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Like Israel Adesanya, his countryman one weight class up, former champion Kamaru Usman ended his 2022 by losing his title but is favored to win it back and remain welterweight champion by the end of the year.
One of the most active champions in recent years, Usman fought and defended his welterweight strap three times in 2021. However, he fought only once in 2022.
He headlined UFC 278 last August with Leon Edwards. Despite a strong performance, Usman was defeated via a fifth-round head kick knockout in what was one of the biggest knockouts of the year.
As of now, it is anticipated that Usman will rematch Edwards in the main event of the UFC’s next pay-per-view event in England.
Like Usman, Leon Edwards fought only once in 2022 - but it was a big one. After a nine-fight winning streak (and a no-contest against Belal Muhammad), Leon Edwards finally got his shot at the welterweight title.
He defeated Usman with a fifth-round head kick, earning him a performance bonus and the honor of 2022’s knockout of the year.
As mentioned above, a rematch with Usman in Edwards’ home country of England is expected to take place next for both fighters - likely within the first half of 2023.
Making an appearance in our Middleweight rankings, Khamzat Chimaev is technically considered a UFC welterweight - a division in which he ranks in the top-three.
Chimaev fought twice in 2022 - a fight of the year contender with Gilbert Burns and a 180-pound catchweight fight against Kevin Holland. Chimaev won both of his fights last year and he remains undefeated as a professional.
Although nothing has been announced regarding Chimaev’s next fight in the octagon, many believe rumors that he will be paired up against former two-time title challenger and credentialed wrestler Colby Covington.
Like Usman and Edwards, former two-time welterweight title challenger Colby Covington fought only once in the 2022 calendar year.
In the main event of UFC 272 last March, Covington took on rival Jorge Masvidal in what was considered the fight of the night. Covington won the bout handily via unanimous decision.
Covington and Masvidal had legal battles following their fight due to an alleged assault by Masvidal on Covington outside of the cage. These personal issues are likely the cause for his recent inactivity.
Despite this, Covington is one of the best grapplers the UFC has ever seen and has some of the best cardio in the company. His only two losses since 2016 have come against Kamaru Usman in title fights.
It is rumored that Covington will be taking on Khamzat Chimaev in his next bout.
Still considered a prospect in the UFC, undefeated Shavkat Rakhmonov still rounds out this top-five list due to the fact that he has won all four of his UFC bouts and, to date, has had none of his 16 fights go to the judges’ scorecards.
In 2022, Rakhmonov defeated Carlston Harris by first-round knockout and then cracked the top-15 rankings with his submission win over Neil Magny.
Originally expected to face Geoff Neal in the first UFC event of 2023, a Fight Night card on January 14; that fight has now been rescheduled to UFC 285 on March 4 due to a training injury suffered by Geoff Neal.
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