There are many storylines to look out for as an eventful 2023 comes to a close. Will the PFL purchase Bellator? What will be Francis Ngannou’s next move? Who becomes the next superstar of MMA?
Those questions and many more will be answered in time, but what fans care about most is the fights themselves. Fans across the globe are in for a treat to end the year as a number of compelling and exciting fights are booked between now and the end of the year.
- Alexandre Pantoja vs Brandon Royval 2 for the UFC Flyweight Championship at UFC 296
- Paddy Pimblett vs Tony Ferguson at UFC 296
- Ian Garry vs Vicente Luque at UFC 296
- Stephen Thompson vs Shavkat Rakhmonov at UFC 296
- Beneil Dariush vs Arman Tsarukyan at UFC Fight Night: Dariush vs Tsarukyan
- Dan Hooker vs Bobby Green at UFC Fight Night: Dariush vs Tsarukyan
- Rob Font vs Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC Fight Night: Dariush vs Tsarukyan
- Yaroslav Amosov vs Jason Jackson for the Bellator Welterweight Championship at Bellator 301
- Sergio Pettis vs Patchy Mix for the Bellator Bantamweight Championship at Bellator 301
- Raufeon Stots vs Danny Sabatello 2 at Bellator 301
- Kayla Harrison vs Julia Budd at PFL 10: 2023 PFL World Championship
- Ray Cooper III vs Derek Brunson at PFL 10: 2023 PFL World Championship
3. Leon Edwards vs Colby Covington at UFC 296
In the main event of UFC 296 on December 16 from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Leon Edwards will put his UFC welterweight championship up for grabs against the uber-talented yet uber-controversial Colby Covington. “Rocky” Edwards put a stamp on his trilogy with Kamaru Usman, winning their rematch and the welterweight title in shocking fashion at UFC 278, then once again defeating “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman by decision in his first title defense at UFC 286 to solidify his place as the top welterweight fighter in the world. He has not lost a fight since their first matchup, which was twelve fights ago for the Jamaican-born Brit. His evolution as a fighter has been increasingly apparent with each of those fights, and will try to continue that trend against former Usman foe Covington.
Despite his polarizing personality and living up to his nickname “Chaos” both in and out of the cage, Covington is a force to be reckoned with as a fighter and was announced as next in line to challenge for Edwards’s belt right after the events of UFC 286. Beyond the headlines, the knock on Covington is his inactivity, as he last competed in March 2022 in a grudge match against Jorge Masvidal at UFC 272. Moreover, he has competed no more than twice per year since 2017 and only once per year since 2020. During that time, he has only lost to Usman in two extremely competitive and entertaining fights. The matchup against Edwards should be an action-packed one that is sure to garner attention through whatever Covington is sure to say in the leadup.
2. Tom Aspinall vs Sergei Pavlovich at UFC 295
The original main event for UFC 295 on November 11 at Madison Square Garden was supposed to feature the legendary Jon Jones making his first defense of his heavyweight title against the most decorated heavyweight champion in UFC history, Stipe Miocic. This fight would likely have taken top billing on this list if it were still happening. However, after Jones tore his pectoral muscle on October 25, the UFC pivoted by removing Miocic from the event as well and announcing that surging contenders Tom Aspinall and Sergei Pavlovich would go toe-to-toe for the interim title in the co-main event.
Both Aspinall and Pavlovich are prolific finishers, with each of them yet to see the judges’ scorecards in their UFC careers and also both hold a 6-1 record in the organization. Moreover, neither of them has even seen a third round in the UFC, and only one of their combined 14 UFC fights has made it out the first round. The clash of these titans is a classic case of an unstoppable force versus an immovable object, with the winner not only receiving a place in UFC history, but setting themselves up for an even bigger fight against one of the most recognizable names in the sport’s history when (or potentially if) Jones returns in around eight months.
Fans looking to place a bet on Aspinall vs Pavlovich can go to the link below to find the best sportsbook options in the US.
1. Jiri Prochazka vs Alex Pereira at UFC 295
After the aforementioned mixup at the top of the UFC 295 card, the originally scheduled co-main event was bumped up to the main event. In a division that has been looking for clarity and stability for nearly a year, Jiri Prochazka and Alex Pereira will both be seeking to bring exactly that as the two battle for the light heavyweight championship. Prochazka earned the title from Glover Teixeira at UFC 275, but ended up vacating it last November after suffering a shoulder injury.
In his wake, former champion Jan Blachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev fought for the vacant title just a month later at UFC 282. When they fought to an uninspiring draw, the UFC pivoted by booking Teixeira and “Sweet Dreams” Jamahal Hill for the very next pay-per-view. Hill would win convincingly, giving the division hope for a more steady future. But just a few months into his reign, Hill would rupture his Achilles and follow the lead of his predecessor Prochazka in vacating the title, which has now been vacant for more than half of the year.
Now with Prochazka recovered, he will once again fight for the title that he never lost against “Poatan” Pereira, who captured the UFC middleweight championship in exact same venue one year ago at UFC 281. Pereira has the level of activity on his side, as this will be his third fight of the year after dropping the middleweight belt in his next fight after UFC 281 and then winning his light heavyweight debut against Blachowicz at UFC 291. In just his 11th MMA fight, the Brazilian Pereira will try to join rarified air by becoming just the ninth fighter to win a UFC title in multiple divisions. Prochazka, meanwhile, looks to pick up where he left off and establish himself as the dominant force in the division.