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The Rant's 2022 MMA Awards

The Rant's revamped annual MMA awards are here with unique categories that highlight sensational and creative finishes alongside the best (and worst) that MMA had to offer this past year.

Whether your favourite pastime is watching football every Sunday, gaming with your friends late into the night, or catching the latest movies in a theatre, at the end of the year you can always look forward to a deluge of articles and videos showcasing the best (and sometimes, worst) that your chosen interest had to offer over the prior twelve months.

If your chosen pastime is popular enough, you'll even get to see full award shows complete with societal "elites" in attendance and crappy review panels doling out rewards to whoever sucks up to them the most.

For fans of mixed martial arts, we of course are no different as the "awards season" inundates our social media feeds and Youtube suggestions with their picks for categories such as Fighter of the Year, Best Knockout, Best Comeback, etcetera.

With so many publications and content producers already posting their own year-end awards and reflections, and with The Rant's absense from the year-end award scene last year courtesy of a bout with covid, it's time for a change in how the Rant's MMA Awards are doled out.

Instead of the traditional categories that have come to be expected from anyone compiling their "Best of" lists every year, from this point on, The Rant's awards will be exclusively for the less-traditional highlights (and just as importantly, lowlights) of the year.

Instead of seeing staples like Fight and Fighter of the Year, or Knockout and Submission of the Year, you'll see things like Best Left Hook Knockout, Most Unique Submission, Best Last-Round Hail Mary Comeback, Worst UFC Fighter, and Dumbest Gameplan of the Year.

Of course there will also be a yearly roundup article posted in the next week or two, which, similar to last year's extensive piece, will highlight the major fights and happenings in the world of MMA as well as provide links to gifs/clips of all the violent finishes that occurred in 2022.

As for now, let's take a look at this year's biggest winners (and losers) with The Rant's new and improved 2022 MMA Awards, and, as always, links to GIFs/video clips are highlighted in red:

Best Left Hook Knockout of the Year

Awarded to the best knockout of 2022 scored via a left hook.

Winner: John Lineker

For his brutal knockout over Bibiano Fernandez at ONE: Lights Out

The "Fighter of the Year" is generally the most prestigious title a fighter can earn when it comes to the year's award season, but here at The Rant, we love ourselves a good left hook, so our top honours go to the man or woman who delivers the nicest, cleanest, most brutal left hook to send a fellow fighter to the shadow realm.

The honour of the very first Best Left Hook Knockout of the Year award goes to a man who has long devastated opponents with his sweeping lead hand - John Lineker.

John Lineker is a 5'3 bantamweight powerhouse that can most accurately be summed up as being about as terrifyingly vicious in the cage as he is short in stature. He's a slugging pressure fighter with a granite chin that relentlessly plows forward against his victims, ripping them with wide, devastating hooks that he beautifully mixes in to both their head and midsection.

It was a shame that, after repeated weight misses, the UFC released the highly entertaining former flyweight from their roster despite the fact that he was a top five bantamweight and always put on a show for the fans. The UFC's loss however was ONE FC's gain and the Brazilian banger has since made the most of his opportunity in the Singapore promotion's cage.

In his first world title fight, Lineker faced off with fellow Brazilian Bibiano Fernandes, who trains out of Vancouver, BC and had suffered just a single loss (in a split decision to boot, which he later avenged) in the last decade. Fernandes had won and defended ONE's bantamweight crown eight times over that time, becoming known as one of if not the best bantamweight in the world that wasn't under the UFC umbrella.

The two heavy-handed strikers stood and traded bombs in a furiously paced bout, with Fernandes even dropping the famously durable Lineker midway through the opening round with a left hook of his own as Lineker loaded up on his go-to punch.

The living incarnation of the Tasmanian Devil managed to survive and get back to his insane pressure and power punching in short order, which carried over into the second round as Lineker's onslaught began to overwhelm the champion.

Late in the second round, Lineker again targeted the body with a sweeping right hook before loading up on his nasty left upstairs, this time connecting clean across Bibiano's jaw as Fernandes once again attempted a check hook, this time failing to hit the mark as he was short circuited by Lineker's left.

Lineker didn't just land a left hook to capture the ONE bantamweight championship; he pulled his left hand straight from out of the pits of hell and used that momentum to detonate a tactical nuke across poor Bibiano's chin, ending the longtime champion's rain in devastating fashion to cap off an epic back and forth brawl.

In a year with plenty of left hooks to write home about, Lineker's beautifully destructive finish of Fernandes stands above the rest and earns him the coveted honours of The Rant's inaugural Best Left Hook Knockout award.

Runner Up: Josh Quinlan

For his 129-second left hook lamping of Jason Witt at UFC on ESPN 41

There may have been tighter and more powerful left hooks that made the runner-up pick for this award a difficult decision, but the way Jason Witt collapsed as if he was shot by a sniper rifle just makes Josh Quinlan's beautiful left hook knockout on the undercard of UFC: Vera vs. Cruz stand out from the pack.

Just past the two minute mark of the opening round, Witt decided to charge forward to deliver a body kick on the undefeated Quinlan, but in doing so he dropped his hands; maintaining his form and standing his ground, Quinlan threw a long check hook at Witt's exposed chin and as soon as fist touched jaw, the lights went out in Georgia.

Also, bonus points to Quinlan for recognizing Witt was unconscious and stopping himself mid-punch from delivering another shot on his defenseless opponent.

Honourable Mentions:

Best "Spinning Shit" Knockout of the Year

Awarded to the best knockout of 2022 coming from a spinning technique.

Winner: "Meatball" Molly McCann

For her spinning-back elbow knockout over Luana Carolina at UFC on ESPN+ 62

If you asked every MMA fan at the beginning of this year "who do you think will score the nicest knockout with a spinning technique in 2022?" I guarantee you not a single one would think to respond with the name "Meatball".

And yet here we are.

In a thrilling performance in London that positively electrified her home crowd, "Meatball" Molly dominated Luana Carolina from the opening bell, swarming the Brazilian with volleys of punches and pounding on her overwhelmed prey over the first ten minutes.

Thanks to her relentless pursuit of the finish, McCann began to slow down in the third as Carolina proved her toughness in surviving a ten minute beatdown and began to score some points of her own.

Unfortunately for Carolina, her success was short lived as just two minutes into the final stanza, her soul would be sent to another dimension.

After engaging in the clinch, Meatball opted to spin out of the in-fight and as she did so came around with a back-elbow that landed cleanly across Luana's cheek. The vicious strike instantly shut Carolina's lights off and sent her lifeless body crashing to the canvas, igniting the London crowd and turning the eight-fight UFC veteran into a star in her native England.

The stunning finish even managed to make it into an impressive spot amongst the top 10 most brutal knockouts in women's UFC history.

Not bad Meatball, not bad at all.

Runner Up: Andrey Koreshkov

For his 38-second spinning back-kick on Chance Rencountre at Bellator 274

It's not often that a fighter leaves a cage with five broken ribs and a punctured lung, but at Bellator 274 early this year, that's exactly how Chance Rencountre exited his meeting with Andrey Koreshkov.

The former Bellator welterweight champion nailed Rencountre with a perfectly placed spinning back kick just moments into their bout in February, forcing Chance to collapse to the canvas in agony as Koreshkov swarmed until the referee finally saved Rencountre from further damage.

The Russian's emphatic finish proves without doubt that spinning shit is never to be underestimated, lest you be sitting in an ER at the nearest hospital.

Honourable Mentions:

Most Unique Knockout of the Year

Awarded to the most unique or creative knockout victory of 2022.

Winner: Roman Dolidze

for his calf-slicer/ground and pound TKO over Jack Hermansson at UFC on ESPN 42

It's not often that a ground-and-pound TKO even earns a mention amongst knockout award candidates, but when it comes to sheer brutality and creativity being combined to craft a particularly frightening finish, it doesn't get much more nasty than Roman Dolidze's stoppage victory over Jack Hermansson just weeks ago.

