Opinion | 10 Fights That Have To Be Made in 2023

Fights to Make

The UFC has shut up shop for 2022 with UFC Vegas 66 drawing a close of the promotion’s events for the year. Nassourdine Imavov and Kelvin Gastelum will kick-start 2023 for the UFC with the pair scheduled to meet at a UFC Fight Night on January 14th.

A month hiatus from the promotion and with a majority of MMA stopping during the festive period, gives us fight fans plenty of time to speculate on what we would like to see in 2023.

Top 10 UFC Fights To Make In 2023

Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou

This matchup comes as a no-brainer really. Jon Jones’ hiatus from the sport has seen the former light-heavyweight champion out of action since his narrow victory over Dominic Reyes at UFC 247 in February 2020.

Meanwhile, his potential opponent, current UFC heavyweight champion, Francis Ngannou has also been side-lined after undergoing surgery to repair an issue with his knee following his victory over former teammate, Ciryl Gane, at UFC 270.

Considered by many the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, Jones could cement that crown should he make a successful entry to the heavyweight division. What better way to do that than by taking on one of the hardest hitters the sport has ever seen and the current division champion?

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Zhang Weili

Valentina Shevchenko has long reigned as the queen in the women’s flyweight division, overcoming any challenger who has been thrown her way. Given the UFC seems reluctant to book a matchup including her and Amanda Nunes once again, why can’t Zhang Weili be considered a worthy new opponent?

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Zhang was successful in reclaiming her strawweight championship title following her victory over Carla Esparza and given the 33-year-old has already expressed interest in this matchup why not allow these two elite mixed martial artists to share the octagon together for the first time?

Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman 3

Kamaru Usman reigned supreme at the top of the welterweight division after he dethroned Tyron Woodley back at UFC 235. Five consecutive title defenses followed for the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ following his acquisition and he was on route to secure a sixth until Leon Edwards landed what many considered the knockout of the year, stopping Usman dead in his tracks.

It seems only fitting for both men that they should share the octagon for a third time, for Edwards a chance to remove any doubt from those who still may that he is the real deal. For Usman, it is a chance to reclaim the welterweight title which he successfully defended for so long.

Michael Chandler vs. Conor McGregor

Action-packed. That is what you can expect should Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler meet inside the octagon. Whilst speculation still surrounds whether the Irishman will ever return inside the octagon, it has been made explicitly clear by Michael Chandler that he would be honored to be the man to welcome him back.

Chito Vera vs. Sean O’Malley 2

The only man to defeat Sean O’Malley, Chito Vera has recently been scheduled to fight fellow bantamweight contender Cory Sandhagen in February in what can only be considered a title eliminator.

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This works perfectly in my plan. In an ideal world, Vera defeats Sandhagen whilst Sean O’Malley gets the call to face current division champion, Aljamain Sterling. O’Malley gets the job done and then towards the end of 2023, we get to see this feud ignited once again in a battle for the 125-pound championship.

Alex Pereira vs. Israel Adesanya 2

Technically the second fight of the two inside mixed martial arts but as I am sure you all know this would be the fourth time the two men compete against each other. Pereira seems to be the kryptonite of the ‘Last Stylebender’ having dethroned the former middleweight champion in the final rounds of their main event matchup at UFC 281.

For Pereira, what better first defense to make than to beat the man who has long reigned at the top of the division? In Adesanya’s case, it is only right that he has a chance to reclaim his previously held title having been just minutes away from retaining it in the pair’s UFC 281 meeting.

Khamzat Chimaev vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov

Khamzat Chimaev and Shavkat Rakhmonov are two of the most highly regarded fighters currently on the UFC roster. Chimaev made an explosive entry to the promotion and has since coined himself as a title challenger at 170 pounds. For Rakhmonov, his ascension in the UFC has been somewhat quieter however that may change after his January 14th matchup against Geoff Neal. 16 fights resulting in all finishes against a man who has only seen the judges’ scorecards once in his career, both destined for the pinnacle of the welterweight division, sign me up.

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Arnold Allen vs. Max Holloway

This may come from a British bias as I just want to see Arnold Allen get a shot at the featherweight title. Now, what better way for him to do that than by taking on former title holder, Max Holloway, to earn himself the chance? Allen has been on fire since signing for the promotion winning all of his matchups whilst Holloway had defeated all potential contenders during his reign as the featherweight champion before being taken off of the perch of the division by widely considered pound-for-pound number one, Alexander Volkanovski.

A chance for Holloway to get back into the winning column following his tough stint and for Allen a win over a legend like Max almost certainly guarantees you competing for the gold in your next matchup.

Tom Aspinall vs. Stipe Miocic

Tom Aspinall similarly to Allen has been on fire since joining the promotion until he, unfortunately, suffered a severe injury in his headline clash with Curtis Blaydes at UFC London. Still, considered by many as one of the better prospects in the heavyweight division why not let him return (once he is ready) and compete against the former champion, Stipe Miocic, who hasn’t been seen inside an octagon since his defeat to Francis Ngannou?

Jiri Prochazka vs. Glover Teixeira 2

One of the greatest fights to take place this year I would not turn down the chance to see these two men compete against each other one final time. Whilst Teixeira is coming toward the end of his career that was not evident in his back-and-forth war with Prochazka back in the summer. All could play out perfectly provided the Brazilian can secure the title in his home country when he faces Jamahal Hill for the vacant belt.

Provided Jiri Prochazka can return from his shoulder injury in a timely manner, win or lose, would there be a more fitting way for Teixeira to call a day on his career than by competing against the man not only who took his title from him, but was also so close to beating.

Are there any fights I have missed off of my ‘fights to make’ list that you would like to see? If so, leave them in the comments below.