10 MMA fights we want to see in 2023 (2023)

As the UFC, Bellator, and other top MMA promotions get ready for their 2023 campaigns, it's time to lay out some of our wishes for the new year.

Here are 10 realistic matchups we hope come to fruition sometime in the next 12 months.

Francis Ngannou vs. Jon Jones

Before diving in, let's revisit the 2022 edition of this column for just a moment. A heavyweight title bout between Ngannou and Jones was the No. 1 fight on the list, and this is what we said about it: "This is the fight everyone wanted in 2020, and then it was the fight everyone thought was bound to happen in 2021. Yet it's 2022, and Jones is still on the sidelines."

(Video) 10 MMA Fights We NEED to See in 2023

Well, another year has gone by, and, somehow, it's still status quo for "Bones" Jones. The former light heavyweight champion hasn't stepped into the Octagon since February 2020, and it remains unclear when - or if - he'll actually fight again.

10 MMA fights we want to see in 2023 (1)

However, Ngannou, arguably the scariest puncher in MMA history, defending his heavyweight crown against Jones, an all-time great who's eyeing a second title, is still by far our most desired matchup for 2023. It's absolutely perfect, and it'll be a damn shame if Ngannou and Jones don't finally battle it out this year.

Sean O'Malley vs. Marlon Vera 2

When Vera defeated O'Malley in August 2020, both were still up-and-comers. But after impressive 2022 campaigns, they are now two of the top bantamweights in the UFC. This would be a highly anticipated rematch with much bigger stakes than last time.

Vera is scheduled to face Cory Sandhagen in a UFC Fight Night main event in February, while O'Malley - the No. 1-ranked contender - is one of two options for Aljamain Sterling's next title defense, the other being former champ Henry Cejudo. Although O'Malley-Vera 2 likely won't be next, there's no better timing for it than this year. And if both bantamweights keep winning, it might even be for a belt.

Alex Pereira vs. Robert Whittaker

This would be such a compelling matchup. Even though Pereira defeated Israel Adesanya to capture the UFC middleweight title, and Adesanya has beaten Whittaker twice, it feels like Whittaker has the clearest path to victory against Pereira out of anyone at 185 pounds.

(Video) The fights we want to see in 2023 | ESPN MMA

Though Whittaker mostly sticks to his striking in the Octagon, the former champion is a surprisingly talented wrestler. And for anyone other than maybe Adesanya, you have to get former GLORY Kickboxing titleholder Pereira to the ground to beat him. Pereira will likely have to face Adesanya in a rematch before anything, but if he's able to set back "The Last Stylebender" yet again, a title defense against Whittaker would be a welcome matchup and a stylistic treat.

10 MMA fights we want to see in 2023 (2)

Max Holloway vs. Arnold Allen

Holloway's stock is the lowest it's been in a long time. Of course, he's still a great fighter and ranked No. 14 on the men's pound-for-pound list. But he's the clear No. 2 at featherweight now behind champion Alexander Volkanovski, who swept Holloway on the scorecards in a July trilogy bout after scoring competitive wins in their first two fights. With three losses to the champ, it's hard to see Holloway winning the title again - or even being in a position to do so - as long as Volkanovski is around.

Allen, meanwhile, deserves a big fight like this. He's won 12 in a row and hasn't lost since 2014. He's clearly one of the most talented fighters in the division. But with long periods of time off between fights, more decisions than finishes in recent years, and a bit of bad luck, the Englishman hasn't been pushed much by the UFC. Give him a big step up against Holloway, and let's find out if Allen is ready for a shot at gold.

Leon Edwards vs. Khamzat Chimaev

10 MMA fights we want to see in 2023 (3)

Frankly, any welterweight title fight involving Chimaev would be perfect. The opponent - whether it's Edwards, Kamaru Usman, or someone else - doesn't matter as much. But Edwards is the champion right now, so we'll go with him.

Chimaev lost his air of invincibility in 2022, as Gilbert Burns took him three hard rounds at UFC 273 in April. But Chimaev still came out on top by unanimous decision, and it was an impressive performance in its own right, even if the striking tallies weren't nearly as lopsided as in Chimaev's other Octagon appearances.

