UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya will make a return to his home division on Saturday night, facing Marvin Vettori in the main event of UFC 263. The rematch comes on a storybook-style stage, as they will compete at the same venue they first met at in 2018: the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, USA.
The bout headlines a busy 14-fight card that also includes a rematch between UFC Flyweight Champion Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno.
Follow along throughout the evening for updates on the event.
Early Prelims (6:00PM EDT / 3:00PM PDT) (UFC Fight Pass)
Preliminary Card (8:00PM EDT / 5:00PM PDT) (ESPN / TSN 5)
Main Card (10:00PM EDT / 7:00PM PDT) (PPV)
Bout 14: Israel Adesanya (20-1) vs. Marvin Vettori (17-3-1) (UFC Middleweight Championship)
UFC Champ Adesanya Sweeps Scorecards Against Vettori In Return To Middleweight
Israel Adesanya showed a return to form in the main event of UFC 263, fighting a well-rounded performance against Marvin Vettori to defend his UFC Middleweight Championship via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45 & 50-45).
Vettori would at moments pose challenges for Adesanya, although he would pick them apart and eventually take full control of the bout in the late rounds.
Vettori secured a takedown in the second minute of the fight, catching a leg kick of Adesanya to put him on his back. Adesanya was able to quickly emerge from the position and out-land Vettori later in the round.
Vettori walked Adesanya down in the second round, although it was the champ that had a higher output and connection rate. Adesanya displayed his ability to defend takedowns in the round, stopping many slow attempts by Vettori.
Vettori scored a takedown early in the third round, taking half guard on top afterward. Adesanya tried to explode out of the position in the fourth minute, but that allowed Vettori to take his back and attempt a rear naked choke. The champ eventually left this position, taking full guard on top.
Adesanya continued to land leg kicks in the third round, which caused visible damage to Vettori and dropped him at one point. The leg kicks only continued in the fourth and fifth rounds and mostly went uncontested by Vettori.
After his win, Adesanya dedicated his fight to Fau Vake, a City Kickboxing fighter who passed away earlier in the year after suffering an attack in New Zealand.
“Even in his last sparring with me, he whooped my a**,” said Adesanya about Vake. Fellow training partner Brad Riddell mentioned Vake on the undercard of the show as well.
The main event on Saturday night was a rematch years in the making.
Adesanya and Vettori first met back in 2018 in the same venue as UFC’s pay-per-view event on Saturday night. In that meeting, Adesanya scored a split decision victory in a three-round fight, continuing his climb towards a title shot.
Adesanya called for a rematch against former champ Robert Whittaker following his win.
“I don’t know what the f*** is gonna happen with this COVID[-19] s***, but we gotta run this back in Auckland,” said Adesanya, mentioning that their first meeting was in Whittaker’s home country of Australia.
Prior to Saturday, Adesanya had defended his belt twice since earning it off Robert Whittaker in 2019. He was returning to the division after taking his first pro loss, as he lost a bout earlier this year to UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jan Blachowicz.
Bout 13: Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1-1) vs. Brandon Moreno (18-5-2) (UFC Flyweight Championship)
Moreno Closes Out Championship Performance With Rear Naked Choke
Brandon Moreno closed out a dominant performance against Deiveson Figueiredo with a rear naked choke in the third round to become the new UFC Flyweight Champion. The rematch victory came in the co-main event of UFC 263 on Saturday.
Moreno took the back of Figueiredo in the third round, attempting a partially blocked rear naked choke from the position. After letting go of the choke and landing some punches, Moreno applied the choke under the chin of Figueiredo, forcing the tap and ending the fight.
The finish win came after two strong rounds by the 27-year-old challenger.
Moreno scored a knockdown in the fourth minute of action with a combination of punches. Figueiredo stayed on the ground for a moment afterward but was able to get back to his feet before the round concluded.
Figueiredo secured a takedown early in the second round, although Moreno was able to return to the feet in the third minute of the frame. Moreno scored a takedown in the second half of the round. He looked to take the back of Figueiredo while going down but instead settled with full guard.
Moreno is now a UFC champion after 11 UFC fights and two championship bouts.
“I worked so hard for this man,” said an emotional Moreno in his post-fight interview.
