THE Ultimate Fighting Championship is set to have a massive 2023 following yet another record year.
But there are several fights the mixed martial arts leader has to make in order to make them twelve months to remember.
The promotion's pay-per-view schedule will kick off on January 21 in Brazil – with a fight for the vacant light-heavyweight title between Glover Teixeira and Jamahal Hill topping the UFC 283 bill.
And in February, a champion-versus-champion bout between featherweight and lightweight kings Alexander Volkanovski and Islam Makhachev will headline UFC 284 in Perth.
Although 2023 is kicking off with a bang, there are five fights the promotion must put together to truly make the year an iconic one.
Francis Ngannou vs Jon Jones
Jon Jones' long-awaited heavyweight debut was seemingly set to take place in 2022 after he settled his latest round of legal issues.
The former pound-for-pound king was on course to face ex-champ Stipe Miocic but the fight didn't come to fruition.
The plan is for Jones to challenge current heavyweight king Francis Ngannou for the strap in April.
Negotiations are still ongoing, although SunSport understands they're "slow" at this moment in time.
It's also understood the feeling in the Jones camp is that Ngannou has been given “plenty of time to make up his mind” about remaining with the UFC.
Most read in MMA
White reveals dream UFC fight 'he couldn't get done' despite his best efforts
UFC Hall of Famer Stephan Bonnar dies aged 45 'after heart complications'
McGregor slams KSI and blasts YouTuber's 'nothing' fight with MMA star Danis
UFC fans rage at ESPN and Dana White after second PPV price increase
MMA fans across the globe are hoping a deal can be reached so The Predator can welcome Bones to the heavyweight division in what will be one of the biggest comeback fights in UFC history.
Conor McGregor vs Michael Chandler
MMA superstar Conor McGregor is seemingly fighting fit and ready to return to the octagon following his 17-month injury-enforced hiatus.
As ever, the UFC's poster boy has plenty of options available to him for his next outing.
But a clash with Michael Chandler makes the most sense for The Notorious at this moment in time.
Despite having gone 2-3 in the octagon, three-time Bellator champ Chandler has risen to stardom in the promotion thanks to his manic fighting style and microphone skills.
The fight, stylistically, would be a chaotic one from the get-go given the pair's tendencies to go balls to the wall.
The NCAA Division I wrestling of Chandler would present McGregor with a multitude of problems, although the Irishman would have a distinct advantage when it comes to the striking.
Chandler has shown a susceptibility to being dragged into wars and being heavily clipped in his bouts with Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier.
So the playing field would be somewhat even if the pair were to throw down.
Alex Pereira vs Israel Adesanya II
Israel Adesanya's dominant reign as middleweight champion came to an end at the hands of Alex Pereira in the Madison Square Garden showdown in November.
The Last Stylebender was on course to retain his belt via decision before being caught with a hellacious left hook and being finished by a barrage of vicious follow-up strikes.
Adesanya's dominance in the division alone warrants him an immediate rematch.
But factor in the fact he was seconds away from finishing the Brazilian – who he twice lost to in kickboxing – in the first round and you have all the grounds you need to run this one back.
The rematch will be massive for the legacies of both fighters and will undoubtedly be one of the biggest fights of the year.
Colby Covington vs Khamzat Chimaev
The undefeated Khamzat Chimaev has buzzed through all comers since making his debut on Fight Island in the summer of 2020.
And the time has come for him to take the ultimate test to see if he's ready to fight for the title.
That test should come in the form of none other than two-time welterweight title challenger Colby Covington.
Prior to Kamaru Usman being dethroned by Leon Edwards, Covington was the second-best 170-pounder in the world.
Although there are strong calls for Chimaev to face the winner of Edwards vs Usman III, his ridiculous weight miss ahead of his cancelled bout with Nate Diaz means he shouldn't be within a sniff of a title fight.
But a win over Covington would well and truly, and more importantly, rightfully, put him on the cusp of fighting for UFC gold.
Tom Aspinall vs Ciryl Gane
Brit Tom Aspinall was cruelly derailed by injury in his UFC London clash with Curtis Blaydes in July.
Had he not torn three ligaments in his knee, the Wigan warrior would be on the cusp of a title shot.
A showdown with former title challenger Ciryl Gane – who was cage side for Aspinall's win over Alexander Volkov – was on the cards for Aspinall.
And once he recovers from the injury, which will likely keep him on the sidelines until late 2023, it's a fight the UFC should seriously be considered.
Read More on The Sun
Hour-by-hour what your Christmas dinner does to your body in just 4 hours
Mum bakes birthday cake for her kid leaving people mortified
The match-up would be a fascinating one stylistically as both men move like they're fleet-footed middleweights.
And as well as crowning the best heavyweight in Europe, it would determine a serious challenger for the winner of a potential clash between Ngannou and Jones.
Source: Read Full Article