UFC 2023 Year in Review: Top Knockouts & Upsets!

2023 UFC Year-in-Review

Ringside Report December 21, 2023. The UFC 2023 Year in Review and Predictions for 2024 episode. Hosted by Dave Simon, Fred Garcia and AJ D’Alesio.
 
Dave, Fred and AJ reviewed 2023 in MMA, including their fight of the year, fighter of the year and the pay-per-view of the year.
 
The guys made predictions for 2024 and looked back at championship predictions for 2023.

The co-hosts revisited their predictions for UFC champions at the end of 2023, which they had made at the end of 2022. Their review offers a fascinating insight into how the year unfolded compared to their expectations.

Revisiting our predictions for 2023

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Jon Jones ended the year as Heavyweight Champ

Heavyweight Division (up to 265 pounds)

  • Fred’s Prediction: Jon Jones
  • Dave’s Prediction: Francis Ngannou
  • AJ’s Prediction: Ciryl Gane
  • Actual Champion: Jon Jones

Fred correctly predicted Jon Jones as the heavyweight champion. Dave, who predicted Francis Ngannou, acknowledged Ngannou’s technical status as champion due to his absence from the UFC. AJ’s prediction of Ciryl Gane fell short, as Jones defeated Gane.

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Alex Pereira Light Heavyweight Champ in 2023
Alex Pereira ends 2023 as Light Heavyweight Champ

Light Heavyweight Division

  • Fred’s Prediction: Magomed Ankalaev
  • Dave’s Prediction: Glover Teixeira
  • AJ’s Prediction: Magomed Ankalaev
  • Actual Champion: Alex Pereira

None of the hosts correctly predicted the light heavyweight champion. Fred and AJ chose Magomed Ankalaev, while Dave opted for Glover Teixeira. The actual champion, Alex Pereira, surprised them all.

Sean Strickland is the surprise champ
Sean Strickland is the surprise champ.

Middleweight Division (185 pounds)

  • Unified Prediction: Alex Pereira
  • Actual Champion: Sean Strickland

In this 2023 UFC Year-in-Review, all three hosts predicted Alex Pereira would be the middleweight champion. However, the division took an unexpected turn, with Sean Strickland becoming the champion and Pereira moving to light heavyweight.

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Leon Edwards ends 2023 with the welterweight belt
Leon Edwards ends 2023 with the welterweight belt

Welterweight Division (170 pounds)

  • Fred’s Prediction: Kamaru Usman
  • Dave’s Prediction: Leon Edwards
  • AJ’s Prediction: Kamaru Usman
  • Actual Champion: Leon Edwards

Dave accurately predicted Leon Edwards would be the welterweight champion. Fred and AJ’s choice, Kamaru Usman, did not retain his title.

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Islam Mahhachev’s reaction after knocking out Alexander Volkanavski

Lightweight Division (155 pounds)

  • Unified Prediction: Islam Makhachev
  • Actual Champion: Islam Makhachev

All three hosts correctly predicted Islam Makhachev to be the lightweight champion.

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Alexander Volkanovski ended the year as the Featherweight champ.

Featherweight Division (145 ponds)

  • Unified Prediction: Alexander Volkanovski
  • Actual Champion: Alexander Volkanovski

All three hosts were correct in predicting Alexander Volkanovski as the featherweight champion.

Sean O'Malley Bantamweight Division Champ
Sean O’Malley Bantamweight Division Champ

Bantamweight Division (135 pounds)

  • Fred’s Prediction: Henry Cejudo
  • Dave’s Prediction: Aljamain Sterling
  • AJ’s Prediction: Henry Cejudo
  • Actual Champion: Sean O’Malley

Fred and AJ incorrectly predicted Henry Cejudo, while Dave’s choice of Aljamain Sterling also didn’t materialize. Sean O’Malley emerged as the champion, surprising the hosts during our 2023 UFC Year-in-Review.

Photo of Alexandre Pantoja, the 2023 Flyweight Champ
Photo of Alexandre Pantoja, the 2023 Flyweight Champ

Flyweight Division (125 pounds)

  • Unified Prediction: Deiveson Figueiredo
  • Actual Champion: Alexander Pantoja

All three hosts predicted Deiveson Figueiredo would be the flyweight champion, but Alexander Pantoja claimed the title.

Zhang Weili 2023 Women's Strawweight belt holder
Zhang Weili 2023 Women’s Strawweight belt holder

Women’s Strawweight (115 lbs)

  • Unified Prediction: Zhang Weili
  • Actual Champion: Zhang Weili

The hosts were united and correct in their prediction of Zhang Weili as the women’s strawweight champion.

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Alexa Grasso fought Valentina Shevchenko a second time on September 16, 2023.

Women’s Flyweight (125 lbs)

  • Fred’s Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko
  • Dave’s Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko
  • AJ’s Prediction: Manon Fiorot
  • Actual Champion: Alexa Grasso

Neither of the hosts correctly predicted the women’s flyweight champion. As she claimed the title, Alexa Grasso defied Valentina Shevchenko’s and Manon Fiorot’s predictions.