The Georgian middleweight is known as a surprisingly slick grappler for a man of his size with raw knockout power and remarkable strength to boot. His striking may be lagging behind the rest of his arsenal in terms of technique, but he has steadily been improving that aspect of his game as he has risen up the ranks.

After a bit of a rocky stretch that saw the prolific finisher involved in a string of decisions in the midst of a drop down to middleweight and his first career loss, Dolidze really put things together in 2022 and entered the top ten by rattling off three straight knockout victories in rather vicious fashion.

The first came against highly touted prospect Kyle Daukhaus, whom Dolidze dispatched in just 73 seconds, breaking Daukhaus' orbital socket in the process. The impressive victory saw him face off with Phil Hawes in October, where not only was his raw power showcased, but his scary submission skills were as well.

Midway through the opening round, Dolidze was taken down by the wrestler Hawes, but unfortunately for Hawes, his opponent found out the hard way that one does not simply grapple with Roman Dolidze and come out unscathed.

Dolidze launched a volley of vicious elbows off of his back that rocked Hawes, who struggled to maintain position as he flashed in and out of consciousness and then found himself defending an armbar. Moments later, Dolidze attacked Hawes' leg and caught the wrestler in a brutal kneebar that somehow Hawes managed to escape - but not without suffering significant damage to his knee in the process.

When Hawes returned to his feet, his leg was clearly compromised and his eyes were glassy, still seemingly rocked from Dolidze's assault from the floor. The Georgian powerhouse then absolutely demolished his compromised victim with a series of right hands until Hawes eventually collapsed against the cage, completely unconscious.

It was an unbelievably violent and brutal finish that was easily amongst the top knockouts of 2022, and was in itself one of the top contenders for this award given how the finish came off of shots from his back and a violent kneebar which led to the brutal ending sequence.

Dolidze would outdo himself in his next performance however, not only beating a top 10 opponent but scoring one of the most painful and creative finishes you'll see in a sport filled with painful and creative finishes.

With a step up in competition, Dolidze's developing striking game showed its flaws as the more experienced Hermansson picked apart the Georgian's lead leg and was able to outland Roman throughout. The second round was largely more of the same, and it appeared Dolidze's brutal run through the middleweight ranks may be cut short as his offense was largely neutralized by the eighth ranked Hermansson.

That is, until the fight hit the floor.

From his back, Dolidze began to set up what appeared to be a kneebar, but being an extremely talented grappler himself, Hermansson attempted to spin out of it and pass Dolidze's guard - instead, Roman trapped Hermansson's leg and locked up one of the most painful submissions in MMA: the calf slicer.

Hermansson valiantly refused to tap as he was forced to lay facedown on the canvas, his leg being grotesquely contorted as Dolidze then rained down heavy ground and pound on his helplessly trapped victim.

Though grappling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu is typically seen as a "gentler" art, Roman Dolidze has a penchant for delivering pain when on the floor and his use of a super rare submission to trap his opponent in order to to then smash him with heavy ground and pound was just plain sadistic, and as such has earned itself the title of Most Unique Knockout of the Year.

Runner Up: Irene Aldana

for her upkick to the liver on Macy Chiasson at UFC 279

Knocking out an opponent while on your back seems to be becoming slightly more common over the last few years thanks to fighters like Kevin Holland and Niko Price (who has somehow scored two knockouts in this manner), and even the afforementioned Dolidze who badly rocked an opponent with elbows off of his back.

In all my years of watching MMA however, I can't recall someone delivering a fight-ending body shot while their back was on the floor, but Irene Aldana did just that at UFC 279 to score one of the most unique finishes in a year filled with crazy knockouts.

Facing off against Macy Chiasson (who missed weight by a whopping five pounds), Aldana turned in a solid opening round before finding herself overpowered in the clinch and on the mat against the heavier fighter, who evened things up against the Mexican boxer with her grinding wrestling tactics even if she was noticeably slowing down as she did so.

After Chiasson scored a takedown midway through the third, it appeared Aldana was in serious trouble of dropping the round and ultimately losing a decision to Chiasson, but it wouldn't take long for the tables to take a sudden turn.

As Aldana posted on Chiasson's hips to push her away, Macy opted to stand up in an attempt to pass Aldana's guard, looking to throw Irene's legs to one side in order to either gain side control or land ground and pound. In doing so, she was completely unaware that she gave Aldana all the opportunity she needed to turn the tides and keep the judges out of the equation entirely.

While Macy was concerned with getting past Irene's left leg, Aldana wasted no time in her attempts to punish her opponent any time she had space, delivering a downward kick that landed across Macy's stomach, Aldana's heel smacking right into Chiasson's liver.

Chiasson immediately collapsed to the canvas in agony as the crowd looked on in confusion - it wasn't until the replay that most people even saw the strike that put Chiasson down for the count, a surprising and innocuous-looking kick that simply found its target and landed perfectly.

When it comes to unique finishes, it doesn't get much more rare than a liver kick from the floor. This finish also deserves special mention for being Bas Rutten approved.

Honourable Mentions:

Most Unique Submission of the Year

Awarded to the most unique or creative submission victory of 2022.

Winner: Roberto de Souza

for his flying reverse triangle-armbar on Johnny Case at RIZIN 35

A reverse triangle choke is an extremely rare submission in its own right, with a reverse triangle-armbar rarer still, but a flying reverse triangle-armbar? Now that's just plain silly.

Yet that's exactly what Johnny Case found himself trapped in less than four minutes into his rematch with Roberto de Souza at RIZIN 35.

The two had previously met back in 2019 with the powerful wrestle-boxer Case scoring a TKO over the extremely talented Brazilian grappler in just 75 seconds. It was the first loss of de Souza's career.

Fast forward three years and de Souza would find himself on a four-fight winning streak with RIZIN's lightweight championship belt firmly around his waist, having already defended it once.

In his second title defense, de Souza sought to avenge the lone loss of his career against Case, and not only did he do just that, but he did so with one of the most impressive submissions in MMA history.

Momentarily taking Case's back during a scramble, it appeared as though de Souza sought to secure a hook to engage a body triangle, but Case fought this attempt by lifting Roberto's leg high up to his chest, then sought to turn into de Souza to keep his back safe from the submission ace.

Instead, during a wild transition, de Souza jumped up and methodically locked in a reverse triangle around Case's head and right arm, then rolled Case onto his back. From there, Case was not only being choked by de Souza's leg, but his right arm was trapped under de Souza's armpit as the Brazilian leaned back and hyperextended the arm, simultaneously throwing hammer fists at the defenseless American until he tapped and saved himself from further pain.

The entire sequence was a beautiful display of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and one of the slickest submissions you'll ever see. Johnny Case may forever be able to say he was the first man to defeat Roberto de Souza, but de Souza scored the ultimate revenge by turning Case into the victim of an incredible highlight reel finish.

Runner Up: Jessica Andrade

for her standing arm triangle choke on Amanda Lemos at UFC on ESPN+ 63

An arm triangle isn't exactly a super rare submission in the UFC or MMA as a whole, but it's where Jessica Andrade pulled it off that really made her quick finish of Amanda Lemos memorable.

After a brief 2-1 stint at flyweight that saw Andrade lose to Valentina Shevchenko in her bid to become a champion in a second weight class, the Brazilian powerhouse moved back to her longtime home of strawweight in 2022 and saw herself paired up with streaking knockout artist Amanda Lemos.

The matchup between the Brazilian sluggers in April was expected to produce fireworks, but little did fans know that it would be Andrade's grappling that would get the job done early.

Trapping Lemos against the cage while in the clinch, Andrade isolated Lemos' left arm and secured the arm triangle from a standing position - though attempts at this submission have certainly been made in the past, the amount of strength required to pull off this choke while remaining standing is astronomical and such a submission never been finished on the feet in the entire history of the UFC.

