The highly unofficial awards season continues with the biggest knockouts of 2022 and how we saw them on fight night ...
1 – Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman 2
Are you kidding me?!
Leon Edwards is your new UFC welterweight champion, pulling victory from the jaws of defeat with just seconds remaining in the UFC 278 main event.
The challenger flashed in the first round, tripping Usman to the ground and landing in mount, transitioning to the back before spending the final minute hunting for a choke and showing he was game. For the next three-and-a-half rounds, Usman was in control.
With each subsequent round, the pressure, pace, and championship fight experience of Usman took a toll on Edwards, who struggled to land with force and conceded takedowns much easier. The challenger had a moment of success early in the fourth, securing a waist lock and looking to sink his hooks, but Usman worked free and instantly put Edwards on the deck, grinding on him from before letting loose with his hands right before the end of the round.
Usman remained on the pressure in the fifth and final round before a low blow paused the action with just under two minutes remaining. On the restart, Edwards had a little bounce in his step, and as Usman hung out at range, “Rocky” uncorked a left high kick that landed flush and instantly shut off Usman’s lights.
Edwards celebrated before the emotion washed over him, while Usman sat on the stool, wondering what went wrong.
The rivals will likely have to do it again after Usman enjoyed such a lengthy reign and controlled the majority of the fight, but Edwards will be walking into the rematch with the gold around his waist.
What a finish!
2 – Michael Chandler vs Tony Ferguson
Michael Chandler scored one of the most memorable knockouts in recent history, finishing former interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson with a front kick in the second round.
A left hand scored a flash knockdown of Chandler late in the first minute of round one, but Chandler stood up swinging haymakers. He landed some shots, but Ferguson returned fire until Chandler scored with a thudding takedown. Ferguson fired off elbows from his back, cutting his foe, but Chandler kept throwing shots from the top position, cutting “El Cucuy.”
The end then came suddenly in round two, with a right front kick landing flush to the jaw and knocking Ferguson out immediately. The official time of referee Jason Herzog’s stoppage was :17 of the second round.
3 – Molly McCann vs Luana Carolina
Liverpool’s Molly McCann was a clear crowd favorite at the O2 Arena, and with one elbow, she gave the fans even more to cheer about as she knocked out Luana Carolina in the third round.
McCann (12-4) rattled her taller foe in the opening minute and blitzed Carolina (8-3), throwing both hands with reckless abandon. A clinch followed and the Brazilian cleared her head, allowing her to weather the storm. Once separated, McCann kept the pressure on, and another blitz of strikes to the body and head followed with a little over a minute to go, drawing a roar from the crowd.
The fight was on the mat in the second minute of round two, but it was McCann still in control, and though Carolina finally got on the board with her strikes in the closing stages of the frame, a wild takedown by McCann returned momentum to the side of the crowd favorite.
Carolina continued to surge in round three as McCann appeared to tire, but out of nowhere, a spinning back elbow landed flush and, just like that, the fight was over. The official time of referee Dan Movahedi’s stoppage was 1:52 of round three.
4 – Zhang Weili vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk 2
The rematch between former strawweight champions Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk wasn’t as epic as their first bout, but it was just as memorable, with a frantic first round followed by a highlight reel knockout by Zhang in the second and Jedrzejczyk announcing her retirement in the Octagon.
Jedrzejczyk was busy from the start, and she had success, prompting a takedown by Zhang in the second minute. While on the mat, Zhang unloaded with her strikes, and while Jedrzejczyk got back to her feet, she was returned to the mat two more times with similar results, as Zhang’s ground strikes were coming in a fast and furious fashion. With under two minutes left, Zhang got the mount position and the punishment continued, as Jedrzejczyk was simply being overpowered. Finally, Jedrzejczyk found daylight and got back to her feet, picking up where she left off before the takedowns, and when the round ended, the crowd erupted.
Zhang opened the second with hard body kicks that kept Jedrzejczyk at bay for a spell, but the Poland native walked through them, intent on getting her own shots in. Jedrzejczyk defended Zhang’s takedown attempt well, but as she subsequently marched forward, Zhang landed a flush spinning backfist that put her down face first, and referee Marc Goddard halted the bout. The official time was 2:28.
The No.2-ranked Zhang moves to 22-3 with the win. The 34-year-old Jedrzejczyk, the second fighter to hold the 115-pound title that she successfully defended five times, retires with a record of 16-5. Zhang defeated Jedrzejczyk via split decision in March 2020.
