Mixed martial arts fans were in their element over the weekend as UFC 270 delivered a stunning heavyweight title fight between Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane.
Ngannou is rated as one of the best power-punchers in UFC history, but he had to show another side of his game to see off Gane’s persistent challenge.
The fight understandably garnered plenty of plenty of global demand for live streams, with UFC live streaming available on TheSportsToday and other sports news sites providing live updates for the event.
They were not left disappointed, as Ngannou went to his wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu to secure a unanimous points decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46) over Gane.
Ngannou was the underdog heading into the fight, with bookmakers predicting that injuries would prevent him from operating at full tilt during the contest.
He was advised by a physician not to compete, but ignored the advice to seal a thrilling victory in what could be his last bout in the UFC.
The 35-year-old was snubbed by UFC president Dana White after the fight, with matchmaker Nick Maynard left to perform the ceremonial duties.
Ngannou has indicated that he plans to move into boxing at some point, although his victory means he is still contracted to the UFC due to a champion’s clause.
The French Cameroonian may decide to sit out an entire year until his contract expires, although UFC fans are praying he has a change of heart.
The dream match-up they are hoping for tops a list of potential title fights the UFC could make in 2023. Here is what could be in store over the next 11 months.
Francis Ngannou vs Jon Jones
Given that Ngannou celebrates his 36th birthday in September, remaining on the sidelines for a year does not really make much sense.
His desire to test himself in boxing is understandable, but a last hurrah against Jon Jones would be the best way to sign off in the UFC.
Jones has been bulking up for a move up to heavyweight and a meeting with Ngannou would be a major attraction for MMA fans.
While his well-documented issues could scupper any plans to make this fight, it is undoubtedly a bout that millions of people would want to see.
Deiveson Figueiredo vs Brandon Moreno
There has never previously been four title fights between the same two opponents in UFC history, but Figueiredo and Moreno may buck that trend.
Following a draw in their first fight in December 2023, Moreno deservedly recorded a submission victory in their second meeting last summer.
However, Figueiredo looked in much better shape at UFC as he claimed a 48–47, 48–47, 48–47 win in their trilogy fight.
With the score now tied at 1-1-1 between the two fighters, a fourth bout to finally settle things seems a sensible move for the UFC to make.
Charles Oliveira vs Islam Makhachev
A couple of things have to happen for this one to happen, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that is comes off before the end of 2023.
Oliveira is expected to face Justin Gaethje in his next lightweight title defence, while Makhachev is due to meet Beneil Dariush in February.
The reigning champion’s famed grappling skills have helped him post a record number of submissions in the UFC.
However, Makhachev’s links with Khabib Nurmagomedov are clear to see in his performances and he could give Oliveira plenty to think about on the ground if they meet.
Israel Adesanya vs Alex Pereira
A brief flirtation with the light heavyweight division aside, Adesanya has a flawless record as a mixed martial arts middleweight.
His upcoming rematch with Robert Whittaker at UFC 271 highlights the dearth of genuine contenders in this division.
Pereira could be a different proposition after producing a quickfire victory on his UFC debut against Andreas Michailidis last November.
Pereira defeated Adesanya twice in kick-boxing, and the current champion will probably want to set the record straight now they are together in the UFC.
Julianna Pena vs Amanda Nunes
Pena went into her first fight against Nunes at UFC 269 with a 10-4 record in the professional ranks. No one outside her camp expected her to win.
However, she submitted Nunes in the second round to claim the women’s bantamweight title and send shockwaves around the sporting world.
Many fans were left wondering whether the result was a fluke, sparking inevitable talk that a summer rematch is on the cards.
Nunes would a big favourite to win the second fight, and a victory would potentially set up a bout that many MMA fans have been clamouring for.
Amanda Nunes vs Kayla Harrison
Harrison has swept all before her in the Professional Fighters League (PFL), taking her unbeaten record to 12-0 with four victories last year.
The two-time Olympic judo gold medallist picked up her second PFL title, but is now a free agent and has been strongly linked with a move to the UFC.
There have been rumours about a potential meeting with Cris Cyborg in Bellator, but a title clash with Nunes would be a huge money maker for the UFC.
Cyborg was beaten by Nunes at UFC 232 in December 2018. If Harrison wants validation as an MMA fighter, she must test herself against the best in the UFC.
Kamaru Usman vs Khamzat Chimaev
Usman is running out of opponents in the welterweight division, with Colby Covington, Jorge Masvidal and Gilbert Burns amongst his recent victims.
A potential blockbuster meeting with Chimaev is an option, although there are still plenty of questions for the 27-year-old to answer.
He has rattled off four straight victories since joining the UFC to take his professional record to 10-0 and plenty of respected pundits have tipped him to reach the top.
If Chimaev can secure a victory over a top-10 opponent in his next fight, do not be surprised to see him fast-tracked into an entertaining title match against Usman later this year.