2022 has been an insane year for MMA comebacks, with plenty of fighters claiming victory from the jaws of defeat. At the end of 2021, a large bar was set to compete against, with fights like Charles Oliveira vs Michael Chandler, Kennedy Nzechukwu vs Carlos Ulburg, and Merab Dvalishvili vs Marlon Moraes taking the center stage as some of the greatest comebacks ever. This year, however, is arguably one of the craziest yet. As the year is coming to a close, we're going to look back at the top 5 biggest comebacks of 2022.
He survived early to give us a Fight of The Year contender.
Nate "The Train" Landwehr headed into his bout with rising prospect David Onama back in August as a moderate underdog in San Diego for UFC Fight Night: Vera vs Cruz. Despite Onama taking the fight on just a week's notice, most MMA fans expected the Ugandan to make quick work of Landwehr. For Onama, the first round went perfectly, as he used his fast boxing to counterstrike and land straight shots while switching stances. Landwehr still pressured forward, but he got dropped with a right straight from Onama. The way he fell, it looked like it was all over, but Landwehr scrambled and survived, and this is where the real fight began. As round two started, Onama looked significantly more tired than his opponent, a credit to Landwehr's clinch knees and Onama's heavy output in the first. Landwehr also started using his combinations, landing heavily on Onama, who threw back just as hard. Next, He pressed Onama up against the cage and weighed on him, landing more clinch knees to the body and head, pursuing takedowns and submissions, and landing heavy ground and pound strikes. From receiving a 10-8 round in the first to battling back and getting his own 10-8 round, the comeback was well underway. Both fighters fought their heart out in the third, with Landwehr gaining the better of the fight, following up on his previous success in the second. Constantly, Landwehr played up to the crowd, giving up top position on Onama to stand back up and wave his hands in the air, knowing he was on his way to a victory.
As the fight closed out, Onama landed a late flurry on Landwehr, but it wasn't enough to sway the judges, as Landwehr gained a 29-27, 29-27, 28-28 majority decision over Onama. From getting pieced up and nearly stopped to winning a majority decision, this is one of the best comebacks and fights of 2022.
Gritted Through An Early Knockdown Scare To Secure The TKO Victory.
Drew Dober brawled with Terrance "T.Wrecks" Mckinney back at the Apex Arena in March for UFC Fight Night: Santos vs Ankalaev. Mckinney took this fight on short notice, two weeks removed from his previous win. Riding a five-fight-finishing streak, Mckinney was talked about as the next major Lightweight prospect, even being compared to top Lightweights throughout the buildup during fight week. Dober, who remained calm and confident during the buildup to fight week, was in for an early scare against the surging prospect. Mckinney started lightning fast, just 5 seconds into the bout, landing a step-in knee right on Dober's chin, sending him falling back into the cage. Mckinney followed up with a barrage of hooks as Dober attempted to get to his feet, resulting in Dober falling straight back to the canvas. After briefly returning to his feet, Dober took another, more brutal step-in knee to the chin, which sat him back down. Dober fought through heavy ground and pound strikes, a flush head kick, and plenty of other strikes over the next three minutes.
Despite all of this, Dober stuck around. After throwing his entire arsenal at his iron-chinned foe, Mckinney was gassed and began to slow down. Dober, who had Mckinney clinched up against the fence, threw a one-two and a knee up the middle, getting revenge for all the knees thrown at him. Mckinney fell to the ground and was finished off with accurate ground and pound strikes, unable to defend himself due to exhaustion. In this fight, Dober made a case for having arguably one of the best chins in the UFC and cemented himself as one of the top unranked Lightweights. In his next bout, he went on to receive a performance of the night award against Rafael Alves.
He Secures a Buzzer Beater Submission.
Jiří Procházka battled with Glover Teixeira back in May at UFC 275 for the Light-Heavyweight title to give us one of the greatest mixed martial arts fights of all time. Procházka entered the fight on a twelve-fight knockout streak, two being UFC finishes, and both of these victories granting him performance of the night bonuses and a fight of the night bonus vs. Dominick Reyes. Heading into this bout Procházka was a comfortable favorite, but the odds proved to be once again just a number. The fight was closely contested, with both fighters giving their absolute best throughout. Teixeira looked no part of 42 years old as he ripped combinations on Procházka and used his wrestling to gain an advantage. The third round was a dominant affair from Procházka, as he constantly tagged Teixeira on the feet and nearly finished him on the ground. However, heading into the fifth round, Procházka was tailing on the judge's scorecards, with one judge having the bout a draw at 38-38 and the other two scoring the bout 39-37 and 39-37 for Teixeira.
As the fifth began, Teixeira rocked Procházka badly with a double-jab cross combination, the right hand sending Procházka flying into the fence. However, Teixeira attempted to pull a guillotine choke, but Procházka slipped out and recovered in Teixeira's guard. After returning to the feet, Teixeira continued to land heavily on Procházka, who somehow managed to stay standing. With forty-five seconds left in the fifth, Procházka scrambled out from underneath Teixeira and threw up a hail mary rear-naked choke. There were thirty seconds, and Procházka had just enough time to slide his arm under Texieira's chin; the Light-Heavyweight king was forced into submission. Procházka completed one of the greatest comebacks in UFC history and earned a clear Fight of The Year contender.
