Each and every year, MMASucka make 10 outlandish predictions for the year ahead. We then review these predictions at the end of the year and see how they went. You can check out this year’s article here. Without further ado, let’s jump into 2023’s outlandish predictions!
Outlandish MMA Predictions 2023
1. Ciryl Gane will be UFC heavyweight champion… After Francis Ngannou relinquishes the title and leaves the UFC
We’re starting off big. We predict that Ciryl Gane will be the heavyweight champion, by winning a vacant title fight. This vacant title fight will be against Sergi Pavlovich and the opportunity will present itself after Francis Ngannou relinquishes his belt and leaves the organisation. We know that Ngannou has had serious contract disputes with the UFC and was entertaining a boxing match against Tyson Fury at some point last year. Of course, this never came to fruition and he’s still under contract with the UFC.
2023 will be the boiling point for Ngannou, especially with the PFL and Jake Paul making waves regarding fighter engagement and pay. Ngannou leaves, Gane beats Pavlovich and we’re proved right.
2. Casey O’Neill will realise a title shot but it will be too much too soon
King Casey O’Neill is set to return against Jennifer Maia on March 18th in London. She sat out a lot of 2022 with a devastating knee injury after being scheduled for a bout with Jessica Eye.
— Marcel Dorff 🇳🇱🇮🇩 (@BigMarcel24) January 6, 2023
O’Neill is a phenomenal talent. She sits at 9-0 with four UFC wins and three finishes. She’s a former Eternal MMA champion with a well-rounded skillset and is young enough to go all the way in the UFC.
She’ll defeat Maia in London, go on to face Katlyn Chookagian in July during international fight week and then face the champion, Valentina Shevchenko in December. Unfortunately for the Scottish-Australian, Shevchenko will just be too well-rounded, too quick and too experienced and will get the better of O’Neill. Don’t get mistaken though, Casey O’Neill will be the champion one day.
3. Kayla Harrison and Cris Cyborg will finally meet
Just how good is Kayla Harrison? At 15-1, she’s been almost as dominant as we’ve seen in recent times, since the likes of Ronda Rousey. She did, however, lose her last fight against the game, Larissa Pachecho. Prior to the PFL finals in November 2022, she constantly teased a fight with either Amanda Nunes or Cris Cyborg, the two women who are considered in the GOAT conversation.
Prior to Nunes’ loss to Juliana Pena, there was a real chance that Harrison was going to get that fight, however, as we know, it never came to fruition. The Cyborg fight seems much more possible as we know that Scott Coker, the CEO of Bellator, the promotion that Cyborg is currently under contract with is willing to put on a cross-promotion show.
The Cyborg vs. Harrison fight will happen in a joint-promotional fight between the PFL and Bellator. Who will win? We need to wait and find out.
4. Rodtang will transition into MMA
Rodtang Jitmuangnon, the ONE Championship Flyweight Muay Thai World Champion will transition into MMA and compete for ONE Championship. He’s currently scheduled to face Jiduo Yibu at ONE Fight Night 6 this week in a kickboxing fight, but after this, he’ll go all in into MMA.
He’s got a Muay Thai record of 269-42-10, is one of the most recognisable names for the ‘casual’ MMA fan and therefore will be a ticket seller for ONE. His mixed rules bout against Demetrious Johnson back at ONE X showed that he’s not opposed to mixing things up, trying MMA itself and introducing wrestling into his game. At just 25 years old, Rodtang is certainly on the cusp of a massive career and we know he’s got the drive to do so.
— MMA Mania (@mmamania) November 19, 2022
We also know that he’s entertaining a move over to MMA. In November of last year, he spoke to the Bangkok Post stating:
“What I’m aiming for right now is to get the [ONE] world title for kickboxing [and become] a second-sport world champion. After that, I’m going to go all the way in MMA and then challenge whoever the champion“.
Will ONE CEO, Chatri Sityodtong entertain the idea? We certainly think he will.
5. Jake Paul Headlines a PFL Event in the UK
The card will likely be a ‘super fights’ card unless they want to keep them exclusively for the US market. However, if they do choose to go to the UK, expect Dakota Ditcheva, Simeon Powell and plenty more local talent to be on the card too. But make no mistake about it, Paul will be the headliner.
