UFC 263 Preview

A packed card full of talent will set sail for Glendale, Arizona as UFC offers it’s latest installment this Saturday, June 12. Two rematches will headline the event, Israel Adesanya defends his middleweight strap against Marvin Vettori. The co-main event features another rematch in the flyweight division, Deiveson Figueiredo defends his title against Brandon Moreno. Nate Diaz returns to action to take on top contender Leon Edwards in what will be the very first non-title, non-headliner five round fight in the UFC. I’m going to break down those fights, and the rest of the card right here, right now.

Israel Adesanya comes into this title defence undefeated in the 185-pound division. Fresh on everyone’s mind coming into this fight is Izzy’s last fight, a defeat to light-heavyweight champion Jan Błachowicz. Izzy found himself outstruck and out-grappled for big portions of that fight and it will be his job to put on a big performance and put the memories of that contest in the rear view mirror when he steps in to take on Marvin Vettori.

Vettori, with a win, can create history as being the first Italian fighter to win a title in UFC history. In order to do that he will need to make some big adjustments from what he did the first time both of these athletes shared the cage. Marvin Vettori seems convinced that he was robbed of a victory when he fought Adesanya at UFC on FOX 29. I for one do not see that argument. I scored that fight for Izzy and it was an easy shout to make. Izzy used his feints excelently, he had Vettori static for the majority of the fight. The Italian was successful in round three with a takedown but he wasn’t able to garner much offence once the fight hit the mat.

One thing that Adesanya said after that fight was that he was surprised at the head movement of his opponent in that fight. He will be prepared for that movement coming into this fight. Both fighters will have leveled up coming into this battle but the fighter who has made the most progression in my opinion is the champion. Vettori’s best win to date is Jack Hermannsson, the Italian put in a dominant performance in his last outing against Kevin Holland but facing Israel Adesanya is different gravy. This is the perfect fight for Izzy to come in and remind everyone that he is the king of the middleweight division, and he is hear to stay. I feel that the champion will be looking to make a big statement and will try to finish his rival to leave zero doubt in the mind’s of the MMA community. True champion’s plough through adversity and the New Zealander has a big opportunity to make his star shine once again.

Before the main event we get to wet our beaks with another scintillating rematch in the flyweight division. Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno is a rehash of the classic fight that both of these warriors had with each other at the tail end of last year. A couple of standout points come to mind when I think back on that fight. The first being that the unintentional low blow that landed on Moreno played a huge part in how this fight was scored. Without that we were looking at a unanimous decision victory for the champion. The other point, and I feel this is a big one, is that Figueiredo had to cut weight and compete two times in 21 days.

The Brazilian has had his fair share on weight cutting issues in the past. The fact that the UFC put all of this effort in building back the status of the 125-pound division, manufacturing a dominant champion, only to go and make him defend his title twice in 21 days. I thought that was absolutely ludicrous. We did not see Figgy perform anywhere near his best in that first Moreno fight. This time around we will see a fully charged Figueredo and he’ll come armed with a game plan and the experience of sharing the cage with his opponent for 25 minutes.

All credit must go to Brandon Moreno for fighting a brilliant fight in their first encounter. He took that fight on 21 days notice too having fought on that UFC 255 card when Figgy beat Alex Perez. I can’t see the Mexican fighter lasting the distance this time around. Moreno toughness will stand to him but the champion is a much more well rounded fighter in all aspects and i think we will see solid proof on that in this co-main event. Moreno needs to fight a super scrappy fight and he must avoid going tit-for-tat with his rival on the feet. That will be bad news for the challenger. I love the flyweight and I’m always excited to see them get their deserved spotlight. All eyes will be on this contest and I’m looking forward to seeing how the fight unfolds.

Nate Diaz will share the octagon with UK standout Leon Edwards in what will be the first five round fight that isn’t a main event or title shot. The Stockton man will gamble on himself, like he has done past, to come in after a long lay-off and take everything that Leon Edwards has worked for. You would have to think the winner of this fight will surely be in line for the next shot at Kamaru Usman’s belt. Edwards is on a 8-fight win streak and a win would make it next to impossible for him not to get his chance at winning gold. A win for Diaz would only see him on a one-fight win streak but his star power alone would see him slot in a the next challenger for the 170-pound crown.

The latter of both scenarios seems more unlikely as I feel this is a horrible match-up for Diaz. Can he do it? The answer is yes, but it won’t be easy. Edwards all round game is rock solid, he’s been the more active of both fighters and he is hungry as he feels he earned his shot already and he’s not willing to let Diaz snatch that away from him. Diaz looked a little slower in his last fight with Jorge Masvidal, and before that fight got stopped because of the massive cut on Diaz’s brow. The writing was on the wall but the doctor called a halt to the fight before anything could be set in stone.

