There are many different elements that typically combine to make for a strong fight of the year selection in MMA, including everything from sustained two-way action to the combination of technical brilliance and major swings of momentum.
Rarely before, however, have the group of finalists in a single year, which was the case for UFC in 2022, so perfectly resembled the kind of fights more often seen in video games or movies. It was that kind of year in the Octagon, where the unexpected became the norm.
Our panel of CBS Sports experts sat down to sort through the carnage to declare which fights stood head and shoulders above the rest. Let's take a closer look.
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Winner: Jiri Prochazka def. Glover Teixeira, UFC 275
In what was supposed to be a styles clash matching the explosive (and often unpredictable) striking of Prochazka against the grappling strength of Teixeira, the two produced one of the most violent, bloody and dramatic five rounds in UFC history. Prochazka went on to claim the light heavyweight title via fifth-round stoppage, ending the renaissance title reign of the 42-year-old Teixeira in June. But it was the wildly shocking finish that saw this slobberknocker separate itself from a competitive pack of thrilling fights in 2022. After both fighters took more chances than was expected in this battle of attrition, Teixeira found himself up on two judges' scorecards (and even on the third) entering the final round before fatigue and the accumulation of damage took over. What was most unexpected, however, was that Prochazka was the one to produce a tap out via rear-naked choke with just 28 seconds to go in the fight against the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt in Teixeira. A rematch between the two was scheduled for December but fell apart after Prochazka badly injured his shoulder, forcing him to vacate the title ahead of what is expected to be a full year of recovery. But the mayhem these 205-pound stars created together -- equally on the feet and from the guard -- will not soon be forgotten.
Dustin Poirier def. Michael Chandler, UFC 281
Considering the number of Fight of the Year contenders these exciting lightweights have combined to produce in recent years, the expectations for magic between them was high inside New York's Madison Square Garden in November. Somehow, they might have even exceeded them with how dramatic the shifts of momentum turned out to be. Poirier would go on to remind how much he still has left in the tank at age 33 when he rallied to, but it wasn't without having to walk through hell -- multiple times -- in order to get there. Poirier was visibly hurt at times in the opening round but showcased his durability in rallying to nearly finish Chandler to close the round. Chandler surprised in Round 2 by eschewing his typical go-for-broke style by taking Poirier down and largely controlling the action. But he was cut from an elbow that Poirier delivered from the bottom, which saw Chandler attempt to utilize his dripping blood as a weapon. Poirier would later accuse Chandler of fish-hooking his mouth later in the round until Poirier enjoyed the last laugh. A fatigued Chandler shot for a slam takedown that opened up the door for Poirier to reverse from the bottom and take his back to produce the tap.
Cyril Gane def. Tai Tuivasa, UFC Paris
Hailed as Gane's homecoming return and his first pro fight on French soil after the sport was legalized in recent years, this UFC Fight Night main event turned into a veritable "Rocky" movie in Round 2. Gane, who is as skilled a technical striker as heavyweight MMA has ever seen, was expected to pick apart the hard-partying and raw, slugging style of Tuivasa until a wild right hand from "Bam Bam" dramatically shifted the momentum. Gane, a former interim UFC champion, got up from the knockdown to badly hurt Tuivasa with kicks to the body. But a second surge in Round 2 from Tuivasa saw a left hook wobble Gane enough to let him realize he was in the fight of of his life. In the end, Gane proved tough enough to withstand the barrage as Tuivasa began to fade a bit more each time "Bon Gamin" landed with front kicks to the body. To his credit, Tuivasa never stopped reaching for the dramatic in an insane display of recuperative toughness. But a vicious right uppercut from Gane put. Both were elevated by the level of heart they showed in a fight that defied the somewhat tepid expectations coming in from the standpoint of fireworks and entertainment.
Others receiving votes: Khamzat Chimaev def. Gilbert Burns, Nate Landwehr def. David Onama, Charles Oliveira def. Justin Gaethje, Paulo Costa def. Luke Rockhold