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The Ultimate 2023 Fight Card

After Looking Back At Every Fight That Took Place In 2023, E. Spencer Kyte Put Together A Fight Card With Nothing But Bangers.

A couple years ago, my friend Patrick Beaulieu responded to a random fight night tweet of mine suggesting that it would be cool to build out a year-end fight card using the bouts that fell in each individual spot in the lineup, working from the top down.

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Only main events could land atop the card. The fifth bout from the top had to be a fight that was the fifth bout from the top on that given night. The ninth contest down the call sheet had to be the ninth bout down the call sheet; you get the picture.

Being someone that is always open to building spreadsheets, tracking fights, and putting good ideas to use, I thanked Patty, and told him I was going to track that info and deliver a “Best Card of the Year” piece at year’s end.

2023 AWARDS: The Upsets | The Submissions | The Newcomers  | The Knockouts | The Fights

Three years later, we’re back with another compilation piece, and I think this is the best card yet, which shouldn’t be surprising to anyone because 2023 was an incredible year in terms of the performances and moments created and captured inside the Octagon. There were memorable efforts and outstanding fights scattered across the past 12 months and 43 events, with spots one through 15 all containing a quality showing or tremendous back-and-forth that made it deserving of a place on this fight card.

Remember: there could only be one main event fight, one co-main event fight, etc.

Here’s the lineup for the Best Fight Card of 2023.

Islam Makhachev vs Alexander Volkanovski (UFC 284)

Islam Makhachev of Russia and Alexander Volkanovski of Australia face off prior to their 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)
Islam Makhachev of Russia and Alexander Volkanovski of Australia face off prior to their 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)

Islam Makhachev called his shot and followed through, venturing to Perth, Australia and defeating pound-for-pound king and featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski to successfully defend his lightweight title for the first time.

The surging Russian standout showed his skills on the feet through the first three rounds, spending long stretches of the initial 15 minutes trading with Volkanovski and getting the better of the exchanges. While “Alexander the Great” had success of his own and showed an impressive ability to contender with Makhachev’s takedown attempts, the lightweight champ was just too much.

In the fourth, Makhachev timed a perfect level change that resulted in his climbing onto Volkanovski’s back and staying there for the duration of the frame. In the final frame, Volkanovski tried his damnedest to rally and finish, taking the fight to Makhachev and hurting him with a left hand late, finishing the bout in top position, much to the delight of the capacity crowd in Perth.

Order UFC 297: Strickland vs Du Plessis

Makhachev earned the unanimous decision win and successfully defended his title, but Volkanovski lost nothing in going 25 minutes with the lightweight ruler.

This was an incredible fight between two standout talents, and it’s going to be amazing seeing them continue to lord over their respective weight classes going forward.

Alexa Grasso vs Valentina Shevchenko (UFC 285)

Alexa Grasso of Mexico secures a rear choke submission against Valentina Shevchenko of Kyrgyzstan in the UFC flyweight championship fight during the UFC 285 event at T-Mobile Arena on March 04, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Alexa Grasso of Mexico secures a rear choke submission against Valentina Shevchenko of Kyrgyzstan in the UFC flyweight championship fight during the UFC 285 event at T-Mobile Arena on March 04, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Alexa Grasso is the new UFC flyweight champion!

The Mexican challenger took full advantage of a tactical mistake by Valentina Shevchenko in the fourth round to secure the rear-naked choke finish.

WATCH: Grasso Becomes The Champ

This was an ultra-competitive fight the whole way through, with Grasso surprising Shevchenko in the first by fighting from a southpaw stance. While the champion turned to her grappling to build a lead heading into the championship rounds, Grasso remained focused and continued to make the most of her opportunities.

When Shevchenko missed a spinning back kick, Grasso instantly climbed onto her back and attacked the choke, getting her hooks in, flattening her out, and eventually drawing out the tap.

Shavkat Rakhmonov vs Geoff Neal (UFC 285)

Shavkat Rakhmonov of Uzbekistan chokes Geoff Neal in a welterweight fight during the UFC 285 event at T-Mobile Arena on March 04, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Shavkat Rakhmonov of Uzbekistan chokes Geoff Neal in a welterweight fight during the UFC 285 event at T-Mobile Arena on March 04, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Shavkat Rakhmonov just keeps winning.

