Former two-division UFC champion and current UFC broadcast Daniel Cormier shared his choices for male and female 2022 Fighter of the Year.
2022 was filled with highlight reel finishes, upsets, and championship belts changing hands. New stars emerged, longtime titleholders were defeated, and championships were vacated. Some fighters proved they belonged, others rose up the rankings, and two fighters stood out among the crowd for their octagon accomplishments.
Daniel Cormier’s 2022 Female Fighter of the Year
Zhang Weili competed twice in 2022 and earned ‘Performance of the Night’ bonuses in both outings. She defeated former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk by knockout in a rematch at UFC 275 in June. The win earned her a title shot against Carla Esparza.
Weili faced Esparza in the UFC 281 co-main event in November and became a two-time flyweight champion by submitting Esparza in the second round.
“Zhang Weili showed this year that she puts herself on that level. She puts herself in that tier of fighter that can be considered the female fighter of the year,” Cormier said on the DC & RC 2022 Awards show. “Her domination over Joanna Jędrzejczyk in Singapore, she beat her with the wrestling and just dominated and controlled her, and then she goes out there and dominates Carla Esparza.”
“When you’re expected to do something, sometimes it’s the hardest thing,” Cormier continued. “Not only did Zhang Weili win, she went out there and she dominated in that fight to become the champion. It looks like it’s gonna be very difficult to get that belt off her.”
Daniel Cormier’s 2022 Male Fighter of the Year
Middleweight Alex Pereira fought three times in 2022. He entered the year with a 4-1 record and one fight in the UFC and ended the year with the 185-pound championship belt around his waist.
Pereira defeated Bruno Silva by unanimous decision in his first fight of the year in March. The win earned him an opponent ranked inside the Top 5 at the time for. his next bout. At UFC 278 in July, the Brazilian knocked out Sean Strickland. With two kickboxing wins over Israel Adesanya, Pereira was pitted against his old rival at UFC 281. Down on the scorecards, Pereira stopped Adesanya in the final round to become the new middleweight champion.
“Alexander Volkanovski looked amazing. Aljo (Aljamain Sterling) did, Islam (Makhachev) did, Leon (Edwards) did; they all did. But my fighter of the year for 2022 has to go to Alex Pereira,” Cormier said. “Alex Pereira, a guy that is 3-0 this year but he only has about seven MMA fights, is the UFC champion. Not only did he win three fights, but RC (Ryan Clark), he beat a person whom many consider one of the greatest middleweights of all time, a person who was right on the verge of tying Anderson Silva for a win streak in the middleweight division, a person we were talking about in historical terms.
“Not only did he beat him, he beat him in a way that’s become expected in their interactions — Izzy starts great, Alex wins in the end. For him to handle that pressure of becoming the champ that quickly, crazy for me. My male fighter of the year… Alex Pereira,” Cormier reiterated.