2023 brought with it a multitude of standout performances from some of the most unlikeliest of sources — in some of the biggest and high-profile fights of the annum, from the likes of middleweight champion, Sean Strickland, welterweight maestro, Leon Edwards, and pound-for-pound star, Islam Makhachev.
However. amid a list of nominations long and varying issues by the staff here at LowKick MMA — the outspoken Sean Strickland has emerged far and ahead as the consensus Fighter of the Year for 2023.
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Fighter of the Year – Sean Strickland – UFC – 3-0-0 (4 votes)
Rebounding from a tumultuous 2022 year which included a two-fight losing skid to former title challenger, Jared Cannonier, and two-weight champion, last year’s Fighter of the Year award winner, Alex Pereira — the often-outspoken Strickland turned in a year to remember, including one of the biggest upsets in recent Octagon memory in the final quarter of the year.
Snapping his two-fight skid with a unanimous decision win over the highly-touted, Nassourdine Imavov at the beginning of the year in a short-notice light heavyweight clash, Strickland would seize the opportunity of a first title challenger with a knockout win over Abusupiysan Magomedov.
And shocking the collective mixed martial arts community back in September, Strickland, on would-be hostile terrritory against Oceanic striker, Israel Adesanya — landed a unanimous shutout decision win over the City Kickboxing staple, clinching the promotion’s undisputed middleweight crown.
Booked to make his return in a heated title fight defense against the surging, Dricus du Plessis at UFC 297 at the turn of the year in ‘The Great White North’, Strickland takes the Fighter of the Year award under the LowKick MMA banner this annum.
Honorable Mentions –
Leon Edwards – UFC – 2-0-0 (3 votes)
Rounding off a championship-laden year for himself earlier this month, undisputed welterweight kingpin, Leon Edwards recorded two straight victories by way of decision this year — laying waste to the division’s constant and always challenging guard.
Closing out his trilogy with a rubber match against former pound-for-pound king, Kamaru Usman at UFC 286 back in March on home soil in the UK, Birmingham technician, Edwards landed a majority decision win over the Auchi native — having snatched the throne in August of last year with a immortal high-kick rallying knockout success.
And earlier this month, in a brutal grudge match with former interim champion, Colby Covington, Edwards landed a one-sided unanimous decision win over the aging Clovis challenger, who failed to mount any real significant output offensively.
Islam Makhachev – UFC – 2-0-0 (1 vote)
Closing out his series of fights with undisptued featherweight champion, Alexander Volkanovski back in October, pound-for-pound number one, Islam Makhachev did so in certain style — showing off his sriking arsenal with a spectacular opening round high-kick KO in the pair’s lightweight title rematch.
The victory followed a prior February back-and-forth with the New South Wales star, in which Makhachev edged a close and egregious decision win on enemy territory.
Dricus du Plessis – UFC – 2-0-0 (1 vote)
Ahead of his championship siege in January against award winner, Strickland, South African challenger, Dricus du Plessis has enjoyed an unbeaten 2-0 run in the UFC this year — continuing in his perfect-promotional winning vein.
Landing on the most impactful victory in what seems likes years in the middleweight ranks, after a TKO stoppage of recent PFL debutante, Derek Brunson, in July, du Plessis landed a stunning second round knockout win over former undisputed middleweight champion and ever-present top-contender, Robert Whittaker, earning him a shot at Strickland’s title belt.
Full list of the LowKick MMA 2023 Fighter of the Year votes:
Ross Markey: Sean Strickland
Ian Shutts: Islam Makhachev
Murdo Todd: Leon Edwards
Craig Pekios: Leon Edwards
Makoa Goble: Sean Strickland
Tony King: Leon Edwards
Red Pill MMA: Dricus du Plessis
Michael Owens: Sean Strickland
Danny Podolsky: Sean Strickland