After a three-week absence from the bright lights of a pay-per-view, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is back at UFC 263 in Glendale, Ariz. in front of a sold-out crowd Saturday.
The card is one of the deepest in UFC history, with title fights at both middleweight and flyweight as well as the return of fan favorite Nate Diaz.
In the main event, there is a score to be settled as Israel Adesanya faces Marvin Vettori for the middleweight title. The first meeting between the two fighters occurred early in both of their careers in 2018, where Adesanya emerged victorious in a highly disputed split decision in his second career UFC fight.
Since then, both fighters’ careers have been on an upward trajectory. Adesanya has become arguably the best striker in the middleweight division cruising to a 20-1 record as defending middleweight champion, with wins over some of the UFC’s best including Robert Whitaker and Kelvin Gastullem.
Adesanya’s striking is elite, but when the middleweight champion tried to go up a weight class to light heavyweight in March in hopes of becoming a double champ, he lost to Jan Blachowicz at UFC‘s 259 and was completely outclassed in the wrestling aspect of the bout.
Adesanya’s one blemish provided a potential path to victory for the rest of the middleweight division. After Robert Whitaker’s win over Kelvin Gastullem in April of this year, the rematch between Whitaker and Adesanya, who defeated Whitaker in October 2019 to become the UFC middleweight champion, looked to be all set. Due to the quick turnaround and Australia’s COVID-19 quarantine policy, the fight was not booked.
Marvin Vettori quickly became Whitakers replacement. At 17-4-1, Vettori boast a five-fight win streak since his loss to Adesanya, with wins over Jack Hermanson and rising star Kevin Holland. In Vettori‘s most recent fight against Kevin Holland, the Italian recorded an absurd 11 takedowns. Vettori is very confident that he will be able to use his wrestling to become the middleweight champion. Vettori said “It is my destiny to become the first Italian born champion in UFC history.”
The exciting fights do not stop there. The co-main event features the flyweight title fight between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno. Figueredo‘s emergence and his wins over Joseph Benavidez saved the fledgling fly weight division. The division was on the brink of extinction, toiling in obscurity after the retirement of former champion Henry Cejudo after his win over Dominick Cruz at UFC 249 in May 2020. Figueiredo looked to be nearly unbeatable at 20-1, nine knockouts and eight submission victories.
After a victory over Alex Perez at UFC 255, Figueredo took a short notice fight with Brandon Moreno just 21 days later. The short notice bout turned in to quite possibly the greatest fight in the history of the flyweight division. The slugfest resulted in a draw. The two fighters have differing opinions on the rematch, Moreno believes he has seen the champions best and dealt with it without any trouble. The renewed confidence gives Marino a new game plan to be more aggressive in the rematch. On the other hand, the champion concludes that the only reason that Moreno ended the last fight standing was because of the unusually quick turnaround time between fights. We will find out who’s right when the octagon door locks on Saturday.
While the two title fights are important, to most casual fans the headline for UFC 263 is the return of Nate Diaz. Diaz is must see TV because of his hard-changing style, his unwillingness to quit, and his brash personality. Despite his 21 -12 record, the Stockton California native has wins over UFC stars like Conor McGregor and Donald Cerone. Diaz ‘s fan appeal has thrust him into the welterweight title fight picture, despite a loss in his most recent fight against Jorge Masvidal in November 2019.
Diaz opponent Leon Edwards is one of the most underrated fighters in the UFC with an 18-3-1 record and a 8-fight win streak including wins over Rafeal Dos Anjos and Donald Cerrone. Edwards is not as well-known because he doesn’t talk trash or use social media as frequently. Saturdays Diaz-Edwards bout has enormous implications with the winner likely earning a spot in a championship against current champion Kamaru Usman. The Diaz-Edwards bout will be the first five round non-main event fight in UFC history. Anytime Nate Diaz fights, fireworks are promised and this fight will be no different. Don’t expect Diaz to go away anytime soon, as he told Stephen A. Smith, “I’m not like the rest of these fighters, I’m not retiring ever. I’ll be here to the end of time.”
UFC 263 PPV Main Event:
185 lbs.: UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya vs. Marvin Vettori UFC 263 PPV Main Card On ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
125 lbs.: UFC Flyweight Champion Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno 170 lbs.: Leon Edwards vs. Nate Diaz 170 lbs.: Demian Maia vs. Belal Muhammad 205 lbs.: Paul Craig vs. Jamahal Hill UFC 263 ‘Prelims’ Card On ESPN/ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Drew Dober vs. Brad Riddell 205 lbs.: Eryk Anders vs. Darren Stewart 125 lbs.: Joanne Calderwood vs. Lauren Murphy 145 lbs.: Hakeem Dawodu vs. Movsar Evloev UFC 263 Early ‘Prelims’ Card On ESPN+ (6 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: Alexis Davis vs. Pannie Kianzad 155 lbs.: Frank Camacho vs. Terrence McKinney 145 lbs.: Chase Hooper vs. Steven Peterson 155 lbs.: Luigi Vendramini vs. Fares Ziam 265 lbs.: Jake Collier vs. Carlos Felipe