As 2023 is coming to a close, there is but two UFC title fights left for fight fans slated for the year. At UFC 296, Leon Edwards will look to defend his welterweight title against Colby Covington and in the co-main event, Alexandre Pantoja welcomes Brandon Royval as a challenge to the flyweight throne. Let’s take a look back at the best performances from title tilts this year.
Top 5 UFC Title Fight Performances in 2023
Number 5 – Zhang Weili vs Amanda Lemos
While the headlines for UFC 292 all revolved around Sean O’Malley’s knockout win over Aljamain Sterling, the most dominant performance of the night belonged to women’s strawweight champion Zhang Weili. Weili would defend her strawweight crown against challenger Amanda Lemos in a match resulting in a complete domination. Lemos had no answer for the offense of Weili and could not mount any offense on the feet or the mat. Weili would establish a new record for significant strikes landed in a title tilt, with one of the judge’s scores showing a rarely seen 50-43 scorecard along with two other 50-44’s.
Number 4 – Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman 2
In his first defense as welterweight champion, Leon Edwards took on the man from whom he had won the belt, Kamaru Usman, at UFC 286. While he had managed to score a highlight reel knockout in their first fight, Usman had been controlling the fight up until that point and appeared to be coasting to a unanimous decision victory. Something that many expected could come to fruition in the rematch. However, Edwards showed a much-improved performance and put on a convincing display each round, coming out superior in striking exchanges and nullifying the attempted wrestling of Usman. Despite being deducted a point in round three for grabbing the fence, Edwards would ultimately come out on top, earning a deserved majority decision victory.
Number 3 – Islam Makhachev vs Alexander Volkanovski 2
In their second fight of the year, Alexander Volkanovski stepped in to save UFC 294 after Islam Makhachev’s original opponent, Charles Oliveira, pulled out shortly before the card. Looking to avenge his decision loss from earlier that year, Volkanovski would ultimately come up short and be on the receiving end of a first-round head kick knockout. Usually, a performance like this would guarantee Makhachev a place at the top of this list; however, the fact that Volkanovski came into the fight on extremely late notice without any camp taints the victory for this pundit slightly and leaves a bad taste in the mouth that we never saw the two of them go at it again both at their full potential.
Number 2 – Jon Jones vs Ciryl Gane
After returning to the Octagon after a multiple-year-long hiatus, Jon Jones debuted at heavyweight earlier this year, where he would be crowned the Heavyweight champion after picking up a first-round finish of Ciryl Gane. The fight, which lasted just over two minutes, would see Jones effortlessly take down Gane and put the Frenchman in a guillotine. The way that Jones blitzed through Gane, a man who had previously taken on and defeated some of the best that heavyweight has to offer, put the entire division on notice and dispelled any questions that doubters had regarding ring rust.
Number 1 – Israel Adesanya vs Sean Strickland
In one of the biggest upsets in the UFC’s history, Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya was dethroned by Sean Strickland at UFC 293. Adesanya had just regained his title from Alex Pereira and looked set to embark on another reign of dominance following Pereira’s decision to move up to Light Heavyweight. While initially slated to face Dricus Du Plessis, injury prevented the fight from occurring, and left with no one to fight, the UFC brought in Sean Strickland to fill the gap. Ranked outside the top five at the time, with his last two wins against unranked fighters, Strickland was expected to fall quickly to Adesanya and was given little to no chance by most onlookers. Yet, the MMA community was shocked to see Strickland score a knockdown on Adesanya towards the end of the first round. While he would not knock out the champion, Strickland would perform masterfully and utterly dominate the former champion. Truly the most impressive title fight display of 2023 and possibly of all time.