Upcoming UFC fights

Potential Upcoming UFC fights

Another year is in the books for the UFC. Another year which saw some amazing fights and fight cards, a boatload of drama, nine title changes, more finishes than decisions across the year (269 vs 242) and some of the most incredible knockouts in the history of the sport, the gauntlet has been laid down for the UFC to outdo themselves in 2023.

Using the standard, universal and internationally recognised ‘Will it Happen-O-Meter’ rules, as established in Upcoming Boxing Matches, we look ahead to potential upcoming UFC fights for 2023.

(*might have made it up, but trademark pending. It’s 1-6. One being unlikely, six being a shoo-in).

Israel Adesanya vs Alex Pereira 2

Now 3-0 against Adesanya across kickboxing and MMA, including two finishes, you might be forgiven for assuming that Pereira just has his number. And there’s a good chance you might be right. However, it’s hard to ignore both Adesanya’s recent domination of an incredibly tough Middleweight division, and the closeness of their most recent title fight back in November. For four rounds, Israel expertly nullified Pereira’s ample threats, nearly finished him at the end of the first round and entered the final round comfortably 3-1 ahead, only to succumb to a late left hook and subsequent surge from Pereira to take home the gold in spectacular fashion. Despite the apparent dominance their head-to-head record suggests, it’s an extremely compelling rematch.

What happens if it goes ahead?

It’s hard to ignore Adesanya’s performance prior to the knockout, but logic says Pereira might just have too much power in that left hook.

Will it Happen-O-Meter

Adesanya’s run as champion should give him enough credit in the bank with the UFC to earn a shot as regaining his title.

Will it happen o-meter - measures how likely an upcoming boxing match will be

5.2/6.

 

 

Jon Jones vs Ciryl Gane

While Francis Ngannou vs. Jon Jones is probably the heavyweight fight every MMA fan wanted to see, Ngannou’s surprise release from the promotion has left a vacant title up for grabs. It’s been nearly three years since Jon Jones’ last outing, and his last 3 fights have felt somewhat uninspiring given the lofty heights he’s set in his career as arguably the greatest fighter the sport has ever seen. Jones has talked about moving to heavyweight as far back as 2010, but following his fight with Reyes in 2018, we have seen him bulk up considerably to heavyweight size without any movement on scheduling a fight. There has been a range of opponents mooted, including Stipe Miocic and Curtis Blaydes, but it’s Frenchman Ciryl Gane who has received the nod for his second chance at the title following his defeat to Ngannou . If Jones wins, it could cement his legacy as the pound for pound great, but it would be an equally career defining victory for Gane if he managed to get the job done.

What happens if it goes ahead?

Jones is undoubtedly the superior all round fighter, but we’re yet to see how his game translates to the new heavyweight frame. It’s worth noting too that Jones is susceptible to getting hit, which is a different proposition at heavyweight. Nevertheless, I’ve never bet against Jones and wouldn’t here either.

Will it Happen-O-Meter

All signed and sealed for March, but with Jones’ disciplinary track record, we can never be certain until the cage door closes.

Will it happen o-meter - measures how likely an upcoming boxing match will be

5.9/6

 

Conor McGregor vs Michael Chandler

The fact that Conor remains the biggest name in the sport despite just a single UFC victory since 2018 illustrates the size of his star power and achievements in the Octagon. However, this stage in his career and life feels beyond a renewed title run. After back-to-back loses to Dustin Poirier, including the horrific leg break in the rubber match, getting Conor back in the Octagon and back winning would be massive move for the UFC this year. Akin to his last victory against Cowboy Cerrone in 2020, finding an opponent who offers an intriguing fight, but is eminently winnable for Conor would be the perfect solution, and Michael Chandler ticks those boxes. Since joining the UFC from Bellator in 2020, Chandler has been a walking highlight reel, winning fight of the night performance bonuses in four of his five fights with the promotion. He is the epitome of the hands down, ‘stand and bang’ fighter fans absolutely love, and this approach against a striker like Conor has the potential for fireworks.

What happens if it goes ahead?

Despite Chandler’s seemingly inhuman ability to take punishment, I’d fancy a McGregor TKO in an entertaining clash.

