The 2022 MMA World Cup: Can Brazil repeat as champions?


This weekend marks the start of the biggest sporting event in the world, the FIFA World Cup. For the next month, 32 nations will square off to determine bragging rights for the next four years, with billions of people watching (not ONE Championship’s “billions,” actual billions of people). But, on the precipice of this massive global event, we are once again faced with the question: what if instead of kicking a ball, countries faced off to determine who can throw down the best?

Four years ago, MMA Fighting answered this question with the inaugural World Cup of MMA, and now we seek to do so again. In 2018, Brazil — anchored by Amanda Nunes, Jose Aldo, and a host of Top-10 fighters — ran the table on their way to hoisting the trophy, but there’s one major difference this time around: the United States of America.

As per previous rules, the World Cup of MMA is run side-by-side to the FIFA World Cup. Only teams that are qualified for the latter can be entered in the former. In 2018, the United States missed the tournament, but this time around, the Yanks are here, and they’re fielding an excellent team. Brazil remains one of the most powerful and deepest teams in the field, so it’s a good thing that the Selecao have the opportunity to bring the tournament back.

A reminder on how this all works: Football teams start with 11 players, so we pick 11 fighters — one for each of the premier weight classes in the sport — to represent each country in an MMA tournament. We then play out the various matches and see what country takes home the gold. We know that not every country has fighters of every weight, so we tried to make sure we had enough. It’s not perfect, but it’ll do, donkey.

Special shoutout to Tapology, without whom this endeavor would be nearly impossible.


Group A – 2022

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: the World Cup hosts don’t have a team. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to do anything about this. There are only two Qatari fights even in Tapology and neither have fought remotely recently. Also, given the myriad issues with Qatar in general, it probably wouldn’t play host to a tournament featuring women fighting, but oh well. The group is thrown out immediately.

The Dutch team cruises through the group phase with an impressive core of Alistair Overeem and Gegard Mousasi. Reinier de Ridder is backed up by solid regional talent. Senegal is outscored by Ecuador’s Marlon Vera, who simply fields a complete team.

Results: Netherlands wins the group. Ecuador advances.

Best Fights: Michael Morales vs. Brian Hooi is a low key banger but the marquee fight here is Alistair Overeem vs. Reug Reug.

UFC Fight Night: Overeem v Volkov

Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC


Good gracious, the Group of Death is fierce this time around.

In 2018, Iran, with a worse team, won their group and made it to the quarterfinals. Iran failed to win any match this time. They really need to start plying turning their deep wells of wrestling talent into more MMA fighters.

As expected, the United States comes out hot, showing why they are the tournament favorites this time around with strong performances from Aljamain Sterling, Demetrious Johnson, and all three women. England must fight against a threat from Wales. However, their core of Leon Edwards and Arnold Allen, Tom Aspinall and Muhammad Mokaev make them a formidable opponent for any country.

Shout out to Wales though, who would have advanced to the knockout stage in practically any other group.

Results: The United States win the group. England advances.

Best Fights: Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman 3, Curtis Blaydes vs. Tom Aspinall 2, Max Holloway vs. Arnold Allen, Beneil Dariush vs. Dustin Poirier, Jared Cannonier vs. Darren Till, Molly McCann vs. Katlyn Chookagian, Brett Johns vs. Davey Grant.

UFC 280: Sterling v Dillashaw

Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC


Group C – 2022

Poland was the darling team of 2018, making it all the way to the finals before falling to the juggernaut Brazilian squad, and the Bialo-czerwoni look to be at it again, returning six of their fighters from the last time out, including getting Joanna Jedrzejczyk to return from her recent retirement for one final run with the red and white. Meanwhile, Argentina cannot keep up with Mexico’s trifecta of women pair with Top-5 fighters in Yair Rodriguez and Brandon Moreno.

Results: Poland wins the group. Mexico advances.

Best Fights: Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Alexa Grasso, Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Lupita Godinez, Jan Blachowicz vs. Laureano Staropoli.

UFC 275: Official And Ceremonial Weigh-Ins

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Group D – 2022

After a disappointing showing in 2018 where they fell short against the juggernaut Russian team, Australia is back and once again has designs on a Top-4 finish. Led by the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, Alexander Volkanovski, the Aussies are a deep roster that’s able to outlast France to win the group stage. The French roster is notable less experienced than in 2018 but they still have enough juice to survive strong showings from Denmark and the feisty Tunisia.

