UFC 263 is a chance for Israel Adesanya to once again showcase his dominance as one of the premier fighters in the world.
FLYWEIGHT TITLE FIGHT: DEIVESON FIGUEIREDO (c) VS. BRANDON MORENO — 12:01 AM ET
Brandon Moreno is the new undisputed king of the flyweight division.
Moreno (19-5-2) took control of the fight in the opening moments, and he systematically wore down Deiveson Figueiredo, forcing him to tap in the third round. Figueiredo (20-2-1) locked on a rear naked choke, one that Figueiredo could not break.
The win gives new energy to the flyweight division. Moreno is one of the more exciting fighters in the UFC, and he was forced to overcome a massive obstacle in solving Figueiredo. He dominated and then submitted Figueiredo, and this is one of those moments that meant so much in front of a live crowd. The moment was electric, especially for someone that was once cut by the UFC. Only three years later, Moreno is now the first-ever Mexico-born UFC champion.
WELTERWEIGHT FIGHT: NATE DIAZ VS. LEON EDWARDS — 11:11 PM ET
In a fight full of showmanship and gamesmanship, Leon Edwards demolished Nate Diaz, winning the fight by unanimous decision.
Diaz (20-13) took a thorough beating, from his head to his legs. He was covered in blood, and Edwards (19-3, 1 NC) was so precise in his attack. But it is simply impossible to ever count out Diaz, who had a late surge in the fifth round that put him on the cusp of victory. Diaz drilled Edwards with a straight left hand, and it looked like a knockout was in play. If Diaz had 30 more seconds, he may have won this fight, but the majority of the bout was controlled by Edwards.
This was a five-round fight, the first time that happened in the UFC when it was not a title bout or main event. This wasn’t even a co-main, yet it was an outstanding five rounds of fighting. The third-ranked Edwards furthers his case for a title shot, and Diaz once again shows why he is one of the most beloved fighters in the world.
WELTERWEIGHT FIGHT: BELAL MUHAMMAD VS. DEMIAN MAIA — 10:40 PM ET
It wasn’t the prettiest fight of his career, but it now lives on in the win column for Belal Muhammad, who defeated Demian Maia by unanimous decision.
This win helps position Muhammad (19-3, 1 NC) for his welterweight division ascent. He entered this fight at No. 12 in the division, but by beating the No. 9 ranked Maia (28-11), it will play a role in his trajectory toward more high-stake fights in the division.
This marked fight No. 33 for Maia in the UFC, which is remarkable. He is an MMA icon, and even at the age of 43, remains a phenomenal Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. A win would have tied Maia with Donald Cerrone for the most wins in UFC history at 23, but that was not to be.
Muhammad’s lateral movement adds another element to his elite fighting. Maia prevented him from getting in any significant offense in the opening round, but that changed in rounds two and three. Muhammad’s takedown defense was also outstanding, blocking 20 different takedown attempts, preventing Maia from exerting his will. And as solid as Maia still is while still showing shades of his old self with his relentlessness, he is clearly no longer the same fighter.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT FIGHT: JAMAHAL HILL VS. PAUL CRAIG — 10:21 PM ET
Paul Craig finished Jamahal Hill in the opening round.
Craig (15-4-1) is unorthodox, but he is so dangerous off his back with chain submissions. It looked like he dislocated, or potentially even fractured, the left arm of Hill (8-1, 1 NC). The referee was forced to stop the bout, which he should have done even sooner. That was a very gnarly finish, the type that is rarely on display in the cage.
Craig wins the fight via technical submission, and the MMA world needs to take note of his jiu-jitsu.
UFC 263 is a night for more than redemption for Israel Adesanya. His main event against Marvin Vettori is a chance for renewal, once again showcasing his dominance as one of the premier fighters in the world.
Following the first defeat of his MMA career, Adesanya (20-1) seeks to reclaim his aura against Vettori (17-4-1). This is a rematch from April 2018, which Adesanya claimed by split decision, with the added caveat that Adesanya’s middleweight title is on the line. Vettori will attempt to follow the blueprint of Jan Blachowicz, the light heavyweight champ, which will be to wrestle Adesanya and control the fight on the mat. While that is a solid plan, it will be difficult to execute without Blachowicz’s size and power.
A second title fight on the 263 card is another rematch, pitting flyweight champ Deiveson Figueiredo against Brandon Moreno. Their last meeting was each of their previous fights, and it was a sensational, back-and-forth bout. Figueiredo (20-1-1) and Moreno (18-5-2) fought to a draw, and it was particularly enthralling to watch Moreno endure so much punishment from Figueiredo, and yet still come back to do some damage of his own.
The card also features the return of Nate Diaz, who fights a top welterweight contender in third-ranked Leon Edwards. Long overdue for a title shot, Edwards (18-3, 1 NC) cannot afford to come away with a defeat. Even as a massive favorite, that is no guarantee against the ever-dangerous Diaz (20-12). The crowd in Arizona will erupt if Diaz is able to pull off a shocking submission victory.
Another welterweight bout on the card pits Demian Maia against Belal Muhammad. With the 43-year-old Maia (28-10) now in the twilight of his career, this is a perfect opportunity for Muhammad (18-3, 1 NC) to add a unique victory his portfolio. And the card opener, which is a meeting of light heavyweight in Jamahal Hill (8-0, 1 NC) and Paul Craig (14-4-1), should be a barnburner to kick off the pay per view.