2023 Mid-Year MMA Accolades: Evaluating the top performers and underperformers so far
Incredibly, we’re already halfway through 2023.
The initial six months of the MMA calendar have hosted 22 UFC events, eight Bellator events, six PFL events proper, and numerous more from ONE Championship, RIZIN, and other top promotions, leading to an array of memorable nights. But which ones surpassed all others? MMA Hook’s Shaun Al-Shatti, Alexander K. Lee, and Jed Meshew review the first half of 2023 and distribute some awards for the high and low points of the mid-year.
Don’t miss out on Tuesday’s compilation of the best 2023 knockouts so far.
Al-Shatti: Ever wondered about the hidden reality of UFC champion vs. champion clashes? In terms of in-ring action, most are disappointments. They’re often anticlimactic (Blachowicz-Adesanya, Cejudo-Dillashaw) or massively one-sided (McGregor-Alvarez, GSP-Penn 2).
However, this was not the case at UFC 284, which upended the sport as Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski stole the spotlight. None of the seven previous champion vs. champion bouts in UFC history had ever come close to the thrill and suspense this February’s pound-for-pound contest delivered. With unexpected plot twists and turns unfolding round by round, it felt like a five-part Netflix series. Even in defeat, Volkanovski surprised us by pushing Makhachev harder than anyone since 2015.
Honorable Mention: Justin Gaethje vs. Rafael Fiziev
Al-Shatti: Even a subpar Justin Gaethje fight still manages to make the top list, thanks to the allure of “The Highlight.” His less impressive performances are still more exciting than the average MMA match.
Gaethje once again confirmed his status as the most entertaining combatant alive in his March bout against Rafael Fiziev. Despite Fiziev being the next generation contender, Gaethje retained his spot in the 155-pound division with his blend of reckless abandon and a more calculated approach.
Submission of the Half-Year: Alexa Grasso def. Valentina Shevchenko via face crank
Meshew: Alexa Grasso’s victory was a brutal blow, especially to my gambling account.
Prior to 2022, Valentina Shevchenko was one of MMA’s most dominant fighters, unbeatable at flyweight and undisputed since 2010. In contrast, Grasso, a talented but underdog fighter, managed to overthrow Shevchenko, a feat that was a combination of planning, preparation, and a powerful squeeze.
Honorable Mention: Shavkat Rakhmonov def. Geoff Neal via standing bulldog choke
Meshew: While Grasso’s rear-naked choke was significant, Shavkhat Rakhmonov’s standing bulldog choke against Geoff Neal is undoubtedly this year’s most impressive submission.
Fighter of the Half-Year: Israel Adesanya
Lee: Israel Adesanya accomplished something more remarkable than never losing: he overcame the one adversary everyone thought was unbeatable.
Honorable Mention: Gilbert Burns
Lee: Gilbert Burns has had a busy start to the year, with two wins in three appearances.
Quote of the Half-Year: Boogerman
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about MMA 2023 review
Q: What does this text cover?
A: This text covers a comprehensive analysis of the first half of 2023 in the world of MMA, including notable moments, winners, losers, and performances by fighters.