Daniel Cormier has shared his picks for the UFC male and female fighters of the year.
2022 brought numerous jaw-dropping moments inside the octagon. Former champions regained their crowns and newly crowned champions wrote their name in the history books.
As the year comes to a close, the conversations commence on who deserves to be tipped the ‘fighter of the year’. Cormier knows all about being at the pinnacle of the sport and revealed his picks for the prestigious award on the 2022 DC & RC Awards show for ESPN.
The former two weight-division champion started by giving the limelight to current UFC strawweight champion Weili Zhang. Zhang fought her way back to champion status after losing back-to-back fights to Rose Namajunas in 2021.
Instead of handing the award to Amanda Nunes or Valentina Shevchenko, who are both prone to the award, “DC” settled on the Chinese superstar.
Daniel Cormier reveals his female fighter of the year
“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 continued. “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.”
In Zhang’s two outings in 2022, she bagged herself another title shot after knocking out Joanna Jedrzejczyk with a spinning backfist. The highlight reel earned her a title fight with Carla Esparza, whose title reign was short-lived.
Leading into the bout at UFC 281, Zhang was considered a considerable favourite. A sublime performance and a second-round submission victory justified the pre-fight odds the bookmakers had put forward. Cormier praised Zhang for making the fight look so comfortable, suggesting that many heavy favourites never justify the large gap in odds.
“When you’re expected to do something, sometimes it’s the hardest thing,” Cormier noted. “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.”
With a handful of strong candidates to claim male fighter of the year, Cormier stayed away from his close friend Islam Makhachev. Makhachev attained UFC lightweight gold at UFC 280.
He picked another fighter who picked up UFC gold at UFC 281, Alex Pereira.
UFC middleweight Alex Pereira gets Cormier’s vote
“Alexander Volkanovski looked amazing. Aljo (Aljamain Sterling) did, Islam 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 concluded.
Quotes via MMA News
In the final outing of UFC 281, Pereira was down on the scorecards. The Brazilian fought vigorously in the fifth round to knock Israel Adesanya out. The former Glory Kickboxing representative earned the 185-pound strap with only four fights in the company.
Pereira is excepted to defend the belt in a rematch with Adesayna in 2023. However, with Adesanya claiming he’s taking some time away, no date has been pencilled in.
Do you agree with Daniel Cormier’s picks for male and female fighters of the year?