2022 was a massive year for the MMA world, and 2023 is shaping up to be even bigger. There are sure to be some huge fights, major upsets, and new names that take a step toward becoming a superstar in the sport.
But what are some things in particular that you should expect from the sport? While predicting the future is impossible, some things have a good chance of occurring.
Without any further ado, let’s go over some things to expect from the many MMA fights that will take place in 2023.
More Fighters Coming Out of Retirement
In the fight game, there are always fighters laying down their gloves and retiring. While some of these fighters stay retired for good and ride off into the sunset, others return for a fight or a couple of rows. Some may want to do it for the money, while others simply miss the world of fighting.
Many legends of the sport retired this last year, including Jose Aldo, TJ Dillashaw, Zabit Magomedsharipov, and others.
We would not be shocked to see some of these recently-retired fighters step back into the cage and show that they still belong.
It is hard to know when they will come back, or who they will fight, but expect some previously-retired fighters to come back to the sport this year.
The Return of Jon Jones
If you ask people who the best MMA fighter of all time is, you will often hear names like Georges St. Pierre, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Anderson Silva.
Another name that will often be mentioned is Jon Jones. He is one of the best fighters ever to use his reach and is incredible no matter where the fight goes.
He is unbeaten for well over a decade and his only loss in his MMA career is due to a disqualification.
However, we haven’t seen Jon Jones in a fight since 2020, and his last two fights have been less than impressive, as many people thought he lost both of them.
He has gone through many legal issues and failed multiple drug tests, but many believe that 2023 is finally when he will make his return.
Not only that, but many believe he will go to the heavyweight division for the first time in his UFC career. This will be interesting as he may not have the size advantage anymore but could be able to use his speed and agility more than usual.
Does Jon Jones still have it? Or will the time off and his age hold him back from performing like he used to?
These are just a few questions many MMA fans have about his eventual return.
Another thing worth thinking about is that Jon Jones hasn’t been a betting underdog since back in early 2009. Will this change going forward?
If you are into MMA betting, it will be interesting to see if Jones is the betting favorite in his next fight, despite his recent performances and long hiatus.
In addition to Jones, don’t be shocked to see other fighters like Conor McGregor also make a return this year.
The Debut of Jake Paul
Jake Paul has been making waves in the boxing world for years now and is one of the most popular and marketable fighters on the planet. He has always teased potentially fighting in MMA, but now it seems like it will actually happen.
In early January of 2023, it was announced that Jake Paul had joined PFL (Professional Fighters League) and all signs point to him fighting an MMA fight in 2023.
It hasn’t been said who he will fight yet, but whoever it is, expect the battle to generate a ton of press and be watched by many in the MMA world.
He has proven himself to be a solid boxer, but many wonder if he can also do it in the cage. Of course, this may all be some sort of stunt or ruse, and Jake never actually fights in MMA.
However, signing with a major promotion could signify that the boxer is ready to step into the world of MMA.
Fighters Will Change Promotions
While the UFC is far and away the most popular MMA organization, it is far from the only one. There are Bellator, PFL, One Championship, Rizin, and many others. They exist worldwide, and plenty of them get a ton of fanfare.
Throughout 2023, don’t be shocked to see many fighters change from one promotion to another as they attempt to get the best contracts and fight the best of the best.
Every organization has something to offer, and fighters are becoming more willing to switch and go where they feel wanted.
While many of these switches will be fighters attempting to get into the UFC, there are countless examples of UFC-quality fighters heading to other promotions to get a better deal.
Don’t be surprised if some big names head to comparatively smaller promotions, because they are offered more money or more favorable terms in their contract.
More Championship Shakeups
The goal of every MMA fighter is to eventually become a champion. The year 2022 saw many new champions crowned at the top of their respective divisions. In 2023, expect more of the same.
Whether it is a young up-and-comer finally getting their shot, or an old rival winning their title back, this year will surely have plenty of incredible title bouts to watch.
While not as many titles may change hands, there will surely be a few new champions crowned after impressive performances in 2023.
There are many interesting storylines surrounding title fights, such as who will take the vacant light heavyweight championship.
Will Kamaru Usman and Israel Adesanya reclaim their belts? And who (if anyone) can take the flyweight belt away from Valentina Shevchenko.
Shavkat Rakhmonov Ascends to Superstardom
While plenty of up-and-coming fighters in the sport will rise to new heights in 2023, many believe that none will rise faster than Shavkat Rakhmonov. He is a 28-year-old Kazakh fighter with a professional record of 16-0.
Since making his debut in the UFC back in late 2020, he has gone 4-0 in the promotion, winning all fights by either knockout or submission.
He is a fantastic grappler, has a strong striking, and an incredible fight IQ. It is hard to find a weakness in his game, and many still feel that he hasn’t even reached his potential yet.
He has yet to face a true top-level fighter inside the UFC (outside of Neil Magny), but has all the makings of someone who can hang with the best of the best.
Don’t be surprised to see him fight for a title in 2023 or soon after. A couple more wins against big names should put him right on the doorstep of a title shot and being mentioned with the best in his division.
Other up-and-comers to watch out for include Bo Nickal, Michael Morales, and Ilia Topuria. Of course, there are sure to be some completely unknown fighters that rise to new heights in 2023, as well.
In conclusion, these are some of the things you should expect from MMA fights in 2023.