MMA 2022 Year in Review: Comeback of the Year

Leon Edwards, UFC 278
Leon Edwards, UFC 278 post-fight Credit: Eddie Law/Cageside Press

Our Comeback of the Year category recognizes the fighter who dug deep when the chips were down, rallied, and came back to win a fight they were otherwise set to lose. There were a few solid comebacks in MMA this past year, but one stood out above the rest in 2022.

Jay Anderson: I went with Prochazka vs. Teixeira for my Fight of the Year. Comeback is another story. Billy Quarantillo had a good one against Alexander Hernandez recently. Alex Pereira’s knockout of Israel Adesanya in the fifth and final round of their UFC 281 main event was huge, and absolute gold in terms of continuing their rivalry. But it’s hard, very hard, to argue against Leon Edwards’ comeback head kick KO of Kamaru Usman. Just as Usman was being talked about in terms of GSP-level greatness, he was humbled in an instant. It’s a cruel, cruel sport.

Gabriel Gonzalez: Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman. What more can be said? Usman was roughly a minute away from a record-tying 16th straight UFC victory and had routed Edwards from the second round onward before the now famous rallying speech in the corner propelled “Rocky” to a knockout finish worthy of his nickname.  Consider that Usman had previously gotten the best of Edwards before and it makes the victory all the more triumphant.

Eddie Law: Schnell vs. Mudaerji. The first round seemed to go the way Matt Schnell liked it, on the ground and landing shots on his opponent. The second round was a complete opposite when we saw Su Mudaerji rock Schnell repeatedly and drop him. 

And that’s when Schnell went to work, wobbled and all, locked up a triangle from bottom and pulled victory out of the clutches of defeat.

Alex Behunin: Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman 2. I was one of the few souls that didn’t watch this live because I was at a concert, however, I finally went back and watched the fight and wow, it was special. Leon Edwards was down on the cards about to lose a lopsided decision and then boom… headshot, dead. Epic.

Jamie Theodosi: Leon Edwards over Kamaru Usman. I know I could’ve picked Pereira here over Edwards being as though I’ve already made a pick for Edwards and this fight, but it means too much to me to not pick it!

Val Dewar: Leon Edwards Round 5 Headkick vs Kamaru Usman. Is there really any question what was the best comeback of 2022? Even in a year with a litany of incredible ones – Alex Pereira vs Israel Adesanya, Echols vs Downey, Douglas Silva de Andrade vs Sergey Morozov, Drew Dober vs Terrance McKinney, and Matt Schnell vs Su Mudaerji just to name a few – Leon Edward’s headkick knockout stands out as the clear leader for best comeback in MMA this year. Everything from the emotions of his coach before round five to the perfectly timed commentary of Jon Anik to the stakes of fighting the best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC’s rankings at the time, a man who had already beaten Leon once, it was perfect. Not only is it the best comeback of the year, it will go down in history as one of the best ever.

Michael Lynch: Leon Edwards vs Usman. The speech Edwards’ corner gave him before the knockout gives chills. One of the best comebacks in UFC history.

End result: It’s a landslide! Leon Edwards was well on his way to becoming another notch on Kamaru Usman’s belt when he landed a head kick that changed the course of the fight, and welterweight history. And that is your Comeback of the Year for 2022. Many forget this was Edwards’ second fight against Usman, and it very well could have relegated the Brit to also-ran status had Usman won, and hung onto the belt for a few more years. Instead, Edwards becomes the England’s second UFC champion, paving the way for UFC 286 in March to be held in London.