2022 Canadian MMA Awards

This was the first year since 2019 where we had a full slate of events in Canada once again. We witnessed the return of several promotions since before the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the emergence of new promotions and fighters.

Throughout the year, there were plenty of noteworthy performances and highlights, so it’s time to recognize those achievements with the second annual MMA Empire Canadian MMA Awards.

Male Fighter of the Year: Olivier Aubin-Mercier

Olivier Aubin-Mercier
Credit Aubin-Mercier’s Instagram page

Four wins, a highlight-reel knockout and a $1 million cheque. What more could you ask for? Aubin-Mercier recorded wins over Natan Schulte, Raush Manfio, Alex Martinez and Stevie Ray en route to winning the 2022 PFL lightweight tournament and $1 million. An interesting side note to go along with an amazing 2022 for Aubin-Mercier is he has yet to lose since his UFC departure in 2019.

Honourable mentions: Aaron Jeffery, Teshay Gouthro, Ramil Kamilov, Bojan Kladnjakovic, Cody Chovancek

Female Fighter of the Year: Shannon Clark

Shannon Clark
Photo by Joel Griffith/MMA Empire

There were several female fighters with similar results to Clark in 2022, but it was the way she earned her wins that pushed her over the top. In her professional debut at Rumble in the Cage 63, Clark earned the TKO finish of a very tough, durable and more experienced Jackie MacLean. She followed that up with another TKO win over Jo Maisonneuve at Unified MMA 49. It’s tough to find two wins in more dominant fashion.

Honourable mentions: Melissa Croden, Alana Cook, Jackie MacLean, Katie Saull, Randi Field

Fight of the Year: Tim Smith vs. Curtis Demarce at Unified MMA 44

Tim Smith and Curtis Demarce
Photo by Joel Griffith/MMA Empire

Canadian MMA fans were blessed with a plethora of amazing fights in 2022, but it’s hard to top the three-round war Smith and Demarce put on in front of the Calgary crowd, which drew a massive standing ovation at its conclusion. From start to finish both men were continuously landing and taking heavy shots, but neither would go down. Smith would go on to win the fight, but the fans were equally as big of winners that night.

Honourable mentions: Scott Hudson vs. Austin Tweedy at Unified MMA 48, Brandon Labrecque vs. Samson Bieri at BFL 73, Nicolas Ouellet vs. Mateo Vogel at BFL 72, KB Bhullar vs. Strahinja Gavrilovic at Unified MMA 43, Shane Burgos vs. Charles Jourdain at UFC on ABC 3

Upset of the Year: Xavier Nash defeated Tristan Connelly at BFL 74

Xavier Nash
Photo by Joel Griffith/MMA Empire

It was the big homecoming for Connelly as he was competing in the BFL cage for the first time since 2016 and also competing for the first time since his UFC departure. Nash, on the other hand, was coming in with a 6-5 record and coming off a loss. None of that mattered after 15 minutes had elapsed as Nash utilized a strong wrestling attack to come away with a massive win over a UFC veteran.

Honourable mentions: Mohamed Ado defeated Matt Speciale at Unified MMA 48, James Foster defeated Chris Lee Byrne at Prospect FC 14, Blake Oswald defeated Jerico MacPhee at FLA 5, Eli Aronov defeated Mariusz Ksiazkiewicz at Unified MMA 45, Sadibou Sy defeated Rory MacDonald at 2022 PFL 6

Comeback of the Year: Ryan Rohovich defeated Josh Kwiatkowski at BFL 72

Ryan Rohovich

Kwiatkowski had this one as much in the bag as he possibly could’ve. Rohovich had no answer for anything Kwiatkowski was throwing at him for the first 14 minutes of the fight, but Rohovich saw his opportunity and pounced on it. While Kwiatkowski was working in Rohovich’s guard, Rohovich was able to lock in a triangle choke with 35 seconds left in the fight to pull off the improbable victory.

Honourable mentions: Mac Laursen defeated Lorenzo Celis at Unified MMA 43, Scott Hudson defeated Austin Tweedy at Unified MMA 48, Maged Hammo defeated Neal Anderson at Unified MMA 45, Keanan Patershuk defeated Keanan Kellar at BFL 75, Xavier Alaoui defeated Fabricio Sarraff at UAE Warriors 31

Professional Debut of the Year: Navid Zanganeh defeated Austin Batra at BFL 73

Navid Zanganeh
Credit: Battlefield Fight League

While it was strange to see a fighter competing for a title in his professional debut, it’s hard to imagine a better way to enter the scene than with a belt around your waist. Zanganeh dominated Batra from start to finish and became the new BFL interim lightweight champion. There were plenty of debuts with equally impressive performances, but winning a title takes the cake.

Honourable mentions: Mohamed Ado defeated Matt Speciale at Unified MMA 48, Usman Khattak defeated Steven Thomas at Unified MMA 47, Blake Oswald defeated Jerico MacPhee at FLA 5, Mehdi Zeidvand defeated Mauricio Cruz at Samourai MMA 2, Alana Cook defeated Max Turcotte-Novosedlik at Pallas Athena WFC 1

Knockout of the Year: Dylan Sheppard defeated Dawson Sampson at FLA 3

Call it what you want, a spinning back kick, a spinning hook kick, or a spinning heel kick, this is absolutely the knockout of the year, and Sheppard is an exciting fighter to watch moving forward.

Honourable mentions: Anthony Romero defeated Kenneth Glenn at Fury FC 60, Jo Maisonneuve defeated Kat Voronova at Samourai MMA 2, Kyle Prepolec defeated Marco Elpidio at Prospect FC 14, James Foster defeated Chris Lee Byrne at Prospect FC 14, Mohamed Ado defeated Matt Speciale at Unified MMA 48

Submission of the Year: Blake Oswald defeated Jerico MacPhee at FLA 5

It wasn’t the type of submission that made this one special but more so the setup. Oswald had MacPhee in trouble and was threatening with the arm bar. After he wasn’t able to secure it, he let go for a brief moment and landed a nasty hammer fist that MacPhee did not like one bit. Less than five seconds later the arm bar was locked in and the tap came. Amazing sequence from Oswald.

Honourable mentions: Cam Nelson defeated Michael William Adams at FLA 5, Brady Macdonald defeated Gavin Costa at FLA 5, Chris Comrie defeated Ilias Ait Moumen at MFL 23, Seth Connor defeated Broderick Rene at BTC 14, Charles Jourdain defeated Lando Vannata at UFC Fight Night 205

Event of the Year: Unified MMA 46

It seems Unified MMA has really separated themselves from pack this year as the top dog. Each event they put on in 2022 boasted fantastic lineups, most of which included UFC veterans. It was a tough call but with Unified MMA 46 featuring three UFC veterans, a PFL veteran and several of Canada’s top, young prospects, it’s a pretty tough lineup to overlook.

Honourable mentions: Unified MMA 48, Unified MMA 45, Prospect FC 14, BFL 72, BTC 14