Figueiredo and Moreno had first met in December, where their bout concluded in a draw. The close fight, which some considered one of the top fights of 2020, came with many things to take note of. Most importantly, both fighters took the fight on short notice just weeks after both fighting on the same card in November.
Figueiredo faced a point deduction in the fight, and he noted afterward that he battled an illness during fight week which hurt his ability.
Figueiredo had previously last defended his belt in November, stopping Alex Perez within a round with a guillotine choke.
Bout 12: Leon Edwards (18-3) vs. Nate Diaz (20-12) (Welterweight)
Edwards Showcases Skills Against Diaz In Real Return To The Cage
Leon Edwards had a solid five-round performance on Saturday, defeating MMA veteran Nate Diaz via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46 & 49-46).
Diaz showed his usual toughness and conditioning in the bout and had flashes of brilliance, although the majority of action saw Edwards shine.
The fight started slow, as the highlight of the first round saw Edwards secure a takedown. Edwards scored with numerous leg kicks in the second round, with the accumulation of them starting to show visible damage late in the frame.
Diaz was cut many times on his head in the third round due to elbows landed by Edwards.
Edwards hurt Diaz greatly for the first time in the fourth round, connecting with a left hand that rocked him.
Diaz’s best moment came in the closing moments of the fight, as he wobbled Edwards and had him backtracking due to punches.
Edwards mentioned afterward that he was clearly hurt at that moment.
“I’ve been wobbled probably once [before] in my career, so fair play to him,” said Edwards in his post-fight interview
The fight made UFC history, as it was the first time that a five-round fight was on a card that was not a main event or a championship bout.
The fight was only Diaz’s third appearance since 2016. His last bout was in late 2019, where a doctor stoppage took him out of a fight against Jorge Masvidal in the third round.
The win continued what has been a multi-year campaign in the welterweight division for Edwards, as he has been undefeated since 2016 with eight wins. The victory on Saturday was his third time going five rounds since joining the UFC.
The win on Saturday was his official return to the cage after what any could have considered a false start months ago.
Edwards had been out of the cage for the entirety of 2020 due to many fights being cancelled due to COVID-19. His return earlier this year finished in a no contest against Belal Muhammad, as it was stopped in the second round due to an accidental eye poke.
Bout 11: Demian Maia (28-10) vs. Belal Muhammad (18-3) (Welterweight)
Muhammad Continues Climb Up Welterweight Rankings With Win Over Maia
Belal Muhammad scored a win against a big name in veteran Demian Maia on the main card, defeating him via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28 & 29-28).
Maia’s first round was his best, as he was able to secure takedowns over Muhammad.
Muhammad was able to stop takedowns later in the fight, resisting numerous attempts in the second and third rounds. When on the feet he was able to land strikes that never put Maia in danger but put him behind on scorecards.
The win continued what has been a strong rise up the welterweight division for Muhammad as of late. The 32-year-old now has five wins in his last six bouts, with the other performance being a no contest due to an accidental eye poke.
Maia was competing for the first time in a year. His last fight was in March of 2020, where Gilbert Burns stopped him within a round. He had three consecutive wins prior to then.
Bout 10: Paul Craig (14-4-1) vs. Jamahal Hill (8-0) (Light Heavyweight)
Craig Injures Hill, Finishes Him With Strikes
Paul Craig handed Jamahal Hill his first pro loss in a gruesome fashion on Saturday, injuring his arm and landing strikes on the ground in the first round.
Craig was able to injure an arm of Hill while on the ground, physically disjointing it with his grappling skills. It became clear early on that Hill’s arm was hurt due to the unusual way it was moving. Craig then landed hammerfist punches on his back while trapping Hill in a triangle position, causing the referee to eventually end the fight.
The fight went to the ground after Craig pulled guard early on.
Craig has now gone undefeated through his last five fights, having won four of them. His two previous wins were finished within two rounds either by stoppage or submission.
Hill was undefeated in the UFC with two wins prior to Saturday. His record would have been three if not for a fight in 2020 that was overturned due to a drug test that detected marijuana.
