After experiencing the rollercoaster that 2023 has been in MMA, it is protected to imagine that the rest of the yr will likely be simply as chaotic.
Jamahal Hill turned the first-ever “Dana White’s Contender Sequence” winner to seize a UFC title. Sean O’Malley adopted Hill’s footsteps, dethroning bantamweight nice Aljamain Sterling. Jon Jones and Henry Cejudo made their much-anticipated returns to the Octagon. Girls’s MMA GOAT Amanda Nunes introduced her retirement after a win at UFC 289 in June. And simply this previous weekend at Noche UFC, Alexa Grasso’s first UFC strawweight title protection in opposition to former champion Valentina Shevchenko resulted in a shocking cut up draw.
With greater than three months left within the yr, there are many intriguing matchups all alongside the schedule. Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi, Jeff Wagenheim and Eddie Maisonet make daring predictions that might turn into a actuality earlier than the tip of 2023.
Okamoto: Jon Jones will retire
Jones has hinted that it a retirement is feasible, however one would suppose it is not the more than likely situation. Not when he is nonetheless on the prime of his sport and simply signed a brand new eight-fight contract that might pay him essentially the most cash of his profession. However I do not know. I am getting ready for a Jones retirement at UFC 295 in New York. It makes an excessive amount of sense — to beat the heavyweight GOAT, Stipe Miocic, in your first look in New York — then take the mic and say farewell.
I might like to see Jones stick round. I might like to see him battle Sergei Pavlovich. I might like to see him battle Tom Aspinall in England. However we have seen him willingly vacate a title earlier than (gentle heavyweight). My prediction is that Jones will retire in November. However do not be unhappy — I additionally boldly predict that he’ll then un-retire within the following years.
Raimondi: Yet one more UFC title will change palms in 2023
This has been a yr marked by a altering of the guard. Lengthy-term, dominant champions have fallen by the wayside. Pound-for-pound ranked stars have both misplaced or retired (Nunes). MMA is a cyclical enterprise, and a number of the prime fighters from the final a number of years are phasing out, giving strategy to new faces.
That will not change this fall. There will likely be at the least yet one more UFC title change earlier than the tip of the yr. The place and when it occurs is anybody’s guess. Islam Makhachev defends his UFC light-weight title in opposition to Charles Oliveira at UFC 294 on Oct. 21 in Abu Dhabi. The next month, Jones places the heavyweight title up in opposition to Miocic.
No different title fights are at the moment scheduled for the remainder of 2023. However one would determine to see a flyweight championship conflict with Alexandre Pantoja defending, maybe in opposition to Brandon Royval. There’s additionally the opportunity of Sean O’Malley going through Marlon “Chito” Vera for the bantamweight title and the long-awaited welterweight title battle between champion Leon Edwards and potential challenger Colby Covington.
Nobody is protected. Not these days, anyway. The UFC titles are like sizzling potatoes. Alexander Volkanovski, at featherweight, is the one energetic champion to have held his belt for greater than 13 months. Each different UFC champion has been topped from August 2022 or extra just lately. There have been eight title adjustments or vacancies this yr alone. Do not anticipate that development to vary.
Wagenheim: Sergei Pavlovich will declare the UFC heavyweight title
Sure, I’m conscious that the title battle on the books is Jones vs. Miocic on Nov. 11. However I’ve seen stories that Pavlovich will function a backup for that UFC 295 important occasion, and it appears to me that if ever an alternate fighter had been to be referred to as upon, this could be a probable time.
When Jones received the belt in March, it was his solely battle up to now 3½ years. Even when he was extra energetic and on prime of the game, his unmatched accolades needed to share the highlight along with his career-derailing troubles, from a number of failed drug exams to arrests on fees starting from home violence to a hit-and-run incident wherein a pregnant girl was injured. The UFC suspended Jones 3 times throughout his gentle heavyweight run and stripped him of his title. He has had scheduled fights canceled on multiple event.
Miocic hasn’t had that kind of shadowy previous, however he is 41 years outdated and this could be his first battle in almost three years. To say the previous champ, who has extra UFC heavyweight title defenses than anybody, has one foot out the door of the Octagon could be an understatement. Miocic has taken his job as a firefighter and paramedic from part-time to full-time, and he is anticipated to retire from MMA after going through Jones, if he makes it to the battle.
Possibly Jones vs. Miocic will occur as scheduled, and Pavlovich should wait till 2024 for his shot at gold. However contemplating how lengthy it took for this dream matchup of the general GOAT vs. the heavyweight GOAT to be put collectively, possibly we’re all dreaming if we expect Mr. Inactive and Mr. Idle will each present up on battle night time.
Maisonet: Somebody from UFC or WWE will swap sides by the tip of 2023
My friends above all made very respectable and clever predictions, however let’s get daring, we could? As of final week, TKO, the newly merged group comprising WWE and UFC, is now publicly open for enterprise. With the joint union now in movement, why would not a fighter or wrestler put their toes within the water to gauge the chances?
Israel Adesanya’s supervisor has mentioned it is on the fighter’s “bucket record” for all times after MMA. Brandon Moreno made an look at AAA Triplemania 31 in Tijuana earlier this yr. Conor McGregor consistently teases displaying up at WWE on social media. These are the moments we all know of, however I consider some midcard fighters is likely to be those to make a respectable inquiry.
May somebody from WWE take into account a CM Punk-esque transition to UFC? It isn’t onerous to fathom, and if it did not work out, mentioned wrestler would probably have the ability to return to WWE with a brand new storyline choice in tow.