- Here's a list of the top five UFC fighters to watch in 2023.
- These fighters are established superstars and superstars in the making.
2022 was a year full of action-packed UFC fights as new champions were crowned, new contenders emerged, superstar status solidified and new stars ascended inside the Octagon. These thrilling storylines also became an avenue for online sports betting through UFC odds, giving fans an additional opportunity.
But a new year marks a new opportunity for fighters to showcase their skills and talents under the leading MMA organization in the world. Today, I listed the top five UFC fighters to watch this 2023 based on how they performed this 2022. Additionally, there are forecasts on each fighter’s fate in the coming 12 months.
Khamzat Chimaev was already a star in 2021, but he was able to claim superstar status this 2022 after staying undefeated and picking up two impressive victories against top-level contenders. First, he got tested by Gilbert Burns, who pushed him to the limit in their three-round welterweight showdown in April 2022. The Brazilian’s effort fell short as the Swedish won the unanimous victory.
Due to this massive win over Burns, Chimaev earned his first main event headliner in September 2022 for UFC 279 against Nate Diaz, but because of him missing weight and the chaos backstage during the weigh-ins, “Borz” was forced out of the match and instead fought Kevin Holland in a catchweight bout. Chimaev made quick work of Holland by submitting him in the opening round via D’Arce choke.
The undefeated prospect is rumored to fight Colby Covington next in a number-one contender’s match in the welterweight division. Chimaev is also being eyed to move up in the middleweight division to challenge Alex Pereira for the 185-pound belt possibly. At this rate, Khamzat Chimaev could win a title this 2023 if he can continue his dominance.
Ilia Topuria is another undefeated contender wreaking havoc in the UFC’s featherweight division. The Georgian mauler added Jai Herbert and Bryce Mitchell to his victim list this year, as he knocked out the former in March 2022 and submitted the latter in December 2022. These back-to-back victories earned him a big jump in the 145-pound division as he now sits as the number nine-ranked challenger. He appeared in five total promotional fights and scored four finishes.
The 25-year-old’s path to the top of the division is not going to be easy from this point as the 145-pound weight class is still loaded with top contenders such as Arnold Allen, Calvin Kattar, Brian Ortega and Giga Chikadze, but with his well-rounded and relentless fighting style should propel him to progress in the top five. Two or three more wins against higher-ranked contenders should be enough to obtain him a title shot in the future.
Raul Rosas Jr.
The breakthrough UFC fighter in the last quarter of the year belongs to Raul Rosas Jr., who was triumphant in his debut under the Las Vegas-based promotion with a first-round face crank submission of Jay Perrin in December 2022. With that victory over Perrin, Rosas Jr. became the youngest UFC fighter in history to win his debut. The Mexican was discovered and signed by the UFC through Dana White’s Contender Series, where he dominated Mando Gutierrez via unanimous decision.
“El Nino Problema” is riding a seven-fight winning streak that dates back from his UWC Mexico days which saw him finish his first five opponents, four via submission and one by way of TKO. Rosas Jr. is still relatively young and has a long road before he becomes a top-five contender in the bantamweight division, but his complete skillset will help him gravitate toward his ultimate goal of calling himself a champion and possibly the youngest UFC champion in history.
Reigning UFC Featherweight Champion and number-one men’s pound-for-pound fighter Alexander Volkanovski has defended his title twice this 2022 against Chan Sung Jung, also known as “The Korean Zombie” (fourth-round TKO in April 2022) and former champion Max Holloway (unanimous decision in July 2022). The back-to-back wins extended Volkanovski’s unbeaten run to 12 since his promotional debut in November 2016. Overall, “The Great” has 25 wins (with 15 TKO/KOs) and only one defeat in his professional record.
The Australian champion will move up in the lightweight division to challenge the newly-minted 155-pound title holder Islam Makhachev in the main event of UFC 284 this February 2023. If he defeats Makhachev, he will be in a rarified air of double-weight champions alongside Conor McGregor, Amanda Nunes, Daniel Cormier and Henry Cejudo. Regardless of the result of his match with Makhachev, Volkanovski will still reign in the featherweight division for quite some time.
Failed contract negotiations with the UFC are still the main hindrance for former undisputed UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones to return to action inside the Octagon as he has yet to make his highly-anticipated heavyweight debut. The last appearance of “Bones” was against Dominick Reyes in February 2020, when he successfully defended his title for the 13th time with a unanimous decision victory.
Jones is rumored to have two possible comeback fights this 2023 – to be the next challenger versus the current UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou or an interim title match with top divisional contenders Stipe Miocic or Curtis Blaydes. In any case, his return fight will delight UFC fans because he is still considered one of the best MMA fighters of all time, if not the best. Additionally, Jones is eager to prove that he is not yet done competing at the highest level.