The arm triangle may be a common submission on the canvas, but prior attempts by fighters to lock it up on the feet have always either A) failed to work as their opponent has been able to power out of the submission, or B) the fighter has secured the submission on the feet and then managed to take the fighter to the floor in order to finish the fight. Unfortunately for Amanda Lemos, she found out the hard way that Jessica Andrade has a squeeze that isn't like any normal strawweight's.

Just over three minutes into the fight, Lemos found herself trapped in a death grip and was forced to tap, putting an end to her five-fight winning streak and putting a hold on her title aspirations.

Honourable Mentions:

Best Last-Round Hail Mary Comeback of the Year

Awarded to the most impressive comeback victory in the last round of a fight in 2022.

Winner: Leon Edwards

for his epic fifth-round head kick knockout of Kamaru Usman at UFC 278

This is one of those knockouts that will be replayed again and again in highlight reels for decades to come, not only for its perfect execution but because it unseated a dominant champion that was despised by many (and for good reason, the guy is one of the most notorious cheaters in a cage that you can find) and in Rocky-esque circumstances to boot.

When the two squared off at UFC 278 for the UFC welterweight championship, Leon "Rocky" Edwards was riding a nine-fight winning streak (ignoring a No Contest that came from an eye poke) while the champion boasted a remarkable 15-fight UFC winning streak (if you include pre-UFC fights, his streak was 19) that was on the cusp of tying Anderson Silva for the longest winning streak in UFC history at 16.

He also held a decision victory over one Leon Edwards from back in 2015, which just so happened to be the last time Edwards had lost in the cage.

Although Leon did well early in their rematch by grounding the champion and controlling his back for a large portion of the opening stanza, as the rounds wore on and the draining Salt Lake City altitude began to take its toll on Leon's endurance, Usman's grinding grappling and clinch game combined with his inhuman gas tank (Usman has long been suspected of using PEDs, especially given his significant mid-career cardio improvements when earlier in his career he regularly gassed out) banked three rounds for the champion. It appeared destined that Usman would tie Anderson Silva's record winning streak and Leon's title hopes would be a thing of the past.

Late in the fifth round, another round in which Leon was losing, the commentary team had already moved on to talking about what was next for Edwards as his winning streak would be snapped and he'd be unlikely to get another title shot anytime soon given that he would be 0-2 versus the champion. The writing was on the wall - but Leon Edwards had other plans.

Pound for pound. Headshot. Dead.

Leon "Rocky" Edwards truly earned his nickname in the final minute of his title fight, in a moment so perfect that even Rocky's Hollywood namesake couldn't hold a candle to it.

Feinting a pawing jab, Leon moved forward as if to throw his southpaw straight behind it, which he had previously done throughout the fight - this inspired Usman to move his head off the centre-line and out of the line of fire, his right hand even pawing toward the middle to parry the punch he thought was coming.

Except this time, Usman's reaction was exactly what Edwards wanted. With Usman's blocking arm out of position and his head leaning right into it, Edwards blasted a full power rear head kick that found the champion's cheek, completely unobstructed.

The dominant welterweight king was instantly put on ice as his soulless body crumbled to the canvas, his aspirations of beating Anderson's record dissipating into Utah's exceptionally thin air.

It was as destructive a knockout as it was technically perfect, a brutal and decisive finish that showed everyone once more that no one is untouchable and that a single moment in a mixed martial arts fight can change everything.

It was the most epic hail mary comeback one can imagine, the finish coming with less than sixty seconds to go in a fight he would have handily lost on the scorecards - yet at the same time, it was not some desperate, wild swing that just happened to find its home, it was instead a perfectly set up and flawlessly executed killshot that not only earned Leon "Rocky" Edwards the comeback of the year, but the best knockout as well to go along with his shiny new belt.

Runner Up: Alex Pereira

for his fifth round demolition of rival Israel Adesanya at UFC 281

It was hard to pick between Pereira's fifth round demolition of Adesanya and Jiri Prochazka's buzzer beater submission over Glover Teixeira, but ultimately Alex's comeback ranks slightly higher in shock factor because everyone watching the fight knew Pereira was down on the scorecards, whereas in the Prochazka-Teixeira fight, the back and forth war was so chaotic and insane that most fans didn't even know who was winning the legendary main event of UFC 275 as it unfolded.

As for UFC 281's highly anticipated third meeting between dominant middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and his old kickboxing rival Alex Pereira, everyone (including Pereira's corner) knew that the Brazilian challenger needed to finish his foe if he wanted to leave the cage with gold around his waist.

Pereira began their trilogy fight well by outkicking the lanky outfighter, with Adesanya preferring to peck away at his opponents with leg kicks at range in order to draw them into being aggressive so he can get to his real bread and butter, the counter game. Against Pereira however, he found himself getting out-kicked at range, which was largely leading Pereira to picking up the first round on the cards - that is, until the final moments of the round.

As Pereira ramped up the pressure, Adesanya was able to counter with a slick combination that put Pereira on wobbly legs as the round ended, stealing him the round and reminding his rival that he too possessed the power to end the night early.

The second round saw Pereira bounce back and even land a takedown after stuffing attempts from the champion, but Adesanya would eventually find himself on top against the inexperienced grappler. Thanks to landing the more significant blows of the round, Alex put himself on the board and tied things up heading into round three on most scorecards, including the official ones.

From here, Pereira's weak grappling hurt him badly, as although he did land some nasty body kicks that bothered the champion, he found himself on his back for much of the round and in the fourth, he offered very little output and appeared tired, his massive frame and lack of five round MMA experience apparently catching up with him.

Down three rounds to one heading into the fifth, Pereira knew he would have to let his hands go and stop at nothing in order to achieve victory - having defeated Adesanya twice before however, he knew he was capable, as did his fired up coach Glover Teixeira, who implored his pupil to put his monstrous hands on the champion and take him out once and for all.

With renewed vigor, Pereira came out for the fifth round like a man possessed, waiting for a crack in Izzy's armour to present itself so he could empty the tank and unseat the middleweight king.

His dedication to chopping down Israel's legs began to pay dividends as the champion could no longer run out from the cage, and Pereira made sure to capitalize on his advantage.

A cracking right hand caused Adesanya to stumble back into the cage, where Pereira began to empty the kitchen sink on his prey. Another stumble had Adesanya out on his feet, valiantly swaying in an effort to avoid shots and stay conscious but with his hands down and his continued absorption of unanswered power shots from Pereira, the referee saved the champion from further damage in what was undoubtedly leading up to a grisly knockout.

Though some argued it was stopped prematurely, Adesanya showed no signs of being able to get Pereira off of him nor did Pereira show any signs that he was losing steam; Adesanya may have wanted to "go out on his shield", but he was seconds away from being flatlined and likely facing far more brain trauma, whereas Israel now has the added bonus of being able to say the fight was stopped early in order to sell a fourth match between the two.

It was an incredible comeback that showed just how deadly Alex Pereira any time the fight is on the feet, even if his overall MMA game is still a work in progress.

Honourable Mentions:

Best "Taking Out the Trash" Beatdown of the Year

Awarded to the most impressive beatdown of a garbage human being in MMA in 2022.

Winner: Adrian Yanez

for his destruction of Tony Kelley at UFC on ESPN 37

Tony Kelley certainly didn't endear himself to fans when he cornered girlfriend Andrea "KGB" Lee for her fight with Viviane Araujo back in May.

After Lee had complained to her corner about an eye poke she had received in the round prior, Kelley stated "That's what they're going to do, they're dirty fucking Brazilians, they're going to fucking cheat like that".

The 8-2 Lousiana native immediately went from a fun action-fighter to a despised figure in MMA, and Andrea Lee was also heavily criticized given her previous partner was a "former" white supremacist who still had Neo Nazi tattoos when she was with him (he would later badly beat her up then flee the state).

