Over three years since 57,127 fans crammed into Melbourne's Marvel Stadium, the UFC is officially finally back in Australia.
Perth's RAC Arena will on Sunday host UFC 284, headlined by the lightweight title fight between the champion Islam Makhachev and the challenger, Australia's own Alexander Volkanovski.
Will Volkanovski join rarefied company and become a double UFC champion? He will have the home support of an Australian UFC fanbase that has been patiently waiting for a chance to see their favourite local fighters in action.
So how does the local contingent, both those fighting in Perth and those not, stack up across the board? What exactly is the hierarchy for an Oceanic UFC contingent from both sides of the Tasman Sea?
Here are our trans-Tasman Power Rankings ahead of UFC 284.
10. Carlos Ulberg (7-1) Light heavyweight
One of four Kiwis in our top 10, Ulberg is riding the wave of three straight wins after a first-up loss on his graduation from the Contender Series. He wasted little time in the two most recent victories, too, securing a TKO and then a KO finish both in Round 1. With power in his hands and Hollywood good looks to match, Ulberg is a marketer's dream. With just seven professional fights behind him, the best of Ulberg looks like it is still to come - particularly under the tutelage of Eugene Bareman and the team at City Kickboxing.
9. Jimmy Crute (12-3) Light heavyweight
After more than 12 months outside of the Octagon, Crute's return from injury is, outside of the main events, probably the most intriguing storyline from the UFC 284 card. A graduate of the Contender Series, Crute's star was on the rise -- he was ranked No. 1 on ESPN's Top 25 under 25 in 2020 -- after he won five out of his first six fights in the UFC proper. But then disaster struck in back-to-back losses as he suffered a doctor stoppage against Anthony Smith, and then a brutal KO at the hands of newly-crowned light heavyweight champion Jamahal Hill. Despite those defeats, there is a genuine belief that Crute belongs in the division's top 10 -- the mission to get himself back up that ladder starts in Perth against Alonzo Menifield.
8. Dan Hooker (22-12) Lightweight
If you need to know one thing about Hooker, it's that he'll fight anyone, anywhere, as there is nothing the Kiwi loves more than throwing down inside the Octagon. Such a willingness to compete has seen Hooker ride the highs and lows of the UFC as he engaged in five-round slugfests with the likes of Paul Felder and Dustin Poirier but then also felt the KO power of Michael Chandler, so too the supreme wrestling skills of Islam Makhachev. After a failed one-off switch to featherweight, Hooker returned to lightweight with a TKO win over Claudio Puelles; he is now actively seeking his next opponent and a 35th professional MMA fight.
7. Casey O'Neill (9-0) Women's flyweight
Scotland-born Australian O'Neill was making waves in the UFC, winning her first four fights in the promotion, only for injury to strike and halt her climb up the women's flyweight rankings. Unfortunately, an ACL tear put paid to her hopes of a big 2022 campaign after she had won a split-decision victory over Roxanne Modafferi. While she retains a thick Scottish accent, O'Neill's craft was honed on the Gold Coast before she jetted off to Las Vegas to team up with Xtreme Couture MMA. O'Neill is on the cusp of becoming the first real genuine women's UFC star from Australia. She will return to the Octagon at UFC 286 next month with a fight against Jennifer Maia.
6. Jack Della Maddalena (13-2) Welterweight
ESPN's 2022 Men's Rookie of the Year winner, Della Maddalena enjoyed a sparkling debut season in the UFC after earning his opportunity through Dana White's Contender Series. The West Australian rattled off three Round 1 wins in 2022, requiring only a combined 8 minutes and 55 seconds to stretch his unbeaten run to 13. Della Maddalena was officially added to the UFC 284 card just after Christmas, but he had long expressed a desire to fight in his home town, where a matchup against Randy Brown, a veteran of 14 UFC fights, represents the West Australian's biggest test yet. There are many across the UFC who see Della Maddalena as the real deal -- we'll get another look at just how good he is this weekend.