The undefeated rising star picked up his fifth consecutive UFC win and 17th straight victory overall midway through the UFC 285 main card, getting the better of things in a competitive, tough fight against durable DWCS grad Geoff Neal. It was the toughest test of the 28-year-old’s career and despite some scary moments, he was able to pass.

In all three rounds, the ranked welterweights got after each other on the feet, with Rakhmonov offering greater variety and volume. Neal had him rocked early in the third, but couldn’t find the shot that put him down, resulting in Rakhmonov closing the distance and getting a chance to recover.

VIDEO: Sean Strickland & Dricus Du Plessis Get Into Fight In Crowd At UFC 296

Late in the frame, the undefeated “Nomad” hurt Neal with a clean right hand, compounding the punishment with knees to the body, yet somehow, the Fortis MMA man remained upright. With under a minute remaining and the pair battling along the fence, Rakhmonov latched onto a standing rear-naked choke and found the finish.

This was the most entertaining fight of the year thus far and elevates the stock of both competitors.

Dan Hooker vs Jalin Turner (UFC 290)

Dan Hooker of New Zealand punches Jalin Turner in a lightweight fight during the UFC 290 event at T-Mobile Arena on July 08, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Dan Hooker of New Zealand punches Jalin Turner in a lightweight fight during the UFC 290 event at T-Mobile Arena on July 08, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Dan Hooker and Jalin Turner teamed up for a thrilling, technical, chaotic punch-up on the pay-per-view main card on Saturday night.

Two of the tallest fighters in the lightweight division, the two men stayed just at the end of each other’s range for the duration, picking at each other with sniper fire and unloading bazookas whenever they got in close. After a close first round, Turner busted up Hooker in the second, hitting him with a high kick that would have put most people out. Instead, the New Zealander ate it, fired back, and nearly choked Turner out at the end of the round.

PART 1: See Where Things Stand In Each Division

Both men came out trying to finish early int he third, but as Turner ran out of gas, Hooker swarmed, running him to the ground and following into his guard. Turner did good work off his back, attacking with elbows and punches, but the City Kickboxing man kept him pinned to the canvas until the final couple seconds.

The judges were tasked with determining the victor, and when the scorecards came back, they came back split, with “The Hangman” coming out ahead in what was a fantastic back-and-forth battle.

Josh Emmett vs Bryce Mitchell (UFC 296)

Josh Emmett reacts to his knock out of Bryce Mitchell in a featherweight fight during the UFC 296 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 16, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
Josh Emmett reacts to his knock out of Bryce Mitchell in a featherweight fight during the UFC 296 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 16, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)

It only took one.

Josh Emmett hit Bryce Mitchell with one right hand and the fight was over. The two men circled each other to start, looking for openings and opportunities, and when Mitchell threw a right hand, Emmett came over the top with a right hand that instantly shut off the Arkansas native’s lights.

What a knockout. What a way to kick off the pay-per-view. What a way to close out the year for Emmett after two straight losses.

Man.

Robbie Lawler vs Niko Price (UFC 290)

Robbie Lawler knocks out Niko Price in a welterweight fight during the UFC 290 event at T-Mobile Arena on July 08, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
Robbie Lawler knocks out Niko Price in a welterweight fight during the UFC 290 event at T-Mobile Arena on July 08, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)

That’s how you close out a career!

Robbie Lawler got into a fist-fight with Niko Price and wrapped his Hall of Fame career with a knockout victory! You could not script it any better and every single person in the building — including the usually emotionless Lawler — was moved by the moment.

WATCH: Robbie Lawler Celebrates His UFC 290 Knockout Win

His fight with Rory MacDonald from UFC 189 was inducted into the Hall of Fame earlier this week and now that his career has come to a close, Lawler will likely take his place alongside of it in the near future.

What a way to end it!

Irene Aldana vs Karol Rosa (UFC 296)

Irene Aldana of Mexico punches Karol Rosa of Brazil in a bantamweight fight during the UFC 296 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 16, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Irene Aldana of Mexico punches Karol Rosa of Brazil in a bantamweight fight during the UFC 296 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 16, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Irene Aldana and Karol Rosa beat the heck out of one another for 15 minutes, throwing an insane number of strikes to set the Fight of the Night bar high heading into the main card.

