MMA 2023 Year in Review: Fight of the Year

Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski, UFC 284
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 12: Islam Makhachev of Russia reacts after his victory over Alexander Volkanovski of Australia in the UFC lightweight championship fight during the UFC 284 event at RAC Arena on February 12, 2023 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

We’re handing out our annual year-end awards, and Fight of the Year was a closely contested race to say the least! It’s our final award for the year— be sure to check out our other winners!

Event of the Year
Fighter of the Year
Knockout of the Year
Submission of the Year
Upset of the Year
Comeback of the Year
Newcomer of the Year

Fight of the Year 2023

Eddie Law: Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski, UFC 284. A hell of a war between to champions headlined UFC 284 and fully delivered. When Volkanovski seemed to have the upper hand Makhachev would find a way to turn the momentum. And even when Makhachev would take Volkanovski’s back the Australian found ways to score points on his opponent. All in all a hell of a barn burner.

Gabriel Gonzalez: Islam Makhachev vs Alexander Volkanovski. Islam vs Volk may not have had the level of carnage associated with past Fight of the Years, but it is arguably one of the best displays of mixed martial arts ever seen. Between the skills, physical attributes, and historical significance on the line, the technical battle between the two UFC champions delivered a brilliant fight that pushed both of them to be great in epic fashion.

Jay Anderson: I’ll give a shoutout to Irene Aldana vs. Karol Rosa which I think was the best fight in the past three to six months. But UFC 284 last February had a fight so good almost no one complained when the UFC opted to run it back between Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski (okay, it was a short-notice situation but most people welcomed Volk stepping up). And it wasn’t just a close, high stakes fight but a wildly entertaining one. Had it gone a little longer, the outcome might have been different, but Makhachev got the nod. Still, seeing the two bonafide best in the world at that moment go at it was something rare, and special.

Jamie Theodosi: Irene Aldana vs. Karol Rosa. Recency bias may be playing a part in my pick here but this fight gave us everything. Hooker vs Turner was a great fight that came close to my top pick, but Aldana vs Rosa was just pure insanity.

Val Dewar: Moreno vs Pantoja 2. For the second time in four years, Brandon Moreno put on one of – if not the – best fights of the year against one of his rivals, Alexandre Pantoja, as Pantoja won a close-fought bout that went all five rounds with constant action. Pantoja now steps into his role as the least-appreciated champion in the UFC, though long-time fans will know that this latest war was consistent with his M.O.

Not only was the violence unmatched in Moreno vs Pantoja 2, but the level of the skills on display and the fighters’ athletic abilities make it clear they are both top ten pound-for-pound fighters in the world. That combination of action and skill is why this fight beats out other popular contenders for this award like Islam Makhachev vs Alexander Volkanovski 1 and Shavkat Rahkmonov vs Geoff Neal.

Cade Morehouse: Justin Gaethje Vs Rafael Fiziev. This fight had fans on the edge of their seat the entire fight. Fiziev seemed to have the huge speed advantage over Gaethje in the first round and won the round because of it. The veteran Gaethje decided to take away the legs of Fiziev which took away the speed. He was able to win the fight in the end by decision with blood everywhere.

Patrick McCorry: Moreno Pantoja. Need I say more? Barn-burner from the opening bell.

Shawn Bitter: My favorite fight of the year was Neal vs. Rakhmonov. It was action packed and it was the first time Rakhmonov was actualy tested. Also, it was the return of the old Neal we seen in the past. Although Neal had great moments it was a breakout performance by Rakhmonov.

End result: Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski earns our Fight of the Year for 2023!