The 2023 Irish and International Severe MMA Awards

Another year of MMA is in the books and it feels like we just get more and more mixed martial arts action every time the sun turns. The UFC machine rolled on, Bellator made us want more before being sold, Cage Warriors produced more talent, PFL went to another level, while the likes of KSW, ONE and more put on many great shows – and that’s before you even get to the Irish scene!

For the last ten years, we have voted on the best in MMA in their respective fields for our awards, and this year is no different. This year’s voting panel consists of SevereMMA founder Graeme McDonnell, MMA podcaster and media member Sean Sheehan, the most well-versed man on worldwide MMA Caposa, as well as our SevereMMA staff members Ian, Andy, Caoilte, Theo, Harry and Sean Denny. There were no ties this year.

Sean and Graeme recorded a podcast discussing the winners, which you can listen to below. For the full winners please scroll down below that, or don’t if you wish to avoid podcast spoilers.

Fighter of the Year

Islam Makhachev

There were plenty of worthy candidates for this award but beating Alexander Volkanovski, one of the best fighters we’ve ever seen, in his prime, TWICE, was very hard to look past.

Fight of the Year

Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski 1, UFC 284

A genuine super fight between two of the top champions in the world which turned into a high-level technical and tactical chess match while also bringing off-your-seat excitement at regular intervals.

Submission of the Year

Alexa Grasso rear naked choke over Valentina Shevchenko, UFC 285

It was shocking and unexpected but no less brilliant. The moment was huge and made a well-sunk choke even more impressive.

Knockout of the Year

Drakkar Klose slams Joe Solecki, UFC Fight Night: Dariush vs. Tsarukyan

It came late in the year but recency bias didn’t play a factor here. Drakkar Klose added finesse and care to one of the most brutal methods of victory in the sport.

Female Fighter of the Year

Nong Stamp Fairtex

It may be a surprise to some but in a year where Stamp became a three-sport champion, she took her MMA game to the next level and arguably became the face of ONE Championship with two big finishes.

Underdog of the Year

Sean Strickland 

When Alexa Grasso beat Valentina Shevchenko, nobody expected this award to go anywhere else. But Sean Strickland had other ideas. Nobody expected him to win, but he did just that with an epic beatdown of the now-former middleweight king Israel Adesanya.

Emerging Worldwide Prospect Of The Year

Ian Garry

No Irish bias here. 2023 was a massive year for Ian Garry with three increasingly impressive wins. It would be easy to forget he fought Kenan Song this year before vaulting himself into the rankings – against Daniel Rodriguez – and then into contendership – with a dominant win over Neil Magny.

Irish Male Pro Fighter Of The Year

Ian Garry

Ian Garry has dominated our awards for the last 4 years. 2019 and 2020 emerging Irish prospect of the year. 2023 emerging worldwide prospect of the year. 2021, 2022 and now 2023 Irish male pro fighter of the year. Only one more to go.

Emerging Irish Prospect Of The Year

Paddy McCorry

It has been a great few years for Fight Academy Ireland and Paddy McCorry looks to be the next big thing out of Ulster’s top gym. The Belfast man scored two finishes this year in Cage Warriors and massively impressed against fellow prospect Samir Kadi in Dublin.

Irish Amateur Fighter Of The Year

Conor McCarthy

A fantastic year for Irish amateur MMA saw this award hotly contested. What’s undeniable is the supremely high level Peter Queally protégé Conor McCarthy has reached. He won all three fights in 2023, picking up the IUR championship along the way, and looked very impressive in doing it. Remember the name.

Irish Female Fighter Of The Year

Danni McCormack

Six years on from winning this award as an amateur, Danni McCormack is now an 8-2 professional champion. 2023 saw her win the Invicta title in a comeback of the year contender and defend it against an opponent who had beaten her as an amateur. Women’s MMA in Ireland is massively on the rise, and Danni McCormack is leading the way.

Irish gym of the year

SBG Ireland

Once again, undeniable. A great year for John Kavanagh’s gym saw fighters win multiple times in UFC, PFL and Bellator as well as stand-out wins for Danni McCormack in Invicta, Kiefer Crosbie over Cowboy Oliveira and more.

Coach of the Year

Eric Nicksick 

A wonderful year for the Xtreme Couture head coach with the likes of Jeremy Kennedy, Manel Kape and Mads Burnell behind Francis Ngannou and Sean Strickland shocking the world in two sports.

Upset of the Year

Sean Strickland def. Israel Adesanya, UFC 293

When Israel Adesanya re-took his belt from Alex Pereira, Sean Strickland was viewed as a quick and easy next defense. As it turned out, the only thing quick and easy was Strickland’s dominance.

Comeback Of The Year

Abdoul Abdouraguimov kneebar, Ares 11

Lazy King looked like he was on his way to a shock-defeat until a submission of the year contender rescued him from the brink.

Worst Fight of the Year

William Knight vs. Marcin Prachino, UFC Fight Night: Andrade vs. Blanchfield

They literally stood there and looked at each other for 15 minutes. We’ve seen worse fights over the years, but very few as uneventful.

Underperformer Of The Year

Roberto Soldic 

When Roberto Soldic entered the free agency market talk in 2022, matchmakers wanted him in every organization – but everything has gone wrong for him since. 2023 was no better than 2022’s one fight ending in a no-contest as Soldic was heavily knocked out by Zebastian Kadestam in his sole fight of 2023.

Worst decision Of The Year

Alexa Grasso vs. Valtentina Shevchenko ends in a Draw, UFC Noche

A really close fight which could have gone either way caught the ire of MMA folks due to the fact the result was decided by an inexplicable 10-8 for Grasso in round 5.

Non-UFC Fighter of the Year

Patchy Mix 

Mix may be the most improved fighter in the world over the last few years. The now Bellator bantamweight champion not only beat Rafeon Stots to win the million dollars before unifying his interim title against Sergio Pettis – he finished them both in the process.

Event of the Year

UFC 290

The best card of the year by far. 4 sub 1-minute finishes (record), Volkanovski masterclass in the main, Pantoja and Moreno in the co-main, Robbie Lawler retires, Bo KO and much more!

Shocking Moment Of The Year

Sean Strickland drops Israel Adesanya, UFC 293

It was a crazy year but what single moment made you jump off your seat in shock the most? It was Sean Strickland putting Israel Adesanya on his backside.

Commentator Of The Year

Jon Anik 

Quite simply, the best in the game. Fights sound better when voiced by Jon Anik. Long may he continue.

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.