That scar tissue, and the fact that Diaz can be cut easy will certainly be on both fighters minds coming into this fight. For Diaz the smart move it to fight at range and keep out of the clinch game of Edwards. The Birmingham man is lethal with his elbow in the clinch and has had big success in past fights landing huge elbows coming out of the clinch too. Targeting that scar tissue around the eyes of Diaz is a must for Edwards coming into this fight. For Diaz, he needs to fight behind his jab and land those long straight punches, if he can manage to do that and keep Leon off him we will have a very interesting fight on our hands.

Ok, let’s take a breath for a minute shall we? Nah, the action keeps-a-coming. BJJ wizard will fight his (supposed) retirement fight when he makes the walk to take on Belal Muhammad in the welterweight divison. Muhammad took on Leon Edwards in his last fight but the rug was pulled from underneath him as he suffered an eye poke and could not continue. He stepped in at short notice to save that card and he has been rewarded with a main event slot against a tough opponent but you have to feel he has enough in him to take the win here. Maia is in the twilight of his MMA career and will be dangerous in the early exchanges. If Muhammad can get his rival moving backwards and fend off the takedown he should be the one getting his hand raised at the end of the fight.

Jamahal Hill will take on Paul Craig in the opening bout of the main card. Craig, who is from is undefeated in his last four bouts, he forced MMA legend Shogun Rua to tap from strikes on his last trip to the cage. Hill is undefeated in his professional career and his dominant win over Ovince St. Preux looked promising. A big win and even a finish in this fight would see him jump right into the title picture.

Drew Dober and Brad Riddell will headline the prelims section of the card. Both lightweight are not shy about loading up on big shots, I can see this encounter being a real firefight with all the ingredients of an exciting battle. I will be surprised if this fight goes the distance. Eryk Anders and Darren Stewart will rematch in the middleweight division. Their first fight had plenty of action, both fighter were hurt, Anders was enroute to a TKO victory before his landed an illegal knee and the fight was called a NC inside round one.

Lauren Murphy and Joanne Calderwood will go to battle in the women’s flyweight division. The winner of that fight could be next in line for a shot at Valentina Shevchenko’s world title. Undefeated Russian prospect Movsar Evloev will take on Canadian stand-up specialist Hakeem Dawodu in the featherweight division. That fight opens up the prelims card and that will be a classic striker vs. grappler matchup.

Onto the early prelims where we unfortunately lost a matchup between Matt Frevola and Frank Camacho. Camacho was involved in a car accident earlier this week, we wish him a speedy recovery. The early prelims do still have a couple of interesting fights taking place.

Pannie Kianzad and Alexis Davis will go toe-to-toe in the women’s bantamweight division. Rising prospects Chase Hooper will look to make it two wins in a row when he locks horns with Steven Peterson in the 145-pound division. Fares Ziam will face off against Luigi Vendramini in the kightweight division and a heavyweight slugfest will kick things off when Carlos Felipe takes on Jake Collier.

Fantastic night of fights, I hope you all enjoy the action.

Main card (BT Sports / ESPN+, 10pm, ET)

Middleweight: Israel Adesanya (20-1) vs. Marvin Vettori (17-3-1)
Flyweight: Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1-1) vs. Brandon Moreno (18-5-2)
Welterweight: Leon Edwards (18-3) vs. Nate Diaz (20-12)
Welterweight: Demian Maia (28-10) vs. Belal Muhammad (18-3)
Light Heavyweight: Paul Craig (14-4-1) vs. Jamahal Hill (8-0)

Preliminary card (BT Sports / ESPN+, 8pm ET)

Lightweight: Drew Dober (23-10) vs. Brad Riddell (9-1)
Light Heavyweight: Eryk Anders (13-5) vs. Darren Stewart (12-6)
Women’s Flyweight: Lauren Murphy (14-4) vs. Joanne Calderwood (15-5)
Featherweight: Movsar Evloev (14-0) vs. Hakeem Dawodu (12-1-1)

Early preliminary card (ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass, 6pm ET)

Women’s Bantamweight: Pannie Kianzad (14-5) vs. Alexis Davis (20-10)
Featherweight: Chase Hooper (10-1-1) vs. Steven Peterson (18-9)
Lightweight: Fares Ziam (11-3) vs. Luigi Vendramini (9-1)
Heavyweight: Carlos Felipe (10-1) vs. Jake Collier (12-5)

Ian O'Neill is the host of the SevereMMA UFC Preview show and one of the co-hosts of The Auld Triangle - Irish MMA podcast. You can find more of Ian's work on the SevereMMA Patreon where he co-hosts The Chasing Pack and The Contender. Follow him on Twitter and on Instagram @ioneillmma

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