The circumstances of Saturday night’s UFC 263 main event seem like they are out of a storybook, whether intentional or not. Just over three years back, Israel Adesanya fought to a split decision win over Marvin Vettori at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, USA. Now on Saturday night, with a title on the line, the middleweights will run it back at that exact same venue on the top of a pay-per-view card.
The fight for the UFC Middleweight Championship is just one of the many intriguing stories heading into UFC 263. This preview will break down everything to note about the card before it goes down on Saturday night.
Early Prelims (6:00PM EDT / 3:00PM PDT) (UFC Fight Pass)
Bout 1: Carlos Felipe (10-1) vs. Jake Collier (12-5) (Heavyweight)
A busy preliminary card will kick off with a heavyweight bout between Carlos Felipe and Jake Collier.
Felipe has earned two wins since losing his UFC debut last year. His last victory saw him defeat Justin Tafa in a split decision earlier this year. Collier, a former light heavyweight and even middleweight earned his first win since moving up to heavyweight in December, defeating Gian Villante.
Bout 2: Fares Ziam (11-3) vs. Luigi Vendramini (9-1) (Lightweight)
Both returning after their first UFC win, Fares Ziam and Luigi Vendramini will fight on the prelims.
Ziam bounced back from his UFC debut loss in October, fighting to a decision victory against Jamie Mullarkey.
Vendramini scored his first UFC win in just over a minute last year, stopping Jessin Ayari in the second minute of a bout with strikes. The fight was his return to action, as his previous bout dated back to 2018.
Bout 3: Steven Peterson (18-9) vs. Chase Hooper (10-1-1) (Featherweight)
Featherweights Steven Peterson and Chase Hooper will compete during Saturday’s prelims.
Hooper made a strong comeback in his last fight, battling back to secure a third-round heel hook victory over Peter Barrett at UFC 256. The fight put him back into the win column after losing to veteran Alex Caceres earlier in the year.
Peterson last fought in 2019, where he stopped Martin Bravo in the second round with a spinning backfist. The fight ended a two-fight skid that he was on earlier in the year.
Peterson missed weight for the fight, coming in two-and-a-half pounds over the non-championship limit at featherweight.
Bout 4: Matt Frevola (8-2-1) vs. Terrance McKinney (10-3) (Lightweight)
LFA vet Terrance McKinney will be making his UFC debut on short-notice when facing Matt Frevola on Saturday. He is taking the place of Frank Camacho, who reportedly withdrew from the fight earlier this week after being involved in a car crash.
McKinney is taking the UFC fight just two weeks after he won an LFA main event against Michael Irizarry. The quick win for McKinney scored him his third consecutive first-round victory.
Frevola will be returning after losing a unanimous decision to Arman Tsarukyan earlier this year.
Bout 5: Pannie Kianzad (14-5) vs. Alexis Davis (20-10) (Bantamweight)
The win streak of Pannie Kianzad will be tested by Alexis Davis as part of the prelims.
Kianzad has now won her past three fights, with her most recent bout being a decision victory against Sijara Eubanks in late 2020. Davis is coming off what could have been a must-win fight earlier this year, as she snapped a three-fight losing streak with a victory against Sabina Mazo.
Preliminary Card (8:00PM EDT / 5:00PM PDT) (ESPN / TSN 5)
Bout 6: Hakeem Dawodu (12-1-1) vs. Movsar Evloev (14-0) (Featherweight)
Undefeated featherweight Movsar Evloev will get a big fight on the prelims, as he will face Hakeem Dawodu.
Evloev, a former M-1 Bantamweight Champion, has only been successful since joining the UFC roster in 2019. He notched his fourth victory in the promotion in January, fighting to a split decision victory over now-retired veteran Nik Lentz.
Dawodu is also on a tear, having won his last five fights in the UFC. His last bout was in September, where he was favoured on scorecards after a close battle against Zubaira Tukhugov.
Bout 7: Lauren Murphy (14-4) vs. Joanne Calderwood (15-5) (Flyweight)
Ranked flyweights Lauren Murphy and Joanne Calderwood will meet on the prelims.
Murphy had a strong 2020, scoring three wins in the year. After starting the year with decision wins over Andre Lee and Roxanne Modafferi, she finished the year with a submission over short-notice opponent Liliya Shakirova.
Calderwood was targeted as a title challenger in 2020, although her title fight was cancelled after Valentina Shevchenko had to withdraw due to injury. Her title challenger status was taken from her later in the year, as Jennifer Maia submitted her within a round with an armbar.
Calderwood has since returned to the win column with a win over Jessica Eye this year.
Bout 8: Eryk Anders (13-5) vs. Darren Stewart (12-6) (Light Heavyweight)
Middleweights Eryk Anders and Darren Stewart will move up a weight class and meet at light heavyweight on Saturday.
