UFC returned to Arizona for their 263rd pay-per-view which was headlined by two title fights, unusually both featuring rematches. Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya had an opportunity to silence Marvin Vettori who had been very vocal about his belief that he beat the Kiwi in their first meeting. Meanwhile Mexican, Brandon Moreno, had another chance to capture flyweight glory after taking the champion to a highly entertaining draw late last year.
Adesanya’s teammate at City Kickboxing, Brad Riddell kicked things off in the featured prelim bout with a tough matchup against American, Drew Dober. This fight lived up to a lot of hype, with both men meeting in the middle of the octagon to demonstrate their respective striking abilities. Some wild exchanges early suggested both men fancied their chances in the striking department. Riddell overcame some early adversity to slowly find his timing and start testing the chin of Dober with some devastating straight right hands. Riddell continued to draw strikes out of his opponent through the second round, making Dober miss and then stinging him with piercing counter strikes. Dober demonstrated plenty of heart and a steel chin, but Riddell was ultimately too sharp and too composed. A unanimous decision win for Riddell will likely see him snatch Dober’s number 13 ranking.
An unlikely pairing of third-ranked Leon Edwards and unranked Nate Diaz produced fireworks in a bout that may have concluded the quest for a number one welterweight contender. It was a largely one-sided fight with Edwards moving through his gears and inflicting damage to the face of Diaz as he did so. Edwards was able to dictate distance and land increasingly heavy counter shots as the fight progressed. Diaz presented an intriguing gameplan, often pausing in static positions seemingly in an attempt to draw strikes out of his opponent. Edwards refused to bite, however, instead, he waited to throw strikes as Diaz transitioned out of these positions. The arena erupted in the fifth round when Diaz landed a picture-perfect left hand on Edwards that hurt him severely. Edwards did extremely well to remain on his feet for the last minute while Diaz came at him with the kitchen sink. A true example of being saved by the bell, that may see Edwards get another shot at welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman.
Next up was the rematch between flyweight champion Deveison Figueiredo and number one contender, Brandon Moreno. The Mexican, Moreno, won a lot of fans last December when he took Figueiredo, a champion who many considered to be untouchable, to a well-deserved draw. However, tonight it was clear from the outset which man wanted the belt more. Moreno put the pace on Figueiredo from the outset, dropping the champion in the first round with a stiff jab.
Figueiredo came back in the second round, to change levels and rip Moreno down the canvas. However, the Mexican remained unphased as he reversed the position on the ground to take Figueiredo’s back and threaten a submission of his own. Moreno returned to his corner after the second round with significant swelling over his left eye which was caused by an elbow from the champion. Fortunately, for the Mexican, he wouldn’t have to take much more damage as the fight did not make it out of the third round. Moreno took the champion down and quickly locked up a body triangle which allowed him to sink in a deep rear-naked choke that quickly forced Figueiredo to tap. Emotional scenes followed as the significance of Moreno’s achievement truly sank in. It remains to be seen who will be next for the new Mexican champion, but Askar Askarov is one contender who would make sense, having taken Moreno to a draw in 2019. In the meantime, the 27-year-old Moreno will get his first taste of superstardom as he returns to Tijuana as Mexico’s first-ever UFC champion.
UFC 263’s main event saw Kiwi, Israel Adesanya, taking on Italian, Marvin Vettori, in another rematch from a close fight that ended in a split decision victory for the Kiwi in 2018. Adesanya was bouncing back from his first professional loss when he moved up a division to challenge the light heavyweight champion earlier this year. However, there didn’t appear to be any doubt in the mind of the Kiwi as he unleashed a one-sided masterclass on the hopeful Italian.
It appeared Vettori’s main chance and obvious game plan was be to take Adesanya down and look to control him on the ground, as the light heavyweight champion had successfully done. Vettori managed to land a takedown relatively early in the first round, but Adesanya appeared to have made improvements on the ground and quickly escaped. The Kiwi had no issues controlling range with the fight back on the feet, hanging on the outside, and chewing Vettori’s lead leg up with nasty kicks. Vettori appeared to begin losing confidence in his ability to hit Adesanya which resulted in the Italian desperately shooting for takedowns.
By the third round, Adesanya’s leg kicks were starting to pay considerable dividends with Vettori no longer able to keep his weight on his lead leg. The Kiwi continued to demonstrate his arsenal of weapons, mixing up his attacks with question mark quicks and flying knee attempts. Vettori was looking increasingly exhausted and dejected in the fourth round as Adesanya began to find a home for his one-two down the middle. The Kiwi’s dominance became even more evident as he began showboating for the audience, pretending to be hurt by Vettori’s now negligible strike attempts. In the end, the Italian simply did not have any answers for the depth of attacks being thrown at him. Adesanya locked up a 50-45 unanimous decision on all three scorecards and came out of his third successful middleweight title defense relatively unscathed. UFC President, Dana White, has let it be known, his next fight will be another rematch against number one contender Australian, Robert Whittaker who has shown great form since his defeat to Adesanya in 2019.