This year produced several outrageously entertaining fights.
Compiling this list was a reminder of the number of phenomenal bouts that took place over the past year. An entirely different list could have been crafted just off the fights were left off, such as brilliant encounters like Brandon Moreno-Deiveson Figueiredo and Calvin Kattar-Giga Chikadze from January, Arman Tsarukyan-Mateusz Gamrot from June, Charles Oliveira-Justin Gaethje from May, and Stephen Thompson-Kevin Holland from earlier this month. Even without Conor McGregor, Jon Jones, and Stipe Miocic, there was no shortage of greatness in the cage throughout 2022.
The top fights of the year resonated for their intensity, physicality, and high stakes. Title bouts have the advantage of an extra two rounds, which factored into the final two spots on the list. While there was only one title fight chosen, it was a incredible 25-minute display of the fighting spirit.
Here are the top five fights of the year:
5. Matt Schnell vs. Su Mudaerji
UFC on ABC: July 16 at the UBS Arena in Elmont, New York
By the end of the fight, with the canvas dripping in blood, this could have easily been confused with a crime scene. Matt Schnell used a triangle choke to submit Su Mudaerji deep into the second round, completing a fight that clocked in at only nine minutes and 44 seconds of pure violence.
Remarkably, Mudaerji competed with a torn ACL. His jabs and elbows were vicious, and it clearly had an effect on Schnell, who could not remember getting hit with an elbow–even though he was absolutely drilled with them–in his post-fight interview. In addition to one of the best fights of the year, it was also an amazing comeback by Schnell after enduring such intense punishment.
4. Ciryl Gane vs. Tai Tuivasa
UFC Fight Night: Sept. 3 at Accor Arena in Paris, France
This battle of heavyweights came as advertised. Tai Tuivasa unleashed his power early and made an immediate impact, knocking down Ciryl Gane. Aware of the imminent danger of Tuivsa’s striking, Gane fought his way back to his feet and then started throwing at Tuivasa.
Gane landed more consistently, and once he got to Tuivasa’s body, the end was inevitable. It was a nonstop, violent affair between two men with extremely heavy hands, and an important test for Gane after suffering his only blemish when he lost to Francis Ngannou.
3. Khamzat Chimaev vs. Gilbert Burns
UFC 273: April 9 in Jacksonville, Florida at Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena
The only problem with this fight? The winner.
Gilbert Burns made a convincing argument that he won the second and third rounds of his bout against Khamzat Chimaev, especially in the waning moments of the third round. Chimaev won the first and controlled a healthy portion of the third, but this could have easily been awarded to Burns.
It was must-see viewing when Burns dropped Chimaev with his right hand. That was shocking because, for the first time, it made Chimaev look human. Before and after, that has been a rare sight.
Even though he didn’t win the fight, Burns put a dent in Chimaev’s aura.
2. Michael Chandler vs. Dustin Poirier
UFC 281: Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York
This fight was, in a word, spectacular.
For a second straight year, Michael Chandler put on an absolute show at Madison Square Garden. Unfortunately for Chandler, it was another loss. But it was a sight to see, featuring an immensely compelling opening round.
This bout highlighted the best of Chandler’s explosiveness and Poirier’s elite ability to finish an opponent. Equal parts MMA and pro wrestling–plus blood, brawling, and takedowns, this fell just short of fight of the year–but it was incredibly close.
1. Glover Teixeira vs. Jiri Prochazka
UFC 275: June 12 at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore
Brutality, technique, and honor were all on display as Jiri Prochazka defeated Glover Teixeira to win the light heavyweight title.
Prochazka, who was losing the fight on the scorecards, ripped away the victory by forcing Teixeira to tap with only 28 seconds remaining in the fifth round. He entered the fifth and final round in desperate need of a finish, and that was exactly how it ended.
Teixeira ate ferocious shot after ferocious shot, sacrificing his own chin and body to set up his next takedown attempt. He added constant excitement with his mounts, pummeling Prochazka with his ground-and-pound. A meaningful sequence also took place as the fifth round started, as Teixeira told Prochazka that he had earned his respect.
There was nonstop striking, and the stakes could not have been higher with the title on the line. It ended in a magnificent manner when Prochazka locked in his rear-naked choke, making history as the UFC’s first-ever champ from the Czech Republic.