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Hot Tweets: The 2022 MMA All-Star Teams, plus future champions for 2023

Alex Pereira
Alex Pereira
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Well, we’ve done it – 2022 is functionally in the books. Tonight, Bellator and RIZIN will host the final MMA event of the year, and so while this is ever so slightly premature, screw it, we’re doing a Year End Hot Tweets to celebrate this very stupid, yet delightful, sport of ours.


The 2022 MMA All-Star Team

The great Jordan Breen used to do an “All-Violence Team” for Sherdog, and I’m bringing the concept back! MMA is too deep and too fun for us to only celebrate five fighters as The Best of the Year. Yes, Alex Pereira would be the overall MVP, but what about the rest of the Pro Bowl?

The concept is simple: naming the best fighters in each weight class for the year, based on performance. We’re not just talking about, “Here are the champions for each weight class,” because you could simply go look at the MMAFighting Global Rankings for that. Instead, we want to reward excitement and activity. So there may be some overlap, but in some instances, we might name a fighter who has taken some Ls in 2022, because the way they did it was fun as hell, and violence is the most important factor for our All-Star teams.

So without further ado, here are the 2022 MMA All-Stars:

Heavyweight

First Team: Sergei Pavlovich. This man delivered three highlight-reel knockouts of ranked opposition in a combined 5 minutes 52 seconds. What more can you ask for?

Second Team: Jailton Almeida. Like Pavlovich, Almeida delivered three first-round finishes in 2022, but gets docked points for weird catchweight fights, lower quality opposition, and taking a full 11 minutes and 59 seconds to get it done.

Third Team: Tai Tuivasa. Look, this list isn’t just about wins, it’s about excitement, and between his KO of Derrick Lewis, his “Fight of the Year” contender with Cyril Gane, and getting sparked by Pavlovich, plus his huge personality, Tuivasa sneaks into the final spot.

Honorable Mentions: Ante Delija, Phil De Fries

Light Heavyweight

First Team: Rob Wilkinson. The 2022 PFL light heavyweight champion had himself one hell of a year, winning $1 million on the back of four big finishes.

Second Team: Ryan Spann. Two bonus-worthy KOs in a combined 3 minutes and 42 seconds ends up being good enough for Second Team honors in a down year.

Third Team: Jamahal Hill. Like Spann, without huge competition this year, Hill rounds out the 205-pound All-Stars on the back of two big KOs over legit opposition.

Honorable Mentions: Jiri Prochazka and Glover Teixeira (jointly), Luis Henrique, Nikita Krylov, Dustin Jacoby, Sullivan Cauley

Middleweight

First Team: Alex Pereira. The overall MVP of 2022, and the Breakout Fighter of the Year, Pereira put Sean Strickland on a poster and then upset Israel Adesanya. No one did more this year.

Second Team: Roman Dolidze. Every time Dolidze fought in 2022, he was taking home a performance bonus. Two first-round finishes and one second-round stoppage, all over quality opposition, makes for a spectacular 2022.

Third Team: Chidi Njokuani. It was razor-close between Njokuani and Gregor Rodrigues, but in the end, “Bang Bang” had two bonus winning finishes and was in a “Fight of the Night” with “Robocop,” which is enough to beat Rodrigues’ battle with Armen Petrosyan.

Honorable Mentions: Gregory Rodrigues, Brendan Allen, Bo Nickal, Brunno Ferreira, Tom Breese

Welterweight

First Team: Andre Fialho. Fialho fought five times in 2022, and his worst fight was a very fun scrap against Michel Pereira. After that, Fialho won two POTN bonuses and was then on the wrong end of two POTN bonuses. That’s a violent year.

Second Team: Kevin Holland. Per usual, Holland fought a ton in 2022, and also per usual, he gave as good as he got. Two POTN winning finishes from “Trailblazer” were backed up by what would have been a POTN bonus loss had Khamzat Chimaev not blown weight. Then he ended the year getting beat up by Stephen Thompson in a “Fight of the Year” contender.

Third Team: Jack Della Maddalena. It speaks to how absurdly strong the welterweight contenders were this year that JDM, only barely makes an All-Pro team. JDM scored three POTN winning first-round KOs in a combined 8 minutes and 55 seconds. Not too shabby.

Honorable Mentions: Shavkat Rakhmonov, Bryan Barbarena, Alex Oliveira, Phillip Rowe, Neil Magny, Jeremiah Wells.

Lightweight

First Team: Drew Dober. A POTN, a FOTN, and three of the best fights of the entire year make the top lightweight and easy call.