6. Robert Whittaker will hold middleweight gold at some point this year
He wins and maybe even has a trilogy against Adesanya by the end of the year…
7. Henry Cejudo Returns, Loses to Aljamain Sterling, who goes on to face Sean O’Malley for the belt
We know that the rumours have been circling of an imminent return of ‘Triple C’, Henry Cejudo. The Olympic gold medalist never lost his UFC titles but relinquished his 125lbs title in 2019 and his bantamweight strap in 2020. He’s sat on a record of 18-2 and is undefeated since 2016. Because he never lost his title, rather chose to give them up, it’s logical that he should get an immediate title shot upon his return. We know that he’s back in the USADA testing pool ahead of his promotional return. He won’t be able to make flyweight anymore, so a bantamweight return is assumed.
The current bantamweight champion, Aljamain Sterling is currently without a fight so his next bout will likely be against Cejudo. Having sat out for, what will be approximately three years by the time he fights, Cejudo will certainly be rusty. Sterling has had five fights and neck surgery since Cejudo last fought, which we predict will play a huge part and make a difference. Sterling narrowly defeats Cejudo and will be in search of his next opponent soon after.
This next opponent will come in the form of the slick-talking, fan favourite, Sean O’Malley. O’Malley is riding a five-fight undefeated run, including his most recent big win against former champion, Petr Yan. Suga will be willing to sit out to get a title fight with Sterling, which we predict will happen.
8. Islam Makhachev makes two defences of his 155lbs belt before being matched with Arman Tsarukyan in early 2024
This prediction is that Islam Makhachev will defeat Alexander Volkanovski in Perth in February, face either Beneil Dariush or Dustin Poirier in September and then be scheduled to clash with Arman Tsarukyan in early 2024.
Makhachev is a tough stylistic match-up for anyone, especially Volkanovski who will be moving up in weight and isn’t a traditional wrestling guy. He was taken down by Brian Ortega, Chad Mendes and Darren Elkins amongst others during his featherweight run. Makhachev will simply be too big, too strong and too much for the Australian when they clash for the lightweight belt.
Makhachev will then go on to face either Dariush or Poirier in his next defence. There’s no doubt that Dariush is the most deserving man of a title shot at lightweight. He’s yet to ever compete for gold in the UFC, despite big wins. He’s dominated his last two high-level opponents in Tony Ferguson and Mateusz Gamrot. Poirier returned after his unsuccessful title shot to defeat Michael Chandler in November. He’s certainly the bigger name of the two, which could see him realise the shot rather than Dariush. Regardless of who it is, Makhachev again gets his hand raised.
A rematch between Makhachev and Tsarukyan will then be booked for early 2024. It’s a fight that makes a lot of sense as Tsarukyan appears to have a style that could rival Makhachev’s. When they faced off back in 2019, it was a close fight with each man having success in the wrestling realm.
9. Darren Till will go 3-0 in 2023
Darren Till has been horrendously out of form in recent years. Going 1-5 in his last six, suffering four finish losses. At this moment in time, he’s clinging onto his #15 spot in the middleweight rankings. We know what Till can do to get his career back on track, however, it’s unsure if he’ll be able to achieve this. Despite that fact, we predict that he will go 3-0 in 2023.
The prediction may not be as it seems, however. Till could be cut from the UFC, go 2-0 outside of the promotion, fighting for a smaller promotion such as a CageWarriors or even Bellator (or perhaps a PFL super fight!). Due to his experience and overall skill level, Till will beat any opponent he faces outside of the UFC. Recognising this and appreciating his promotional pull, the UFC will offer him a new contract, where he will be victorious on his return.
Either this, or the UFC gives him favourable match-ups at middleweight o get him back on track. He could compete in London in March against a lesser name such as Jacob Malkous, Eryk Anders or Kyle Daukaus. Either of these guys makes sense. they’re recognisable names and faces but as of yet, aren’t in the top 15 of the division. Till is skilled and will get back on track in 2023.
10. Dana White will take a step away from the UFC
Whether this is a prediction or a hope we’re not quite sure, however, Dana White will step away from the UFC. Following his domestic abuse issues of late, White is in extremely hot water. The share price of Endeavour has plummeted, the respect for White has certainly decreased as well as serious questions over his ‘PowerSlap’ promotion and its future.
Jon Anik or UFC veteran, Brian Stann should be the ‘new’ leading man for the UFC. They’re both stellar examples of human beings, both are passionate about the sport and both men have experience of working behind the scenes. Anik is clearly involved with the UFC in a big way and in recent times has had a front-facing position within the company.
Stann had an advisory role as the head of Fight and Competition/Rules Committee for the PFL.
It’s time, Dana White needs to either step away from the UFC for the growth of the promotion or take a major backwards step from being in the limelight.