Challengers To Volkanovski’s Top Spot In 2023
Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski ended 2022 as the leading fighter in the UFC pound-for-pound list. The Australian had wins over Jung Chan-sun and Max Holloway in what were an impressive 12 months.
With the amount of talent just behind Volkanovski in the pound-for-pound standings, he will need another big year to retain his position. Here are three men who are likely to prove the biggest challengers for the number one spot with the brand.
One of the most impressive performances in the UFC in 2022 came from Islam Makhachev when he defeated Charles Oliveira for the vacant lightweight championship at UFC 280. He locked the Brazilian in a choke before knocking him down with a punch.
Since losing to Adriano Martins at UFC 192, Makhachev has won 11 consecutive fights with the brand, that’s the third-longest winning streak in the history of the lightweight division. His last five contests have all ended inside the distance, which proves he is one of the most dangerous fighters in the UFC.
Makhachev is set to face Volkanovski at UFC 284 in February where he is the -360 favorite in the betting to prevail. With the UFC being so popular, there are numerous betting markets for the fight as well as sportsbook promotions that can be used such as a deposit match or a second chance bet. There are also reviews available for each major sportsbook so potential new customers can see the option most suited to them.
British fighter Leon Edwards produced one of the biggest shocks in 2022 when he stopped Kamaru Usman in the final round of their welterweight contest to capture the UFC belt from his rival. It was revenge for his defeat to the Nigerian Nightmare in 2015.
The victory over Usman proves that Edwards deserves to be in the conversation as the best fighter in the UFC. He is likely to get the chance to enhance his reputation further when he faces the Nigerian in a trilogy fight later in 2023. That contest may take place in London in front of his home supporters.
Edwards has not suffered defeat since 2015 so his record is as good as most fighters at the top end of the pound-for-pound rankings. A second win over Usman would be a big statement.
With 15 victories, Usman has the most consecutive wins in the history of the welterweight division. His loss to Edwards ended that record, as well as losing the belt he had held since 2019.
For most of the contest with Edwards, it was Usman who was on top and looked to be heading towards a victory on the judges’ scorecard. However, four minutes into the fifth round, he got caught with a high kick which ended the fight.
Usman has the chance to reclaim his UFC Welterweight Championship in a third fight with Edwards. If he wins that contest, he is likely to leapfrog ahead of his rival in the pound-for-pound list and take a step closer to Volkanovski.
2023 looks set to be a fascinating year as the best of the brand wrestle for not just the championship belts but also bragging right as the best fighter in the UFC.