo
-Jiri Prochazka
-Zhang Weili
-Francis Ngannou
– Jamahal Hill
-Tom Aspinall


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