We have one of the most stacked events ever going down this weekend at UFC 263, where we have two title fight rematches, as well as a five round feature fight coming to us live on PPV.
Today, in this piece, we go over the preliminary card and main card, the last nine fights of the night.
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First we start with the main event, then the co-main and so on. So, for starters, let’s get into our UFC middleweight championship bout, the main event of the evening:
Main Card: 10pm ET/7pm PT on PPV
Middleweight Championship: Israel Adesanya (20-1) vs. Marvin Vettori (17-4-1) II
Ages: 31 & 27
Heights: 6’4” & 6′
Reaches: 80″ & 74″
This isn’t the middleweight championship fight we were all dying for, but it’s still a great fight nonetheless.
Firstly, we’ll start by saying most wanted to see another middleweight championship rematch, one between the champion and former champion, No. 1 ranked Robert Whittaker, who’s 11-1 at 185 lbs, on a three-fight win streak since losing to Adesanya.
Two of those victories came over top five talents, all three over top tens.
Whittaker was offered the bout, but stated he needed more time to prepare. But, this is a very meaningful match up, and a very meaningful rematch in itself.
Adesanya first defeated Vettori, now No. 3 contender, in April of 2018, just two months following his UFC debut.
The fight wasn’t per se close, Adesanya clearly won rounds one and two and lost round three, but that’s neither here nor there. The decision went to the correct man, according to everyone but Vettori and Chris Lee of course.
The Italian stud still to this day believes he won that fight.
Nonetheless, Adesanya went on to become the UFC middleweight champion, and even challenged for the light-heavyweight title in his last fight, but came up short. Vettori on the other hand has gone 5-0 since that defeat three years ago.
Both men have gotten so much better than they were at that point.
Adesanya has gotten so much better at defending takedowns, and Vettori has gotten so much better on the feet. His striking is so clean, crisp, and precise now, it’s a thing of beauty to watch.
Of course, he isn’t ‘The Last Stylebender’ on his feet, he didn’t go 75-5-1 as a professional kickboxer or 5-1 as a professional boxer, but he’s certainly come a long, long way in that regard.
One thing that really stands out about this fight is the fact that neither get discouraged during their fights, whether they’re losing or not.
Vettori was Adesanya’s toughest test at the time it happened. Even though he was taken down in round three twice, he still got back to his feet.
Then look at his interim title fight with Kelvin Gastelum, he sucked it up after nearly getting knocked out to dominate round five and win the title.
It’s interesting; Vettori was 1-1-1 in his last three going into their first encounter, and now Adesanya is coming off the first defeat of his mixed martial arts career. Who walks away from UFC 263 as the UFC middleweight champion?
Flyweight Championship: Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1-1) vs. Brandon Moreno (18-5-2) II
Ages: 33 & 27
Heights: 5’5″ & 5’7″
Reaches: 68″ & 70″
Every single one of us wanted to see this fight again immediately once the first ended.
This would have easily been the 2020 Fight of the Year, had Weili Zhang versus Joanna Jedrzejczyk not happened.
Figueiredo is perhaps the most dangerous flyweight talent we’ve ever seen in this sport, aside from maybe John Lineker, but Moreno is one of the more durable, gritty, and technical flyweights out there.
Moreno first came over to the UFC with a record of 11-3 as a four-time WFF flyweight champion.
After winning his first three bouts with the promotion, becoming the only man to ever finish Dustin Ortiz, still to this day, he lost his next two via unanimous decisions and was cut.
‘The Assassin Baby’ then signed with LFA, where he claimed that championship as well, this one via fourth-round TKO, and he was on his way back to the big show.
Upon return, Moreno battled to a draw with No. 2 ranked Askar Askarov, before winning his next three over the likes of KOZ flyweight champion Kai Kara-France (UD), three-time Shooto South American flyweight champion Jussier Formiga (UD), and fellow LFA flyweight champion Brandon Royval (TKO).
This granted him a title shot at the UFC flyweight champion.
Figueiredo also fought on that same night Moreno fought Royval, at UFC 255 on November 21, 2020, where he defended his title by submitting (guillotine choke) grappling specialist Alex Perez in the first round.
Three weeks later, on December 12, 2020, Figueiredo and Moreno agreed to a very, very short notice championship fight, and we got the greatest flyweight fight of all-time considering.
Figueiredo has had even more successful of a career than Moreno, of course, being a UFC champion. He’s only ever lost a single time, where he was held down and out-wrestled by Jussier Formiga for three rounds.
At that time, there was no shame in losing to Formiga, especially in that manner. He was a really great fighter, it’s a shame he never got his title shot we all thought he certainly would’ve had by now.
Nonetheless, Figueiredo improved his game drastically after this.
Since then, he won his next two-straight over No. 3 ranked Alexandre Pantoja and No. 10 ranked Tim Elliott, before facing, and finishing longtime No. 1 contender Joseph Benavidez, twice, capturing the title in the second.
He’s since of course defended it against Perez, and battled to a draw with Moreno.
Now, just six months later, these two go to battled for a scheduled five rounds once again.