Rosa opened the fight attacking Aldana’s lead leg, battering the recent title challenger for the opening five minutes. But in the second, the Mexican power hitter upped her pressure and volume, seemingly drawing level based on landing the heavier, cleaner punches. Both battered and swollen, neither showed any quit in the third, with Aldana hurting Rosa to the body and pulling away as the round progressed.

Somehow, they both stayed upright until the final bell, with the judges tasked with determining a victor for the first time on Saturday night. When the scores were added up, Aldana came out ahead, though Rosa’s stock should surely go up following an absolute banger like this one.

Cody Brundage vs Zachary Reese (UFC Austin)

Cody Brundage Scores Slam KO vs Reese | UFC Austin
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Cody Brundage Scores Slam KO vs Reese | UFC Austin
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Apparently we’re finishing fights by slamming people looking to connect on submissions tonight.

Following in the footsteps of Drakkar Klose in the previous fight, Cody Brundage gathered Zach Reese into the air as he looked to connect his legs on a triangle choke attempt and brought him thundering down to the canvas with force, knocking him out instantly.

That is a massive victory for Brundage, who had dropped three straight before garnering a win by disqualification last time out. For him to do it on the same night as the UFC has already paid tribute to his coach, Marc Montoya, for his courageous battle against cancer surely makes it even sweeter.

Brad Katona vs Cody Gibson (UFC 292)

Cody Gibson punches Brad Katona of Canada in a bantamweight fight during the UFC 292 event at TD Garden on August 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
Cody Gibson punches Brad Katona of Canada in a bantamweight fight during the UFC 292 event at TD Garden on August 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)

Brad Katona is your TUF 31 bantamweight winner and the first person to win the long-running reality TV competition twice, making history by out-working Cody Gibson in an outstanding back-and-forth in Boston.

The tension from inside the house between the bantamweight finalists carried over into the Octagon, as they opened up by slinging hands at one another and never really stopped. The pace was incredible, even for bantamweights, with Gibson constantly pressuring forward and the Canadian doing well to find his own moments to land, including wobbling his American counterpart late in the second.

When one man found success, the other responded in kind, delivering an outstanding fight where both men showed they are capable of competing at this level. Down the stretch, Katona was the more effective man, again hurting Gibson late en route to earning a sweep of the scorecards and a second TUF trophy to add to his mantle.

Just an amazing fight between two absolute savages!

Uros Medic vs Matthew Semelsberger (UFC 291)

Uros Medic of Serbia celebrates his TKO victory over Matthew Semelsberger in a welterweight fight during the UFC 291 event at Delta Center on July 29, 2023 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
Uros Medic of Serbia celebrates his TKO victory over Matthew Semelsberger in a welterweight fight during the UFC 291 event at Delta Center on July 29, 2023 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

“The Doctor” is in!

Uros Medic announced his presence in the welterweight division with a third-round stoppage win over Matthew Semelsberger.

The two men got after one another in the opening frame, Semelsberger dropping Medic twice while eating a big upkick himself before the pace slowed in the second. Pressed by their respective corners to seize control of the fight in the final stanza, Medic did exactly that, stinging Semelsberger with short shots in the clinch before felling him with a spinning back elbow and pounding out the finish.

Fighting for the first time in well over a year, the Dana White’s Contender Series grad Medic is now 3-1 in the UFC with three finishes. The 30-year-old moves to 9-1 with the victory, while Semelsberger drops his second straight contest to fall to 11-6 overall.

Jeka Saragih vs Lucas Alexander (UFC Vegas 82)

Jeka Saragih Delivers A Powerful KO In Round 1 | UFC Fight Night: Allen vs Craig
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Jeka Saragih Delivers A Powerful KO In Round 1 | UFC Fight Night: Allen vs Craig
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The power of Jeka Saragih is a game-changer, and the Indonesian featherweight showed it on Saturday.