(Video) 10 Fights MMA Fans Want In 2023

There's no doubt after Chimaev beat Burns - and then returned to his dominant ways against Kevin Holland - that he's a top contender and coming for that strap. The one thing that could stand in the way of that is himself: Chimaev missed weight by a whopping 7.5 pounds for a scheduled Nate Diaz fight in September, resulting in the UFC booking him against Holland at the last minute instead. Even if Chimaev won't be at welterweight forever, we still want to see him get a shot at UFC gold - because, skill for skill, he's as good as anyone.

Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko 3

The long-sought trilogy fight between Nunes and Shevchenko could probably be on this list year after year. It might never be No. 1, but it's the two best female fighters in the world - who have very few challenges awaiting them in their own division - facing off. Who wouldn't want to see that?

Nunes might face Julianna Pena for a third time next, while Shevchenko has Manon Fiorot or the winner of Taila Santos versus Erin Blanchfield in her crosshairs. But if Nunes is able to remain the women's bantamweight champion, and if Shevchenko can keep the women's flyweight belt around her waist by mid-2023, let's finally get this superfight between all-time greats on the schedule.

Charles Oliveira vs. Beneil Dariush

Dariush needs a step up in competition, an opponent who - with a win - would leave the UFC no choice but to give the No. 4-ranked lightweight contender a title shot. Oliveira fits the bill.

This fight, which pits two of the best grapplers in the division against each other in what is a fascinating stylistic matchup, was actually supposed to happen in 2020. Oliveira pulled out and went on a run to the title, leaving the Dariush matchup behind. But now, with Oliveira losing to Islam Makhachev last October and needing another win before rejoining the title mix, the UFC should highly consider rebooking Oliveira-Dariush.

(Video) 10 UFC Fights We NEED To See in 2022

10 MMA fights we want to see in 2023 (4)

Justin Gaethje vs. Rafael Fiziev

This is a banger of a fight, isn't it? Fiziev is one of the most promising up-and-comers at lightweight, but at No. 6, he's probably more of a contender at this point. He still needs that marquee win to cement his case as a title challenger, though, and a matchup with Gaethje would give him the chance to secure it.

Gaethje, meanwhile, is coming off a title-fight loss to Oliveira last May. As much as we would like to see Gaethje fight Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler over and over again, it's time for the new blood at 155 pounds to start getting opportunities against the most notable names in the division. That starts with Gaethje-Fiziev, which is guaranteed to produce fireworks.

Ciryl Gane vs. Sergei Pavlovich

Pavlovich was the breakthrough star in the heavyweight division in 2022, moving all the way up to No. 3 with knockout wins over Tai Tuivasa, Derrick Lewis, and Shamil Abdurakhimov. A fight with Gane, the former interim champion who's also coming off a win over Tuivasa, would be a great test to see if Pavlovich is ready to face Ngannou.

Usman Nurmagomedov vs. AJ McKee

10 MMA fights we want to see in 2023 (5)

The biggest must-see fight in Bellator this year is lightweight champion Nurmagomedov against former featherweight champ McKee, who's now at 155 pounds. Nurmagomedov is the new boogeyman of the division after dominating Patricky Freire. But McKee is the homegrown talent who ran through almost everyone at 145 pounds. McKee looked great in his Bellator lightweight debut last year, and he's the biggest name who could be paired up with Nurmagomedov. Book it.


Is a 10-7 round possible in MMA? ›

A 10 – 7 Round in MMA is when a fighter completely overwhelms their opponent in Effective Striking and/or Grappling and stoppage is warranted.” A 10 – 7 round in MMA is a score that judges will rarely give.

What MMA fights are coming up? ›

  • January 14, 2023. UFC Fight Night 217: Gastelum vs. ...
  • January 18, 2023. Invicta FC 51: Tennant vs. ...
  • January 21, 2023. UFC 283: Teixeira vs. ...
  • February 4, 2023. Bellator 290: Bader vs. ...
  • February 4, 2023. UFC Fight Night 218: Lewis vs. ...
  • February 11, 2023. UFC 284: Makhachev vs. ...
  • February 18, 2023. ...
  • February 25, 2023.

