2023 is now upon us and already we’re looking ahead to the fights that need to be made. We already have a whole host of interesting, exciting fights booked including:
- Glover Texeira vs. Jamahal Hill
- Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno 4
- Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski
- Yair Rodriguez vs. Josh Emmett
- Marlon Vera vs. Cory Sandhagen
- Raufeon Stots vs. Patchy Mix
- Ryan Bader vs. Fedor Emelianenko
We take a look at five fights that need to be made in 2023.
Five Fights to Make in 2023
Conor McGregor vs. Michael Chandler
Whatever you think of Conor McGregor, his chances of ever becoming a champion again or his overall ability, he’s a ticket seller, a huge star and he’s long overdue an octagon return. It’s safe to say that McGregor, who is without a win at lightweight since 2016 and is just 1-3 in his last three UFC outings isn’t in the title picture.
He’s in a position where he just needs ‘fun’, fan-friendly fights that make sense as PPV headliners. Who is a fun, fan-friendly fighter who always puts on a show, has never been in a boring fight and can promote a fight like few others? Enter Iron Michael Chandler.
Chandler’s UFC record of 2-3 with four post-fight bonuses isn’t exactly the best, however, it’s the context of these fights that make him so entertaining. His two wars against Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier are some of the best fights that we’ve seen in recent times. His knockout of Tony Ferguson is one of the knockouts of the year in 2022 and he was extremely close to finishing things against Charles Oliveira in his title effort.
Dana White tells ESPN that Conor McGregor will likely fight Michael Chandler in his return fight pic.twitter.com/sGTj4rccnC
— MMA mania (@mmamania) December 9, 2022
It’s Chandler’s style that makes this fight so intriguing. We know that Mcgregor is a phenomenal striker. Across his 22 wins, he’s finished 19 of his opponents via TKO/KO. He’s got scary power and excellent timing and can get in the head of his opponents which forces them to stray from their game plan. Chandler has excellent wrestling, however, prefers to stand and bang with his opponents. He isn’t scared to take a number of shots to land one big bomb. On paper, Chandler should be able to out-wrestle McGregor and cruise to victory that way. However, we know that isn’t how Chandler is wired. He’ll go in, put on a show and throw down for as long as it lasts.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Amanda Nunes 3
The trilogy that we all need. Flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko is currently 0-2 against the bantamweight and featherweight champion, Amanda Nunes. Regardless, this is the fight that makes the most sense. Nunes, despite losing her bantamweight belt to Juliana Pena in December of 2021, recaptured the belt in devastating, dominant fashion back in July. Shevchenko’s last loss came at the hands of Nunes in 2017. She’s undefeated in her last nine fights, all of which have been at flyweight.
She’s all but cleared the division. Bullet has beaten those ranked #2, #3, #4, and #6 at 125lbs. Nunes has knocked off all the top contenders at 135lbs and no other contenders make sense. There’s a call for Shevchenko to face top contender, Manon Fiorot, however, the French native doesn’t seem to be ready to fight any time soon due to injury.
Both the previous fights between Shevchenko and Nunes were extremely close, especially their second fight. Nunes is certainly bigger than Shevchenko. There is almost zero chance that Nunes could make 125lbs, so the fight would have to take place at 135lbs. There is still a debate as to who the female GOAT is in the UFC and this trilogy fight would certainly settle the debate.
Paddy Pimblett vs. Ilia Topuria
It’s about time that Paddy Pimblett had a step up in competition in 2023 and that step up could come in the shape of Ilia Topuria. Pimblett isn’t a novice. He’s got a 20-3 record and is 4-0 since joining the UFC. Despite this, there is an argument that he faced tougher opposition outside of the UFC.
Ilia Topuria is one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC’s featherweight division. He’s undefeated in his professional career at 13-0 and is enjoying an impressive four-fight finishing streak. He’s ranked #9 at featherweight and recently dominated fellow undefeated star, Bryce Mitchell in the second round at UFC 282.
