The top 3 moments that defined martial arts competitions in 2022

Warrior Code looks back at 2022 to discuss which moments shaped the year the most
Written by Guido de Boer
Published on Dec 27, 2022, 8:52:33 AM
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The year 2022 has entered its final week. The fight calendar wrapped up with Glory organising Rivals 4 on December 25th, of which the most exciting part is probably the fact that it was the organisation’s first return to Tokyo since the start of the pandemic. Now we want to take a moment and look back at some of the greatest, inspiring and controversial moments this year has given us.

Which fighter or moment makes it into your top 3? We’d love to hear from you so please leave a reply in the comments below this post or send us a recorded video message listing your nominations. The best ones will be reposted on our Instagram account.

We'll do the kick off!

#3: Alistair Overeem beats Badr Hari at Glory Collision 4

What more do you want than two absolute veterans, in the final stages of their careers, squaring off against each other. This fight was always going to be a contender for this list, regardless of the outcome. Whilst this fight was billed as a must-watch, the only thing really on the line was who would win the trilogy between the two fighters.

Did the fight deliver on its expected entertainment value? It did, in some ways. With Antonio Plazibat and Jamal Ben Saddik sidelined because of a suspension, which you can read all about here, it was to be expected that whoever would win this fight would probably go on to call out the longstanding heavyweight world champion Rico Verhoeven. The loser was probably heading straight into retirement.

Correct. Badr Hari lost and has probably announced his retirement. Overeem, reinvigorated after a successful return to kickboxing, wasted no time and immediately called out the champion in the ring.

So, will Overeem actually fight Verhoeven in 2023? The champion has in principle accepted the call-out. However, weeks after the fight Overeem tested positive on a banned substance. Something which he says he can explain. Whatever happens, we’re sure the drama will continue. As for Badr, don't consider him out quite just yet.

#2: Canelo Alvarez vs Dmitry Bivol at Legacy is Earned

With Floyd Mayweather pretty much permanently retired, there remains no active professional fighter that could claim they ever got close to beating Canelo Alvarez. And, the Mexican was probably keen to keep it that way.

Following a successful bout against Caleb Plant in 2021, Álvarez managed to unify all four major world titles to become the undisputed super middleweight champion. It appeared likely that Álvarez would move up to challenge for a world title in a fifth division, when his trainer Eddy Reynoso successfully petitioned the WBC, to allow Álvarez to challenge WBC cruiserweight champion Ilunga Makabu. For all sorts of reasons, this fight didn’t happen. And whilst a number of Russian and Belarussian fighters were denied the opportunity to fight because of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, there along came Bivol. Coming from Kyrgyzstan himself, he was unaffected and this paved the way to a bout between the two fighters.

Why has this moment has made it into our top-3 of the year? Because no one ever wants to see a champion lose and the longer the unbeaten run, the more painful a defeat is. The same goes for Conor McGregror in MMA and Anthony Joshua in boxing. All fighters who went for months on end without a single defeat, often holding multiple championships at the same time.

#1: Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua in SAUDI ARABIA

Whilst we can touch on Anthony Joshua here whose career seems to be on somewhat shaky ground, all the attention deserves to go to the Ukrainian fighter. With his victory over Joshua, Usyk became one of only three boxers to have unified the cruiserweight world titles and become a world heavyweight champion, joining Evander Holyfield and David Haye. But the victory needs to be regarded in a much broader context which inevitably involves the war his home country Ukraine is currently caught up in.

Osyk was unavailable to fight for most of the year as he, together with fellow boxer Lomachenko and MMA fighter Yaroslav Amosov travelled to the Eastern front in Ukraine to join the country’s territorial defence forces.

To then successfully defend his heavyweight title in the same year and wave the Ukrainian flag in front of the world is testament to an unbelievable fighting spirit.

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