Five Fighters Who Talked the Talk and Walked the Walk in 2022

If anyone made a statement in 2022 it was Anatoly Malykhin. The Russian was already the interim heavyweight champion when he was given the opportunity to take on dominant light-heavyweight champion Reinier de Ridder. Both men went into the fight undefeated, with the scene set for a classic grappler versus striker contest. De Ridder felt he could take Malykhin down and break him on the ground, whereas the Russian was confident in the power of his hands, and ability on the ground should he have ended up on his back. As it happened, Malykhin scored one of the year’s biggest knockouts, and with it the light-heavyweight title. Big things await in 2023.

Aliakbari fulfils his potential and retires Vera

It was the fight Amir Aliakbari had wanted since arriving in one, at chance to test himself against a former world champion in Brandon Vera. Coming into the fight, Iran’s Aliakbari had some momentum having defeated Mauro Cerilli via second-round TKO, while Vera may have been past his best but still had belief a win could trigger another tilt at the title. As it happened, Aliakbari would need less than four minutes to assert his dominance and pick up a landmark win – and one which places him firmly in the heavyweight title picture. The perfect end to a great year for the Middle East favourite.

Saygid Izagakhmaev delivered on Khabib’s hype

When you are tipped for greatness by none other than Khabib Nurmagomedov, the weight of expectation can sit heavily. However for Dagestani lightweight Saygid Izagakhmaev there has been no such problem. Three wins from three fights in 2022 since his ONE debut in January have seen Izagakhmaev take the division by storm. A submission, decision, and TKO, have shown a real diversity to his game, and one which will likely see him challenge for gold in 2023 if this trajectory continues. 

Jarred Brooks works his way to strawweight title

Jarred Brooks took home the gold

Three fights, three wins, and the strawweight title in his possession – 2022 has been pretty good to Jarred Brooks. Wins over Hiroba Minowa and Bokang Masunyane put Brooks on a collision course with champion Joshua Pacio. The build up was full of animosity and trash talk, but when it came to fight night, Brooks put on a clinic, winning a convincing decision and ending the year as the strawweight king. 

Christian Lee fulfils his dream of being a double champ

When we talk about family dynasties in martial arts, it is difficult to look further than the Lees. Christian’s sister Angela has been queen of the atomweights, but has thus far been unable to conquer two divisions, having lost twice attempting to capture strawweight gold. This year, Christian was able to achieve the feat for himself, and his family. In 2022 Christian has had two fights and won titles on both occasions. First up he regained his lightweight title from Ok Rae Yoon, before becoming a champ champ defeating Kiamrian Abbasov for the welterweight title – despite Abbasov coming in over the weight limit. Is there a chance of three in 2023?

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