He Dethroned The Pound-For-Pound King.
Leon Edwards challenged for the Welterweight title against former Pound-For-Pound king Kamaru Usman in August at UFC 278. Usman had previously defeated Edwards in a three-round bout back in December 2015, where he won by a dominant unanimous decision. Neither fighter was overlooking the other, as both Usman and Edwards were completely different fighters coming into the rematch. Edwards was a moderate underdog heading into the bout, as many MMA fans and media members expected Usman to win this bout and tie the longest winning streak in UFC history, catching up to the illustrious sixteen-fight streak Anderson Silva compiled between 2006-2012. As the fight began, Usman pressured and popped out his fast jab and quickly managed to take Edwards down to the ground. Edwards, who wasn't content with accepting being on the bottom, quickly got back to his feet. He got double-underhooks on Usman and tripped the champion down to the canvas, becoming the first man to take Kamaru Usman down. From full mount, Edwards managed to transition to Usman's back and stayed there for the remainder of the round. Closing out a dominant round one, Edwards looked like he might be the superior fighter. But as the fight continued, the narrative changed. In round two, Usman returned to his game plan and kept the pressure on Edwards. He pursued takedowns and took Edwards down in every round of the fight. Furthermore, Usman's striking was working, landing his jab frequently and an array of launching hooks, and at the end of the fourth round, Usman hurt Edwards with a barrage of elbows.
Coming into the fifth round, Usman had nearly 10 minutes of control over Edwards and out-struck him with 175 total strikes to just 54 for Edwards. It looked like Usman was the superior fighter throughout the fight. Edwards' corner screamed at him between the fourth and fifth rounds to pull it out from the fire. The 5th started, and nothing changed. Usman still looked dominant. But with a minute to go, Edwards, who looked utterly defeated, feinted a straight at Usman and threw a rear head kick. It landed flush on Usman's chin, and the Pound-For-Pound king went down. Leon Edwards was the new Welterweight champion before delivering one of the coldest post-fight interviews ever.
It was an incredible scene for the fighter from Birmingham, who delivered one of the greatest comeback victories and knockouts we've ever seen.
The Rally Of All Rallies.
Matt Schnell faced off against the returning Sumudaerji in a highly anticipated Flyweight bout back in July at UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs Rodriguez in New York. Schnell sat at #8 in the Flyweight rankings, and Su, who had not fought in 1 and a half years, sat at #12. Both fighters were looking to break into the Flyweight elite with a win over each other. As round one began, we saw both men go at it. On the feet, Sumudaerji looked incredible, using his reach advantage to throw fast straights at Schnell, who froze every time he was hit. As well as that, Sumudaerji was lighting up Schnell's body and legs with kicks, but Schnell pressured forward and managed to secure a takedown. For the rest of the round, both men scrambled for a dominant position, with Sumudaerji gaining the better. He landed some heavy ground and pound shots on top, which Schnell returned when he reversed Sumudaerji. Ending off the first, both men looked confident. Sumudaerji wanted to keep the fight standing and at his range in the second round. After a momentary pause in the action, Sumudaerji landed a crushing straight on Schenll, which sent him crumbling to the canvas; this was the start of one of the craziest sequences ever in the UFC.
Schnell recovered from the strike, and Sumudaerji, knowing he had Schnell hurt, welcomed him back to his feet. Schnell pressured forward, knowing he needed to get one back against Sumudaerji, but was welcomed with a stabbing side-kick to the body. Then, Sumudaerji landed a massive elbow straight over Schnell's guard, which sent him kneeling on the canvas. He quickly got back up and was hit with another chopping elbow, another, and then another. Sumudaerji threw everything at Schnell, landing punches around Schnell's guard and clipping him with his long knees. Schnell looked every bit out on his feet, and it appeared that one more strike would surely spell the end of the bout. Yet Schnell still pressured forward, getting clipped with more straight shots, stumbling backward. Sumudaerji kept throwing strikes, and a labored Schnell threw two uppercuts, landing on Sumudaerji hard. A hurt and tired Sumudaerji backed away, noticeably fading. Schnell pressured forward again, hitting Sumudaerji with a straight, which rocked Sumudaerji's head back. Determined to get one back, Sumudaerji tried his own straight, but Schnell was conditioned to them by this point and quickly ducked under it and secured a takedown. Schnell postured up and landed heavy ground strikes on Sumudaerji, nearly stopping him with elbows. At the last minute, Sumudaerji managed to reverse position and get on top. Schnell wrapped his legs over and under Sumudaerji and locked him in a tight triangle choke. Sumudaerji tried everything to survive, fighting and pushing away from Schnell at every opportunity. But it wasn't enough; Sumudaerji lost consciousness, and Matt Schnell completed the most remarkable comeback of 2022. While Sumudaerji was unconscious, Schnell looked at the cameras and asked for his bonus, which he rightfully got alongside Sumudaerji for the Fight of The Night.
2022 was a crazy year for UFC comebacks, with multiple title changes happening through some genuinely wild comebacks. With the bar for comebacks increasing each year and 2023 right around the corner, it's shaping to be another exciting year for the UFC.