Will it Happen-O-Meter

Trying to second guess Conor’s next move is a tricky task. There is also the matter of him re-entering the USADA testing pool following his leg break recovery.

Will it happen o-meter - measures how likely an upcoming boxing match will be

2.9/6

 

Amanda Nunes vs Valentina Shevchenko 3

There aren’t too many match ups currently at 2-0 where a third fight is appealing, but Nunes vs Shevchenko 3 is certainly one of them. Going back to 2010, Shevchenko only has two defeats on her record, both to Amanda Nunes. Since their second fight, a razor thin split decision for the bantamweight title, Shevchenko’s return to flyweight has seen her clock up nine consecutive wins, including seven title defences after winning the belt from Joanna Jedrzejczyk in 2018. Nunes, on the other hand, had been on a 12-fight winning streak, including becoming a two-weight champion and cementing her name as the greatest female fighter of all time, before a somewhat shocking loss to Juliana Pena at the end of 2021. She bounced back to reclaim her bantamweight title last year, but it has raised questions as to whether she is the same dominant force as she once was. Both fighters are in similar positions where credible opponents they haven’t already defeated are becoming increasingly hard to find, and their first two fights were close enough not to entirely close the book on this chapter before Nunes likely hangs up her gloves. One to run back again, I think.

What happens if it goes ahead?

History suggests Nunes wins a close decision, but with their careers on different trajectories, it could be Shevchenko’s best opportunity to get this back.

Will it Happen-O-Meter

There hasn’t been much speculation around this, but with matchmaking getting increasingly tough for both fighters it could definitely happen. It’s a fight you’d think Shevchenko wants.

Will it happen o-meter - measures how likely an upcoming boxing match will be

2.3/6

 

Khamzat Chimaev vs. Colby Covington

This is a ‘bad guy’ vs. ‘bad guy’ grudge match which would be hugely entertaining build up alone. Covington has been the supremely talented ‘heel’ character in the UFC (to borrow a WWE term) but faces competition both in that role and the division in the form of Chechnyan wrecking ball Chimaev. Khamzat quickly became a fan favourite after bulldozing his way through everyone in front of him, including breaking the record for quickest turnaround between UFC wins (10 days). He overcame the first adversity he’d ever encountered in the Octagon with a points victory over Gilbert Burns, only to become a supervillain overnight during the build up to his last outing. He missed weight by some distance and ended up facing Kevin Holland rather than the originally scheduled Nate Diaz, and proceeded to fling Holland around the Octagon like they were a different species let alone weight class. Beneath all the bluster, Covington is comfortably a top 3 welterweight whose strengths overlap with Chimaev’s to create what would be a mouth-watering and likely hostile clash.

What happens if it goes ahead?

Two exceptionally strong grapplers might cause this to be a stand-up fight, where Chimaev would likely have the advantage, and it’s hard to look beyond Khamzat wherever the fight goes.

Will it Happen-O-Meter

Chimaev is angling for the fight publicly, and with Colby set for a return from injury, I think this can likely happen.

Will it happen o-meter - measures how likely an upcoming boxing match will be

4.2/6

 

Ilia Topuria vs Brian Ortega

2022 was a huge breakout year for Spanish native (via Georgia). His ferocious knockout of Jai Herbert at UFC London – despite stepping up a weight class – followed by a complete domination and submission of a previously undefeated Bryce Mitchell has established Topuria as a top contender in the featherweight division. The 5-0 run in the UFC leaves Topuria sitting at #9 in the current featherweight rankings, has become one to watch for the entire division. Calls for a title shot feel premature and, despite their well-publicised backstage feud, UK’s Paddy Pimblett would be an incredibly favourable match up for Topuria and not one I’d want to see for my fellow Brit. However, former featherweight title contender Brian Ortega would be a great jump up in competition and give an indication of Topuria’s standing within the division. Ortega will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2022 after a shoulder injury cutting short his only fight against Yair Rodrigues, but as the man who has come closest to beating champ and P4P number 1 Alexander Volkanovski, he would comfortably provide Topuria’s sternest test to date.

What happens if it goes ahead?