Kelley's fight with surging prospect Adrian Yanez was thus granted much more anticipation by fans as Yanez promised to punish Kelley for his comments and had the backing of the entire MMA community heading into their bout at UFC on ESPN 37. It drew even more attention after a heated weigh-in and the fact that Kelley missed weight by 1.5 pounds for their bantamweight clash, his unprofessional attitude adding more fuel to the fire.

Though it was certainly fun while it lasted, Adrian's lightning fast and powerful hands were simply too much for Kelley, who began to get lit up like a Christmas tree by the superior striker.

Late in the action-packed opening stanza, Kelley was out on his feet and wobbling around the Octagon as Yanez unloaded power shots, eventually dropping Kelley to his knees. The referee was apparently not yet satisfied that Kelley had learned his lesson, and allowed Yanez to step behind his overwhelmed prey to deliver several last, vicious left hooks to his helpless victim.

Yanez proceeded to fire a Diaz-approved double bird in Kelley's direction after the fight was finally stopped, adding an epic image to the already memorable beatdown.

Kelley would incredulously argue the stoppage was premature and even called for a rematch with Yanez, but the UFC had enough of Kelley and cut him instead to add even more salt to Kelley's wound.

As they say, karma's a bitch.

Runner Up: Pete Rodriguez

for putting racist Mike Jackson to sleep at UFC on ESPN+ 70

Mike Jackson is the epitome of a modern liberal.

This is a man who somehow managed to get multiple fights in the UFC despite the fact that the only real win of his MMA career is over CM Punk, a nearly 40 year old fake wrestler who sported the athleticism of a wet paper bag.

When you're good friends with UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard however, you get a lot of leeway - and man has Jackson used it.

Not only has LFA's photographer and videographer (his butt buddy Maynard used to be the LFA's president, which is how he got the gig) been given multiple UFC spots to showcase his (lack of) talent, but the outspoken liberal goofball has repeatedly hurled racist comments at others (including actual, accomplished fighters like Jake Shields) that would have gotten virtually anyone else cut immediately.

This is a man who claims that white people are the bane of existence (which is ironic given he's half white), vehemently supports BLM even after they razed businesses and had dozens of people killed for their backward rhetoric, and funnily enough, hates the police and says they must be defunded, yet when another fighter called him out in person and slapped him, he immediately called the cops crying "assault".

It's no surprise that Mike Jackson would once again be demolished when he faced any half-decent opposition (his last opponent Dean Barry sucked and he was lighting Mike Jackson up until he was disqualified for a nasty eye gouge), but 4-1 Pete Rodriguez really showed the difference between an entry-level UFC fighter and a club fighter that wouldn't even make it far on the regional circuit.

Jackson immediately had trouble with Rodriguez's power and pressure, and around 90 seconds in Jackson found himself trying to awkwardly dodge punches with his back against the cage. His poor defensive movement soon proved fatal as a nasty knee melted Jackson and left him out cold, slumped in the corner in rather brutal fashion.

It was definitely a great thing to see Jackson get his ass whooped again and hopefully marks the last time this particular "woke" racist sees any time inside the Octagon.

Honourable Mentions:

Worst Fight of the Year

Awarded to the worst fight of 2022. More weight is applied to bouts that were highly anticipated or had a lot on the line, such as title fights and grudge matches.

Winner: Rose Namajunas vs. Carla Esparza II

for the UFC women's strawweight title at UFC 274

This one was certainly an easy category to crown a "winner", and as anyone that has followed the UFC this year could easily tell you, this fight was a steaming pile of dog shit.

Though it was often in rather dull fashion (not to mention her run included three split or majority decisions), the first UFC strawweight champion Carla Esparza had finally worked her way back into title contention this past year courtesy of five straight victories; she also held a dominant win over reigning champion Rose Namajunas from way back in 2014 when she had claimed the inaugural UFC strawweight title.

Their prior history served as a great lead-in to their rematch at UFC 274, which was expected to be a one-sided beatdown given Namajunas' evolution as a fighter since their first meeting, her rather significant size advantage over the small wrestler, and her overall skill - she was after all coming off of back-to-back victories over Weili Zhang and also held two wins over Joanna Jędrzejczyk, the woman who had absolutely obliterated Esparza in Esparza's very first title defense.

Unfortunately for the fans who tuned into the women's strawweight title fight in Phoenix, the rematch was about as exciting as watching paint dry for a good half hour.

Both women seemed deathly afraid of opening up or doing, well, pretty much anything for the entire five round affair, with Carla doing slightly more as the two took part in one of the most tepid sparring matches in human history.

Despite the horrendous performance from both women, Rose's cornerman Pat Barry (who doubles as her groomer-oops, I mean husband) heaped praise upon her after each round, telling her how well she was doing and confirming that she was following the gameplan to a tee.

If the gameplan was to do nothing for twenty five minutes and lose your title via decision in one of the most boring fights of all time, then bravo Rose, you pulled it off perfectly.

At least fans in attendance and those who tuned into the UFC 274 pay-per-view could use the atrocious bout as a breather in between two fights that more than delivered, as this snoozefest was preceeded by Michael Chandler's horrific knockout of Tony Ferguson and was then followed by Charles Oliveira's one round war with Justin Gaethje.

Runner Up: Raufeon Stots vs Danny Sabotello

for the Bellator Bantamweight World Grand Prix Semi-Final and Interim Bantamweight Championship at Bellator 289

It's rare for Bellator to book a fight that actually gets some hype amongst fight fans these days, but thanks to a light scuffle and near-fight between the two outspoken bantamweight prospects during an interview on Ariel Helwani's podcast, the fight between Danny Sabotello and Raufeon Stots at Bellator 289 was getting quite a bit of traction.

The fact that there was a lot on the line as it was for Bellator's bantamweight interim title as well as it being the semi-final for Bellator's Bantamweight Grand Prix just raised the stakes, and combined with Stots' impressive last outing and Sabotello's easy-to-hate personality, Bellator had a decent amount of fans excited about the grudge match.

Unfortunately for them, the five round fight was a major stinker as Sabotello managed to score plenty of takedowns but did absolutely nothing with them, while Stots hit wet-blanket Sabotello whenever he could and ultimately did more fighting which earned him the nod on the judges' scorecards...

On two of them that is, as Douglas Crosby somehow scored all five rounds for Sabotello despite damage being the number one criteria and Danny doing absolutely none of it as he confused the Bellator cage as the site of a wrestling tournament. Keep reading for more on judging extraordinaire Douglas Crosby...

Honourable Mentions:

  • Jack Hermansson vs. Sean Strickland, UFC on ESPN+ 58

  • Thiago Santos vs. Magomed Ankalaev, UFC on ESPN+ 61

  • Belal Muhammad vs. Vicente Luque II, UFC on ESPN 34

  • Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker II for the middleweight title, UFC 271

  • Logan Storley vs. Michael Venom Page, Bellator 281

Worst UFC Fighter of the Year

Awarded to the worst fighter that competed in the world's premier MMA orgnization in 2022.

Winner: Mike Jackson

Welterweight, 1-2 (1 NC) in UFC and overall, went 1-1 in 2022

If you didn't skip past the section before last, you likely could have guessed that Mike Jackson would earn top honours for this particular "award".

Mike Jackson was literally brought into the UFC because his buddy and former boss at LFA, Mick Maynard, is a matchmaker for the UFC, and not because he is in any way a good fighter.

Way back in 2016, the UFC was attempting to build up toward pro wrestler Phillip Brooks AKA CM Punk's UFC debut, and knowing that the guy wasn't exactly a supreme athlete or any good at fighting, they had to bring someone in with relatively little MMA experience for him to fight.

The UFC of course stumbled upon Mickey Gall, a solid prospect at the time who had just a single pro bout but was good on the mic and had a personality that could turn him into a decent draw should he end up being the real deal. A win over Brooks would give him a ton of exposure, and well, pretty much anyone with any athleticism and some training would beat Brooks, so the UFC figured they might as well try and build someone out of Brooks' failure.