Anders and Stewart are fighting in a rematch, as they met three months ago on a UFC “Fight Night” card. That bout was finished within a round with a no contest status due to an illegal knee that Anders threw.
A win for either fighter will be their first in nearly a year’s time.
Bout 9: Drew Dober (23-10) vs. Brad Riddell (9-1) (Lightweight)
The preliminary card will conclude with a lightweight fight between Drew Dober and Brad Riddell.
Dober had a strong three-fight run of wins stopped in March, as Islam Makhachev submitted him in the third round of a fight with an arm triangle. Prior to then he had notable finish wins against Nasrat Haqparast and Alexander Hernandez.
Riddell has been undefeated since joining the UFC roster. He earned his third promotional victory in September, defeating Alex da Silva.
Main Card (10:00PM EDT / 7:00PM PDT) (PPV)
Bout 10: Paul Craig (14-4-1) vs. Jamahal Hill (8-0) (Light Heavyweight)
Looking to continue his undefeated run as a pro, Jamahal Hill will face Paul Craig in the opening bout of the main card.
Hill added a veteran name in Ovince St. Preux to his win streak late last year, stopping him in the second round with punches. Hill only has two UFC wins on record, with a third being invalidated due to a drug test that detected marijuana last year.
Craig has been undefeated in his past four fights, earning three wins and one draw. Most recently, Craig rematched Mauricio Rua and finished him in the second round with strikes.
Bout 11: Demian Maia (28-10) vs. Belal Muhammad (18-3) (Welterweight)
Rising welterweight Belal Muhammad will look to continue his rise up the division when facing experienced fighter Demian Maia.
Muhammad has gone undefeated since mid-2019, going on a four-fight tear in that time. His last win was a unanimous decision nod over Dhiego Lima in February.
Muhammad’s last fight finished due to a no contest in March, as an accidental eye poke called an end to the bout in the second round. Unfortunately, the fight was the first main event appearance in Muhammad’s UFC career.
Maia’s last fight was over a year ago, where Gilbert Burns stopped him quickly in the first round. The fight was part of a quick climb up the rankings for Burns which culminated in a title shot last year.
Bout 12: Leon Edwards (18-3) vs. Nate Diaz (20-12) (Welterweight)
Welterweights Leon Edwards and Nate Diaz will make history on Saturday night. For the first time in UFC history, they will be a five-round fight on a UFC card that is not the main event or a title fight.
Such an honour is a footnote for both fighters, as they have large accomplished careers in the sport. Diaz has competed in the UFC since 2007 and has been a fan favourite due to his fight style. He has become somewhat of an enigma in recent years, having only competed twice since 2016.
His last fight was in late 2019, where a fight against Jorge Masvidal was stopped unceremoniously due to a cut.
Edwards is currently on a fast climb up the welterweight division and is considered one of the top contenders for the weight class. He has been undefeated since 2015, having scored eight wins since then. Unfortunately, circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic have kept him out of the cage throughout 2020, with two bookings in the year being cancelled.
To make matters worse, his return in March against Belal Muhammad finished in a no contest due to an accidental eye poke.
Bout 13: Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1-1) vs. Brandon Moreno (18-5-2) (UFC Flyweight Championship)
Six months after their first meeting, Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno will rematch in the co-main event of Saturday’s card.
Moreno was given a UFC Flyweight title shot in December of 2020, just weeks after he defeated Brandon Royval to cement himself as the next title challenger. The fight was put together on short notice to fill a spot on a pay-per-view card, as a bantamweight title fight for the card fell through.
Moreno put together an impressive performance in the bout, fighting a fast pace against Figueiredo and walking away with a majority draw. Figueiredo retained the belt and stated afterwards that an illness throughout the week had hurt his performance.
Now with complete fight camps and hopefully no illnesses, the flyweights will get a second chance to duke it out on Saturday night.
Bout 14: Israel Adesanya (20-1) vs. Marvin Vettori (17-3-1) (UFC Middleweight Championship)
Making the move back down to his main division, UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya will fight Marvin Vettori in the main event of UFC 263.
Adesanya is returning to middleweight after a failed push at light heavyweight, losing to current champ Jan Blachowicz in March. The fight was Adesanya’s first pro loss through 21 bouts.
Adesanya has been nothing short of dominant at middleweight, having attained nine wins since joining the roster in 2018. He earned his belt in 2019 with a stoppage win against Robert Whittaker, and has since defended it against Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa.
Vettori’s last loss was all the way in 2018 when Adesanya beat him via split decision on a UFC “Fight Night” show. He has went undefeated since then and picked up wins against big names. Vettori has notably fought three times in the past year, defeating big names in the division like Karl Roberson, Jack Hermansson and Kevin Holland.
The two latter names were in five-round fights, to which both when all five rounds. Vettori has made himself a fair name to challenge Adesanya, but he is facing a champion who is returning to a division with something to prove.