This is good, good that it isn’t holding the division up, but it’s also bad, bad because there are a number of fighters that’ve come back too soon after a fight, only to have a very unfortunate outcome.
After a war like that, six months may not be enough. Often times, it isn’t.
For instance, Daniel Cormier KO’d Stipe Miocic in round one of their first fight. Miocic had fought Francis Ngannou for the first time six months prior, who hit him a hell of a lot in round one, the hardest hitting man on the planet mind you.
His chin hadn’t recovered fully yet, his second and third fights with Cormier, where Cormier hit him a hell of a lot more, showed that. His rematch with Ngannou also showed that, coming back about six months after his trilogy with Cormier.
That may have happened anyway though, let’s be honest. Ngannou knocks everyone out.
Another example is Michael Bisping, who lost his middleweight championship to Geroges St-Pierre in November of 2017. He came back three weeks later, still in November, only to be KO’d by Kelvin Gastelum in round one. He took so much damage from ‘GSP’ in round three, he came back far too soon.
Chad Mendes also came back too soon after being TKO’d by Conor McGregor in 2015. He came back exactly five months later to the day and got KO’d in round one by Frankie Edgar, someone who is not known for his power.
Don’t get it mixed, Edgar had knocked a couple opponents out prior, but he wasn’t exactly known for it.
That was a fight between the two best wrestlers in the division, two of the best athletes in the division, and the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked contenders in the division. If Mendes stayed out a little longer, that may have been a wicked fight.
The last one we’ll mention is Mike Perry, perhaps the most durable talent in the entire sport, who came back just four months after a Fight of the Year candidate with Vicente Luque in 2019, a fight where his nose was shattered badly, and a fight he took all sorts of damage in.
He lost that bout via split decision, but came back to face Geoff Neal and was TKO’d in just 90 seconds.
We’ve seen Perry eat bombs from a number of vicious knockout artists and not even go off balance, but he wasn’t recovered enough to accept this fight with Neal later that year.
After a war like these two had, it’s hard to say if they’re coming back too soon. They both got hurt so many times in that fight, only time will tell. Only time will tell.
Welterweight: Leon Edwards (18-3) 1 NC vs. Nate Diaz (20-12)
Ages: 29 & 36
Heights: 6′ & 6′
Reaches: 74″ & 76″
This is not a fight many of us believed we’d get next in the welterweight division, for Nate Diaz, or for Leon Edwards.
Both Diaz’ seem to only want big names that garner a lot of attention, and Edwards has never really done that.
However, Diaz did state, ‘he’s the one been kicking all the ass’, thus the reason he agreed to face him.
Of course, Diaz isn’t ranked, and Edwards is ranked at No. 3, but that doesn’t take away from how exciting this encounter will be. Nate Diaz has great boxing, but he’s a bit sloppy with it, and he isn’t the best physical athlete.
However, the sloppy nature of those punches makes them hard to see coming, and we all know how many he’ll throw at once, consistently.
Edwards on the other hand is perhaps the cleanest, sharpest striker in the division, aside from Stephen Thompson that is. He’s had such a rough go lately, being out for two years, all those cancelled bouts, to having a no contest in his eventual comeback against Belal Muhammad in March.
Many want to see Edwards fight for the belt, and it’d make sense, in the sense that he’s on the longest win streak in the division, aside from the champion, Kamaru Usman.
However, the best wins he has in the division are over an unranked Gunnar Nelson, Donald Cerrone, who’s a natural lightweight, and Rafael dos Anjos, who is a former champion, but also in a weight class below, at lightweight.
Edwards did defeat Vicente Luque in 2017, who’s now ranked at No. 5, but he definitely needs some more good wins.
Diaz may not have a good record, he never really has except for his first couple years with the UFC, but he’s literally always fought the best. Not to mention, you cannot deny his potency at times, even against the very best. He has won a lot of those fights he shouldn’t have.
Welterweight: Demian Maia (28-10) vs. Belal Muhammad (18-3) 1 NC
Ages: 43 & 32
Heights: 6′ & 5’10”
Reaches: 72″ & 72″
This is a great fight the UFC matchmakers have put together in the welterweight division.
Maia stated after his last bout, where he was TKO’d by No. 2 ranked Gilbert Burns, just the second time he’s ever been finished, that his next bout would be his last.
That was over a year ago, but he is getting up there in age, at 43 years old, and this seems like a good farewell fight.
Muhammad has looked very good lately, winning his last four-straight, aside from his most recent no contest with Leon Edwards. His striking is sharp, ever improving, and his footwork has also come a long way.
That being said, we all know if this fight hits the mat, he’ll be in real trouble.
Once Maia moved down to 170 lbs, he really tightened up his wrestling, making his BJJ all that more dangerous.
This will be a very telling bout, telling to see whether Maia’s done or not, and telling to see if Muhammad in is the elite of the elite category.
Light-Heavyweight: Paul Craig (14-4-1) vs. Jamahal Hill (8-0) 1 NC
Ages: 33 & 30
Heights: 6’3.5″ & 6’4″
Reaches: 76″ & 79″
This is a very fun light-heavyweight bout between two completely conflicting styled fighters.
