2023 UFC champion odds, picks, predictions: Jon Jones, Islam Makhachev

UFC in 2023 has already been a mess, and we are less than a month in.

Still, the machine kept churning out fights, and there were two new champions crowned this past weekend: Jamahal Hill and Brandon Moreno. Let’s take a look at some long-term futures in the 2023 UFC Champion markets.

This betting market is a bit obscure to the casual MMA bettor, but it is an absolute blast to follow throughout the year. For this one, we are betting on who will be the champion at each weight division by the end of the calendar year – December 31, 2023.

If you’re the current champion? That’s nice. Now we go into projecting who they will fight against in the upcoming year, how many times they will fight or defend their title, and how they match up against other fighters in their weight division.

Below we break down each division’s odds to be the title holder come December 31. Each of these are bettable at BetMGM Sportsbook, under the futures tab of MMA and the odds are accurate as of January 25.

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Jon Jones celebrates his victory
Jon Jones celebrates his victory against Dominick Reyes.
Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

2023 UFC champion predictions

(Must be champion on December 31st, 2023)

Heavyweight champion odds

Jon Jones +100
Ciryl Gane +150
Stipe Miocic +400
Sergei Pavlovich +550
Curtis Blaydes +1000
Tom Aspinall +3000
Jalton Almeida +6600

Heavyweight has been in flux since Francis Ngannou’s contract demands were not met by UFC brass over the past year. In his place, Jon Jones (+100) prepares to fight Ciryl Gane in March for the vacant title left behind by Ngannou. Jones is a -125 favorite in that fight and is likely to fight one other time this year, should he come away injury free in March.

Jones is very likely to be the champ through 2023, especially since Gane could not defend Ngannou’s takedowns last year. Jones is an elite wrestler.

As for an underdog, Jalton Almeida (+6600) is a fine long shot, but again, Jones is likely to fight only twice this year. Almeida is the boogeyman of the division and probably could beat the division’s best right now. But he is unranked (not that it truly matters), and Jones is unlikely to accept this fight anytime soon. The best path to a Jones-Almeida bout coming to fruition would be Jones losing to Gane in March. Only then would this have a chance.

Light Heavyweight champion odds

Magomed Ankalaev +100
Jiri Prochazka +250
Jamahal Hill +275
Jan Blachowicz +375
Aleksandar Rakic +2500
Anthony Smith +2500
Johnny Walker +2500
Ryan Spann +4000

As discussed by The Post’s Scott Fontana, Jamahal Hill, the current champion, is far from the best guy in this division. Given his poor grappling and less-than-clean striking, Hill is a fade to hold the belt when he defends it later this year. Jiri Prochazka is expected to return this summer and should get an immediate title shot upon his return. He is a phenomenal bet at +250 and should be the prohibitive favorite.

Jiri Prochazka of the Czech Republic celebrates with the light heavyweight title belt after submitting Glover Teixeira
Jiri Prochazka of the Czech Republic celebrates with the light heavyweight title belt after submitting Glover Teixeira
Getty Images

Middleweight champion odds

Israel Adesanya +150
Alex Pereira +225
Khamzat Chimaev +250
Robert Whittaker +600
Bo Nickal +1500
Driscus Du Plessis +2500

Whether Israel Adesanya gets an immediate rematch against Alex Pereira is a mystery. However, we know that this matchup is not a good one for him. Pereira seems to have Adesanya’s number. Although, a matchup against Khamzat Chimaev (+250) is likely the brutal mismatch that ends his reign. If Khamzat gets a shot – and he should – he will be an overwhelming favorite against either Adesanya or Pereira.

Welterweight champion odds

Kamaru Usman +150
Khamzat Chimaev +225
Leon Edwards +450
Colby Covington +600
Shavkat Rahmonov +900
Belal Muhammad +1000
Gilbert Burns +2000
Jack Della Maddalena +4000

A few different scenario’s to go over here. First, Kamaru Usman (+150) will face Leon Edwards for the welterweight title in March as a -300 favorite. Usman has had multiple hand injuries and horrific knee problems. He has seemingly adjusted to those and is still the odds-on favorite to reclaim his belt. But if Usman wins as projected, it would absolutely seem possible that he does not fight again this year, leaving him the champ going into 2024.

Moreover, Chimaev doesn’t look like he can make this weight class right now, which is partly why we like him as the middleweight champ. Instead, let’s look further down the board at Shavkat Rahmonov (+900). He’s probably the most talented fighter in the division and is an excellent value at this weight class, considering Usman has already cleared out everyone else.

Lightweight champion odds and predictions

Islam Makhachev -200
Alexander Volkanovski +275
Charles Oliveira +650
Dustin Poirier +750
Beniel Dariush +1000
Justin Gaethje +2000
Rafael Fiziev +2000
Arman Tsarukyan +2500

Most likely, no one is beating Islam Makhachev (-200) in this weight class. He looks to be the next great fighter coming out of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s fight camp, AKA. If someone were to emerge, it would need to be a knockout specialist like Rafael Fiziev (+2000), who could put Makhachev down. Fiziev defends 92 percent of takedowns, so this is your best long shot pick in the lightweight division.

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Brandon Moreno celebrates his victory over Deiveson Figueiredo in their Flyweight title fight during the UFC 283
Brandon Moreno celebrates his victory over Deiveson Figueiredo in their Flyweight title fight during the UFC 283
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Featherweight champion odds

Alexander Volkanovski -225
Yair Rodriguez +400
Josh Emmett +450
Arnold Allen +800
Max Holloway +1000
Ilia Topuria +1000

Ilia Topuria (+1000) or pass. This division has been dominated by Alexander Volkanovski for years now, and the only question is whether he comes back down to 145 pounds or vacates the title altogether after his fight with Makhachev in February.

Flyweight champion odds

Brandon Moreno -110
Alexandre Pantoja +125
Matheus Nicolau +500
Amir Albazi +1300
Brandon Royval +2000
Muhammad Mokaev +2000

We saw Brandon Moreno (-110) walk out of UFC 283 with the belt, and he is a fine bet at these odds to retain it this year. For starters, he dominated Deiveson Figueiredo and Kai-Kara France last year. He projects to fight two more times this year, once against Alexandre Pantoja and maybe one other time. He will be favored in each of these fights until stud prospect Muhammad Mokaev (+2000) is ready for the big show. But he could be a few fights off from a title shot, assuming he maintains his undefeated record.

Women’s Bantamweight champion odds

Amanda Nunes -300
Valentina Shevchenko +300
Julianna Pena +750
Irene Aldana +1000

Pass. This is Amanda Nunes’ division until further notice.

Women’s Flyweight champion odds

Valentina Shevchenko -175
Erin Blanchfield +550
Manon Fiorot +600
Talia Santos +600
Alexa Grasso +600
Casey O’Neill +2000

Valentina Shevchenko is arguably the best women’s fighter in the world. On occasion, she has struggled with grapplers, making submission maestro Erin Blanchfield (+550) a fine bet. She deserves a title in Q3 or Q4 this year.

Women’s Strawweight champion odds

Zhang Weili -150
Rose Namajunas +225
Jessica Andrade +500
Xiaonan Yan +900
Amanda Lemos +1000
Tatiana Suarez +2500

Pass. It is anyone’s guess who gets a shot at the title in the coming months.