Topuria would have to move up in weight to make this one happen, however, we know that he’s not against this. In March of last year, he jumped up to lightweight to face Jai Herbert and, as we know from this fight, his power carries up a weight class.
This fight makes sense because the two men have a history of not getting along. The feud started when Pimblett make a remark about Georgians and the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia on Twitter.
Since the two went back and forth on the app, Topuria and Pimblett have been scheduled to fight on the same card twice. Firstly, in March in London, when Topuria launched himself at Pimblett during fight week, getting into an altercation. Secondly, at UFC 282 just last month. The two went at each other during the press conference, despite both having fights scheduled against other opponents.
Topuria believes that the UFC is protecting Pimblett from him. Speaking to Ariel Helwani on the MMAHour after UFC 282, he stated:
“I feel like the UFC’s protecting him me” Topuria said. “I don’t know why. In reality, that’s the fight to make right now, because it’s one of the biggest fights in the UFC. We can perfectly sell a pay-per-view. That fight makes more excitement for people than championship fights.”
This one is a must in 2023.
Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou
This one is long overdue. Heavyweight champion, Francis Ngannou has been out of action since his impressive performance against Ciryl Gane in January last year. He’s been involved in contract disputes, suffered injuries and doesn’t seem to be returning any time soon.
Jon Jones is arguably the best talent we’ve ever seen grace the octagon, however, he’s had his trials and tribulations outside of the fighting arena which has tainted his legacy in a lot of fans’ eyes. He’s never actually been defeated, however, has a lone loss on his record via DQ back in 2009. Since then, he’s gone undefeated and been fairly dominant. We know that he relinquished the light heavyweight belt in order to pursue a career at heavyweight, however, we haven’t seen it yet. He last competed in February 2020.
As Jones never lost the belt, it makes sense for him to immediately get a title shot when he eventually makes his heavyweight debut. Francis Ngannou is currently the king of the heavyweights and this one is far overdue.
Khamzat Chimaev vs. Colby Covington
Where are we at with the welterweight division? Leon Edwards reigns supreme after his devastating head kick, Kamaru Usman deserves a rematch, Colby Covington is arguably the best of the rest, Khamzat Chimaev has only been tested once in his UFC career, Belal Muhammad is on a tear and Shavkat Rakhmonov is the boogeyman at 170lbs.
Realistically, Edwards will headline in London in March and it’s trending to be against either Usman or a grudge match with the undeserving, Jorge Masvidal. That leaves the #2 and #3 ranked welterweights, Covington and Chimaev without a fight. Logically, book them as the co-main event in London, across five rounds. It just makes sense.
The fight itself is captivating. We’ve only seen Covington suffer three losses, one back in 2015 and then twice to Usman in more recent times. He’s dominated each and every other man he’s fought. He’s a relentless wrestler with an average of 4.05 takedowns per 15 minutes. His takedown defence sits at 72%. He’s got arguably the best gas tank at 170lbs and puts the pressure on his opponents throughout.
🚨 DANA WANTS A BIG CO MAIN IN LONDON🚨
per Dana White x @TheMacLife , the UFC want to book this:
Khamzat Chimaev v. Colby Covington
London | UFC 285 | Co-Main | 170 lbs pic.twitter.com/ihJXTp6TyE
— Spinnin Backfist (@SpinninBackfist) October 21, 2022
Chimaev’s record is flawless at 6-0 in the UFC. He has dominated each and every opponent until he faced Gilbert Burns. The fight was so close, we voted for it as one of our fights of the year. Aside from Burns, he hasn’t been tested in his career. Kevin Holland appeared to be a test on paper, however, due to the short nature of the bout and the fact that the fight was a catchweight in favour of Chimaev made the fight very one-sided.
If Chimaev can make 170lbs again, which at the moment is unclear, the Covington is the fight to make. He needs to prove himself against another top contender and a win over Covington does just that.