Results: Australia wins the group. France advances.

Best Fights: Francis Ngannou vs. Tai Tuivasa, Robert Whittaker vs. Nassourdine Imavov, Jake Matthews vs. Nicolas Dalby, Mads Burnell vs. Salahdine Parnasse

UFC 284 Media Opportunity

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One of the more competitive groups in the tournament this time around, Japan is still the class of Group E, returning six of their 2018 starters including Kyoji Horiguchi, Kleber Koike Erbest, and Mizuki Inoue. Costa Rica, sadly, does not field enough of a team to be truly competitive, but Germany and Spain go hammer and tongs for the second position in the group, with Spain just edging the contest thanks to big performances from Juan Espino and Joel Alvarez.

Results: Japan wins the group. Spain advances.

Best Fights: Daniel Weichel vs. Kleber Koike Erbst, Satoshi Ishii vs. Juan Espino, Rin Nakai vs. Many Bohm

RIZIN Fighting World Grand-Prix 2017 2nd Round

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Group F – 2022

Like the United States, Canada missed out on the 2018 World Cup but now Georges St-Pierre’s team (he’s the coach) figures to be one of the tournament favorites, breezing through the group stages to secure their position in the round of 16. This group is difficult because of the weaknesses in Belgium, Croatia, and Morocco. Roberto Soldic, his team and others are ultimately able to overcome the youthful Belgium group and the weak Morocco group.

Results: Canada wins the group. Croatia advances.

Best Fights: Roberto Soldic vs. Mike Malott, Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Ottman Azaitar, Sebastian Di Franco vs. Hakeem Dawodu

UFC Fight Night: Gane v Tuivasa Ceremonial Weigh-in

Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC


Group G – 2022

Once again, Brazil is an absolute powerhouse. Serbia and Switzerland field respectable teams this year but they are wheat before the scythe in this group. Not only does Brazil win the group, but they go a perfect 33-0, sending a message to everyone else in the tournament that they intend to repeat.

The real story is about Cameroon’s ability to give a fair account of their own performance despite having fewer resources. If Francis Ngannou had chosen to represent Cameroon instead of France, perhaps they’d have had a better chance here but instead they don’t field enough bodies to compete with Serbia and Switzerland, who go head to head for second with Serbia edging it out thanks to their strong heavy personnel grouping of Darko Stosic, Aleksandar Rakic, and Dusko Todorovic.

Results: Brazil wins the group. Serbia advances.

Best Fights: Glover Teixeira vs. Aleksandar Rakic, Aleksandar Rakic vs. Volkan Oezdemir, Volkan Oezdemir vs. Glover Teixeira, Charles Oliveira vs. Uros Medic

UFC 282 Media Day Face Off

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Group H – 2022

In 2018, South Korea just missed advancing from the Group of Death but this time around they have a much easier path, and a deeper team to work with. Chan Sung Jung, Kyung Ho Kang, and Jun Yong Park anchor a well-rounded squad that advances without too much trouble.

Unfortunately, the battle for second isn’t nearly as competitive in this group as in others, with Ghana missing too many spots to compete, and Portugal featuring enough top end fighters to dispatch and Uruguay team that is just starting to develop on the international stage.

Results: South Korea wins the group. Portugal moves on.

Best Fights: Andre Fialho vs. Rae Yoon Ok, Pedro Carvalho vs. Korean Zombie, Manel Kape vs. Hyun Sung Park, Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Da Un Jung

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Well, that’s it for the group stage. What takes the World Cup two weeks, we managed in just under 1500 words. We’re now on to the knockout stage. The bracket is below.


Netherlands vs. England

We knew England had a good team, but this matchup showed us how the Brits are. The Netherlands have a strong history of combat sport success and are led by some legitimate legends, but they’re too thin to put up much of a fight against the red coats. Gegard Mousasi and Reinier de Ridder are able win, but not enough.

Winner: England wins a straightforward 7-4 battle.

