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What to look for in 2023: Big-name trio set for Octagon return

The final UFC event of 2022 took place on Saturday but fans have plenty to get excited about with 2023 on the horizon.

This year saw London host two events and plenty of English stars; Tom Aspinall, Paddy Pimblett, Molly McCann, Muhammad Mokaev and Arnold Allen to name a few, came to the fore.

Birmingham's Leon Edwards made history by becoming just the second Brit to win a UFC title following his stunning knockout victory over Kamaru Usman in August.

Israel Adesanya's two-year stint as middleweight champion came to an end as old foe Alex Pereira took his title at UFC 281 in November.

Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski ends the year #1 in the men's pound-for-pound rankings following two further successful defences of his belt in 2022.

Amanda Nunes sits at the top of the women's pound-for-pound rankings after beating Julianna Pena in a rematch to reclaim bantamweight gold.

There's never any shortage of drama when it comes to the UFC and 2023 is already shaping up nicely.

Titles on the line in Brazil

Brazil will host the first numbered event of 2023 when UFC 283 lands in Rio de Janeiro on 21st January.

The vacant light heavyweight belt is on the line in the headline bout, with former champion Glover Teixeira (11/10) taking on Jamahal Hill (8/11).

History will be made in Brazil's first card since 2020, when flyweight champion (4/5) Deiveson Figueiredo and interim champion Brandon Moreno (1/1) meet in the co-main.

The pair are set to throw down for the fourth time with their three previous contests bringing out all available outcomes - a draw, a win for Moreno and a win for Figueiredo.

There is some British interest on the card too, with Scotland's Paul Craig looking to bounce back when he takes on Brazilian Johnny Walker.

London gets a PPV

British MMA is thriving and, after two hugely successful Fight Night cards at London's O2 in 2022, Dana White has confirmed the capital will host a pay-per-view event in 2023.

It will be the UK's first PPV since 2016, when Michael Bisping headlined UFC 204 against Dan Henderson in Manchester.

The O2 Arena will host UFC 286 on 18th March with welterweight champion Edwards set to defend his title.

A rematch with Usman, completing their trilogy, has been slated, but the Nigerian Nightmare is understood to be dealing with a hand injury.

Several opponents have been tipped to step in with Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington and Belal Muhammad all in contention.

Rising star Pimblett is expected to be involved but fellow Liverpudlian McCann has confirmed she won't be on the card.

Aspinall, who headlined both London cards in 2022, is still working his way back from a serious knee injury and isn't likely to be ready in time.

The UFC has already announced a middleweight bout between Marvin Vettori and Roman Dolidze, while women's flyweight rivals Joanne Wood and Luana Carolina will clash.

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Former champs set for return

Conor McGregor, Henry Cejudo and Jon Jones have all suggested they will return to the UFC over the next 12 months.

McGregor hasn't competed since UFC 264 in July 2021, when he suffered a broken tibia in his contest with Dustin Poirier.

The Irishman has since been focused on recovery and exploits outside of the cage, most notably pursuing a career in acting after being cast in a remake of 1989 hit 'Road House' alongside Jake Gyllenhaal.

A former two-weight champion, McGregor insists he isn't done with the sport yet and has teased a return next year.

Cejudo, another former two-weight title holder, announced his retirement after beating Dominick Cruz at UFC 249 in May 2020.

The Olympic gold medallist re-entered the USADA testing pool in 2022 and has already called out several opponents for 2023.

Jones is one of the best to have ever entered the Octagon, a former light heavyweight champion who holds the record for 11 successful title defences.

The American hasn't fought since UFC 247 in February 2020 but he is expected to return as a heavyweight.

Rising stars to keep an eye on

From former champions to potential future title holders, 2022 has seen plenty of stars emerge and they'll be eager to kick on in 2023.

Away from the current crop of exciting British fighters, Khamzat Chimaev, Sean O'Malley and Pereira all attracted plenty of attention this year.

In 2023, the likes of Shavkat Rakhmanov and Jack Della Maddalena look capable of making a statement.

Rakhmanov already holds the #10 ranking in the welterweight division after picking up two wins this year to move to 16-0.

The 28-year-old Kazakh fighter will be targeting a title shot next year and could be in the conversation with one more victory.

Della Maddalena is yet to enter the rankings, but he claimed three victories after making his UFC debut in January and looks like he could be a problem for the welterweight division.

The Australian boasts a 13-2 record and has ended each of his three contests with the company in the first round.

The UFC turns 30

UFC 1: The Beginning was hosted at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado on 12th November 1993.

The company has come a long way since that initial card when Royce Gracie defeated three opponents in one night to win the inaugural tournament.

The 25th anniversary took place back in Colorado, although it was hosted at the Pepsi Center with McNichols Sports Arena no longer in existence, and the UFC rolled out the red carpet.

Plans for the 30-year milestone are yet to be confirmed but we can expect even greater fanfare when the time comes.

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