5. Kai Kara-France (24-10) Flyweight
He may be a flyweight in stature, but the Maori mana in Kara-France is of the heavyweight measure. Like his City Kickboxing [CKB] teammates, Kara-France has made it his mission to put New Zealand MMA on the map and his contributions at flyweight have certainly helped to do that; CKB was also recently named Gym of the Year at the World MMA Awards. Kara-France's pursuit of the flyweight title has unfortunately, so far, proved in vain, with Brandon Moreno stopping the Kiwi via third-round TKO in their interim title fight in July. Kara-France was looking to bounce back in Perth, only for the Aucklander to suffer an injury and withdraw from his scheduled bout with Alex Perez. Kara-France hopes the two can "run it back" sometime later in 2023, while a third shot at Moreno down the track remains the ultimate goal.
4. Tai Tuivasa (14-5) Heavyweight
Is there a more popular fighter in the UFC right now? Big Shoey Tui, Tai Shoeyvasa, Bam Bam; whichever nickname it is that you prefer, it's hard not to love the larger-than-life Australian heavyweight. Tuivasa burst onto the UFC scene in 2017, stringing three wins together before running into former champion Junior Dos Santos. That defeat started a three-fight skid, before a switch to Dubai and a new dedication to training saw him surge back up the heavyweight rankings, the knockout of Derrick Lewis at UFC 271 his finest achievement. Tuivasa then pushed Ciryl Gane for three rounds before succumbing to the Frenchman's power, before what looked like a risky fight with Sergei Pavlovich proved exactly that when the Australian was hammered inside 60 seconds in December. After six fights in two years, Tuivasa has earned a spell.
3. Robert Whittaker (24-6) Middleweight
Australia's first UFC champion, Whittaker is also the longest serving member on our list, with his career inside the Octagon now stretching all the way back to 2012. Not bad for a kid who came through a show called "The Smashes". The reality TV series -- a nod to The Ashes cricket rivalry as it pitted Australians against Englishmen -- kick-started Whittaker's career and 18 fights on he still sits among the promotion's elite group of fighters. Whittaker's only losses at middleweight have come to Adesanya, the second of which was a keenly-fought contest that the Australian maintains he felt he "did enough to win". Disappointingly, Whittaker's showdown with Paulo Costa was scratched from 284 card. On the flipside, Alex Pereira's win over Adesanya has suddenly opened up the title landscape at middleweight; Whittaker might not have to go through the Nigerian for a third time after all.
2. Israel Adesanya (23-2) Middleweight
A career that has mirrored Volkanovski's, Adesanya too swept all before him on his way to the middleweight strap, claiming the title with a second-round KO of Robert Whittaker in front of a UFC record crowd in Melbourne in 2019. Five title defences followed -- so too a one-off and unsuccessful switch to light heavyweight against then-champion Jan Blachowicz -- with Adesanya looking nigh on unbeatable at the lighter weight. Enter Alex Pereira. With two kickboxing victories over Adesanya, Pereira was expected to trouble the Nigerian-born Kiwi; still the champion entered the fight with many believing his more rounded skill set would see him prevail. And so that looked to be the case, at least until the final round when Pereira landed a left jab that rattled Adesanya and moved in for the finish thereafter. The duo has booked a rematch for UFC 287 in April.
1. Alexander Volkanovski (25-1) Featherweight
The easiest choice to make, potentially, ever. Volkanovski sits above all other fighters in the UFC as ESPN's No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter, the Australian riding a 22-fight winning streak stretching all the way back to 2013. After making his UFC debut in 2016, Volkanovski surged to the top of the featherweight rankings, eventually earning a shot at the title in 2020 against champion Max Holloway. That victory, plus two others over the Hawaiian, as well as two further featherweight defences, have put him in a featherweight league of his own. Now comes the ultimate test, a move up to lightweight and the pursuit of rarefied "champ champ" status against Islam Makhachev in Perth this weekend.
Honourable mentions: Tyson Pedro, Jamie Mullarkey, Justin Tafa, Brad Riddell