Craig is a straight up wizard of a grappler, his submission offense is such a thing of beauty to watch, but Hill is equally as dangerous on the feet. Three of Craig’s four defeats come via knockout, while Hill is great at hurting his opponents on the feet and finishing them.
On the other hand, we’ve never seen Hill lose. We’ve seen him defeat more experienced opponents than Craig and himself, but he’s never faced someone that’s that dangerous on the ground, not yet, not until this Saturday.
This one will definitely have a very exciting outcome, trust us on this one.
Preliminary Card: 8pm ET/5pm PT on ESPN & ESPN+
Lightweight: Drew Dober (23-10) 1 NC vs. Brad Riddell (9-1)
Ages: 32 & 29
Heights: 5’8″ & 5’8″
Reaches: 70″ & 71″
Just like the last one, this fight should have a stellar outcome. It’ll either end in a knockout for one of them, or it’ll be a three round kickboxing war.
Dober is a two-time amateur national champion in Muay Thai, and Riddell is a multi-time world champion in kickboxing, boasting a stellar record of 59-8 in the sport.
This has translated well for both men in their mixed martial arts careers.
Both men win more often than not, and when’s the last time you’ve seen either of these men get out-struck?
Dober has faulted with his ground game a number of times, but he’s improved there, and this fight is almost a one-hundred percent certainty it stays on the feet.
This is a very tough fight to pick. We’d think Riddell would have the advantage right, being a stand up fight and having more experience in stand up only fights?
Well, Dober has over twice as many MMA fights, and MMA striking is different than kickboxing striking believe it or not. That being said, this will probably be the Fight of the Night on Saturday.
Middleweight: Eryk Anders (13-5) 1 NC vs. Darren Stewart (12-6) 2 NC II
Ages: 34 & 30
Heights: 6’1″ & 6′
Reaches: 75″ & 74″
The first fight between these two ended in controversy, as Anders illegally kneed a downed Stewart, resulting in a late first round no contest.
Both men are desperate for a victory, with each of them going 0-1-0-1 in their last two.
Both men have also fought at both 185 lbs & 205 lbs.
Anders was certainly getting the better of their first encounter, up until that illegal strike. Will he be able to secure the victory this time around, or will Stewart make the proper adjustments and take home the victory himself?
Women’s Flyweight: Lauren Murphy (14-4) vs. Joanne Calderwood (15-5)
Ages: 37 & 34
Heights: 5’5″ & 5’6″
Reaches: 67″ & 66″
Murphy may be turning 38 years old next month, but the way she fights does not reflect her age in the slightest.
Ranked at No. 3, and boasting a four-fight win streak with two finishes, Murphy has been looking better than ever.
It’s kind of crazy; Murphy made her UFC debut with a record of 8-0 back in 2014 and immediately fell to 8-2. She then went 2-2 over her next four, bringing her UFC record to 2-4, and her overall record to 10-4. However, as mentioned above, she’s really been connecting all the dots lately.
She’ll need her A-game against No. 6 ranked, 19-2 professional kickboxer Joanne Calderwood however.
Calderwood still has yet to really put a serious streak together inside the octagon, like many of us predicted she’d do initially.
She came over to the UFC with a record of 8-0, just like Murphy. She’d go 3-1 over her first four before losing two-straight. Calderwood has since gone 4-2, but is on just a one-fight win streak coming into this bout.
Does Murphy make it five-straight en route to a title shot, or does Calderwood make it two-straight, also perhaps en route to a title shot? Her and Valentina Shevchenko are both professional kickboxers, and she would’ve gotten the title shot last year had she defeated Jennifer Maia.
Featherweight: Movsar Evloev (14-0) vs. Hakeem Dawodu (12-1-1)
Ages: 27 & 29
Heights: 5’8″ & 5’8″
Reaches: 73″ & 72.5″
Our fourth professional kickboxer on the card, or the first to fight rather, is No. 15 ranked ‘Mean’ Hakeem Dawodu, who faces No. 14 ranked Master of Sport in Greco-Roman wrestling, four-time M-1 Challenge bantamweight champion, Movsar Evloev.
Evloev is Dawodu’s second-straight Russian opponent that has a strong Sambo or wrestling prowess. He just defeated Zuba Tukhugov in his last fight back in September, and he looks to improve his win streak to six-straight this Saturday.
This Russian talent isn’t going to make that easy though. He’s a great striker himself, and of course, his ground game is superior to Dawodu, who’s only defeat comes via submission. Evloev has also gone 4-0 thus far inside the octagon.
This will be a very telling fight to see where each man goes from here. How do you see it going down?
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I became a fan of combat sports when I was 12 years old. I was scrolling through the channels and landed upon versus, where WEC was televised. Urijah Faber fought Jens Pulver for the second time that night. That’s the first fight I saw, and the fight that got me hooked on the sport. Since then, the sport has grown so rapidly, and my goal is to enlighten everyone on what’s going on in the sport today.