Bout 9: Drew Dober (23-10) vs. Brad Riddell (9-1) (Lightweight)
Riddell Preserves Undefeated UFC Run Following Back-And-Forth Battle Against Dober
Brad Riddell prevailed in a back-and-forth battle on the prelims, defeating Drew Dober via unanimous decision after three rounds (29-28, 29-28 & 29-28). The close battle saw both fighters get hurt with strikes but use their wrestling to recover.
Dober had a strong start to the fight, as he hurt Riddell in the second minute with punches. Riddell was later able to recover, using wrestling to buy himself time. They both landed hard punches later in the round that landed clean did damage to each other.
Both fighters started to utilize wrestling in the second round. Like the round before, they both engaged in exchanges where they landed clean with hard shots.
Riddell was able to hurt Dober with a right hook early in the third round, causing him to shoot for takedowns. Dober was stunned again by punches in the final minute of the fight, but took the fight to the ground to give him time to recover. Riddell finished the fight on a high note, taking the crucifix position on Dober as they ran out of time.
Riddell is now undefeated in the UFC through four fights. His previous win in the promotion was in September, where he scored a decision win against Alex da Silva.
Riddell dedicated his fight to City Kickboxing fighter Fau Vake, who passed away last month after being attacked in Auckland, New Zealand.
Dober was finished in his previous fight, getting submitted in by Islam Makhachev.
Bout 8: Eryk Anders (13-5) vs. Darren Stewart (12-6) (Light Heavyweight)
Anders Gets Decision Win Over Stewart In Rematch
Eryk Anders scored a win in his rematch against Darren Stewart, defeating him via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27 & 29-27).
Stewart had a good start to the fight, although Anders was able to come back and eventually earn the win.
Stewart was able to score a takedown in the opening round. Anders had a much better second round, landing strikes on the feet in clinch positions.
Stewart scored a takedown in the final round, although Anders was quick to reverse the position and take half guard on top. Anders finished the round strong, throwing punches to the head of Stewart as he returned to his feet.
The fight was made after the initial meeting between Anders and Stewart finished unceremoniously in March due to an illegal knee landed in the first round. That bout was finished in a no contest due to the knee.
Both fighters made the move up to light heavyweight for the fight on Saturday.
Anders returned to the win column after being out of it for the past year.
Bout 7: Lauren Murphy (14-4) vs. Joanne Calderwood (15-5) (Flyweight)
Murphy Earns Split Decision Over Calderwood To Continue Run
Lauren Murphy used her striking and takedown skills to get the split decision nod over Joanne Calderwood (29-28 Murphy, 29-28 Calderwood & 29-28 Murphy).
Calderwood had a strong first round in the fight, showing a variety of strikes that landed. Murphy’s best round was the second, as she was able to keep Calderwood down with her wrestling.
The fight returned to the feet in the final round, where the fighters were in a close back-and-forth battle.
The victory earned Murphy her fifth win streak in the UFC. She has gained momentum quickly, as her success only started in 2019.
Calderwood was looking to score her second win in the year, as she had defeated Jessica Eye via decision in January.
Bout 6: Hakeem Dawodu (12-1-1) vs. Movsar Evloev (14-0) (Featherweight)
Evloev Extends Undefeated Run With Win Over Dawodu
Movsar Evloev earned a big victory to continue his undefeated record on the prelims, defeating Hakeem Dawodu via unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27 & 29-27).
Evloev showed his aggressive wrestling in the first two rounds, absolutely controlling Dawodu in both frames. He scored many takedowns in the fight, putting down control time after each one.
The final round saw the most stand-up striking time, with the majority of the frame being on the feet.
Dawodu’s best opening was late in the final round where he visibly hurt Evloev with punches. This momentum was later stopped by Evloev, as he used his wrestling to put a complete end to Dawodu’s striking.
Evloev, a former M-1 Featherweight Champion, now has five wins in the UFC. Previous wins saw him go the distance against names like Nik Lentz and Mike Grundy.
The loss called an end to Dawodu’s five-fight win streak. His most recent fight in the run was in September, where he scored a split decision win over Zubaira Tukhugov.
Bout 5: Pannie Kianzad (14-5) vs. Alexis Davis (20-10) (Bantamweight)
Kianzad Advances Win Streak To Four With Decision Nod
Pannie Kianzad extended her win streak to four consecutive on the prelims, defeating Alexis Davis via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27 & 29-28).
