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.
Mixed martial arts is a cruel sport. The most unforgiving of ventures, having one off night can derail an entire career. Too many fighters have learned the hard way that once doubt creeps into their head, and they begin questioning themselves, it doesn’t take much to go from bad to worse. Rebounding from adversity is a true test of character and that is exponentially true in the realm of MMA.
Two title belts around her waist and 12 straight victories had Amanda Nunes sitting pretty heading into her bantamweight championship fight against Julianna Pena. Nunes was an 11-to-1 favorite, and one boneheaded writer said that Pena didn’t even belong in the cage against “The Lioness.” That writer, and most of the MMA community at large, were forced to eat crow at the end of 2021, as Pena pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the sport’s history.
After a wild first round, Nunes looked exhausted, and it didn’t take much to get her to tap out as Pena looked up a rear-naked choke three and a half minutes into the second round. It was shocking to see the woman who had defeated every other women’s bantamweight champion suffer a loss. The whispers started almost instantly. Has motherhood changed her? Has she lost a step? Are her best days behind her? It doesn’t take much for the MMA world to start questioning a fighter’s status, regardless of how many accolades she has notched throughout her career.
Showing that she is indeed the greatest women’s mixed martial artist of all time, Nunes came right back seven months later and dominated Juliana Pena in the rematch. The final scores were 50-45, 50-44 and 50-43. Not only did she pitch a shutout, but she was so dominant that two of the three judges gave her at least one 10-8 round. Her lone fight of the year, it was a remarkable performance, and all of those whispers were immediately silenced. Unlike many of her predecessors, a single loss did not define the end of her career, and she instead got her title back while putting on one of her greatest performances. Dusting herself off and getting right back to action to reclaim double champ status makes Amanda Nunes the recipient of the Combat Press 2022 MMA Award for Comeback Fighter of the Year.