UFC 263: Main Event Breakdown of an Enticing Card
The energy and anticipation that surrounded UFC 263’s hostile main event was swiftly deflated as champion Israel Adesanya (21-1) produced a trademark performance of precise striking and laudable defensive wrestling to best Marvin Vettori (17-5-1) in a heated rematch.
Adesanya – defending the middleweight throne for a third time – reminded the world why he stands atop a fierce division, utilising his excellent leg kicks to full effect to nullify Vettori’s pressuring approach and finish with a unanimous (50-45) decision victory.
The bout started in promising fashion for Vettori, who managed to ground the champion early in the first round and looked to exert his authority and exact his revenge after their first fight ended in a split decision victory for Adesanya three years ago.
The Last Stylebender was able to get back to his feet quickly and sustain little damage in an exchange that would certainly have proved demoralising for Vettori, who would have hoped for more success in his ‘area’; indeed, Vettori landed four takedowns across the five rounds of action but failed to deal any meaningful damage on each occasion.
According to ufcstats.com, 44% of Adesanya’s strikes were to the leg of Vettori, serving as the focal point of his offensive work. The Italian was hindered by the attacks from early on and failed to back up the hype going into the fight.
As the bout culminated, Adesanya left the deserved victor after a comprehensive victory against another top opponent; interestingly, the champion now owns a win over each of the top five contenders in the middleweight division… talk about domination!
Jubilation in the co-main
It’s been quite the journey for new UFC flyweight champion Brandon Moreno (19-5-2). The 27-year-old goofy Mexican was released by the organisation after a failed stint on the Ultimate Fighter and a two-fight skid, and after one fight elsewhere returned to forge his path towards UFC gold.
Moreno dethroned Deiveson Figueiredo emphatically with a third-round submission after the pair drew last December in a furious fight dubbed the most enthralling in flyweight history.
In the first meeting it was Moreno who was perhaps the luckier fighter to come away without defeat after an illegal groin strike from Figueiredo meant the then-champion was deducted a pivotal point. In the second, Moreno put on a clinic to leave no doubt regarding the division’s best fighter.
It remains to be seen what is next for the respective fighters, but Moreno will now await a host of contenders looking to usurp his seat atop a division brimming with eager and talented fighters.
Edwards v Diaz doesn’t disappoint
When Nate Diaz (20-13) fights you can guarantee fireworks. Against Leon Edwards (19-3-1NC), he came up short after the Englishman put on a typically commendable performance, mixing up a range of strikes, clinch work and submission attempts to leave with a nine-fight win streak (and one no contest).
Despite Edwards’ comfortable hold on the bout for the majority, Diaz stunned his opponent with a stinging left straight during the final round to open the door to a barrage of sustained pressure to close the fight.
Rocky was on the front foot throughout, and the well-rounded nature of his game proved too much for Diaz, who struggled to apply the forward pressure that usually serves him so well during his bouts.
It appeared to be a win with no complications until Diaz got the Arizona crowd onto their feet as his piercing late strike looked to complete a phenomenal comeback against one of the divisions best fighters, although Edwards managed to survive to claim a unanimous (49-46) decision win.
Edwards will now surely lay a convincing claim for a maiden shot at the welterweight title with nine straight wins and a wealth of contenders having fallen to the Birmingham native during his five-year unbeaten run.
The end of the road for an iconic figure
Belal Muhammad (19-3-1NC) defeated the legendary Damian Maia (28-11) via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) after repelling the submission greats constricting ground game and evading his repeated attempts to ground his opponent.
Maia brought Muhammad to the ground early on in a move that looked detrimental to Muhammad, but he quickly managed to break away and prevented any further attempts for the duration of the match.
Muhammad demonstrated his crisp boxing manoeuvres and gliding footwork to prevail and hand the 43-year-old Maia consecutive losses.
UFC president Dana White confirmed that Maia has now ‘fought his last fight’ for the sports company and it now remains to be seen whether the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu specialist will continue to fight professionally after a long and esteemed career in MMA.
Craig wins after refereeing controversy
Scotsman Paul Craig (15-4-1) pulled off another win against prospect Jamahal Hill (8-1-1NC), who was undefeated prior to the bout and suffered a broken arm during an armbar attempt from Craig that the referee failed to notice.
Craig put the fight onto the mat early on and tested his opponents ground game, resulting in a devastating submission attempt from the Scot that Hill refused to tap to, breaking his arm in the process.
With the referee’s failure to notice the incident and Hill’s resolute mentality refraining him from tapping, the fight continued, and Craig quickly managed to close proceedings with a series of vicious elbow strikes.
Craig maintains a 100% finishing ratio and has now gone five fights without defeat in the UFC. It is surely time for Craig to face one of the divisions prominent figures as he looks to earn his shot at the light-heavyweight title.