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Current heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou fought only once in 2022, but he made a statement with his win.
Fighting then-interim champion Ciryl Gane in the main event of UFC 270, Ngannou - who had his lack of wrestling credentials exposed in his first fight with Stipe Miocic - won a unanimous decision over Gane by primarily using his grappling. He also achieved this with two injured knees.
Ngannou hasn’t fought since January 2022, using the year to recover from knee surgery. There have also been headlines regarding contract disputes between himself and the UFC. Despite this, oddsmakers still seem to believe that Francis Ngannou will remain the heavyweight champion by the end of the year.
Jon Jones has not lost a fight since 2009 - and that loss is still disputed to this day. However, February 8, 2023 will mark the third full year that Jon Jones hasn’t fought.
Jones, a former light heavyweight champion, last fought in the main event of UFC 247 - defending his title in a controversial fashion against Dominick Reyes. After reported contract disputes, Jones vacated his title and began training for an eventual return to the heavyweight division.
His heavyweight debut was a hot topic last year, having his return linked to the likes of champion Francis Ngannou and former champion Stipe Miocic.
It is unlikely that Jones would receive an immediate title shot should he return, but one win over a top contender could easily blast him straight into a championship opportunity in 2023.
After a 2021 campaign that saw Ciryl Gane defeat the likes of Jairzinho Rozenstruik, Alexander Volkov, and Derrick Lewis - the latter for the interim heavyweight title - the French fighter hopes to bounce back from a 2022 year that saw him suffer his first professional mixed martial arts defeat.
Fighting Francis Ngannou at UFC 270 for the undisputed title, Gane was unable to thwart the grappling of the champion and ultimately lost the decision.
Gane bounced back after the loss, however, in a big way. In what was the UFC’s first event in the country of France, Gane took on fan-favorite Tai Tuivasa in the main event. Gane showed off incredibly crisp striking and defeated Tuivasa by knockout in the third round in what was easily awarded fight of the night honors.
Gane has had a taste of heavyweight gold and he is definitely a top contender for the undisputed throne in 2023. However, at the time of writing, there is no official word on who will be Gane’s next opponent.
The most active heavyweight on this list in 2022, Sergei Pavlovich rose up to number-three in the heavyweight rankings after the year he had.
Pavlovich fought three times last year and won all three via first-round KO or TKO. All this after not having fought in 2020 or 2021.
He started 2022 with a win over Shamil Abdurakhimov and followed that with a win over two-time title challenger Derrick Lewis. He ended his 2022 campaign with an incredible first-minute knockout of Tai Tuivasa.
Following the Tuivasa fight, Pavlovich started to get many comparisons to Ciryl Gane - being that both men are massive in size yet fast and precise with their striking.
As of now, Pavolovich has no opponent set for his first bout of 2023. Could it be Gane?
From the most active heavyweight on this list to the least active (not including Jon Jones). Former champion (and the man with the record for most heavyweight title defenses) Stipe Miocic has not fought since losing his title to Francis Ngannou in the main event of UFC 260 in March, 2021.
Miocic’s name floated around a lot in 2022, being associated with names such as Jon Jones and with Ngannou for a rubber match. But ultimately Miocic sat out for the entirety of 2022.
Now at age 40, will we see Miocic return for one more chance at heavyweight glory? Despite his inactivity and time away from the media, oddsmakers still ist Miocic as the fifth and final favorite to hold the UFC heavyweight title at the end of 2023.
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