2022 saw the MMA world start to open up once again, with fans back in the building after a long stretch of empty arena shows. As much as hearing corners was an interesting twist for hardcore fight fans, the return of spectators to mixed martial arts events was a welcome sight — and more importantly, sound.
Fans definitely played their part in a number of events, notably in London, Austin, and Paris. Promotions upped their game as well, stacking cards for shows that were open to the public. The end result was magical in many cases, but one event stood out above the rest. Read on for our Event of the Year in 2022!
Jay Anderson: Save for a couple of local shows, I missed all of 2021 in terms of live event coverage aside from a couple of local shows, all thanks to the pandemic. So I may be biased in choosing March’s UFC London card, the promotion’s triumphant return to the O2 Arena in London, England. That marked my first instance covering a UFC event since the Norfolk card just before the pandemic — but given how much this card resonated with fans, thanks to strong performances from Tom Aspinall, Paddy Pimblett, and Molly McCann, I feel the choice is justified. It’s a lock for Event of the Year.
Gabriel Gonzalez: UFC London. It’s been a long time since a Fight Night event went off with the same kind of impact that the first London event did this year in March. It was an unquestioned success for the talent coming out of the United Kingdom and in particular was a star turn for Paddy Pimblett who the fans continued to cheer for even as the event had moved on to the following fight. Competitively it was a fun night but the crowd definitely pushed this one into a special place this year.
Eddie Law: UFC London. Three decisions total on the card, a crazy crowd on hand, and some of the best the UK had to offer in the octagon made UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs. Aspinall the best event of the year. Tom Aspinall announced his arrival, Paddy Da Baddy continued his rise, Meatball Molly brought the KO and Paul Craig sunk in the possible Sub of the year.
All around great event that could only have gone down in the UK.
Alex Behunin: UFC 281. Two title changes, a Fight of the Year contender and a bunch of finishes. What more can you ask for? Oh, and also…the birth of Money Moicano.
Jamie Theodosi: UFC London. A night where future champions were introduced (Mokaev) and Tom Aspinall showed the world he is one of the best heavyweights in the world. The first event in London in two years and it turned out to be an absolute BANGER from top to bottom.
Val Dewar: ONE X. The sheer volume of elite level fights on ONE X was something that may never be repeated again in combat sports, given how major promotions design their fight cards to have a maximum of three title fight so that they can hold several big events per year, each with a title fight headliner. ONE Championship held an event consisting twenty fights between four different combat sports taking place over the course of ten hours. This included five title fights, a kickboxing grand prix final, an MMA champion grappling one of the best BJJ masters alive, six aging legends of combat sports – including John Wayne Parr in his last ever fight, and the greatest MMA flyweight of all time competing against the current most popular Nak Muay in the world in a mixed rules bout which combined their two sports. Depth and massive names are all well and good, but the card still had to deliver, which it absolutely did as seen by Chatri Sityodtong giving out eight different performance bonuses and one fan voted bonus.
Michael Lynch: UFC London. 9/12 fights end in finish. Aspinall pulls off a straight arm bar in main event. Dan Hooker and Arnold Allen have an all out war in the co-main event and Paddy Pimblett even got a crazy knockout in the third to last fight.
End result: Over half the votes for Event of the Year in 2022 went to UFC London, the March 2022 edition. While the promotion would return to the O2 Arena later in the year, its triumphant return to England in March after years away was lightning in a bottle.