Second Team: Terrance McKinney. When McKinney fights, someone is going to sleep, one way or another, and almost always quickly. McKinney scored two first-round submissions this year, and nearly a first-round KO of Dober, but for Dober’s Jay Leno-esque chin. Instead, he was the one who got slept, and thus falls to the Second Team.

Third Team: Arman Tsarukyan. Bringing a different kind of violence to the table, Tsarukyan beat the best competition at lightweight this year, scoring one POTN bonus and narrowly falling to Mateusz Gamrot in one of the best fights of 2022.

Honorable Mentions: Islam Makhachev, Charles Oliveira, Paddy Pimblett, Olivier Aubin-Mercier, Grant Dawson, Bobby Green.

Featherweight

First Team: Alexander Volkanovski. The runner-up for Fighter of the Year, Volkanovski had about as perfect of a 2022 as you could script. No one looked better in a cage this year, and possibly ever.

Second Team: Brendan Loughnane. Though he was short on finishes this year, Loughnane deliver four excellent performance, capping it off with an undressing of Bubba Jenkins in the PFL Championships.

Third Team: Kleber Koike Erbst. The RIZIN featherweight champion is 3-0 this year (now 3-1 after Bellator MMA vs. RIZIN), all by way of submission, and he faces off with Bellator champion Patricio Pitbull in just a few hours, in a bout that will almost surely end with him taking a submission victory or getting brutally knocked out.

Honorable Mentions: Ilia Topuria, Damon Jackson, David Onama, Jonathan Pearce, Arnold Allen.

Bantamweight

First Team: Marlon Vera. Though he only scored two wins in 2022, they were quite the wins. First “Chito” beatdown Rob Font in April in one of the best fights of the year, and then he sent Dominick Cruz into the shadow realm a few months later, with one of the best knockouts of the year. That’s enough to take top honors at 135.

Second Team: Aljamain Sterling. It was a fairly weak year for bantamweight, but not for Sterling, who scored marquee wins over Petr Yan and T.J. Dillashaw. While some may quibble with the “how” of both performances, at the end of the day “The Funk Master” delivered qualities beatdowns over some of the best opposition.

Third Team: Raul Rosas Jr. You could convince me of a number of other contenders for the final team, but when it comes down to is, Rosas fought six times in 2022, scoring five finishes, four in the first round. That’s as close to perfect as one can get.

Honorable Mentions: Raufeon Stots, Camero Saaiman, Said Nurmagomedov, Ali Taleb, Mario Bautista.

Flyweight

First Team: Brandon Moreno. Though he only fought twice this year, both were exceedingly memorable. His trilogy bout with Deiveson Figueiredo was the third best “Fight of the Year,” and his liver-kick KO of Kai Kara-France was wildly underrated (and also earned FOTN honors).

Second Team: Matt Schnell. All hail, “Danger,” the king of get-or-get-got fighters everywhere. Schnell fought three times in 2022 and didn’t see the third round in any of them.

Third Team: Muhammad Mokaev. Going from obscurity to a Top-15 spot in the world is no small accomplishment, and while many wanted more from Mokaev, the 22-year-old still scored two finishes and a nearly flawless 2022.

Honorable Mentions: Jared Brooks, Joshua Van, Makoto Takahashi, Danial Williams, Davi Costa, Ryuya Fukuda, Carlos Mota.

Women’s Bantamweight

First Team: Amanda Nunes. The hardest weight class this year by a country mile, in large part because there is so little activity. Looking at Tapology’s Top-50 bantamweights, they fought a combined 59 times, without accounting for fights between each other! That is impossibly low. And so without a standout performer, I’m giving top honors to Nunes, who put three fights worth of a beatdown on Julianna Peña in their rematch.

Second Team: Tamires Vidal. “Tratora” authored a heel hook finish in LFA and then a first-round flying knee in her UFC debut. Enough said.

Third Team: Mayra Bueno Silva. A FOTN win over Yanan Wu and a slick armbar against Stephanie Egger are enough to grab a spot, in this weak division.

Honorable Mentions: Melissa Dixon, Jessica-Rose Clark, Talita Bernardo

Women’s Flyweight

First Team: Molly McCann. One of the easiest picks of the year. Back-to-back spinning elbow KOs is the stuff Violence All-Stars teams are made of, and her getting thumped by Erin Blanchfield is just the icing on the cake.

Second Team: Speaking of Blanchfield, she absolutely ruined fools this year. Two total demolitions by arguably the best prospect in women’s MMA.

Third Team: Dakota Ditcheva. If the PFL had a women’s flyweight tournament, Ditcheva would have a good shot at becoming a millionaire. Four fights in 2022 with three finishes is enough for Third Team honors.

