The UFC has seen 9 new champions in 2022, including Alex Pereira’s win over Israel Adesanya to claim the UFC Middleweight Championship at UFC 281.
“Poatan’s” win over “The Last Stylebender” continues a trend we’ve seen this year of champions losing their titles in the fifth round after dominating the fight. Lwanele Poswayo looks at the 9 new UFC champions in 2022 so far.
1. Deiveson Figueiredo (Flyweight Champion)
Brazil’s Deiveson Figueiredo defeated then-champion, Brandon Moreno, in their trilogy fight at UFC 270 in the first PPV of 2022. Figueiredo won by unanimous decision after Moreno had beaten him to claim the belt in June last year.
Their three fights have been absolute bangers which is why the UFC has scheduled them to fight for a record fourth time at UFC 283 in Brazil early next year.
2. Carla Esparza (Strawweight Championship)
The two-time Women’s Strawweight Champion recently lost her title last Sunday at UFC 281. This came after she had defeated Rose Namajunas by split decision at UFC 274 in May of this year. Her win was overshadowed by the way she won the fight with some UFC fans calling it “the most boring title fight in UFC history”.
Despite that, Carla Esparza made history by becoming a two-time UFC Strawweight Champion by defeating the same opponent she beat to become the first-ever Strawweight Champion in 2014.
3. Jiri Prochazka (Light Heavyweight Champion)
Jiri Prochazka submitted Glover Teixeira to become the new UFC Light Heavyweight Champion at UFC 275 in what many consider (including myself) to be the greatest title fight in the promotion’s history. This was the first of three title fights this year where the champion lost his or her belt in the 5th round after dominating/winning the fight.
The fight between these two warriors was so good that the UFC booked an immediate rematch which will main event the UFC 282 PPV on the 10th of December in Las Vegas.
4. Brandon Moreno (Interim Flyweight Champion)
After losing his Flyweight title earlier this year, Moreno went on to fight Kai Kara-France for the interim belt at UFC 277 with Deiveson Figueiredo sidelined through injury. “The Assassin Baby” defeated the Kiwi by TKO after dropping him with a vicious kick to the body.
His win against Kai means that for the first time in UFC history, we will see a “quadrilogy” with Brandon Moreno set to square off against Figueiredo at UFC 283 in Rio de Janeiro next year.
5. Amanda Nunes (Bantamweight Champion)
The main event of UFC 277 was a rematch of one of the biggest upsets in UFC history as Amanda Nunes looked to reclaim her Bantamweight crown against Julianna Peña. The fight looked nothing like their first fight as “The Lioness” outclassed, outpowered and outthought Peña to become a two-time UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion with a dominant decision win.
6. Leon Edwards (Welterweight Champion)
Arguably the biggest upset of the year came at UFC 278 where Leon “Rocky” Edwards finished the then pound-for-pound king Kamaru Usman in the last minute of the fifth round. Usman was winning the fight heading into the final round before Edwards set up a beautiful head kick sending Usman to the canvas.
It was a real-life “Rocky” story as Edwards looked down and out before shocking the world and handing Usman his second loss in his MMA career. He then delivered one of the best post-fight interviews in UFC history.
7. Islam Makhachev (Lightweight Champion)
Last month Islam Makhachev submitted the greatest submission artist in UFC history Charles Oliviera at UFC 280. It was the most intriguing fight that the UFC could put together in 2022 (if you’re not an Adesanya or Pereira fan). Makhachev’s win meant that the Lightweight Championship was heading back to Dagestan after his coach and UFC Hall of Famer Khabib Nurmagomedov retired and vacated the title back in 2020.
His win against Oliviera sets up a Super Fight against the Featherweight champion and pound-for-pound king Alexander Volkanovski. The fight will take place at UFC 284 in Perth, Australia.
8. Zhang Weili (Strawweight Champion)
China’s Zhang Weili became a two-time Women’s strawweight champion after submitting Carla Esparza at UFC 281 this past weekend. Many believed that Weili was the uncrowned champion and she proved it by finishing Esparza in the second round with a rear-naked choke.
9. Alex Pereira (Middleweight Champion)
“He did it again”. Alex “Poatan” Pereira defeated Israel Adesanya for the third time (first time in MMA) via TKO in the main event of UFC 281. Pereira also handed Adesanya his first loss in the middleweight division after “The Last Stylebender” had run through the division, defending his championship five times.
A rematch is certainly on the cards considering how dominant Adesanya has been as a champion. Adesanya’s defeat continued this year’s trend of UFC champions losing their belts in the last round from winning positions.