MMA 2023 Year in Review: Comeback of the Year

Rodolfo Bellato UFC
AUSTIN, TEXAS - DECEMBER 02: (L-R) Rodolfo Bellato of Brazil punches Ihor Potieria of Ukraine in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Moody Center on December 02, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Don’t call it a comeback — call it Comeback of the Year.

MMA is a sport where anything can happen, hence the allure. That includes massive shifts in momentum throughout the course of a fight. When those shifts are drastic enough to completely turn the tide, you’ve got the recipe for a great comeback. From Izzy-Poatan 3 to the “Lazy King” to Elves Brenner to Edson Barboza, you had some great comeback efforts in 2023— but one had the slight edge overall. A promotional newcomer no less.

Comeback of the Year 2023

Eddie Law: Edson Barboza vs. Sodiq Yusuff, UFC Fight Night 230. Going into the first round of the fight it looked like Yusuff would be using Barboza’s name to add launch himself into the conversation of contenders at 145 pounds. At least until Barboza remembered who he was. What came next was a nasty right hand shot that rocked Yusuff, turned the tide in Barboza’s favor, and delivered a masterclass in striking by the longtime UFC veteran.

Gabriel Gonzalez: Rodolfo Bellato vs Ihor Potieria. It’s not often that the light heavyweights can deliver a back-and-forth that lasts as long as Potieria and Bellato did and that is why I felt this one deserved comeback of the year. Bellato withstood a good amount of damage before making an epic turnaround to get the finish in the closing minute of round two for a victory few expected after seeing round one.

Jay Anderson: There were plenty of big comebacks this past year, including Adesanya-Pereira 3 and the “Lazy King” Abdoul Abdouraguimov last-minute title win. For this one, however, I’m going with Rodolfo Bellato vs Ihor Potieria. Crazy fight, crazy comeback by Bellato after a nearly being finished himself.

Jamie Theodosi: Elves Brenner’s comeback over Guram Kutateladze. For Elves Brenner, this fight was a big step-up in competition for him as Guram was someone who a lot of people were excited about. After losing the first two rounds pretty comfortably, Brenner knew he had to find the finish in round three, and he did just that.

Val Dewar: Abdoul Abdouraguimov vs Rafael Haratyk. Abdoul Abdouraguimov, better known as ‘Lazy King,’ is sized like a lightweight. So it was a shock when he moved up from welterweight, where he had won the ARES FC belt, to middleweight to challenge for double champ status. His opponent was much bigger, and this fact allowed Haratyk to dominate most of the fight, until the final seconds. In one of the biggest ‘Hail Mary’ moments in MMA, Lazy King rolled for a kneebar from bottom in the final minute and somehow pulled it off to claim second belt (and this award).

Cade Morehouse: Edson Barboza wins Comeback of the Year in a fight against Sodiq Yusuff. Barboza was dominated for the entire first round and was busted up. He went on to win the next four rounds to win the fight. What an impressive comeback it was for Edson Barboza.

Patrick McCorry: Izzy-Pereira 3. Backed up against cage, against a man who had his number, Israel Adesanya lands a picture perfect shot in a fight he was losing against the now 205 pound champ.

Shawn Bitter: Rodolfo Bellato over Ihor Potieria. This fight was so up and down and full of chaos. At one point Bellato was seconds away from being put to sleep or the ref stepping in. He survived and took over as Ihor got tired and Bellato got the dramatic TKO in the second.

End result: In a close race, Rodolfo Bellato gets the nod for our 2023 Comeback of the Year award!