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The 10 Best Fights Happening This Month | March 2023

We Preview Some Essential Matchups Going Down In The Month Of March

Four events, three championship fights, and two pay-per-views add up to one outstanding month of action on tap inside the Octagon in March.

This month’s slate is one of those instances where I could put out two full versions of this piece without issue, as the pay-per-view fight cards in Las Vegas and London are loaded with compelling matchups and the events slotted after those shows each carry a handful of intriguing fights as well.

Get ready because the next four Saturday nights are going to be electric and have a significant impact on how things look in the second half of the year across a number of divisions.

UFC 285: Jones vs Gane — Saturday, March 4 at T-Mobile Arena (Las Vegas)

Mateusz Gamrot vs Jalin Turner

Mateusz Gamrot takes on Jalin Turner On the main card of UFC 285 on March 4 in Las Vegas

Gamrot steps in for the injured Dan Hooker, looking to rebound from his UFC 280 loss to Beneil Dariush as he takes on the streaking Turner, who has earned five straight victories, all by stoppage.

How To Watch UFC 285 In Your Country

The 32-year-old Polish veteran edged out Arman Tsarukyan in a Fight of the Year contender in June before coming up short against Dariush in a battle of top contenders in October, while Turner followed up his UFC 272 win over Jamie Mullarkey with a 45-second stoppage win over Brad Riddell in July.

This is a perfect “show us where you’re at” fight for each man given their recent results, and how it shakes out will have immediate and obvious ramifications on the Top 15 in the lightweight division.

Geoff Neal vs Shavkat Rakhmonov

Geoff Neal meets Shavkat Rakhmonov on the main card of UFC 285, March 4

Top 10 welterweights looking to move another step closer to title contention share the Octagon here as Neal faces off with the unbeaten Rakhmonov.

Neal fought once in 2022 but made the absolute most of it, picking apart and putting away Vicente Luque in an effort that reminded folks that “Handz of Steel” was a rising star in the division before a near-fatal bout with sepsis in the summer of 2020. Meanwhile, Rakhmonov just kept rolling, adding stoppage wins over Carlston Harris and Neil Magny to push his record to 16-0 with 16 finishes and earn himself a place in the Top 10.

RELATED: UFC 285 Rankings Outlook

The Fortis MMA man Neal has inherited the “folks don’t recognize how good he is” title from Belal Muhammad, while Rakhmonov is the division’s unbeaten, ascending boogeyman. This is a fascinating matchup that comes at the right time for each athlete and should be an outstanding final non-title fight this weekend in Las Vegas.

Valentina Shevchenko vs Alexa Grasso

Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko Looks To Defend Her Belt Once Again Against Title Challenger Alexa Grasso At UFC 285, Live From T-Mobile Arena On March 4, 2023 

Shevchenko looks to maintain her place on the flyweight throne and successfully defend her title for an eighth time, while Grasso looks to become the third fighter from Mexico to win UFC gold in 2023 in Saturday’s co-main event.

“Bullet” has as many successful title defenses as all of the current male champions combined, and only two fewer than all of the current champions combined. Yet she enters this one with questions hovering overhead for the first time, as she squeaked past Taila Santos in her most recent appearance.

UFC 285 COUNTDOWN: Shevchenko vs Grasso | Full Episode

Grasso has been perfect since transitioning to flyweight, and certainly will be bolstered by the success of Brandon Moreno and Yair Rodriguez in their championship bouts already this year. She was always tabbed as a potential title challenger and possible champion, and now she has the opportunity to be the one to unseat Shevchenko.

Will Shevchenko re-assert her dominance and show she’s not going anywhere any time soon or can Grasso join her compatriots in claiming UFC gold?

Jon Jones vs Ciryl Gane

UFC 285: Jones vs Gane

Jon Jones is back… at heavyweight… and he’s fighting Ciryl Gane… for the vacant UFC heavyweight title.

What more is there to say?

JON JONES: One Moment From Every Fight | Career Highlights | Dynamic Debuts

After three years, “Bones” makes his return to the Octagon and moves to heavyweight, diving straight into the deep end of the talent pool against former interim champion Gane, who thrilled the partisan crowd in Paris with a third-round stoppage win over Tai Tuivasa last time out.

There are dozens of questions swirling around this fight and the only way they can be answered is by these two stepping into the cage and getting after it this weekend.

Is it Saturday yet?

UFC Fight Night: Yan vs. Dvalishvili — Saturday, March 11 at The Theater at Virgin Hotels (Las Vegas)

Petr Yan vs Merab Dvalishvili

Petr Yan | Crowning Moment
Petr Yan | Crowning Moment

It’s Russia versus Georgia near the top of the bantamweight division as the former champ Yan locks up with the streaking contender Dvalishvili in a captivating main event clash.

Despite the fact that he’s lost two straight and three of his last four, there are some that likely still consider the 30-year-old Yan to be the best bantamweight in the world and, at the very least, he’s not far off. Dvalishvili, on the other hand, is still a somewhat unknown commodity in the upper tier of the division, having rattled off eight straight wins behind suffocating grappling, a relentless pace, and non-stop pressure.