Poland vs. France

France only returned four fighters from their 2018 squad but the influx of youth proves to be a huge boon to Les Bleus as the aging Poland crew just can’t quite keep pace. Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Jan Blachowicz and Karolina Kowalkiewicz do their parts, but Francis Ngannou continues to rock.

Winner: France wins a fun scrap with Poland, 7-4.

Japan vs. Croatia

Congratulations to Croatia on making it through a tough group. However, Mirko CroCop is not the best squad. Japan is simply too deep for the regional talent of Croatia to put up much fight. Roberto Soldic and Ivan Erslan try their best, but they are simply overmatched against Kyoji Horiguchi and the rest of the Japanese team.

Winner: Japan routs Croatia, 9-2.

Brazil vs. Portugal

Can anyone stop Brazil from growing? Portugal could certainly not. With three current UFC champions, one Bellator champion, and three former champs, Brazil brings unparalleled firepower that Portugal has no chance to keeping pace with. Manel Kape, Andre Fialho and all their hard work are lost in the Selecao flood.

Winner: Brazil dominates Portugal, 11-0.

United States vs. Ecuador

Not to give away the game here, but barring a huge upset, it looks like we’re headed for a United States vs. Brazil finals. Although the U.S. had a harder time than Brazil in their group stage, a team with nine fighters on the pound for pound lists is expected to prove to be a formidable opponent. Ecuador finds that out the hard way as even their team captain, Marlon Vera, falls to UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling.

Winner: United States blanks Ecuador, 11-0.

Australia vs. Mexico

This is what we were looking for in a contest!

Australia takes an early lead. They sweep the light, heavy, medium, and welterweight weight categories. Mexico isn’t known for its high-end talent at these weights. Jamie Mullarkey then edges out a close battle with Rafa Garcia, meaning Australia only needs one more win to clinch it, but that’s when the Mexican team starts battling back. Brandon Moreno and Cristian Quinonez and Irene Aldana and Alexa Grasso surge to victories, tying up the scores and putting all the blame on the clash of Alexander Volkanovski with Yair Rod. In the end, the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world does his part and keeps Oz in it after the matchup of the tournament thus far.

Winner: Australia survives Mexico, 6-5.

Canada vs. Spain

Simply put, Spain is not a deep enough team to make a run at the World Cup, at least not yet. Juan Espino and Joel Alvarez are quality pieces for any squad with big goals, but their lack of depth and experience, particularly in the women’s divisions, is ruinous. Canada is the mid-2000’s Detroit Pistons of this thing — solid all around, without any standout stars — and that’s more than enough to make it to the quarterfinals.

Winner: Canada takes a convincing victory over Spain, 9-2.

South Korea vs. Serbia

The final Round of 16 matchup ends up being less fun than we might have hoped. While Serbia has some big names in the lineup, their lack of women is a crippling weakness against the well-rounded South Koreans. South Korea’s women’s division is third, with Korean Zombie and Hyun Sung Park taking care of the rest.

Winner: South Korea eases into the quarterfinals with an 8-3 victory over Serbia.

UFC 277: Pena v Nunes 2

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Interesting to note that there are an even split of teams returning to the quarterfinals from 2018, and new groups making the Round of 8. Australia, Brazil and France were present last year, but Canada, Japan and South Korea are the first-timers.

England vs. France

Now that we’re getting down to it, some incredible fights are really starting to come out way. Francis Ngannou against Tom Aspinall Yes. Nassourdine Imavov vs. Darren Till? Let’s go! Let’s go! That leaves Paddy Pimblett vs. Mansour Barnaoui, Davey Grant vs. Taylor Lapilus, and Lanchana Green vs. Stephanie Page to sort out this quarterfinal, and in the end, the French team narrowly gets the job done.

Winner: France advances past England, 6-5.

Japan vs. Brazil

I’ll be honest, Brazil is looking pretty unstoppable at this point. Japan, which is solid and well-rounded, has been on top of the tournament. They cruised past Croatia in the group stage. And Brazil stomps them.

Taila Santos and Jessica Andrade establish a strong lead for Brazil. While the flyweight, featherweight and bantamweight fights were all very competitive, that does not make it any less important as the Brazilian team leaves no doubt about who the better side is.

Winner: Brazil flattens Japan, 11-0.

