Justin Gaethje's KO of Dustin Poirier, 5 other brutal knockouts of 2023 (VIDEO)

Recapping some of the best highlights to occur in the cage during 2023.

UFC 291: Poirier v Gaethje 2
UFC 291: Poirier v Gaethje 2 / Chris Gardner/GettyImages
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Islam Makhachev ends Alexander Volkanovski's double champ hopes with KO (Video)

At UFC 284 in February, Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski had a highly-anticipated clash. The two were the two highest-ranked performers on the UFC's pound-for-pound rankings at the time, with Makhachev the undefeated UFC lightweight champion and Volkanovski the UFC featherweight champion that hadn't tasted defeat since his pre-UFC days.

Champ vs. champ, Super Bowl weekend, two of the best fighters in the world, what wasn't there to love? And the fight lived up to that hype and then some, proving to be one of the best fights of 2023. Makhachev may have won on this night, but the MMA fanbase knew they would meet again.

Some of us just didn't think a rematch was going to happen suddenly so soon.

Makhachev was scheduled to defend the UFC lightweight title against Charles Oliveira in a rematch at UFC 294. But less than two weeks before the fight, Oliveira suffered a cut in training camp that forced him out of the fight. And instead of going with another lightweight contender, the UFC pulled off a shocker by filling the vacant title challenger role with Volkanovski — who had defended his featherweight title against Yair Rodriguez at UFC 290 in July.

After plenty of battling inside the clinch, Makhachev dropped Volkanovski with a head kick and ended things with some follow-up punches to finish it off. It was the most dominating performance ever seen against Volkanovski. And while it brought about questions of Volkanovski's readiness and wishes a rematch had more hype and prep time, it solidified how talented of a performer Makhachev is and showcased why he is one of the best fighters in the world today.