Amanda-Nunes-retired-as-Bantamweight-and-Featherweight-champion
Amanda-Nunes-retired-as-Bantamweight-and-Featherweight-champion

Women’s Bantamweight (135 lbs) and Featherweight (145 lbs)

  • Unified Prediction: Amanda Nunes
  • Actual Champion: Amanda Nunes (Retired, Vacant title as of next PPV)

All three hosts correctly predicted Amanda Nunes to be the champion in both divisions. However, Nunes retired, and the bantamweight title is set for contention between Raquel Pennington and Mayra Bueno Silva.

The tables below summarize each host’s predictions compared to the actual champions at the end of 2023:

Dave Simon’s Predictions vs. Actual Champions

Weight ClassDave’s PredictionActual Champion
HeavyweightFrancis NgannouJon Jones
Light HeavyweightGlover TeixeiraAlex Pereira
MiddleweightAlex PereiraSean Strickland
WelterweightLeon EdwardsLeon Edwards
LightweightIslam MakhachevIslam Makhachev
FeatherweightAlexander VolkanovskiAlexander Volkanovski
BantamweightAljamain SterlingSean O’Malley
FlyweightDeiveson FigueiredoAlexander Pantoja
Women’s StrawweightZhang WeiliZhang Weili
Women’s FlyweightValentina ShevchenkoAlexa Grasso
Women’s Bantam/FeatherAmanda NunesAmanda Nunes (Retired)
Dave Simon’s Predictions vs. Actual Champions

AJ D’Alesio’s Predictions vs. Actual Champions

Weight ClassAJ’s PredictionActual Champion
HeavyweightCiryl GaneJon Jones
Light HeavyweightMagomed AnkalaevAlex Pereira
MiddleweightAlex PereiraSean Strickland
WelterweightKamaru UsmanLeon Edwards
LightweightIslam MakhachevIslam Makhachev
FeatherweightAlexander VolkanovskiAlexander Volkanovski
BantamweightHenry CejudoSean O’Malley
FlyweightDeiveson FigueiredoAlexander Pantoja
Women’s StrawweightZhang WeiliZhang Weili
Women’s FlyweightManon FiorotAlexa Grasso
Women’s Bantam/FeatherAmanda NunesAmanda Nunes (Retired)
AJ D’Alesio’s Predictions vs. Actual Champions

Fred Garcia’s Predictions vs. Actual Champions

Weight ClassFred’s PredictionActual Champion
HeavyweightJon JonesJon Jones
Light HeavyweightMagomed AnkalaevAlex Pereira
MiddleweightAlex PereiraSean Strickland
WelterweightKamaru UsmanLeon Edwards
LightweightIslam MakhachevIslam Makhachev
FeatherweightAlexander VolkanovskiAlexander Volkanovski
BantamweightHenry CejudoSean O’Malley
FlyweightDeiveson FigueiredoAlexander Pantoja
Women’s StrawweightZhang WeiliZhang Weili
Women’s FlyweightValentina ShevchenkoAlexa Grasso
Women’s Bantam/FeatherAmanda NunesAmanda Nunes (Retired)
Fred Garcia’s Predictions vs. Actual Champions

2023 UFC Year-in-Review Analysis of Predictions

Heavyweight Division

  • Fred was the only one to accurately predict Jon Jones as the heavyweight champion. Dave and AJ’s predictions were not realized.

Light Heavyweight Division

  • All three hosts missed the mark, with Alex Pereira, not their predicted fighter, becoming the champion.

Middleweight Division

  • Surprisingly, Sean Strickland emerged as the champion, defying the hosts’ unanimous prediction for Alex Pereira.

Welterweight Division

  • Dave’s prediction of Leon Edwards was accurate, while Fred and AJ’s choice of Kamaru Usman did not come to fruition.

Lightweight Division

  • All three hosts correctly predicted Islam Makhachev to be the champion.

Featherweight Division

  • The hosts were united and correct in predicting Alexander Volkanovski as the featherweight champion.

Bantamweight Division

  • Sean O’Malley’s emergence as champion surprised all the hosts, who had different predictions.

Flyweight Division

  • Despite a unanimous prediction for Deiveson Figueiredo, Alexander Pantoja claimed the title.

Women’s Divisions

  • The hosts correctly predicted Zhang Weili as the strawweight champion. Alexa Grasso’s championship was a surprise in the flyweight division, especially with the predictions favouring Shevchenko and Fiorot. Amanda Nunes, as predicted, remained the bantamweight/featherweight champion but retired, leaving the title vacant.

The predictions and their outcomes highlight the dynamic and unpredictable nature of MMA. While educated, the hosts’ insights and guesses faced the reality of the ever-changing landscape of UFC, underscoring the sport’s excitement and unpredictability.

2023 UFC Year-in-Review Recap

Ringside Report MMA co-hosts Dave Simon, AJ D’Alesio, and Fred Garcia reflected on the 2023 UFC Year-in-Review, discussing their picks for the Fighter of the Year and the best pay-per-view event of the year. Their insights provide a comprehensive look at the standout moments and athletes in UFC for 2023.