United States vs. Australia

As has been the case all tournament, the United States is looking just as good as predicted coming into it, making quick work of what has been a very strong Australian side up to this point. Alexander Volkanovski is forced to dispatch Max Holloway yet again, and Robert Whittaker does the same to Jared Cannonier, but beyond that the Australians simply can’t keep pace with Kamaru Usman, Dustin Poirier, and the rest of the red, white, and blue.

Winner: The United States rolls past Australia, 9-2.

Canada vs. South Korea

Quite possibly the most competitive matchup of the entire tournament. Both Canada and South Korea field deep teams that lack true superstars, meaning that just about every one of the 11 fights here are toss-ups. The matchup comes down to Hakeem Dwodu vs Chan Sung Jung for the featherweight. Given the facts, this fight is impossible against Korean Zombie.

Winner: South Korea advances, 6-5.

UFC 278: Usman v Edwards 2

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France vs. Brazil

Brazil has bad intentions and is a threshing-machine.

France is as hard-nosed and scrappy of a team as it comes, lead by the heavyweight champion of the world and featuring elite talent up and down the roster, and still, they are but kites riding a hurricane in the face of the mighty Brazil. The trifecta consisting of Amanda Nunes and Taila Santos has been a challenge for every team. Despite their best efforts the French middle lines of Mansour Baroui and Salahdine Parnasse couldn’t stop the dominating Brazilian centre group. If there’s such a thing as a moral victory here, Ngannou does become the first person to score against Brazil, but Les Bleus can’t manage anything more than that.

Winner: Brazil demolishes France, 10-1.

United States vs. South Korea

The key to any single-elimination tournament is making sure you’re playing your best when it gets down to the wire, and the United States, despite having some competitive scraps earlier are peaking right now. South Korea overachieved to get this far, but the Cinderella run has to end for Korean Zombie and company as their plucky group of solid fighters doesn’t have much to offer the American team rounding into form. Still, good on you South Korea for making it to the semifinals.

Winner: The United States cruises past South Korea, 11-0.

UFC 269 Weigh-in

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This is it. The matchup we’ve all been waiting for. Everyone hoped that this matchup would take place in the finals. The two pre-eminent nations in combat sports (particularly with Russia on the sidelines this year) battling it out for MMA supremacy. Which one will win the Cup?

As it turns out, these four fights (one twice) have been seen before. Amanda Nunes and Julianna Pena split fights, with Nunes winning their most recent encounter, Charles Oliveira beat Dustin Poirier in December, Kamaru Usman beat Gilbert Burns at UFC 258, and Corey Anderson stymied Glover Teixeira back in 2018. So factoring in those outcomes, we’re 2-2, with seven fights to go.

From there, it seems fair to say that Curtis Blaydes should beat Jailton Almeida, Taila Santos should beat Katlyn Chookagian, Aljamain Sterling probably beats Jose Aldo, and Jessica Andrade would thump Carla Esparza, bringing things to 4-4. That leaves the flyweight, featherweight, and middleweight matchups.

Alex Pereira, as UFC middleweight champion, gets benefit of the doubt when it comes to the 185-pound weight class, and Max Holloway, as the clearly superior fighter, gets the same when it comes to 145 pounds. Meaning the entire World Cup comes down to Demetrious Johnson, the greatest flyweight of all time, facing off with the current UFC flyweight champion. Johnson, the top-ranked UFC flyweight at the moment, means there is no other choice.

WINNER: The United States wins the 2022 MMA World Cup, 6-5 over reigning champions Brazil!!!!!!

UFC Fight Night: Johnson v Reis

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As I said last time, this obviously is not an exact science. Liberties were taken, snap judgments were made, and this didn’t factor in things like injuries, fouls, or just the general wackiness of MMA. It was a huge effort to ensure the most precise and accurate results possible. When all is said and done the result feels perfect. The two most dominant MMA nations in the world are Brazil and the United States. It’s a flip of a coin as to who is the best at what moment. I will say though, things could get interesting in four years if the U.S., Brazil, and Russia all make it in.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to hit me up on Twitter (assuming it’s still working), and for the sake of thoroughness, France soundly beats South Korea, 7-4.

Thanks for reading, love you guys.