To sell the fight to fight fans, who no doubt knew who CM Punk was given his WWE fame, they needed to expose fans to Mickey Gall - and that's where Mike Jackson comes in.

With no pro experience, Jackson did however tout a 4-0 boxing record over club fighters in Texas, along with a 1-1 kickboxing record which gave him "legitimacy". Being Maynard's friend, he was given the chance to fight Mickey Gall on the prelims of a fight night, with the winner being promised a chance to welcome CM Punk to the Octagon later in the year.

Jackson's "slick" boxing worked wonders as he was dropped just moments into the fight and tapped to a rear naked choke just 45 seconds into the opening round, paving the way perfectly for Gall's showdown with Brooks.

Of course, Gall would go on to murder the comically terrible CM Punk in their fight (ironically, he did last about three times longer than Jackson did), but poor Phillip really wanted to prove he was better than the fans thought after that disastrous performance. In 2018 he would get that opportunity. His opponent? Mike Jackson of course.

As terrible as Jackson is, he is at least capable of being a low or mid-tier club fighter, which is levels above Phil Brooks' ceiling. This was made abundantly clear as Jackson easily battered Brooks on the feet, in the clinch, and on the ground for the full 15-minutes, taunting and playing with his overmatched victim instead of putting everyone out of their misery and finishing the fight.

His refusal to finish an overmatched opponent drew the ire of UFC president Dana White, who said not only would CM Punk never fight for the UFC again, but Jackson wouldn't either.

To add to the circus quality of it all, Jackson's decision win was later turned to a No Contest by the Illinois commission after Jackson tested positive for marijuana, making the only legitimate win of Jackson's career not even count as an official win on his record.

For years that appeared to be the end of Jackson's time in the UFC, but Mike was still under contract, and in 2022 he wanted to return - and thanks to his buddy Mick Maynard, return he did.

Jackson would face off against 4-1 Irish fighter Dean Barry in his return to the cage, who showed that he wasn't overly skilled himself despite the fact he was lighting up the comically low-level Mike Jackson. Late in the opening round however, he appeared well on his way to finishing Jackson with barrages of poorly aimed strikes, but then Barry ended up botching his UFC debut when he attempted to pull Jackson's eye right out of its socket.

It was a dirty move to pull even on someone like Mike Jackson, and Barry rightfully deserved to be disqualified for it - unfortunately, Barry's stupidity ended up gifting Jackson a win, and with the UFC very rarely ever cutting someone after a win, Jackson was granted another fight in the UFC. His increasingly racist comments on social media, including calling white people "snow roaches", went completely ignored by the UFC - it pays to have friends in high places after all.

For his next (and hopefully, last) Octagon appearance, Jackson faced off with another 4-1 fighter, this time the much more solid Pete Rodriguez, who quickly dispatched Jackson with a perfectly placed knee.

Not content with taking L's inside the cage, Jackson would continuously pick a fight on Twitter with Jake Shields, calling the respected former StrikeForce champion a "Nazi" and mocking his "white fragility" on multiple occasions - to the point that Jake Shields challenged Jackson when he saw him at the UFC Performance Institute.

Of course Jackson wanted no part of Shields in an actual fight, and hilariously whimpered at bystanders to get Shields off of him as he easily mounted and slapped the actual racist in the room. The BLM and Defund Police activist immediately called the police after the altercation and continued to call Shields a Nazi, clearly proving he hasn't learned his lesson. Here's hoping the racist bum doesn't come anywhere near the Octagon in 2023 or beyond.

Runner Up: "Smilin" Sam Alvey

Middle/Light Heavyweight, 33-18-1 (1 NC) overall, 10-13-1 in UFC, 0-2 in 2022

Poor Smilin' Sam.

At one point he was a decent mid-level fighter in the hilariously weird middleweight division, a lanky counter striker that loved his southpaw check hook and had a penchant for being in dull, extremely close fights if he wasn't able to knock someone out early.

Through the first four years of his UFC career, Alvey sported a respectable 10-5 record with the promotion with his last two victories coming up at 205 pounds, and half of his victories came via finish (four by strikes, one via a guillotine choke).

Everything changed however when he went to Brazil in September 2018 to face an aging legend in Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, better known as "Lil Nog".

Though he had his moments, Alvey ended up getting demolished in the second round by the declining legend, ultimately beginning what would be a historic run of losses.

Alvey would lose his next bout by TKO as well against Jimmy Crute, then he lost his next two fights by decision (albeit one was a close split decision to Ryan Spann that many felt he won); in October of 2020, he would get close to turning things around when he fought to a split draw with Da Un Jung.

Though he kept his trademark goofy smile through it all, Alvey didn't have a whole lot to smile about as returned to middleweight and was subsequently choked out cold by Julian Marquez. Winless in his last six bouts, fans were sure that would be the last of Smilin' Sam in the UFC, but thanks to his willingness to keep busy and take on short notice bouts, the UFC matchmakers kept slotting him into events.

A decision loss in an ugly fight against Wellington Turman ended Alvey's 2021 run at 0-2, leaving his record in his last seven fights 0-6-1. Miraculously, Alvey was given another fight, this time up at 205 against prospect Brendan Allen early in 2022; Allen choked him out rather easily in the second round.

Not knowing when to call it a day, Alvey again returned to the cage this past August, getting smashed in under two minutes by Michal Oleksiejczuk.

Winless in his last nine bouts, Alvey was finally released from the UFC roster in August, but the real question is how he managed to get so many chances after most fighters get cut after two or three losses. Normally that kind of treatment is reserved for stars, which Alvey certainly isn't - perhaps he was a close friend of Mick Maynard too?

(Dis)honourable Mentions:

  • Harry Hunsucker (7-6 overall, 0-3 in UFC, 0-1 in 2022)

  • Greg Hardy (7-5 1NC overall, 4-5 1NC in UFC, 0-1 in 2022)

Dumbest Gameplan of the Year

Awarded to the fighter that executed the worst gameplan in a fight in 2022.

Winner: TJ Dillashaw

for attempting to win a world title with only one working arm at UFC 280

It's one thing for a fighter to enter a fight injured - it's a part of the sport unfortunately, and every fighter typically has at least some minor injury by the time they step into a cage to earn their paycheck.

It's often a tough call to make, but major injuries that happen right before a fight is about to happen don't necessarily mean the fight will be called off - if the fighter can hide it well enough, or it isn't too dangerous to stop them from competing, they will often opt to tough it out and do their best to win regardless, even if their ability to do so is compromised. After all, it's better to go out and collect a paycheck than to get nothing after pouring months of time, effort, and money into a training camp.

It's an entirely different thing when a major injury happens months before a scheduled fight, but in the case of TJ Dillashaw's title shot against Aljamain Sterling, TJ knew he severely injured his shoulder six months before he would step into the cage and chose to fight anyway, undoubtedly doing even more damage to his shoulder in the process.

His shoulder was clearly compromised to the point of one of his limbs being largely useless - rather than get surgery and potentially be out for a year, TJ instead opted to hide the injury and take one last paycheck before retiring.

Either that, or he was deluded enough to believe that he could beat any elite bantamweight, let alone the division's champion, with only one arm.

Added to the stupidity surrounding his decision to rob fans of a proper title fight was the fact he didn't deserve the championship fight in the first place. Dillashaw had won just one fight in the past three years, having been suspended for two of those years due to his infamous EPO usage, with the lone win being a controversial split decision over Cory Sandhagen in the middle of 2021.

Rather than giving someone like Jose Aldo the title shot, who has just as big a name but was coming off of three straight victories over the likes of Marlon Vera, Pedro Munhoz, and Rob Font, the UFC in their infinite wisdom gifted the disgraced cheater the shot instead. As a result, not only did it rob a legend of his deserved last crack at a title, but it ended up blowing up in their faces as Dillashaw's arm popped out of its socket just moments into the highly anticipated bantamweight title matchup at UFC 280.

