It was a year of shock and awe inside the Octagon, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld as he selects his top 10 Ultimate Fighting Championship knockouts of 2022.
The world’s premier mixed martial arts promotion put a bow on another banger year at the weekend, prompting my annual look back at the most phenomenal fight-finishing strikes over the last 12 months.
The year saw stunning championship upsets that turned the sport upside down, legends going out on their shields and fighters forcing their way into the spotlight with beautiful acts of brutality.
Without further ado, here are my top 10 UFC knockouts of 2022:
10: Liver Queen
Irene Aldana ended her tit-for-tat catchweight tilt against Macy Chiasson at UFC 279 in September on a historic note as she pulled off the first-ever up-kick knockout inside the Octagon.
9: Hellbow from Down Under
If you come at the UFC’s KO king, you best not miss. Australia’s Tai Tuivasa didn’t as he somehow absorbed some bombs from Derrick Lewis and slayed “The Black Beast” with a short elbow at UFC 271 in February.
8: No Fairy-tale Ending for Frankie
Unfortunately, as is the case more often than not, one of the all-time greats Frankie Edgar didn’t have the swansong his iconic career deserved at UFC 281 in November. The former lightweight king was felled by up-and-comer Chris Gutierrez, who looked as sad as everyone in a silent Madison Square Garden after taking out “The Answer” with a brutal step-in knee.
7: Comeback Kid
After being dropped and hurt multiple times by Jai Herbert, Ilia Topuria turned things around in the second round of a wild lightweight clash at UFC London in March and capped off an epic comeback with a right hook that switched the Brit’s lights off.
6: Sleep Walker
UFC Vegas 48’s light heavyweight headliner between Johnny Walker and Jamahal Hill in February was destined to end by stoppage but no one expected the show-closer “Sweat Dreams” uncorked to the temple of Walker would have the Brazilian looking like a zombie as he fell into the abyss.
5: Time, Chito Catches Up With Cruz
Dominick Cruz built his Hall of Fame career on awkwardly awesome movement but at UFC San Diego in August, Marlon Vera – with a little help from Father Time – became the one to finally score a clean knockout on arguably the best bantamweight in history as he came around the corner with a left head kick to spark the 37-year-old.
4: Meatball Mania
Local darling Molly McCann lit up London when she merked Luana Carolina with a savage spinning back elbow in March to blow the roof off the O2 Arena and send “Meatball” mania running wild across the MMA world.
3: Backfist to the Future
Two years after their legendary five-round war, former strawweight champions Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk ran it back at UFC 275 in June. This time there would be no back-and-forth brutality. Instead, “Magnum” sent the legendary Jedrzejczyk into retirement and punched her ticket to a title shot with a walk-off spinning backfist KO. That they were at the highest level elevated the stoppage above McCann’s.
2: Crushing El Cucuy
Human highlight reel Michael Chandler produced his ultimate highlight in his May meeting against Tony Ferguson at UFC 274. The former three-time Bellator lightweight champion connected with the most brutal front kick in MMA history to send an unconscious “El Cucuy” crashing flat onto his face.
1: Headshot Heard Around the World
Despite the dozens of fantastic finishes 2022 delivered, one truly spectacular and mind-blowing knockout was a cut above the rest. A minute away from losing a clear-cut decision to dominant welterweight champion Kamaru Usman at UFC 278 in August, Leon Edwards shocked the world when he masterfully set up and starched pound-for-pound king with a left head kick to complete a fairy-tale rise to the top.