This could depend on where the fight takes place. If Ortega can get it to the ground he might have the advantage, but based on all round skillset, I’d fancy Topuria to continue his charge.

Will it Happen-O-Meter

The UFC will be looking to build on Topuria’s potential star power, and this is an upcoming UFC fight he has asked for on social media.

Will it happen o-meter - measures how likely an upcoming boxing match will be

4.5/6

 

Sergei Pavlovic vs. Ciryl Gane

While he may not have created the same media buzz as other new stars in 2022, Russian heavyweight Sergei Pavlovic has quietly and extremely effectively become one of the leading new contenders in 2023. Last year saw Pavlovic clock up three impressive first round knockout wins against top quality opposition, including Tuivasa and Lewis, to start the year #3 in the heavyweight rankings. Next up, he will be looking for another scalp to try and force a title fight, and there would be few bigger statement victories than a win over former title contender Gane. The Frenchman currently sits #1 in the rankings and is himself looking to claim another title shot following his loss to Ngannou last year. Since falling short in his title shot, he claimed an impressive KO win against Tuivasa and another win against and up and coming contender could put him back in the frame in 2023.

What happens if it goes ahead?

Gane managed to not get knocked out by Ngannou, and Pavlovic hasn’t been past the first round in any of his last five fights. Gane might be too strong and drag him into deep waters for a decision victory.       

Will it Happen-O-Meter

Outside of a potential match up with Curtis Blaydes for either man, this one just makes sense.

Will it happen o-meter - measures how likely an upcoming boxing match will be

4.1/6

 

Henry Cejudo Aljamain Sterling

Feels strange to be calling for a contest with a fighter who no longer competes, but since his ‘retirement’ as two weight champion in May 2020, Cejudo has continued to troll and call out fighters in both of his former divisions on practically a weekly basis. More recently though, his trash talk has taken on a little more substance, with hints and rumours of a return to reclaim his bantamweight belt. Sterling is the current bantamweight champion, but his journey to UFC gold hasn’t been without its controversies. After gaining a title shot against Petr Yan in 2021, Sterling was struck with an illegal knee, resulting in him becoming champion by disqualification, before defeating Yan in the rematch. His last fight also ended in bizarre fashion after TJ Dillashaw came into the fight with pre-existing shoulder injury, only to dislocate it in practically the first exchange and fighting on before Sterling eventually got the TKO. Sterling’s talent isn’t in question, but his current champion status feels a little like it has an asterisk next to it, and a victory against Cejudo would be a huge statement.

What happens if it goes ahead?

With Cejudo having been out of action for so long, it’s difficult to know his conditioning and fight readiness. Assuming they are both at 100%, I’d take Cejudo to win.

Will it Happen-O-Meter

Bit of a finger in the air on this one, as Cejudo’s sincerity to return is difficult to assess.

Will it happen o-meter - measures how likely an upcoming boxing match will be

2.1/6

 

Shavkat Rakhmanov vs. Anyone in the top 5. Or Thanos. Or a brick wall.

It would be remiss of me to look forward to this year without mentioning Kazakh hammer Rakhmanov. In his MMA career so far, he has recorded eight KO wins and eight submission wins from his 16 fights, which not only highlights how much of a force he is, but also how well rounded his game is. In his four UFC contests so far, he has ploughed through everyone with aplomb with three submission finishes and a spinning hook kick KO thrown in for good measure. Along with Chimaev, he is one of the fighters on the roster who just has champion written all over him. Similar to Khabib when he was first making his way through the rankings, there feels a certain inevitability to him claiming gold at some point. He must be an absolute nightmare for the UFC matchmakers, as there won’t be many people actively raising their hand to face him. Entering the year at #10 in the welterweight division, a steady charge towards the top 5 looks certain, a couple of wins could put him in the title picture by the end of the year.

What happens if it goes ahead?

Shavkat wins. Probably against Thanos too. The wall would be around evens, purely because of its lack of reach

Will it Happen-O-Meter

An upcoming UFC fight against Thanos, no. Top 5, almost certainly.

Will it happen o-meter - measures how likely an upcoming boxing match will be

5/6