Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona hosts UFC 263, in a card that is built around two rematches for the Middleweight and Flyweight titles. Fan favourite Nate Diaz returns to face England’s top prospect Leon Edwards and jiu jitsu sensation Demian Maia is back in action against a hungry Belal Muhammad. This card is packed top to bottom and is not to be missed. We focus on the main card for this weeks’ plays below.
The pair first met back in 2018 and Adesanya came out victorious by split decision. Vettori adamantly claims he won that bout, but I watched that fight live and multiple times since and still scratch my head as to how a judge awarded that fight to the Italian as I scored the first two rounds clearly for Adesanya. While their previous meeting should be used as a guide, both fighters have improved significantly since.
Adesanya suffered a defeat in his last outing as he attempted to become a double champ, falling to Polish powerhouse Jan Blachowicz. His takedown defense led to him losing that fight but what was odd about that fight was ‘The Last Stylebender’ had repelled many strong takedown attempts in his career previously but seemed stumped by the Pole. Vettori has notched up five straight wins since losing to Adesanya and despite personally believing the Italian needed another one or two wins before a title shot, he finds himself with the chance to earn UFC gold here. Adesanya is the more versatile striker with the ability to land one to the chin of Vettori who will be happy to chase Adesanya.
Vettori will likely secure a takedown or two if he does last the opening exchanges but I personally don’t think he will be able to hold him down, despite the ease that Adesanya was held down in his last fight. I confidently lean to Adesanya here and see him landing the knockout blow on the Italian within the first two rounds. Expect a dominant title defense by a ruthless Adesanya.
What a fight that first meeting was, and it has spurred on some genuine distaste between the two in the months following. Brandon Moreno took the champion to the brink and fell agonisingly short in what was one of the greatest Flyweight bouts you will ever see. Moreno is tough, relentless and an exceptional grappler. I am a massive fan of the Mexican, but I see this fight as likely an emphatic victory for the Brazilian.
I do not think Figueiredo could have been anywhere close to his peak last time he met Moreno due to the fight being a last-minute card saving booking. He still managed to go a hard 25 minutes with Moreno which showed that the weight and cardio issues that plagued him early in his career are completely in his past. Figueiredo will methodically hunt the Mexican and eventually put him away with a well-timed straight or hook in what will be a statement win.
This is my upset on the card as I am siding with the grappling ace Demian Maia. Admittedly I have always been biased towards Maia as I see him as one of the greatest fighters to never win the title, yet the odds on offer seem well overs. His single leg takedown chain wrestling into his jiu jitsu smothering style has beaten all but the absolute elite throughout his career.
Muhammad may have some decent wrestling, but I find it hard to see him stopping Maia’s takedowns and while he is no amateur on the mat, he is not near the level of Maia. The odds are very juicy for a fighter who has only lost to fighters who have either fought for the title or won a title. