2023 has had some great moments, fighters, and comebacks. It would have been difficult to nominate more individuals, but this year’s nominees are well-deserved and available to vote for. X/Womain For those looking to take home a gold medal at the 2023 MMA Awards Show.
Rookie of the Year Candidates
Beau Nickal was amazing this year. No need to say anything else. He went 2-0 in 2023 and quickly became a player many felt could challenge for a title in 2024. He will be joining the UFC 300 card in April as he continues to train to become a wrestling standout at Penn State University.
A true fan favorite with a cult following. Diego Lopez had an incredible 2-1 record in 2023, with his only loss coming on the night in a decision loss to Movsar Evloev. His two wins also earned him a $50,000 performance bonus.
Title Fight of the Year Candidates
Alexander Volkanovskiy vs. Islam Makhachev
You can see the trends of Islam Makhachev here. He was a big winner in 2023 and his performance was incredible. But winning the Fight of the Year award usually requires a great dance partner, and for Islam, he got it in his first bout of the year against Alexander Volkanovski. It was a really great call and the match could have gone either way.
Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Moreno
The two have fought before, but Alexandre Pantoja and Brandon Moreno put on a great show in front of the fans, with an emotional Pantoja emerging victorious and becoming champion for the first time. Something tells me we should see them again in a title fight, but it will likely be difficult for both of them to recreate the excitement of their previous matches.
Coach of the Year Candidate
I think Eric Nikcik will continue to be nominated for this award until the day he retires. Nick Schick’s greatest accomplishments may not have come from even the fights his fighters won. He is the driving force behind Francis Ngannou’s success. He also runs a chaotic gym in Las Vegas with always interesting personalities like Sean Strickland.
The man is a legend in this sport no matter what. Although he was not always present in the matches of his fighters/brothers, he is a huge key to success for all fighters from Dagestan, Russia. Training champions like Usman Nurmagomedov and Islam Makhachev alone would be enough for many, but his roster of fighters is second to none, and like his father, he’s a great coach. He seems to be an instructor.
Nominees for Upset of the Year
Sean Strickland defeats Israel Adesanya
For a man considered to be the greatest middleweight of all time, Adesanya went into his fight with Sean Strickland as the number one contender. Strickland entered this fight as a severe underdog at +470, but he didn’t fight like an underdog. Strickland dominated the fight from the jump, winning 49-46 on all three judges’ scorecards, so there was no doubt when the decision was read.
Alexa Grasso defeats Valentina Shevchenko
Alexa Grasso has earned quite a few nominations for the 2023 MMA Awards. Grasso was +575 on the verge of winning her first title, and she was fighting a legend who is generally considered one of the top three female fighters of all time. Grasso accomplished something no one has ever done before, including Amanda Nunes, and is also the first Shevchenko to finish in the UFC.
Knockout of the Year Candidates
Josh Emmett defeats Bryce Mitchell
In one of the last fights of 2023, Josh Emmett gave us one of the toughest knockouts of the year, if not in UFC history. The knockout left Bryce Mitchell convulsing after lights out in December of this year. Josh Emmett has gained a lot of new fans and this was the performance he needed to put his name back in title contention in his 2024 season.
Sean O’Malley defeats Aljamain Sterling
Sean O’Malley did it. This win could have been the upset of the year, but for many, I think fans were imagining the title going to Suga Shawn. Sugasho reached his peak when he defeated bantamweight GOAT Aljamain Sterling by KO in the second round. Hopefully this rematch happens soon, but Sean O’Malley has established himself as one of mixed martial arts’ biggest stars. Many believe he has star power second only to Conor McGregor.
Israel Adesanya defeats Alex Pereira
He finally got over the hump! It took an incredibly long time, but Adesanya got revenge on Pereira and got her middleweight belt back. Adesanya became emotional and, after being forced into the cage, placed her biggest right hand to Pereira’s head and knocked him out cold, giving us some of the coldest footage this sport has ever seen.
Justin Gaethje defeats Dustin Poirier
Justin Gaethje showed that he truly is the world’s worst mother. Gaethje delivered a head kick to Dustin Poirier on his left in the center of the Octagon, tying the fight at 1-1 and winning the BMF title, making Gaethje a top candidate to be Islam Makhachev’s next opponent. became. Gaethje should get a third chance to become the undisputed champion in 2024.
This year’s submissions
Alexa Grasso defeats Valentina Shevchenko
We were very high on Alexa Grasso at the 2023 MMA Awards, and this was the first time she won a 4-round submission and quickly became a Mexican fan favorite over Valentina Grasso. Just another nomination for her efforts in defeating Shevchenko to win the title.
Jon Jones defeats Cyril Gane
Jon Jones made a big comeback, making his long-awaited heavyweight debut in a title fight against the vacant Cyril Gane. Jones found himself in control early on and never gave Gain a chance to allow his ability to put pressure on him. Jones earned a submission victory in the first of two fights this year before an injury in camp prevented him from facing heavyweight legend Stipe Miocic.
Comeback Fighter of the Year
It’s not often that a fighter makes it to Comeback Fighter of the Year back-to-back, but Jones, who was sidelined after training with an injury at Stipe Miocic’s camp, will give him a chance. I’ve only met Jones once this year, and it wasn’t that long.
Tom Aspinall returned in 2023 after suffering a major injury in a loss to Curtis Blaydes. You can hear us talk in more detail on the podcast about how we think this injury is an injury that should be written off to a no-contest, but still, Aspinall is 2-0 in 2023. He was great in defeat, and his biggest achievement so far was the interim title victory over Sergei Pavlovich.
Even though Garbrandt could have been cut, “No Love” was on the slide and some people in the MMA world were. Thankfully for the UFC, he’s still on the roster, and in 2023, we saw him turn back the clock and look like the champion version of Cody Garbrandt. With two wins over Trevin Jones and a knockout win over Brian Kelleher in 2023, Garbrandt will regain his name in big matches and ultimately seek a title shot if he picks up where he left off in 2024. there is a possibility.
Female Fighter of the Year
Grasso has positioned herself in many categories for the 2023 MMA Awards, but perhaps none more important than Female Fighter of the Year. She said Grasso has fought twice this year and has a record of 1-0-1, but she’s not that impressive until you learn that both times she’s facing the legendary Valentina Shevchenko. Maybe. Grasso established her status as one of the best female fighters of all time, and she scored the biggest win of her career when she won the belt in March.
She is the only PFL fighter to have her name listed among the 2023 MMA Award nominees. Pacheco had another great year, going 4-0 this season, winning another PFL championship and also winning the $1 million Grand Prix. We’ll have to see if Pacheco can get a three-peat in the PFL.
It was good to see Suarez return to the Octagon this year and that’s why she was nominated for one of the 2023 MMA Awards. Suarez returned from a long hiatus dating back to 2019, and she had wins over Montana de la Rosa and former champion Jessica Andrade. She was great in both matches, and it would be hard to imagine her not having a championship belt by now if it weren’t for the extended break. She will likely aim for the title in 2024 with one more win over Amanda Lemos in February.
Male Fighter of the Year
Patchy Mix is not as famous as it should be. Mix is perhaps the best bantamweight in the world across all promotions. The Bellator Grand Prix winner defeated Laufeon Stotts and Sergio Pettis this year, both by finish. Mix is with Bellator, so he may not be getting the attention he deserves, but he would have felt wrong not including him anywhere in the 2023 MMA Awards.
Strickland is one of the biggest stars in the UFC and has been nominated for many of the 2023 MMA awards. He is 3-0 this year, and his last fight in 2023 was the one that won him the middleweight belt. Strickland is scheduled to open the new year with his first title fight against South Africa’s Doricus du Plessis.
Islam improved to 2-0 with two wins over Alexander Volkanovski in 2023. One of the reasons Makhachev has earned accolades in 2023 is because of the progress his game has made over the last year. Makhachev is currently ranked number one in the P4P rankings and it will be difficult for anyone to dethrone him.
One of the most nominated fighters for the 2023 MMA Awards, Pantoja has competed in two title fights, scoring decision wins over Brandon Moreno and Brandon Roybal in both bouts. Pantoja established himself as a star in the promotion. Pantoja will be a difficult challenge for future title challengers.
fight of the year
Islam Makhachev vs Alexander Volkanovski
We’re considering this match as our Title Fight of the Year, so there really isn’t much to say. This match was so good it had to be nominated in the Match of the Year category as well. Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovskiy was an incredible match, one that should not be forgotten even though the latter was not as great in this match.
Irene Aldana vs Carol Rosa
On the final card of the year, these two women give it their all and it just might be enough to win one of the 2023 MMA awards. I still don’t know how Irene Aldana was able to keep moving when her legs were hit so badly. Rosa and Aldana were badly beaten, but I don’t think either of them felt very good when they woke up the next morning. These ladies put on one of the most exciting matches I’ve ever seen.