Looking Ahead: Top Fights to Make in Mixed Martial Arts in 2023

Jon Jones UFC Hall of Fame
Jon Jones, UFC Hall of Fame induction ceremony Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

1. Francis Ngannou vs Jon Jones

The third time is the charm, right?

The anticipated return of the pound-for-pound kingpin has been teased, analyzed, doubted, and everything in-between for the past two years.  For the past two years, the return of Jones has made this list without a bout for him ever materializing.  Most predicted that it would happen in 2022 as Ngannou bested Ciryl Gane and seemingly set the stage for a clash. Instead, a knee surgery and contract negotiations on Ngannou’s side have put plans on hold for this year.  As the reigning heavyweight champion nears being physically cleared to return, a March date is now the expectation should all go smoothly.

The extended wait to see Jones at heavyweight has both been frustrating and helpful in marketing.  The longer the absence, the more questions there are about whether or not it will happen at all or if it will be his last fight when it does.  Should he be triumphant after the layoff, it would be the kind of victory that cements his place as the all-time best in the sport after the highly publicized challenges faced in his career.  Add into it that he would be facing an increasingly beloved reigning heavyweight champion whose knockout power in unprecedented, and you have as exciting a bout as one could hope for on paper.