With one arm that he couldn't even move properly, TJ could do very little to keep Aljamain off of him, and that ultimately ended up making the fight even more pathetic - the champion, who already wasn't exactly the darling of MMA fans, showed he was extremely lacking in terms of killer instinct and took nearly nine full minutes to TKO a fighter who could only use one arm to defend himself.

To put that in perspective, take a look at how quickly the Korean Zombie was finished by Jose Aldo when he was put in a similar situation, with his shoulder popping out of place during their title fight years ago.

TJ's decision to enter the cage at UFC 280 was simply put an embarassment and robbed fans of what they were promised, not to mention robbed other, more deserving contenders from getting an opportunity that was instead wasted on a proven cheater that ended up screwing over the promotion. But hey, at least he and his team didn't try to make bank by betting on his opponent...

Runner Up: Sean Strickland

for trying to play patty-cake with Alex Pereira at UFC 276

No one has ever claimed that Sean Strickland is smart, but wow, he really couldn't have made it any easier for Alex Pereira to knock him out at their highly anticipated showdown this past July.

His claims that Pereira wasn't "anything special" on the feet could easily be dismissed as trash talk leading up to their fight; he claimed Pereira was just a left hook and flying knee, and that there was no reason he couldn't beat him in a striking match. Surely he couldn't actually believe that though? Right?

Despite surely holding a considerable grappling advantage against the inexperienced (in MMA at least) Brazilian kickboxing great, Strickland decided to try his hand at striking with the heavy handed knockout artist and at the very least, stood by what he said in the pre-fight packages by not taking the threat that stood across from him seriously at all.

Not only that, but he tried to play his signature patty-cake sparring-style game with Pereira, where he largely hand fights and looks to land jabs while doing little else. Even Alex seemed surprised Strickland wasn't trying to set up any takedowns, or even trying something different on the feet to try and surprise him - but even after two minutes ticked by, Strickland hadn't even feinted a takedown or done anything besides his usual point-fighting.

Strickland repeatedly pawed and tried to catch Pereira's jabs, bringing his hand away from his face and leaving himself wide open for the "only" thing he claimed Pereira had going for him - the left hook. You'd think, having acknowledged that Pereira did indeed have a nice left hook, that Strickland would have tried to do something to counter or defend against Pereira's left?

No, Strickland genuinely thought he could play patty cake and trade jabs en route to a decision against one of the most dangerous and skilled kickboxers on the planet.

That idea got squashed about halfway through the opening round as Strickland ended up being dropped by the very left hook that he dismissed in the weeks leading up to their showdown.

As Strickland attempted to get up, he was dropped again by a running right hand that rolled his eyes back. The referee mercifully saved him from further damage (and embarassment), with Pereira earning a crack at his rival and middleweight champ Israel Adesanya with the easy victory.

Strickland meanwhile had a six fight win-streak snapped and really gave himself no chance of winning a fight that, if he had committed or even half-heartedly attempted to grapple, he very well could have won or at least would not have been so thoroughly embarassed in.

But hey, that same style only narrowly lost him a close split decision to Jared Cannonier last month, so why bother fixing what can still work against plenty of other middleweights?

(Dis)honourable Mentions:

  • Rose Namajunas threw her title away by doing absolutely nothing against Carla Esparza for five rounds

  • Grappling savant Chase Hooper stood and tried to bang with Steve Garcia, an unwise choice as it led to him being dropped not once, not twice, but thrice in 90 seconds before the ref saved him

  • Andrei Arlovski's ancient self tried to trade with Marcos Rogerio de Lima, got immediately dropped and later submitted by the Brazilian

  • Jake Matthews stood with Matthew Semelsberger and got dropped in each round, apparently forgetting that he is the superior grappler and showed it in the final few minutes when it was already way too late

Robbery of the Year

Awarded to the judges who most cleary robbed a fighter of their victory in 2022.

Winners: Douglas Crosby, Chris Lee, and Ron McCarthy

All 3 judges gifted Paddy Pimblett the victory over Jared Gordon at UFC 282

This one was just plain bad, and given Paddy's starpower, it raised all sorts of accusations from fans at the UFC for "fixing" or "paying off" the judges. It certainly didn't help when Dana White effectively blamed the decision on Gordon for coasting in the third despite the fact that the judges gave him that round on two of their scorecards.

For anyone outside of the most diehard Pimblett fans (it's sad to even acknowledge they exist, but they're out there), the fight showed Pimblett's utter lack of striking defense as he ate heavy left hooks from the opening exchange onward and failed to land much effective offense of his own, most of his strikes landing on Gordon's forearms rather than actually finding anything worth hitting.

Outside of a few shots near the end of the second round that shouldn't have been enough to sway the round in Pimblett's favour, Gordon was easily in control of the fight and landing the cleaner, more effective shots, and also mixed in a few takedowns where he was able to control and land shots on Paddy in the second round.

The third round was a very dull and uneventful round as Gordon mostly just held Pimblett against the fence, with Paddy landing a few shots here and there - it was the one round where, despite Gordon's "control time", one could award Paddy the round given he was the only one that landed any strikes and thus scored more damage.

When the decision was being read and all three judges had scored the fight 29-28, it appeared clear that Gordon would emerge the victor - instead, Bruce Buffer announced Paddy as the winner, and Joe Rogan's reaction really says it all.

Given that judges are horrendously incompetent in combat sports and always have been, it shouldn't come as a surprise to see another bad decision, but it remains downright baffling as to how one can watch the fight and claim Paddy won two rounds based on the scoring criteria.

The fans (and given Paddy's popularity, it should probably be biased in his favour, not Gordon's) clearly scored the fight for Gordon, and the media overwhelmingly scored the fight for Gordon, with just one out of 24 media members who posted their scorecards having Paddy as the victor, and around half of them have all three rounds to Gordon to boot.

Judges Ron McCarthy and Douglas Crosby both scored the first two rounds for Paddy which is rather inexcuseable, while Chris Lee scored the first round for Gordon and the next two for Paddy.

Douglas Crosby's involvement in yet another horrendous decision drew the most attention given not only his long history of terrible judging and highly questionable relationships to fighters, but the fact that just one night before, he made history for being the only dissenting judge in a split decision to award all five rounds of a fight to the loser of the decision.

He scored a fight between Raufeon Stots and Danny Sabotello at Bellator 289 for Danny Sabotello, who did nothing but attempt to lay and pray for five rounds while Stots actually managed to do damage and land strikes, winning on the other two judges' scorecards while Crosby incredulously scored all five rounds for Sabotello. To face no repurcussions for such an egregious scorecard, and then the very next night be one of the judges that completely robbed a fighter of a deserved win, is just plain criminal.

Unfortunately, it's unlikely anything will be done thanks to the fact that anything the government runs is and will always be corrupt and incompetent, but if the outrage stays long enough it may be enough to get Crosby banned from the bigger states at least. Fingers crossed.

Runner Ups: Douglas Crosby and Michael Bell

These two gave Daniel Rodriguez the victory over Li Jingliang at UFC 279

Poor Li Jingliang.

Originally scheduled to fight aging legend Tony Ferguson in a welterweight bout at UFC 279, everything began to fall apart for the "Leech" during fight week in Vegas.

First, the fan favourite splurged on a custom-made suit that he was wholesomely excited to show off at the pre-fight press conference - unfortunately, a backstage "scuffle" between Kevin Holland and Khamzat Chimaev led to the UFC canceling the press conference entirely, leaving poor Jingliang with no one to show off his new suit to.

Then, after main eventer Chimaev missed weight by a whopping 7 pounds, the entire card was reshuffled - ultimately, Jingliang's showcase bout against Ferguson was canned and instead, Jingliang found himself taking on Daniel Rodriguez, who was scheduled for a catchweight bout and weighed in at 180 pounds, a full ten pounds over what the Leech had weighed in for.

