2023 looks like an exciting year for UFC fans with top fights to be expected in all weight classes.
• Will Conor McGregor become the first champion of 3 weight classes?
• Jon Jones returns: Will he become the biggest MMA fighter of all time?
• First ever quadrilogy fight in UFC history early next year?
• New challenges for Amanda Nunes and Francis Ngannou?
Countless reports and studies show that MMA has been the fastest growing sport in the last couple of years and is projected to keep growing in a healthy trend in years to come. A significant factor is, of course, Dana White’s work with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and how the company has scaled up to become the most prominent fighting organisation in the world.
Another contributing factor to MMA's rising popularity is the cross-over boxing bouts outside of the organisations, between top names, such as Conor McGregor and retired boxing legend Floyd Mayweather. YouTube celebrity and amateur boxer Jake Paul faced former UFC long-time champion, Anderson Silva, in the boxing ring and won last Saturday (29 October 2022) and faced UFC fighter Tyron Woodley last year, as examples. The big money and paychecks surrounding these cross-over fights, make them attractive to fighters from not just the MMA or boxing world. However, most active, and top-tier MMA fighters seek to become champions and break records in an organisation such as UFC, Bellator or Pride - The number of title defences, or becoming champion in more than one division, is a sure road to legendary status in the MMA world.
In a new infographic from UK betting company bwin, a complete list of double MMA champions (multiple organisations listed), current champions in the UFC, upcoming title bouts and the potential biggest fights in UFC during 2023 is revealed.
The blog post shares a Tale of The Tape match-up of potential fights between Francis Ngannou vs. Jon Jones, and Amanda Nunes vs Kayla Harrison, to give insights into fighting records and physical advantages.
The post lists potential match-ups for all divisions, and here are three examples of top fights that could take place in the new year:
Women’s Featherweight Division - Amanda Nunes vs Kayla Harrison
Amanda Nunes has defended the featherweight title since 29 December 2018, and there have been talks about UFC wanting to end the weight class as they struggle to find opponents for Nunes. In fighting organisation PFL, former Judo Olympic and world champion Kayla Harrison is facing the same problem. As Harrison has never lost in her MMA career (15-0), a switch to UFC and a new challenge would be the ideal move for her career. This fight would be one of the biggest fights in MMA during 2023, between 2 undisputed champions.
Women’s Strawweight Division - Carla Esparza vs Rose Namajunas
Rose Namajunas was predicted to hold the belt for years to come, but Carla Esparza won the title from Namajunas at UFC 274 (7 May 2022), in a fight that has been dubbed the worst title fight of all time. As this was Carla’s second victory over Rose, Esparza vs Namajunas 3 is not unlikely to take place in 2023, even if Esparza loses the belt in her upcoming fight against Zhang Weili. As neither one of the fighters wants to repeat their last bout, it will turn into a war with a lot at stake: Potentially the belt and Rose another shot at beating her nemesis.
Men’s Heavyweight Division - Francis Ngannou vs Jon Jones
Current heavyweight title holder Francis Ngannou's contract with the UFC is coming to an end, and at the same time, former light heavyweight champion, and pound-for-pound listed Jon Jones’s comeback in the octagon, will most likely be taking place during 2023. Jones has undergone a two-year body transformation to reach the heavyweight class, and if the fighter succeeds in taking the belt in a second weight class, he will be regarded as perhaps the best MMA fighter of all time. Although Ngannou's future in UFC is uncertain, a fight against Jones would be a dream match-up for UFC fans.
When will the first-ever quadrilogy fight take place, and who are the top contenders for the belt in each division? See the full infographic and predictions here.