5 – Marlon Vera vs Dominick Cruz
For a while, former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz looked to be sailing to one of the most impressive victories of his career in his hometown of San Diego. Marlon Vera had other ideas, and he closed the show on the future UFC Hall of Famer, stopping Cruz in the fourth round of their UFC Fight Night main event.
Cruz attacked with a combination to open the fight, and moments later came another one, catching Vera off guard. A quick takedown followed in the second minute but Vera shot right back up. A left to the jaw by Vera dropped Cruz and evened the score, but Cruz was up and back to work a second later. And work Cruz did, as his flurries piled up the points, and so did a takedown in the closing minute. Vera nearly locked in a submission late, but Cruz escaped and was in control at the horn.
Cruz continued to mix his attacks up nicely in the second, as Vera was more patient in his attack, knowing that he had the power advantage. But Cruz wasn’t sticking around to get hit, though, and he largely avoided trouble thanks to his in and out movement.
Ninety seconds into the third round, a right hand by Vera stunned and dropped Cruz, but the hometown hero rose immediately and flurried at his foe, getting right back to what he was doing before the knockdown. Vera was more aggressive, though, perhaps knowing that there was work to be done to get back in the fight on the scorecards.
A minute into the fourth, there was another flash knockdown for Vera, this time with a straight left. Again, Cruz got up, apparently unhurt, and while he was still moving, he was slowing down as Vera closed in, and with a single left kick to the head, “Chito” closed the show, with Cruz dropping to the mat, his nose broken. Referee Herb Dean then moved in, with the official time of the finish 2:17 of the fourth round.
6 – Alex Pereira vs Sean Strickland
Unranked Brazilian striking specialist Alex Pereira took a big risk in stepping up to face Top 5 middleweight Sean Strickland, but the risk produced a big reward, as Pereira won the bout via first-round knockout.
After a tactical opening from both fighters, Pereira struck with speed and finality, as a left hook staggered Strickland and put him on a knee, and as the Californian rose, a right hand sent him down and out. The official time of referee Jason Herzog’s stoppage was 2:36 of round one.
7 – Ilia Topuria vs Jai Herbert
Ilia Topuria | Top Finishes
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Ilia Topuria | Top Finishes
Ilia Topuria’s lightweight debut got off to a bad start in the first round against Jai Herbert, but he turned things around in the second, halting the Brit in spectacular fashion.
A left kick to the head dropped Topuria 45 seconds into the fight, forcing the Spain product to tie his foe up and try to clear his head. With a little over three minutes to go, Topuria got his takedown, but with 1:30 left, Herbert was back to his feet and stalking his opponent, landing some more hard shots before the end of the frame.
But in the second, Topuria turned things around in a split second, with a flush right hand sending Herbert down and out. The official time of referee Marc Goddard’s stoppage was 1:07 of round two.
8 – Chris Gutierrez vs Frankie Edgar
Chris Gutierrez scored the biggest win of his career on Saturday night, knocking out Frankie Edgar in the first round with a beautifully placed knee.
Gutierrez was the quicker, sharper man from the outset, stinging Edgar in the early exchanges and picking at him from range, getting his reads. When Edgar stepped in, Gutierrez planted a perfect stepping knee on the button, knocking out the retiring former lightweight champion and future Hall of Fame inductee.
This was a terrific performance for the streaking Gutierrez, who has now won four straight and is unbeaten in his last eight. He’s an ascending name to watch in the bantamweight division, and this is an effort that shouldn’t be diminished because of Edgar’s pending departure.
9 – Adrian Yanez vs Tony Kelley
Bantamweight prospect Adrian Yanez made the most of his promotion to the main card, as he halted Tony Kelley in a single round.
Houston’s Yanez was hitting his mark early and often against his foe, and it just got worse for Kelley, who got gradually picked apart until a knockdown followed by flush follow-up shots brought in referee Kerry Hatley to stop the fight at 3:49 of the opening frame.
10 - Maheshate vs Steve Garcia
Dana White’s Contender Series graduate Maheshate made an instant impact in his UFC debut, knocking out veteran Steve Garcia 74 seconds into their lightweight bout.
Garcia came out winging shots, and he rocked Maheshate in the opening minute, only to suffer a flash knockdown in response. Garcia recovered quickly, but once the two broke from a clinch, Maheshate landed a flush right hand that sent Garcia down and out. The official time of referee Marc Goddard’s stoppage was 1:14.
Voters – Thomas Gerbasi, Christoph Goessing, Maddyn Johnstone-Thomas, Cory Kamerschak, E. Spencer Kyte, Steve Latrell, Zac Pacleb, McKenzie Pavacich, Gavin Porter