Honorable Mentions: Liz Carmouche, Manon Fiorot, Gabriella Fernandes, Rin Nakai, Ivana Petrovic.

Women’s Strawweight

First Team: Weili Zhang. After a disappointing 2021, Weili was flawless this year, scoring brutally violent finishes over Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Carla Esparza, contenders for KO of the Year and Submission of the Year, respectively.

Second Team: Amanda Lemos. After getting violently subbed by Jessica Andrade to start the year, Lemos bounced back in a big way with nasty finishes of Michelle Waterson and Marina Rodriguez.

Third Team: Angela Hill. Hill has been a staple of the All-Star teams for years and 2022 was no exception as in her three fights this year she landed 288 total strikes, plus two takedowns.

Honorable Mentions: Emily Ducote, Vanessa Demopoulos, Silvana Gómez Juárez, Jaqueline Amorim, Sofiia Bagishvili, Ediana Silva.

At Large Bids

First Team: Larissa Pacheco. Let’s be real, the “At Large” bids sections is pretty much exclusively to honor Pacheco this year, who had three first-round knockouts and then the upset of the year with her win over Kayla Harrison in the PFL Championships. She undeniably deserves to be an All-Star in some capacity this year.

Second Team: Kayla Harrison. Despite losing in the championships, Harrison still had three wins this year, two by finish, and her fight against Pacheco was incredibly fun. Plus, she gets some bonus points for how she handled the loss.

Third Team: Seika Izawa. If kicking off the year by becoming the RIZIN atomweight champion wasn’t enough, Izawa followed that up with slick submissions in her next two bouts. At only 25, Izawa may well find herself on this list for years to come.

Honorable Mentions: Hisae Watanabe, Si Woo Park, Ayaka Hamasaki, Jillian DeCoursey.

And there you have it! That section ran pretty long, so to wrap up the year, let’s rapid fire through some final questions.


Worst Decision of 2022

Easy, Sean Strickland marching at Alex Pereira with his chin up and hands down. And hilariously enough, he says he wouldn’t change a thing.


Speaking of which...

The only thing that comes close is that one month stretch where people seriously debated Kamaru Usman going up to 205 to fight Jan Blachowicz, despite the fact that we had recently seen Blachowicz beat the then-middleweight champion, in large part due to being substantially bigger than him.

An honorable mention goes to the entire Jorge Masvidal-Colby Covington situation. This sport is hilariously stupid some times.


Mistake of the Year

James Krause. Like, his entire 2022.

First off, I hate touts. They just feel so skeevy. And being a loud and unabashed tout while actively serving as a coach in the sport you are touting about is just incredibly poor judgement. Then, when you factor in the Darrick Minner situation and whatever happened there, well, that’s about as big of a mistake as one can make.

I want to be clear: I’m not accusing Krause of anything, because I truly do not know anything. That will come at the end of this investigation, I suppose. But at best the optics here are horrendous, and at worst, people are paying hefty fines and serving jail time. Not to mention that it seems pretty unlikely at this point that Krause will ever be allowed to coach another UFC fighter again. That’s one pretty big mistake.


The Worst 2022

Tony Ferguson isn’t a bad choice, nor is Derrick Lewis, but give me T.J. Dillashaw. Dillashaw only fought and lost once, but he obliterated his shoulder, alienated any of the few fans who stuck with him through the EPO scandal, and effectively torched any claim he may have had (however specious) to the title of greatest bantamweight of all time. And then he retired. An absolute fustercluck of a year for Dillashaw.

An honorable mention to Jared Vanderaa who went 0-4 in 2022.


Performance of the Year

Alexander Volkanovski’s win in the trilogy against Max Holloway was quite possibly the finest MMA performance in history. He was as close as possible to flawless against one of the best fighters in the world, a man who had given him plenty of trouble before. It was incredible, and that’s from someone who thought he would look great. Islam Makhachev dusting Charles Oliveira is No. 2.


Champion predictions for 2023

This is a topic of some podcast conversations coming up, so stay tuned for that, but shooting from the hip, here are me End of Year Champion predictions for 2023, with zero explanation:

Heavyweight: Curtis Blaydes

205: Magomed Ankalaev

185: Alex Pereira

170: Khamzat Chimaev

155: Islam Makhachev

145: Arnold Allen

135: Marlon Vera

125: Brandon Moreno

W135: Amanda Nunes

W125: Valentina Shevchenko

W115: Weili Zhang


And that’s it for 2022! Thanks for reading and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! See y’all in the new year!

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