Matches to Make After UFC 283

The first Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view of 2023 was a curious one.

The last PPV of 2022, UFC 282, had featured a match for the vacant UFC light heavyweight crown between Magomed Ankalaev and Jan Blachowicz. When it was declared a draw, despite virtually everyone believing Ankalaev won, Dana White randomly declared that two completely different men would fight for the championship: ex-champ Glover Teixeira and Jamahal Hill.

Teixeira is 43 and noted that he would likely retire, win or lose. Despite his age, no one was counting out the legendary Brazilian going into the fight, as wise and tough a martial artist as mixed martial arts has ever seen. After being dominated by Corey Anderson in 2018 when he was already 38, most had written off the Brazilian as a top contender. And yet, after an improbable 6-fight winning streak, he choked out Blachowicz for his first UFC crown, at the age of 41. He lost it the following year to Jiri Prochazka in one of the most exciting and dramatic fights of all time, seemingly having the win wrapped up before being submitted with 28 seconds left in the match. Would he tap into the magic one more time against Hill?

Hill, after all, is one of the most dynamic, explosive strikers in MMA. With furious handspeed and knockout power in both paws -- not to mention devastating kicks and brutal knees -- his destiny as a future champion seemed apparent for a long time. He has been 5-1 in the UFC since his knockout of Klidson Abreu was changed to a no contest due to marijuana use, the lone blemish an aberrant submission defeat to Paul Craig. Hill came into the Rio de Janeiro arena a small favorite.

As soon as the fight began, Hill repeatedly tagged Teixeira with his pinpoint accurate punches and thunderous kicks. However, the Brazilian showed his legendary toughness yet again, refusing to succumb, despite being brutally crushed with blow after blow, round after round. Nor was it simply a matter of survival, as Teixeira would occasionally score big power punches of his own that snapped Hill's head back, and connected with two clutch takedowns in Rounds 2 and 5 that signaled a possible rally. But Hill showed his much improved takedown defense and ground skills, staying on his feet and avoiding major damage and submissions both times he was on his back. Hill won a dominant unanimous decision and is the new UFC light heavyweight king.

The co-main was an even bigger fight, as current champ Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno met for a fourth time to determine the destiny of the UFC flyweight title. Of course, their first fight was a draw: Moreno won the rematch by submission, and in the third Figueiredo came back to win via decision. All three were instant classics, and the fourth was no different. Moreno left no doubts this time, controlling the fight with outstanding takedowns and boxing that looked sharper than ever. After a left hook right to the eyeball caused Figueiredo's eye to close, the cageside doctor had no choice but to stop the fight after Round 3. Moreno is now a champion for a second time. Figueiredo vowed to move up to 135 pounds after the contest.

In an important welterweight contender's bout, Gilbert Burns reminded the division of how dangerous he is by easily taking down and submitting the incredibly tough, capable grappler Neil Magny.

Elsewhere, Jessica Andrade delivered a hellacious 15-minute beating to Lauren Murphy, which was shamefully allowed to make it to the final bell. Johnny Walker also got back on a winning streak by knocking out Paul Craig halfway through the opening frame.

Here are some tantalizing future matches that need to be booked following Saturday’s outcomes:

Jamahal Hill vs. Jiri Prochazka

This is the natural, obvious match-up. Prochazka did not have his title taken by force, and will hopefully come back in late 2023. Hill will likely take some time to recover from his victory. When they're back to full strength, this may be the best striking battle the division has seen yet, between two fighters with highly unorthodox, but also superlative skill. It will a fitting main event for a blockbuster PPV.

Brandon Moreno vs. Alexandre Pantoja 3

It's time to finally see a flyweight title bout that isn't just Moreno and Figueiredo, so why not a fight between two men who have merely fought two instead of three times before? All joking aside, this should be an exciting showdown. Both are non-stop action and consistently looking for the finish. Moreno is obviously a very different fighter since he was submitted by Pantoja on “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 24 in 2016, and then via decision in 2018. However, Pantoja has improved a lot since he lost to Figueiredo by decision in 2019, with ferocious, deadly grappling and increasingly excellent striking. There is intrigue with Pantoja being 2-0 against Moreno, and this might easily go down as the best fight of whatever night it's part of, or even the entire year.

Gilbert Burns vs. Colby Covington

A slew of fans would love to see Covington get humbled by Burns, perhaps even to the point of buying an increasingly expensive UFC PPV. This desire will be especially strong for Brazilian partisans, given Colby's comments about the country, and Burns proudly wearing a bandana of his nation's flag for every outing. But in terms of martial arts, this is equally fascinating. Covington may not be able to rely on his fantastic wrestling against Burns, a world-class Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner and excellent wrestler in his own right. And the striking match will be plenty of fun, too, with Covington's fast hands and combinations, which he used to great effect against Tyron Woodley. Pitted against Burns’ superior power and superior technique -- especially his right cross -- is beyond intriguing. Cardio will also be a factor, as Covington is among the best in MMA in that regard, while Burns has faded in the third round of multiple bouts. I'm plenty excited just writing about it, and hope MMA fans will get a chance to see it.

Jessica Andrade vs. Weili Zhang 2

Andrade called Zhang out during her interview, and why not? Andrade has improved tremendously since their first fight, when Zhang shocked everyone by winning in just 42 seconds as an underdog. Of course, the Chinese champ has also gotten better. Both fighters love coming forward and are willing to exchange big punches in the pocket, so it should be very exciting; a stark contrast to the recent strawweight title fight rematch between Rose Namajunas and Carla Esparza. And Andrade is a more interesting challenge, with a bigger name than any contender except for Namajunas. But unlike Najamunas, Andrade won her last strawweight outing, a first-round submission of Amanda Lemos.

Johnny Walker vs. Anthony Smith

On the one hand, this is an important contender's match. Smith is ranked No. 6 and has won 3 of his last 4, only succumbing to Magomed Ankalaev. Walker is trying to restore his lost hype and has now won two in a row, including a throttling of No.9-ranked Craig. But more than that, this is a fantastically exciting fight for fans. Will Walker's dynamic, unorthodox striking turn Smith's lights out early? Will Smith's toughness and mix of muay thai and outstanding submissions allow him to get the finish in later rounds? Or will something completely different and crazy happen? With these two men, anything is possible.
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