Proving why fans adore him, Jingliang took the new matchup in stride, and while ultimately the fight didn't prove nearly as exciting as it was hoped to be (a new opponent on less than 24 hours for both fighters surely didn't help), after three rounds it appeared to most viewers that the Leech had done enough to get the nod on the judges' scorecards; though D-Rod scored plenty with his jab, Li had landed the cleaner, harder shots throughout and most fans had him winning at least two rounds, if not all three.

Judges Michael Bell and the afforementioned Douglas Crosby (surprise, surprise) however disagreed, scoring the fight in Rodriguez's favour while Ron McCarthy was the lone judge that appeared to see what the rest of us witnessed.

21 of the 23 media members who scored the fight had Li the victor as well, but ultimately Jingliang was announced as the "loser" and what was supposed to be a big weekend for the Leech ended up being a ton of wasted effort thanks to some shoddy judging.

(Dis)honourable Mentions:

  • Josh Emmett (Split) over Calvin Kattar at UFC on ESPN 37 (Sal D'Amato & Chris Lee)

  • Mateusz Gamrot over Arman Tsarukyan at UFC on ESPN 38 (Sal D'Amato, Chris Lee, and Ron McCarthy)

  • Jamie Mullarkey (Split) over Michael Johnson at UFC on ESPN 39 (Derek Cleary & Anthony Maness)

  • Draw (Split) between Jan Blachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev (Mike Bell had Jan winning, Sal D'Amato scored a draw, both were bad cards)

Worst UFC Matchmaking of the Year

Awarded to the fight the UFC put together that made the least sense (due to sporting, entertainment, or other reasons) in 2022.

Winner: Frankie Edgar's Sacrifice in New York

the UFC gave Frankie Edgar plenty of brain trauma as a parting gift for the retiring legend

There's a time-honoured tradition in combat sports to sacrifice old, fading legends to the prospects of the new generation as they wind down their epic careers.

As the saying goes, you must "defeat a legend in order to become a legend", and thus, hungry young contenders are paired up with the stars of yesteryear so that the young guns can score impressive victories and make a name for themselves off of the more well-known stars before they ride off into the sunset.

It's a practice as old as combat sports, and the UFC are certainly no stranger to these promotional tactics. What's really ugly however, is to continue making those kinds of matches even after several rising stars have already brutally made their names off of an aging legend.

Frankie Edgar is one of the most beloved figures in MMA thanks to his indomitable spirit, his ridiculous toughness, his relentless pace, and of course his overall skill in the sport of MMA.

The former lightweight champion and featherweight title contender had done and seen it all in the sport, but like most combat sports legends, he didn't know when to ride off into the sunset.

A solid debut at bantamweight, which given how he had cut little (if any) weight throughout his career at lightweight and then featherweight, arguably should have been his weight class all along, had Edgar believing he could make one last title run in a third weight class.

Unfortunately those hopes were dashed emphatically when Cory Sandhagen knocked Edgar out cold in just 28 seconds back in early 2021.

The brutal finish marked the third time in as many years that the ridiculously durable Edgar had been stopped by strikes, with Brian Ortega, Chan Sung Jung, and now Sandhagen taking him out when he had previously been able to withstand hellacious beatings without skipping a beat.

Despite his clear decline, the UFC paired him up with dangerous contender Marlon "Chito" Vera late last year, where once again Edgar was brutally dispatched, this time via a front kick to the face.

Edgar wanted one last farewell inside the Octagon however, and decided to make one final walk in Madison Square Garden. As a New Jersey native, Edgar would receive a hero's welcome in New York City, and historic MSG provided an iconic location to serve as Edgar's last ever night under the bright lights of the UFC.

After having already put over two rising stars in Cory Sandhagen and Marlon Vera in the last year alone, surely the UFC could have matched him up with a less dangerous fight for his final Octagon appearance? Perhaps a scrap with a fellow legend for old times' sake, or at the very least a stylistically winnable fight for an aging vet like Edgar?

Nope, the UFC opted to squeeze one last vicious highlight reel from the fan favourite, pitting him against surging prospect Chris Gutierrez, who was riding a seven-fight unbeaten streak. His powerful kicking game and impressive size didn't exactly pair well with the perennially undersized Edgar who now didn't sport the ridiculous durability of his youth, and sure enough the fight ended up crushing the spirit of MMA fans around the globe.

It took Gutierrez just two minutes to knock Edgar unconscious and silence the crowd at MSG, as obvious an outcome as possible to predict in the wild world of MMA.

After having given the UFC so much over the years, and after having already been sacrificed to the next generations on multiple occasions, Edgar deserved a better sendoff than that. Unfortunately, the UFC seems intent to keep screwing over the legends that helped build the company and the sport, and the company shows no signs of changing course anytime soon.

Runner Up: TJ Dillashaw's Gifted Title Shot

the UFC handed disgraced cheater Dillashaw a title fight off of 1 controversial win in 3 years

This is one I've spoken about at length already, not to mention it was already highlighted in this very article.

Gifting TJ Dillashaw a crack at the bantamweight title despite multiple other more deserving contenders was ridiculous - he was out for over two years thanks to his EPO usage, and his single win in the past three years came in a controversial split decision more than a year before he'd actually step into the cage for his title fight.

It was even more asinine that the UFC granted Dillashaw the shot given that a legend like Jose Aldo had bested three top ten bantamweights in a row after his failed bid for the bantamweight strap, which was itself an epic war with Petr Yan.

Though the UFC has always put business first when it comes to doling out title shots, even in that realm the decision didn't make much sense - with TJ's high-profile cheating and lack of activity, he was hardly a major draw and with Aldo's resurgence and activity came plenty of fan support; it's hard to imagine that Dillashaw sold any more pay-per-views at UFC 280 than Jose Aldo would have if he had been granted the shot, and it seems highly likely that Aldo would have in fact brought in more viewers.

It was only fitting that the UFC's ridiculous decision ended up backfiring spectacularly as Dillashaw showed up in no condition to fight and continued to pop his shoulder in and out throughout the nearly nine minutes his last title fight lasted. The disappointment of the lackluster fight not only backfired for the UFC, but it also made an already unpopular champion in Aljamain Sterling look bad given that he took a ridiculously long time to beat a one-armed man who could barely defend himself.

Of course some may say Aldo wouldn't have done better given that he lost a boring fight against Sterling's training partner Merab Dvalishvili, but the UFC put that fight on at altitude which sapped the already limited cardio of an aging Aldo and he still managed to land the only damaging strikes of the fight - even if he did lose against Sterling, he would have put on a better show than Dillashaw did at UFC 280, and unlike the disgraced Dillashaw, the former pound-for-pound king deserved one last crack at UFC gold.

(Dis)honourable Mentions:

  • Feeding the UK's rising star Meatball Molly McCann to Erin Blanchfield

  • Feeding Chase Sherman to grappler Alexander Romano

  • Pitting Jose Aldo against grappler Merab high altitude

  • Tyson Pedro being gifted a squash match against 7-5 Harry Hunsucker

  • Booking Jan Blachowicz against Magomed Ankalaev for the vacant light heavyweight title instead of having rightful top contender Glover Teixeira fight for the belt; ironically the fight ended up being a boring draw and Glover will face Jamahal Hill for the belt in January instead

Biggest Cheater of the Year

Awarded to the fighter (or coach/other figure in MMA) that cheated in the worst or most impactful way in 2022.

Winner: James Krause

for his "alleged" betting shenanigans and potential fight fixing

First I want to point out that the allegations against James Krause, at this point, are just that - allegations. He has yet to be found guilty (or even been charged) for any wrongdoing.

That being said, if you've followed the Krause gambling controversy, you know that things do not look good at all for the former UFC fighter and previously highly regarded MMA coach and Glory MMA gym owner.

