There was no shortage of excitement in the mixed martial arts world in 2022.
From Alex Pereira shocking Israel Adesanya to Leon Edwards knocking out Kamaru Usman, MMA once again proved that it is one of the most unpredictable sports in the world.
Some mouth-watering matchups have already been confirmed for this year. Alexander Volkanovski will move up in weight to fight champion Islam Makhachev for the lightweight belt, a record fourth meeting between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno will take place at UFC 283 for the flyweight title, and Jon Jones will finally make his comeback against Ciryl Gane in a heavyweight title bout in March.
It was believed that Jones would return against the champion Francis Ngannou, but after a long-standing contract dispute, Ngannou was released by the UFC and is now a free agent.
Edwards vs Usman 3 has also been confirmed and will headline UFC 286 in London.
Let’s take a look at some big fights that could happen this year.
Alex Pereira vs Israel Adesanya 2
This rivalry spans two combat sports and three fights. Pereira may have won all three, but the fights were close and extremely entertaining. Adesanya will feel he has a point to prove and will be seeking revenge, but Pereira may have his number.
It is very likely that this fight will happen again this year. Adesanya was a dominant champion until Pereira stormed into the UFC and chances are he will get the immediate rematch.
Conor McGregor vs Michael Chandler
If McGregor returns in 2023, it’ll be the biggest fight of the year. He hasn’t fought since breaking his leg against Dustin Poirier back in the summer of 2021, but he is still the biggest star in the sport.
Michael Chandler may have lost three fights out of five in the UFC, but he would be a tough opponent for McGregor. He is one of the most entertaining fighters on the roster and would willingly make this an all-out war.
This is a logical fight for both men, and it could happen at either lightweight or welterweight. This fight guarantees fireworks.
Zhang Weili vs Rose Namajunas 3
Namajunas holds two wins over Zhang, one of which was an incredible head kick knock out at UFC 261. Despite these defeats, Zhang has shown improvements in her last two fights. She knocked out former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and then went on to win the belt after dominating Carla Esparza.
Rose is coming off a bitterly disappointing defeat against Esparza, but a third meeting between these elite fighters seems inevitable. Zhang will want to show she can overcome the tough and technical Namajunas and once again demonstrate her recent improvements.
Khamzat Chimaev vs Shavkat Rakhmonov
Very few fighters have made an impact on the sport quite like Khamzat Chimaev. Since his arrival at the UFC, he has easily dismantled whoever has been put in front of him (with the exception of the incredibly durable Gilbert Burns who took him to a decision after a three-round firefight) and is now on a 12-fight win streak in MMA.
There aren’t too many who can keep up with Chimaev’s relentless wrestling, pace, power and prowess even though he competes in both the welterweight and middleweight divisions, but the up-and-coming Shavkat Rakhmonov might well be able to.
Rakhmonov is a well-rounded fighter who is on a blistering four fight winning streak in the UFC. He would have been encouraged by Burns’ performance against Chimaev and will believe he has the tools to be the one to finally stop him.
The Kazakh already has two performance of the night bonuses under his belt and is a proven finisher whether grappling or on the feet.
This would be an enticing matchup between two rising stars in the sport. What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? We could find out this year.
Max Holloway vs Arnold Allen
He might only be 31 years old, but it feels like Max Holloway has been around forever. He is regarded as one of the best featherweight fighters of all time, defeating the great Jose Aldo twice and utterly demolishing prospects such as Brian Ortega and Calvin Kattar.
Alexander Volkanovski brought Max’s dominance of the featherweight division to a grinding halt, taking his title then going on to defend the belt against him twice, but the Hawaiian star isn’t done yet and remains a top contender.
Arnold Allen is currently sitting at number four in the rankings and will be looking up rather than down for his next opponent. The Englishman made a big statement against the dangerous Dan Hooker by brutally finishing him in the first round of their fight and has won ten fights in a row in the UFC.
Holloway is still the number one ranked featherweight and has already beaten Rodriguez and Ortega below him, so a fight against the rising Allen makes a lot of sense.
Johnny Eblen vs Fabian Edwards
Fabian Edwards is looking to make history in 2023. Edwards’ brother Leon won the UFC welterweight title after defeating Kamaru Usman, and Fabian might get his chance to become a champion himself if he can beat Gegard Mousasi in a Bellator title eliminator in May.
If successful, he will fight American Johnny Eblen for the middleweight belt.
Edwards had a successful 2022, knocking out Lyoto Machida in London and winning a decision against Charlie Ward.