A new year is here and that means it’s time for Combat Press to take a look back at the best of MMA in 2022. In the coming days, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.
Quick submissions are exhilarating to watch unfold, and first-round knockouts can literally make you jump out of your seat. But, there is nothing better than a back-and-forth fight that ends just before the judges’ scorecards are needed. The ebbs and flows can have fans’ heart rates higher than those of the fighters involved in these battles. A truly special fight turns into a monumental moment and proves that, at its best, mixed martial arts is the greatest sport on the planet. There was no shortage of jaw-dropping moments over the last calendar year, but one fight stood out above the rest.
The stakes don’t get higher than a UFC championship fight. There is an energy in the air that is unrivaled by any other sporting event. Last year, with the UFC back on the road as COVID-19 restrictions gradually lifted across the world, the promotion made its fourth trip to Singapore, and atop the fight card, was a light heavyweight title fight between newly minted champion Glover Teixeira and rising star Jiří Procházka. Teixeira was riding high after submitting Jan Błachowicz to secure the belt, and Procházka had looked unstoppable since joining the UFC. As high as the expectations were, that June night exceeded them all and put on an absolute thriller.
The term “instant classic” is thrown around far too often, but this showdown more than deserved that title. After winning the first two rounds on all three judges’ scorecards, and cutting Procházka badly, Teixeira found himself in a world of danger in the third round. His takedowns weren’t working, and he found himself on the receiving end of multiple flying knees. At moments in the round, it was beginning to look like the referee was going to step in and stop Teixeira from receiving any more punishment. Over the last minute of the round, things started to change, as Teixeira avoided a choke attempt from Procházka and wound up on top landing violent strikes. Before the horn sounded Procházka looked to set up an armbar. It was one of the wildest rounds in recent history, and there was still potentially 10 minutes left in the fight.
The fourth round kept the action going, as Teixeira began the round by bullying Procházka around the cage, before the challenger rallied with a series of strikes of his own. There was an arm triangle attempt from Teixeira that forced blood to pour out of Procházka’s cut. The back-and-forth round continued as Procházka escaped the choke and ended up on top blasting strikes onto Teixeira to the point referee Marc Goddard had to tell the champion to fight back. That cycle played out once more in the round, as Teixeira took Procházka’s back and looked for a rear-naked choke, before Procházka escaped and ended the round on top hammering down blows. Both men took immense punishment over the first 20 minutes, but Teixeira was ahead on two of the three scorecards, and the fighters were even on the third. Procházka would need a finish in the final round, if he wanted to leave as the champion.
Somehow, these two had something left in the tank for Round 5, but, not long into the round, Procházka looked to be out on his feet after eating a massive left-hook-right-hand combo. Teixeira jumped on a guillotine choke, and it looked like he was going to get the win, but Procházka’s instincts allowed him to squeeze his neck out of the choke. Both men were thoroughly exhausted by this point, and for good reason, but they still continued to batter each other for a few more minutes. The scrambles were labored at this point, but, still, other-worldly impressive until Procházka worked to the back of Teixeira as the Brazilian legend got to his knees.
Procházka was able to lock in a rear-naked choke, and, due to the squeeze and exhaustion, the world-class jiu-jitsu player Teixeira was forced to tap. With less than 30 seconds to go in the fight, Procházka got the job done and became the champion of the world at 205 pounds. A highly competitive war that combined elite talent with next level toughness and grit, there was no doubt that Glover Teixeira vs. Jiří Procházka at UFC 275 is more than deserving of the title Combat Press 2022 MMA Award for Fight of the Year.