UFC 296 | 2023 Finale Preview

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Leon Edwards winning his belt after defeating Kamaru Usman at UFC 286. Photo courtesy of Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The UFC will make one last stop this year at the fight capital of the world in Las Vegas, Nevada this weekend at the T-Mobile Arena. The final UFC card of the year will mark the promotion’s 43rd event in 2023 and its 14th pay-per-view card of the year. 

An exciting card from top to bottom, mixed martial arts fans will be treated to two more title fights before 2024. Leon “Rocky” Edwards will defend his undisputed welterweight title against Colby “Chaos” Covington in the main event. A flyweight championship bout will serve as the co-main event as undisputed flyweight champion Alexandre “The Cannibal” Pantoja will defend his title against Colorado native Brandon “Raw Dawg” Royval in what will be a rematch as the pair fought each other back in 2021 with the current champion coming out victorious via submission.

Coming off of back-to-back wins against former champion Kamaru Usman, Edwards will look to take down another former title challenger in Covington as he looks to commence a new and dominating era in the welterweight division. A win here could set up “Rocky” with loads of momentum going into the new year.

Ready to take on his third opportunity at undisputed gold, Covington believes he is set to finally overcome the final hurdle and become the undisputed welterweight champion come Dec. 16. The clash of “Chaos’” style of a wrestling-heavy approach and “Rocky’s” style of striking prowess will be an intriguing matchup to close out the year. 

In the co-main event of the evening, Pantoja will look to take down Royval once again but with much higher stakes this time around. Pantoja, who is competing in the same arena where he claimed undisputed gold, will also look to cement a new era in the always entertaining flyweight division which was recently dominated by the Moreno-Figueiredo era. 

Coming off of a statement win over Matheus Nicolau in April, Royval will get his first shot at undisputed gold this weekend. “Raw Dawg” has set his sights on taking over the flyweight division during this new era. Royval will look to use his previous experience with the undisputed champion in his favor this time around in order to claim the undisputed championship. 

UFC 296 will be loaded with more fun fights throughout the night. Opening up the main card, Vicente Luque will take on surging welterweight contender and familiar face Ian Machado Garry. Luque and Garry have trained together at the famous Kill Cliff FC gym in Deerfield Beach, Florida. A rather less intense build-up to fight day is expected between the pair given their history together although one may not know what to expect with Garry’s fight week antics.

Following the welterweight showdown, fan favorite Tony Ferguson will look to get himself back in the win column against the returning, Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett. Ferguson, who is coming off of six straight defeats, will have what might be his last chance to pick up another victory inside the octagon. 

Standing across from him will be Liverpool’s own Pimblett. “The Baddy” is coming off of what many consider a controversial win over fellow lightweight Jared Gordon in Dec. of 2022. Injuries have prevented Pimblett from stepping in again since, but the scouser is now healthy and ready to get his hand raised once again. 

Right before the two championship fights, highly touted welterweight contender Shavkat “Nomad” Rakhmonov will take on another fan favorite in Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. Rakhmonov is currently undefeated holding a record of 17-0 whilst coming off a big win over Geoff Neal back in March at UFC 285. The Kazakh fighter will look to provide another huge statement come Saturday night against one of the elites at 170 pounds. 

Opposite of Rakhmonov, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson will step into the cage for the first time in 2023 after being away from the octagon for over a year. Coming off of a big win over Kevin Holland, a win over Rakhmonov may keep Thompson’s title hopes alive in the evolving welterweight division. 

Big stakes all around this weekend, at UFC 296 as the can’t miss action will commence at Las Vegas on Dec. 16 at 3 p.m. PST with the UFC Early Prelims. Stay tuned for more coverage during UFC 296 fight week.

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