Can there be a 10 10 round in MMA? ›

A 10 – 10 round in MMA is when both fighters have competed for whatever duration of time in the round and there is no difference or advantage between either fighter.” A 10 – 10 round in MMA should be extremely rare and is not a score to be used as an excuse by a judge that cannot assess the differences in the round.

Who is the best MMA right now? ›

  • Kamaru Usman. welter. 20-2-0.
  • Israel Adesanya. middle. 23-2-0.
  • Demetrious Johnson. fly. 31-4-1.
  • Francis Ngannou. heavy. 17-3-0.
  • Patricio Freire. feather. 34-5-0.
  • Leon Edwards. welter. 20-3-0.
  • Deiveson Figueiredo. fly. 21-2-1.
  • Aljamain Sterling. bantam. 22-3-0.

What is the 12 6 rule in MMA? ›

12–6 elbow strikes are illegal under the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, defined as "striking downwards using the point of the elbow". Such bans were justified for medical and safety reasons, due to the possibility of serious injuries to opponents that could result from their use.

Has there ever been a 10-6 round? ›

Likewise, two knockdowns would result in a 10-7 round...and so on. There is no definitive rule however that you MUST score a or three knockdown 10-7 or 10-6. A great example of this was the great fight on May 8, 2004 between Manny Pacquaio and Juan Manuel Marquez.

Who is No 1 in MMA? ›

Men's pound for pound
1Alexander VolkanovskiFeatherweight Champion
2Islam MakhachevLightweight Champion
3Leon EdwardsWelterweight Champion
13 more rows

Who is the number 1 MMA fighter in the world? ›

Khabib Nurmagomedov

Khabib Nurmagomedov was the longest reigning UFC lightweight division champion and his excellent grappling has won him many fights and cemented him as the best fighter in MMA history. Not only does he win all his fights, he also does it in a dominating fashion.

Is MMA the fastest growing sport? ›

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is one of the most popular, and fastest-growing, sports in the world. A new study has shown it is making huge strides financially as well. Much has been made about the fighter pay issue currently hanging over MMA and the UFC.

Has there ever been a 10-7? ›

Petz made his UFC debut at Ultimate Fight Night 6 against Sammy Morgan. He won via unanimous decision with one of the judges scoring the fight 30-23 including one of the only 10-7 rounds in UFC history. This is the most lopsided scorecard for a three-round fight in UFC history.

Can you have a 10-7 round? ›

J: IV - a round is to be scored as a 10-7 round when a contestant totally dominates by striking or grappling in a round.

What is a 10-8 boxing? ›

If a boxer is knocked down or hurt enough to prompt a standing count from the referee, that fighter loses a point. So, if a boxer dominates a round, controlling and landing better punches throughout and also knocks their opponent down, the end result is a 10-8 round.

Who is the hardest hitting MMA fighter? ›

Francis Ngannou is the hardest-hitting athlete in UFC history, according to the mixed martial arts firm itself. The heavyweight champion retained his title Saturday while exhibiting skills secondary to his striking, such as a wrestling prowess that kept challenger Ciryl Gane at bay through the five-round fight.

Is MMA better than boxing? ›

In a fight without rules, MMA is far better because MMA fighters are familiar with more styles (standing or ground styles), while boxers can only utilize their hands. To get a better understanding of boxing and MMA in general – keep reading.

Who is best fighter of all time? ›

1. Muhammad Ali. The Greatest was not only one of the best heavyweights of all time, he was also one of the most colorful. He won the gold medal at the 1960 Olympics and went on to become the first boxer to win the heavyweight title three times.

What moves are illegal in MMA? ›

Illegal actions
  • Strikes to the neck, throat, spine, kidneys, joints, groin/testicles, knees and below.
  • Kicks and knees to the head in ground position (from either athletes)
  • Stomp kicks.
  • Intentional breaking of bones or joints (i.e. not giving the opponent's enough time to tap in submission situations)

What's not allowed in MMA? ›

No directed throat strikes are allowed. A directed attack would include a fighter pulling his opponents head in a way to open the neck area for a striking attack. A fighter may not gouge their fingers or thumb into their opponent's neck or trachea in an attempt to submit their opponent.