Kianzad was given the scorecard win after a fast-paced pure striking battle on the feet through five rounds.
Following her win, Kianzad called out Raquel Pennington, asking for a match in August.
Kianzad went to scorecards in her three previous appearances, defeating Jessica-Rose Clark, Bethe Correia and Sijara Eubanks.
Davis has now lost four of her last five bouts. She prevailed in a potential must-win bout earlier this year, snapping a three-fight skid with a win over Sabina Mazo.
Bout 4: Matt Frevola (8-2-1) vs. Terrance McKinney (10-3) (Lightweight)
UFC Newcomer McKinney Wins Debut In Seconds
Short notice lightweight Terrance McKinney had an explosive UFC debut on the prelims, finishing Matt Frevola in just seven seconds with strikes.
McKinney dropped Frevola in the opening seconds of the fight, flooring him with a combination of a right hand and a left cross. The referee stopped after some hammerfist strikes were landed by McKinney to a grounded Frevola.
McKinney seemingly hurt himself after the fight, hurting one of his knees while jumping in celebration.
McKinney took the fight on short notice, replacing Frank Camacho, who had to pull out of his fight due to a car accident. He was taking a quick turnaround in the fight, as he won in the main event of an LFA card against Michael Irizarry. just earlier this month.
Frevola was looking to bounce back from a loss he took earlier this year to Arman Tsarukyan.
Bout 3: Steven Peterson (18-9) vs. Chase Hooper (10-1-1) (Featherweight)
Peterson Takes Decision Win Over Hooper In Return
Steven Peterson was successful in his return to the octagon on Saturday, fighting to a unanimous decision victory over young prospect Chase Hooper. (30-27, 30-27 & 29-28).
Hooper was persistent on getting the fight to the ground early on, shooting for numerous takedowns and landing many. Peterson was able to stop many attempts or earn the dominant position on the ground after the takedown was shot on him.
Peterson notched large amounts of control time in the second and third round, putting together numerous minutes on top in full guard. In these positions, he was able to attempt submissions and grind away with ground and pound.
Peterson missed weight for the fight, coming in two-and-a-half pounds over the non-championship limit at featherweight.
Hooper made a big comeback in his previous bout, battling back against Peter Barrett to submit him in the third round with a heel hook.
The fight on Saturday was Peterson’s first since 2019. He snapped a two-fight skid in his last fight, defeating Martin Bravo nearly two years back.
Bout 2: Fares Ziam (11-3) vs. Luigi Vendramini (9-1) (Lightweight)
Ziam Escapes Late Trouble For Decision Win
Evading late danger in a three-round fight, Fares Ziam walked away with a majority decision victory over Luigi Vendramini (29-28 Ziam, 29-28 Ziam & 28-28).
Ziam had a strong start to the fight, establishing his jab throughout the opening frame. Vendramini looked to close the distance in the second round, coming forward with punches and clinches, although Ziam was not in danger during the round and was able to continue with his own attacks.
Vendramini was able to hurt Ziam early in the final round, charging forward with strikes that wobbled dropped him. He was then able to control Ziam on the ground for numerous minutes.
Both fighters were returning to the cage after scoring their first UFC win in their previous appearance.
Ziam fought to scorecards against Jamie Mullarkey in October for his first UFC win.
Vendramini scored a quick win last year, stopping Jessin Ayari in the second round of a fight with strikes. The bout was his first appearance in two years.
Bout 1: Carlos Felipe (10-1) vs. Jake Collier (12-5) (Heavyweight)
Felipe Moves Win Streak To Three Consecutive
The strong cardio and striking ability of Carlos Felipe earned him a split decision victory over Jake Collier to open the card (29-28 Collier, 29-28 Felipe & 29-28 Felipe).
Both heavyweights worked a fast pace early in the fight, trading with a high volume of punches. Collier’s pace started to wane in the second round as Felipe continued to press forward and start to out-land him.
Felipe is now on a three-fight win streak. His previous wins in the ongoing run saw him defeat Justin Tafa and Yorgan De Castro in the past year.
Collier, a former middleweight and light heavyweight, was entering the bout following a scorecard win late last year over Gian Villante. The fight was his first win since moving up to heavyweight.