Clay Collard vs. Shane Burgos, 5 more insane fights in 2023

MMA fans enjoyed plenty of memorable fights this year. Here's a look at some of the best.

2023 PFL 9: Playoffs
2023 PFL 9: Playoffs / Cooper Neill/GettyImages
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MMA is in an interesting place. In a sport where various forms of grappling and striking are combined to create artistic masterpieces, the new generation of fighting is focused heavily on the finish. The bad news is this derives a lot from untrustworthy judging, but the good news is this makes for incredible fights. 2023 did not disappoint.

2023 was a big year for combat sports as a whole. The Bellator-PFL merger will create plenty of buzz for future PFL tournaments and, given the size of the potential roster, also opens the door to other opportunities. PFL Europe and Bellator's efforts to have shows overseas have helped grow their brand internationally and 2024 should be a big year.

The PFL has a growing history of impressive fights and 2023 had one of their best. Clay Collard and Shane Burgos laid everything on the line for their semifinal fight at PFL 9 in August.

Clay Collard vs. Shane Burgos (PFL 9)

Clay Collard could be the best story from the PFL thus far.

Collard joined the UFC in 2014 and went 1-3. He worked his way back up, primarily through SteelFist Fight Night in Utah, by earning double-champ status at lightweight and welterweight. After wins over Anthony Pettis and Jeremy Stephens in 2021 and 2022, respectively, Collard became one of the PFL's stars.

Shane Burgos is cut from a slightly different cloth in terms of pre-PFL success. He was an 8-3 UFC fighter and ended his UFC career 2-0. What was the reason Burgos decided to leave? Money. He was vocal about wanting to change his family's life and was open to moving up in weight for the first time. Burgos signed with the PFL and took part in the 2023 PFL lightweight season.

After going 1-1 in the lightweight season, Burgos was eliminated. To think Natan Schulte and Raush Manfio had to get suspended for Collard and Burgos to lock horns is pretty incredible, but lucky for everyone, it happened.

Collard and Burgos combined for a whopping 679 strikes thrown in just three rounds of fighting. Collard landed 172 total strikes on the feet compared to Burgos' 110. More importantly, Collard landed 116 head strikes on his way to a unanimous decision win. The exciting part of the fight was Collard doing well in the beginning but Burgos staying in the fight. By round 3, it was a gruesome exchange to the delight of MMA fans. This will always be one of those fights where, despite the damage, one can only imagine what would have happened for two more rounds.

Burgos has always been durable, but Collard proved to be a worthy combatant. While Burgos already had a following, his growth within the PFL brand is perfect for the next chapter of his career. For Collard, that PFL championship is right at his fingertips, but he continues to be the 'UFC Giant Killer' in the PFL. That's not a bad title to hold.

If the PFL establishes its own Hall of Fame, this fight should make the first ballot.