What is a 10-8 MMA? ›

A round is to be scored as a 10-8 Round when a contestant overwhelmingly dominates by striking or grappling in a round. 4. A round is to be scored as a 10-7 Round when a contestant totally dominates by striking or grappling in a round.

Why is boxing scored 10 9? ›

It is so named because a judge "must" award ten points to at least one fighter each round (before deductions for fouls). Most rounds are scored 10–9, with 10 points for the fighter who won the round, and 9 points for the fighter the judge believes lost the round.

Can a boxing round be scored 9 9? ›

Judges score each round individually, on a 10-point scale. Most rounds are scored 10-9, with the boxer who did better scoring 10 and 'winning' the round, with the other fighter scoring 9. If a boxer is knocked down or hurt enough to prompt a standing count from the referee, that fighter loses a point.

Why did boxing stop 15 rounds? ›

15-round boxing matches ended due to the death of South Korean boxer Kim Duk-koo in the 14th round of his WBA Title fight against Ray Mancini in 1982. Kim Duk-koo's death prompted the WBC to limit its championship fights to a maximum of twelve rounds, a move followed by the WBA and IBF in 1987.

Who is the nicest UFC fighter? ›

  • Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson. 17-6-1. Recent Fights: ...
  • Demian Maia. 28-11-0. Recent Fights:
  • Georges "Rush" St. Pierre. 26-2-0. ...
  • Junior "Cigano" dos Santos. 21-10-0. Recent Fights: ...
  • Robert "The Reaper" Whittaker. 24-6-0. ...
  • "Smilin" Sam Alvey. 33-18-1, 1 NC. ...
  • Mark "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" Muñoz. 14-6-0. ...
  • "Super" Sage Northcutt. 11-3-0.

Who is an undefeated boxer? ›

Five-division world champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. has accumulated a perfect 50-0 record throughout his 21-year professional career.

Who is the best UFC player? ›

Georges St-Pierre

The Canadian is widely regarded as one of the greatest fighters in mixed martial arts history and is ranked here as the greatest of all time. St-Pierre was a two-division champion in the UFC, having won titles in the welterweight and middleweight divisions.

Is MMA bigger than boxing? ›

With boxing being the most popular combat sport for decades, is UFC more popular than boxing? MMA (UFC) is still not more popular than boxing. Out of the top 50 PPV sales ever, boxing holds 25 spots, while UFC only has 15.

Who is the best striker in MMA? ›

Conor McGregor has arguably the most dangerous left hand in mixed martial arts history. His understanding of the technical aspects of striking is leaps ahead of the average MMA fighter. While his left hand put away fighters like Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier away, his kicking techniques are just as impressive.

Which is bigger MMA or UFC? ›

In fact, the UFC is the biggest league in all mixed martial arts, earning over a billion dollars a year. The organization's profits from pay-per-view revenue and UFC tickets are growing rapidly as the league continues to expand. Let's take a deeper look at the history of MMA and the rise of the UFC.

Is MMA safer than boxing? ›

Mixed martial arts has a safer track record in respect to serious injury and death. Knockout rates are lower in MMA competitions than in boxing, suggesting a reduced risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in MMA competitions compared to other events involving striking.”

Is MMA a healthy sport? ›

It's a fantastic cardio workout and is effective in preventing various chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and depression. MMA is one of the best workouts when it comes to fat or weight loss. It's an intense cardiovascular activity, similar to a HIIT style workout.

Does MMA make you stronger? ›

MMA training targets your core in a way few other activities can replicate. Your body becomes stronger and more toned, and it's the functional type of strength. MMA training teaches your body to perform at a high level even when fatigue creeps in. Those are not the only physical benefits you get from training MMA.

Can a boxing round be scored 10 6? ›

A two-knockdown round is scored 10-7, and a three-knockdown round is scored 10-6. A fighter can be awarded a 10-8 round for inflicting heavy damage without knocking his opponent down.

How to win in UFC? ›

In the UFC, three judges evaluate each fight from a different viewpoint of the ring and score each fighter with up to ten points per round. A fighter must get ten points and his opponent must get less than ten in order to win the round.