Prior to this year, Krause seemed to have found his calling as a coach - although he had a respectable and rather solid run as a lightweight (and later welterweight) in the UFC, posting an impressive 9-4 record with the promotion - it was his transition to coaching that really made Krause a well-known figure in the MMA community.

Plenty of fighters heaped praise upon Krause as he began to work with more and more talent, from former flyweight champion Brandon Moreno to UFC prospects like David Onama and Jeff Molina. With his growing stable of fighters, Krause became a staple at UFC events and it looked like he would become one of the more prominent figures in the sport for the foreseeable future as his gym kept expanding and growing its roster.

Things began to take an odd turn however when Krause kept advertising his betting podcast and paid subscriptions that would give subscribers access to his picks for each event; while fighters and other MMA figures promoting betting sites is certainly nothing new, to promote his betting picks while actively coaching dozens of UFC fighters was certainly cause for concern.

Even if not technically illegal, a coach for a major gym would understandably have what would be considered by many as "insider information" that would certainly benefit them in predicting fights; say if they're aware of a fighter's injuries, or rumours that so-and-so had a bad camp, etc.

What was even more concerning was his posts on social media (all of which have since been wiped) that were promoting his betting services - not only was he guaranteeing profit, but he was asking people to provide him with their betting accounts that he would bet with in their name, and was even specifically asking for people with foreign accounts.

Simply put, he was openly advertising what appeared to constitute things like wire fraud and tax evasion. Not only that, but he was drawing even more attention to these, shall we say, questionable endeavours, by regularly talking about it in interviews, even claiming on Ariel Helwani's podcast that he made more money by betting on fights than he does by coaching fighters.

With fans raising concerns over Krause's activities and it becoming a hot topic amongst the MMA community, the UFC introduced new rules as part of the fighters' code of conduct, effectively banning fighters and their corners from betting on any MMA matches (most other major professional leagues have similar rules in place as well to prevent such conflicts of interest).

This didn't appear to stop Krause however, and it all came to a head at an otherwise forgettable fight night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on November 5th.

MMA gamblers (along with gambling watch-dog groups that alerted the UFC and the FBI) noticed that day some extremely curious activity with one bout in particular: Darrick Minner vs. Shayilan Nuerdanbieke.

The fight wasn't exactly a highly anticipated one and as such shouldn't have seen a lot of action, with Minner being a slight favourite in the week leading up to the event. However, hours before the fight took place, suddenly scores of bets came in heavy on Minner's opponent, Nuerdanbieke, turning him into a heavy favourite thanks to millions of dollars coming in on the Chinese fighter.

Minner of course was coached by James Krause, and the reason for the massive influx of bets of Nuerdanbieke soon became clear.

Just moments into their featherweight fight, Minner threw a body kick and stumbled as his foot returned to the floor, his leg clearly injured. He attempted to throw another kick and retreated on his unsteady leg, where he would eat a flying knee and be TKO'd moments later.

Although fighters attempting to fight through injuries is certainly not rare, they typically aren't dumb enough to go and bet against themselves (or get others to do so on their behalf) knowing they can't win, but all indications appear to be that this was the case with Minner and his coach Krause.

What I'd say are reliable rumours paint a pretty clear picture as to what happened: Krause's betting grift had pissed off "investors" after a few bad picks put them in the red, so Krause promised them a guaranteed payoff if they bet against his pupil Minner. The extent of Minner's involvement isn't exactly known, but rumour has it that Krause convinced Minner to fight instead of pull out of the fight and that he would give him a cut of the profits off of their bets on his opponent to make it worth his while, which would effectively make it a fixed fight even though Minner's opponent had no idea any of this was happening.

How much of this rumour is true or provable in court is another question, but what we do know is that Minner was injured going into the fight and clearly shouldn't have stepped into the cage, and that major bets were placed on his opponent hours before the fight that indicate insider knowledge of his injury.

With the FBI leading an investigation into the situation, it certainly doesn't look good for the parties involved and the UFC has already cut Darrick Minner from their roster, banned James Krause from their events or from coaching/cornering their fighters, and stated that anyone still being coached by Krause would not be allowed to fight in the UFC.

Several commissions also instituted bans on Krause's involvment in coaching/cornering any licensed fighters, which also led to multiple states (and provinces in Canada) banning bets for fights involving Krause-trained fighters, or in the case of Alberta and Ontario in Canada, bets on the UFC in general until the situation is fully investigated.

Another Krause fighter, Jeff Molina, was also suspended by Nevada for suspicious betting activity, indicating that Molina may have personally placed a bet against his teammate Minner as well.

As a result of the suspensions and his ban from coaching, Krause sold his Glory MMA gym and its affiliates as well as his stake in Kansas City Fighting Alliance, a regional MMA promotion, and has ceased coaching to allow his former students to continue to compete in the sport.

Time will tell if everything he's accused of is accurate and can be proven, but things certainly don't look good for Krause and he's likely looking at rather significant jail time - the ramifications for his alleged betting shenanigans have not only destroyed his career and reputation, but have likely destroyed Minner's career, and possibly a bright flyweight prospect's as well in Jeff Molina, not to mention they have been a massive black eye for the UFC.

Runner Up: Askar Mozharov

for getting into the UFC with a completely fraudulent record

It used to be common to see fighters with clearly fake claims and nonsense records back in the early days of the UFC - after all, the sport was in its infancy, the internet was still a relatively novel thing, and there wasn't even a clear definition of what constituted a professional MMA match.

Of course, in 2022, with several websites dedicated to tracking fighter stats and records along with video evidence for (almost) every bout, it's very rare to see a fighter's "official" record be proven fake.

The closest this typically gets is through "padding", which is common in smaller promotions and is criminally overdone in boxing - essentially fighters will purposely take on the worst opposition possible in order to "pad" their records with a lot of wins and finishes despite the fact they're fighting athletes with significantly less skill or experience that they really shouldn't be fighting.

As for a record that contains "wins" that never took place, and doesn't show losses where there's video evidence to show that they exist? That's virtually unheard of in modern MMA in a big promotion, let alone the UFC, but Ukrainian fighter Askar Mozharov managed to not only fudge his record, but used it to help him get signed to the biggest promotion in the sport.

Riding a high of a few (actual, verified) knockouts over regional fighters in Ukraine, Askar Mozharov's seemingly "legit" record at the time was supposedly 25-7 and his recent performances, combined with what appeared to be a good record, earned him a call up to the UFC where he would face a proper prospect in 11-3 Alonzo Menifield.

Unfortunately for Mozharov, his fake record would soon be exposed by the diligent MMA statisticians at Sherdog, who performed a full audit of Mozharov's past fights and presented their findings - his "official" record was updated to be a much less impressive 18-13, with the team at Sherdog finding Mozharov and his handlers had hidden losses from his record and claimed wins in fights that never actually took place.

Despite the findings, it was a bit too late for the UFC to cancel the booking and so instead Mozharov was still given a chance to prove everyone wrong. Mozharov made his debut for the promotion in June, where the Ukrainian would get absolutely mauled by Menifield and knocked out in a crucifix in the opening round.

The UFC would then part ways with the fraudulent Ukrainian "prospect", but the story didn't end there - his now 18-14 record was again revised shortly after, as several fights that Mozharov had on his record at events Sherdog was having trouble finding (given the war in Ukraine, promoters were understandably slow to respond to questions) were found and the events Mozharov claimed to have competed on did not feature his involvement.

As a result, the 28 year old's record was once again updated and he had three more wins removed from his ledger, thus leaving him with a record barely over .500 at 15-14 (as of writing).

It's kind of insane that a fighter was able to lie his way into the UFC in 2022, but at least in this case it ended up making for a humourous story and the cheater got his ass kicked. It seems oddly fitting he was Ukrainian given how a certain Ukrainian leader has been lying to the world to pad his pockets with money from the west...

(Dis)honourable Mentions:

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