Fighter of the Year 2023: Sean Strickland

After presenting various nominees and their 2023 accolades, Dave Simon surprisingly chose Sean Strickland as his Fighter of the Year. Strickland’s year included a unanimous decision victory over Nassourdine Imavov, a TKO win against Abus Magomedov and a dominating performance against Israel Adesanya to become the new UFC middleweight champion.

AJ D’Alesio agreed with Dave’s choice, highlighting Strickland’s impressive training camps and consistent performance in the octagon. Fred Garcia also concurred that while other fighters like Kevin Pereira and Islam Makhachev had notable years, Strickland’s undefeated streak and championship win made him the choice for Fighter of the Year.

2023 UFC Year-in-Review: Notable Mentions for Fighter of the Year

  • Justin Gaethje: Noted for his wins over Rafael Fiziev and Dustin Poirier.
  • Leon Edwards: Recognized for defending the welterweight title twice.
  • Islam Makhachev: Praised for beating Alexander Volkanovski twice.
  • Alex Pereira: Acknowledged despite a loss to Israel Adesanya and subsequent victories.
  • Tom Aspinall: Mentioned for his impressive victories over Marcin Tybura and Sergei Pavlovich.
  • Alexa Grasso: Highlighted for her submission win over Valentina Shevchenko and a draw in a rematch.

Analysis and Discussion

The co-hosts’ choice of Sean Strickland as the Fighter of the Year underscores the importance of consistent performance and significant victories in high-stakes matches. Strickland’s journey from a lesser-known fighter to UFC middleweight champion highlights MMA’s unpredictable and dynamic nature.

The recognition of fighters like Gaethje, Edwards, Makhachev, Pereira, Aspinall, and Grasso reflects the diverse talent pool in UFC and the various paths athletes take to succeed in the sport.

The discussion by our expert hosts Dave Simon, AJ D’Alesio, and Fred Garcia during this 2023 UFC Year-in-Review offered a unique perspective on the year 2023 in UFC, celebrating the achievements of fighters who made a significant impact and the events that hosted these pivotal moments. Their insights and analyses thoroughly recap a memorable year in UFC history.

2023 UFC Year-in-Review Highlights and Key Moments

In their 2023 retrospective episode, the co-hosts of Ringside Report MMA, Dave Simon, AJ D’Alesio, and Fred Garcia, discussed some of the most memorable moments and fighters of the year in UFC. Their insights provide a comprehensive look at the standout performances and events in the UFC for 2023.

Fight of the Year 2023

Dave Simon kicked off the discussion by nominating several fights for the title of ‘Fight of the Year’, including Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards at UFC 286, Max Holloway vs. Korean Zombie at a UFC Fight Night in Singapore, and Alexa Grasso vs. Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 285. However, his pick for the fight of the year was Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 284. AJ D’Alesio agreed, highlighting Shafqat vs. Neil as another impressive fight and siding with Makhachev vs. Volkanovski as his top pick. Fred Garcia didn’t prepare a specific pick but concurred that the Makhachev vs. Volkanovski fight, with its high stakes and tight competition, was a classic.

Knockout of the Year 2023

Dave Simon suggested several candidates for ‘Knockout of the Year’, including Josh Emmett’s knockout of Bryce Mitchell, Israel Adesanya’s knockout of Alex Pereira, and Islam Makhachev’s head kick on Volkanovski. His final choice was Justin Gaethje’s knockout of Dustin Poirier at UFC 291. AJ agreed, particularly emphasizing the significance of Gaethje’s victory and its impact on his career trajectory.

Submission of the Year 2023

In the category of ‘Submission of the Year’, Dave Simon highlighted Alexa Grasso’s neck crank on Valentina Shevchenko and Brendan Allen’s rear-naked choke on Paul Craig. However, he ultimately chose Jon Jones’ guillotine choke on Ciryl Gane at UFC 285 as the most impressive submission. AJ D’Alesio agreed with this choice, praising Jones’ performance and acknowledging his status as one of the greatest martial artists ever.

Pay-Per-View Event of the Year 2023

Discussing the ‘Pay-Per-View of the Year’, Dave Simon mentioned several events, including UFC 284, UFC 285, UFC 291, UFC 294, and UFC 295. He ultimately decided on UFC 295, held on November 11th at Madison Square Garden, as the year’s event. This event featured significant victories such as Alex Pereira’s knockout of Jiri Prochazka and Tom Aspinall’s knockout of Sergei Pavlovich. AJ D’Alesio concurred, finding it difficult to pick one event over the other due to the high quality of all the mentioned pay-per-views.

Analysis and Discussion

The conversation among the co-hosts of Ringside Report MMA showcased UFC’s highlights and key figures in 2023. Their selections for ‘Fight of the Year’, ‘Knockout of the Year’, ‘Submission of the Year’, and ‘Pay-Per-View Event of the Year’ reflect the moments that defined UFC in 2023. These highlights underline MMA’s dynamic and unpredictable nature, from the intense and closely contested bouts to the stunning knockouts and submissions. The co-hosts’ insights provide a well-rounded overview of the year, celebrating the achievements of fighters who made a significant impact and the events that hosted these pivotal moments.