After getting backed up by Lucas Alexander early in the first, the Brazilian slipped, and when he scrambled up to his feet, Saragih uncorked a right hand that caused him to slump along  the fence. The follow-up blows were academic as Alexander was out, giving Saragih his first UFC victory.

A finalist in the inaugural Road to UFC lightweight competition, Saragih became the first Indonesian fighter to register a win inside the Octagon with the rapid finish and moved 14-3 overall with the victory.

Da’Mon Blackshear vs Jose Johnson (UFC Vegas 78)

Da'Mon Blackshear Scores Rare Twister Submission | UFC Fight Night: Luque vs Dos Anjos
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Da'Mon Blackshear Scores Rare Twister Submission | UFC Fight Night: Luque vs Dos Anjos
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How about a twister on a Saturday afternoon?

Da’Mon Blackshear locked up his second straight stoppage win by collecting just the third twister finish in UFC history. Blackshear took the fight to Johnson from the jump, showcasing his grappling skills by dragging him to the canvas with authority before taking advantage of a tactical mistake by Johnson to lock up the rare submission finish.

The 29-year-old Blackshear impressed in his first two outings despite not registering a victory but has since showed he belongs in the bantamweight division. Now 14-5-1 overall, “Da Monster” is now in the UFC record books and making waves in the 135-pound weight class.

Luana Santos vs Juliana Miller (UFC Vegas 78)

 Luana Santos of Brazil punches Juliana Miller in a flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 12, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Powers/Zuffa LLC)
Luana Santos of Brazil punches Juliana Miller in a flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 12, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Powers/Zuffa LLC)

She had to take a couple shots before settling in, but once Luana Santos got comfortable, she started to shine, resulting in an impressive stoppage win over Juliana Miller in the opener.

Miller pressured Santos right out of the chute, hitting the Brazilian with a handful of good shots to welcome her to the Octagon. The newcomer seemed to wake up soon after and took the fight to the recent TUF winner, slamming home heavy strikes that left Miller in rough shape along the fence, prompting referee Jason Herzog to step in and halt the action.

The 23-year-old is now 6-1 in her professional career and extended her winning streak to three with her first TKO finish. For Miller, it’s a second straight setback this year, with her record falling to 4-3 as a result.

Loik Radzhabov vs Esteban Ribovics (UFC 285)

Loik Radzhabov of Tajikistan punches Esteban Ribovics of Argentina in a lightweight fight during the UFC 285 event at T-Mobile Arena on March 04, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Loik Radzhabov of Tajikistan punches Esteban Ribovics of Argentina in a lightweight fight during the UFC 285 event at T-Mobile Arena on March 04, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Newcomers Loik Radzhabov and Esteban Ribovics opened up the show with a tremendous back-and-forth in the lightweight division.

Radzhabov came out firing to start, dropping Ribovics with the first right hand he threw and wobbling him again later in the opening round before turning to his wrestling. Things were progressing thew same way in the second until Ribovics dug a clean shot to the body, following with a right hand to the jaw that put Radzhabov on shaky footing.

In the third, Radzhabov opened up with more power shots, and while Ribovics was able to weather the shots, he continued to get taken down. Even when he had Radzhabov hurt late in the third, Ribovics was unable to capitalize, with the fighter from Tajikistan finding ways to clinch, scramble, and salt away the victory.

This was an excellent showing by each man in their shared first UFC appearance, with Radzhabov showing why he was a solid favorite even on short notice, and Ribovics elevating his stock even in defeat.

Jafel Filho vs Daniel Barez (UFC London)

Jafel Filho Gets Arm Triangle Submission Over Barez | UFC Fight Night: Aspinall vs Tybura
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Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

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Jafel Filho Gets Arm Triangle Submission Over Barez | UFC Fight Night: Aspinall vs Tybura
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What a way to kick off the evening in London!

Jafel Filho got stung badly to the body by Daniel Barez early in Saturday’s opener, but the Brazilian was able to recover and reverse course, hurting the Spanish newcomer on the feet before putting him on the canvas. Once there, the Nova Uniao representative climbed to mount, attacked the arm triangle choke, slide off to the side and secured the tap.

That’s two quality showings in two starts for Filho, who collects his first UFC victory, while halting Barez’ four-fight winning streak in the process.

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