How is MMA scored? ›

How is an MMA fight scored? A fight is scored through the 10-point system. Unless there is a serious foul, a judge must decide on a round winner and award them 10 points after. The other side, struggling during the fight, will be given a score of nine, resulting in a 10-9 score.

Has there ever been a 10 10 round? ›

Technically, it does -- for a very distinct purpose. If a fight is waved off due to something like an accidental head butt, and judges need to score a round that only lasted 10 seconds, they need a 10-10 option, yes?

What is the lowest score in boxing? ›

In Olympic boxing, the worst you can score is a 6, which is almost unheard of. 10–9 is a close round where you had to go past the punch count to the secondary and tertiary metrics to decide a winner.

How do UFC judges score? ›

Another key element of how UFC and MMA rounds are scored is the 10-point must-scoring system. Where, no matter what happens in a round, judges must decide on a round winner and award them 10 points after those five minutes. Most rounds result in a 10-9 score, however, there are instances of 10-8 and 10-7 scores.

What is the number 1 rule in boxing? ›

Rule #1: Be unpredictable, both on offense and defense. Habits, good and bad, are engrained from repetition and boxing training is one of the most repetitious sports on the planet.

Is there such thing as a 10-7 round? ›

J: IV - a round is to be scored as a 10-7 round when a contestant totally dominates by striking or grappling in a round.

Can you get 10-7 boxing? ›

Scores can, and do, vary from the typical 10-9 outcome. If Fighter A is able to knockdown Fighter B, it might be scored as 10-8. If it's done a second time, it becomes 10-7. This can continue based on a number of knockdowns in any given round.

Can you get a 10-8 round UFC? ›

A round is to be scored as a 10-8 Round when a contestant overwhelmingly dominates by striking or grappling in a round. 4. A round is to be scored as a 10-7 Round when a contestant totally dominates by striking or grappling in a round.

What is a 10-8 score in MMA? ›

The 10-8 scoring decision is a determination as to whether a fighter won by a close margin (10-9) or overwhelmingly dominated or won by a large margin (10-8, depending on the time period of the bout). Hence, if a 10-8 is being considered by a judge, the round winner should be apparent.

Why is boxing scored 10-9? ›

It is so named because a judge "must" award ten points to at least one fighter each round (before deductions for fouls). Most rounds are scored 10–9, with 10 points for the fighter who won the round, and 9 points for the fighter the judge believes lost the round.

Can you score a round 9 9? ›

A judge has the right to score a round even, just as they do to score it 10-8 without a knockdown. Judges are encouraged to avoid it as much as possible, and to only use these scores if they truly feel it's the correct appraisal of that round.

Is boxing ok for 12 year olds? ›

Boxing for kids is a safe sport.

Most of the time, little boxers are busy stretching, conditioning, or practicing their punches on heavy bags. You'll often see kids jumping rope, running, or shadowboxing. The only time when kids actually face another kid as their opponent is during supervised sparring.

Is boxing good for 14 year olds? ›

The AAP recommends that doctors steer young people away from boxing, and toward non-collision sports such as swimming, tennis, and basketball.

What punch is a 7? ›

7. Lead Hook to the Body. This punch is similar in form to the number three punch discussed earlier, but this time it will strike the body. Remember to keep your arm at a ninety-degree angle and parallel to the ground.

How long is a 10 round fight? ›

Novice (17 to 34 years old) – the bouts must consist of ten rounds of two minutes each. Open (17 to 34 years old) – the bouts consist of up to twelve rounds of two minutes each. Master Class (35 years and over) – the bouts consist of up to twelve rounds of three minutes each.

Is MMA 3 or 5 rounds? ›

For title fights, the bouts are five rounds, five minutes per round. It's a formula that has worked well in the eyes of many and has been adapted as a sport standard by nearly all MMA promotions.

What is the 3 point rule in MMA? ›

Basically, what this rule says is that if your opponent is considered grounded which in most places means has a knee or three points of his body on the mat, you cannot knee him.

What does the 273 mean in UFC? ›

April 9, 2022 12:54 am ET. The UFC returns to Florida on Saturday for its fourth pay-per-view of the year with UFC 273, which means the “Embedded” fight-week video series is back to document what's happening behind the scenes. UFC 273 takes place at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville.


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