UFC 263: Main Card Preview
UFC 263 presents a simply enthralling fight card that will no doubt leave fans across the globe in awe as Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya (20-1) returns to the division to defend his throne against a heated rival in Marvin Vettori (17-4-1); determined to exact his revenge after coming up short to the New Zealand native over three years ago.
Adesanya – undefeated at middleweight – has been astounding since entering the fray in the early months of 2018, making a surging run to UFC gold and decimating a number of notable figures along the way, including Paulo Costa, Robert Whittaker, Kelvin Gastelum and Anderson Silva. Vettori, meanwhile, has impressively won five straight and should he prevail in his second fight against the Last Stylebender will become the first UFC champion from Italy.
In the co-main event UFC flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1-1) will rematch Brandon Moreno (18-5-2) after the pair completed a captivating draw in the previous fight; a bout that has been dubbed one of the greatest fights of 2020. Figueiredo was deducted a point in round three due to a groin strike, a factor that played a significant role in the outcome of the encounter.
Across the rest of the card, the fights are similarly enticing, with long-time fan favourite Nate Diaz (20-12) returning to fight Leon Edwards (18-3-1NC), who has accrued eight consecutive victories and will stake his claim for a shot at the belt with a win against Diaz on Saturday night.
Israel Adesanya (C) v Marvin Vettori
Should Vettori wish to impose his will on Adesanya and leave the octagon as a UFC champion, he will need to be accurate with his takedowns and dominating with his ground game. Adesanya is one of the greatest strikers in the sport and will likely pick Vettori apart, should the fight remain standing, with a combination of vicious strikes and kicks, softening him up until he finds the decisive blow.
In the first fight, Adesanya was able to implement his game plan effectively against his Italian foe for the first two rounds, landing on his foe with greater accuracy before succumbing to the takedown in the third, where Vettori was able to hold him for over three minutes.
It is fair to say that both fighters will have improved and then some after the initial meeting, but the question in the minds of fight fans across the globe remains; who will prevail? Has Vettori made enough improvements to successfully usurp the champion in this heated grudge match?
Prediction: Adesanya via R4 TKO
Deiveson Figueiredo (C) v Brandon Moreno
If this rematch follows the same template that the first laid out, UFC fans are in for a treat yet another treat between two of the best and most entertaining flyweights on the roster.
In the first fight, the discourse of the bout was gripping in its entirety with both men suffering damage and inflicting pivotal moments against their opponent. Figueiredo will look to utilise his intense pace to overcome Moreno, with reassurances that his devastating power and excellent submission abilities will be enough for him to emerge the victor.
For Moreno, he will need to call upon his well-rounded skillset to go one step further and outdo Figueiredo on the second time of asking, using the experience of the previous bout to prevail.
To summarise, Figueiredo has all the tools to become a dominant figure in the flyweight division after the departure of Demetrious Johnson and Henry Cejudo, but defeating Moreno is no easy task with the tenacious Mexican avoiding defeat against the champion once before already.
Prediction: Figueiredo via Unanimous decision
Leon Edwards v Nate Diaz
This intriguing matchup between Edwards, quietly amassing a commendable record with no defeat since losing to dominant champion Kamaru Usman in 2015, and Diaz, is tantalising with both athletes having much to gain from victory.
Edwards is understandably the favourite after an exemplary run in the welterweight division, whilst Diaz has only fought twice since 2016, winning and losing once apiece. Regardless, Diaz’s awkward and lengthy striking, combined with his constricting submission game will prove a difficult proposition for Edwards, who has demonstrated an aptitude for wrestling despite his kickboxing background.
In theory, Edwards should be able to use his consistency and well-rounded skillset to defeat Diaz, but as shown before, the Stockton native has a knack for defying the odds and pulling off victories in situations that appear insurmountable.
Prediction: Diaz via R3 SUB
Demian Maia v Belal Muhammad
Demian Maia (28-10) is an iconic figure in MMA and grappling. He has forged a respectable career and come up short in title fights in two divisions; at 43 years of age, he is approaching retirement and has stated that his performance will dictate whether this will be his swansong.
Belal Muhammad (18-3-1NC) most recently fought against Edwards, with the fight culminating with an unfortunate eye poke that rendered Muhammad unable to continue.
Aside from that tie, Muhammad had won four straight and will be confident of securing the win over the veteran.
Prediction: Muhamad via Unanimous decision
Paul Craig v Jamahal Hill
Paul Craig (14-4-1) has started to display his talents in recent bouts after enduring a lacklustre start to his UFC career, winning three and drawing once after going 4-4 to begin his UFC tenure. In his past four bouts, his only stumble came against Mauricio Rua, drawing after a back-and-forth bout, but the Scot came back to defeat Rua via TKO in the first round to leave no doubt.
His opponent, Jamahal Hill (8-0-1NC), is undefeated and will be a daunting test for Craig after impressively knocking Ovince Saint Preux out in his previous fight.
Prediction: Hill via R2 KO