Combat Sports

Drew Zuhosky’s MMA Predictions for 2023: Part Two

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2023 is now in full swing. Major MMA is still on its winter break, with ONE Championship and the UFC slated to return next weekend, starting a week from Friday with ONE on Prime Video 6 from Bangkok. Unlike the five events that have preceded the Jan. 13 card on Amazon Prime Video, ONE on Prime Video 6 will not feature an MMA championship fight at the top of the main card.

For the first time since ONE Championship joined Amazon Prime’s portfolio last year, next week’s show will be headlined by a kickboxing title fight for the ONE Featherweight Championship (155 lbs.) between incumbent titlist Superbon Singha Mawynn (113-34 kickboxing, 3-0 ONE Championship) and challenger Chingiz Allazov (59-5, 1 NC kickboxing, 3-1 ONE Championship.) More on that next week.

Earlier this week, we presented part one of a two-part series on predictions for MMA in 2023. The crystal ball is still here from last time, so let’s look into it again.

Jake Paul Will Do Well in PFL

First and foremost, we have to discuss the biggest news as far as a fighter signing to an MMA promotion so far in 2023. It only took five days for news of this caliber to break, but earlier Thursday morning, controversial YouTuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul signed a contract to join the PFL’s active roster as part of its new Super Fights division, of which he’s also the co-founder.

Paul will compete in the PFL’s tentpole pay-per-view events and no word has been made at press time as to who his opponent in his first MMA bout might be. The New York Times broke the story Thursday morning.

The YouTuber has gone undefeated thus far in his boxing career at 6-0. Last October, he scored a unanimous decision victory over Anderson Silva after eight rounds in Glendale, AZ. Paul isn’t just getting into MMA for the fights, however.

“The Problem Child” Has Sights Set on Fighter Advocacy

In a YouTube video Thursday, Jake Paul vowed to improve income for fighters. Unlike other MMA promotions, such as the UFC, Paul wants to ensure that competitors in the PFL’s Super Fights division receive a fair and equitable paycheck for their work inside the cage.

“As you guys know, I’ve been trying to increase fighter pay worldwide,” Paul began, “and with the launch of this ‘new’ PFL Super Fight division, our fighters will be receiving 50 percent of the revenue. Yes, you heard that correctly. A true 50/50 partnership with fighters, which still allows them to be individuals and even monetize their sponsorship deals, which, as we know, isn’t allowed in the UFC.”

In the past, he’s been at the forefront of a debate over whether or not fighters could one day unionize in response to low payouts for fighters in other promotions. With Paul’s new role in advocacy, it could be a major step toward better wages and better contractual conditions.

Although Paul might not fight in the PFL this year, his MMA story is one worthy of keeping tabs on. Stay tuned.

Expansion of Ali Act Outside of Boxing Leading to More Superfights

Staying in the world of super fights in MMA for a moment, there’s been a growing effort for the past several years to bring the Muhammad Ali Expansion Act, utilized exclusively in boxing after it was signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton in 2000, to other combat sports including MMA. In 2023, the effort could finally turn into reality.

Right before Congress recessed for the December holiday period, former UFC middleweight Nate Quarry tweeted out that he had been notified by Oklahoma Senator Markwayne Mullin that the latter intends to discuss expansion plans for the Ali Act to the Senate floor when Congress reconvenes. Mullin initially attempted to bring about expansion plans for the Ali Act to MMA in 2017, but the efforts were stalled due to a lack of momentum.

If and when the Ali Act is expanded upon in MMA, it would provide the first-of-its kind protection for US-based MMA fighters at a national level while also providing the fighters more in the way of equal wages. Absent of a fighters’ union, the promotions keep a majority of the pie, with the competitors themselves only getting a small piece.

Key Notes For MMA if Ali Act is Expanded On

Should the Ali Act eventually make its way to MMA, it’s important to understand that promotional championships, such as the UFC Heavyweight Championship or the Bellator MMA Light Heavyweight Championship, would cease to exist. This could also pave the way for super fights between competitors from rival promotions.

Think of the possibilities of what super fights could bring about if this legislation comes to MMA. We could finally get a fight between former PFL Women’s Lightweight Champion Kayla Harrison (15-1 MMA, 14-1 PFL) and Cris Cyborg (26-2, 1 NC MMA, 5-0 Bellator), although that potential fight has lost some of its luster since the former’s defeat back in November during PFL 10.

However, it’s unknown when the act might be expanded upon to MMA, particularly since the UFC and Dana White have been of the mindset that the Ali Act is bad for their business. In recent times, the UFC has been donating monies to the GOP.

This soap opera is bound to continue as time marches on. Will the Ali Act ever be expanded beyond boxing? Only time will tell.

Power Slap League Will Fail

Finally, we close the series with a prediction on Dana White’s other combat sports venture, the Power Slap League. Something like the Power Slap League seems like a promotion that could only exist in the fiction of a motion picture or a sitcom, not a real thing.

Yet, this is 2023, and in less than a week, Warner Bros. Discovery-owned cable network TBS had been slated to debut the promotion in the network’s coveted post-AEW Dynamite time slot on Wednesday nights at 10 pm. At least, this was the plan.

On Thursday, TBS announced that the Power Slap League’s planned Jan. 11 debut, was postponed and the program’s premiere date will now be a week later on Jan. 18. TBS’ move comes just days after a now-viral video surfaced on TMZ of White slapping his wife at a New Year’s Eve celebration in Cabo San Lucas last Saturday.

Power Slap League Too Risky

Even before the premiere of Power Slap: Road to the Title was shelved by a week, the whole concept of this promotion just screamed unsafe. Any contact sport comes with a number of inherent and dangerous risks.

This was dramatically illustrated last Monday in Cincinnati, when during an NFL game between the visiting Buffalo Bills and the home-standing Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium, Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field after tackling Bengals receiver Tee Higgins, suffering cardiac arrest. After an initial suspension in play, the NFL decided to postpone the game on the evening.

Thursday afternoon, the league announced that the game would not continue, after having previously abandoned the possibility of resuming this week. At the point of suspension, the Bengals led 7-3 with 5:58 left to play in the first quarter.

Getting back to the Power Slap League, for Dana White, who runs the UFC, an organization that does more than is required in the name of fighter safety, to turn around and launch an organization that all but laughs in the face of safety, is contradictory. Is the risk worth the reward here?

The answer is no. Anybody who competes in the Power Slap League is setting themselves up for a life of trauma after the fights are over. A three-round bout where contestants smack one another is not worth it in the long run.

Final Thoughts

Here’s hoping you enjoyed the two-part series. Don’t go away because the fights are back next week.

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about MMA since the spring of 2018. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew enjoys a good game and an even better fight. When he's not writing, you can find him playing video games and listening to music.