Inside The Heavyweight Transformation Of Jon Jones

This is Yan’s chance to get a big win that steadies him in the Top 5, while Dvalishvili can further his case for a championship opportunity by pushing his winning streak to nine and handing “No Mercy” a third straight defeat.

UFC 286: Edwards vs Usman III — Saturday, March 18 at The O2 Arena (London, England)

Marvin Vettori vs Roman Dolidze

Marvin Vettori of Italy poses on the scale during the UFC 263 ceremonial weigh-in at Gila River Arena

Marvin Vettori of Italy poses on the scale during the UFC 263 ceremonial weigh-in at Gila River Arena on June 11, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

Vettori aims to get back into the win column and maintain his Top 5 ranking while Dolidze seeks to continue his stellar run of success with another step up in competition in London.

The only people to defeat Vettori since the start of 2018 are Israel Adesanya (twice) and Robert Whittaker; that’s it. Dolidze earned three wins, three finishes, and three Performance of the Night bonuses in seven months last year to transform himself into an intriguing dark horse in the 185-pound weight class.

Will the divisional stalwart turn back the ascending fighter from Georgia or will Dolidze keep rolling and collect a fifth straight victory overall?

Justin Gaethje vs Rafael Fiziev

Justin Gaethje | Warrior Code
Justin Gaethje | Warrior Code

Banger Alert! Banger Alert! Sound the klaxons — it’s a banger alert!

Gaethje is an all-action, perennial contender in the lightweight division, but he was finished in a pair of championship opportunities on either side of his UFC 268 win over Michael Chandler and returns in hopes of maintaining his place in the championship cue. Fiziev has won six straight and has been lobbying for an opportunity like this for a while, and now gets his chance to show he’s not only capable of competing at this level, but of beating a contender like Gaethje.

There is no way this isn’t ridiculously entertaining, as both men are allergic to boring fights, and competing in front of the raucous crowd at The O2 in London is sure to draw even more out of them on fight night.

Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman

Leon Edwards of Jamaica celebrates after defeating Kamaru Usman of Nigeria in the UFC welterweight championship fight during the UFC 278 event at Vivint Arena on August 20, 2022 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Leon Edwards of Jamaica celebrates after defeating Kamaru Usman of Nigeria in the UFC welterweight championship fight during the UFC 278 event at Vivint Arena on August 20, 2022 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Seven months after snatching victory and the UFC welterweight title from the jaws of defeat at UFC 278 in Salt Lake City, Edwards and Usman run it back with the belt hanging in the balance, but this time, they’re doing it in London.

RELATED: Kamaru Usman KO Breakdown

Edwards knew he needed to do something big late in their last meeting if he didn’t want to see his championship dreams slide past him, and he promptly uncorked a high kick that caught Usman clean and put him out. Conversely, the former champion brushed off a rocky first round to put himself a minute away from sixth successful title defense, only to dip down into a perfect shot and lose his place atop the division.

Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and now we’re going to find out if Edwards is ready to sit on the welterweight throne long term or if Usman merely needed a chance to step away for a moment before reclaiming his spot.

UFC on ESPN: Vera vs Sandhagen — Saturday, March 25 at AT&T Center (San Antonio, Texas)

Alex Perez vs Manel Kape

Manel Kape comemora a vitória no UFC Vegas 66. (Foto por Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Manel Kape comemora a vitória no UFC Vegas 66. (Foto por Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

The flyweight division was on fire at the end of last year and front and center to begin 2023, and this clash between Perez and Kape should have an impact on the championship chase as the month draws to a close.

Perez was the first DWCS grad to challenge for UFC gold, but he was quickly submitted by Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC 255, didn’t compete for 18 months due to various different reasons, and then got quickly submitted by Alexandre Pantoja in his return. Kape lost his first two UFC starts, but is 3-0 since, flashing top-end talent, while also showing there is still room for him to grow and improve.

With Brandon Moreno now stationed atop the division and Pantoja likely the first to face the new champ, these two could very well be battling for a spot in a No. 1 contender bout in the second half of the year depending on how timelines shake out and the type of performance they deliver here.

Marlon Vera vs Cory Sandhagen

Don't Miss A Moment Of UFC Fight Night: Vera vs Sandhagen, Live From The AT&T Center In San Antonio, Texas On March 25, 2023

The second of two critical Top 5 pairings in the bantamweight division serves as the final bout of the month, as Vera looks to extend his winning streak to five and Sandhagen aims to halt his run while getting himself back into the championship mix.

Over eight years and change, Vera has gone from a raw prospect to one of the top talents in the division, entering off a pair of quality wins in 2022 and sporting a 10-2 mark over his last dozen fights. Sandhagen got back into the win column after consecutive tough losses to TJ Dillashaw and Petr Yan with a fourth-round stoppage win over Song Yadong in September that reminded everyone of how skilled and dangerous he can be inside the Octagon.

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Both men quickly identified this as the matchup that made the most sense going forward and now they’ll close out the night in San Antonio by trying to make their case for a No. 1 contender bout later in the year with a big victory in this one.

UFC 285: Jones vs Gane took place live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 4, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass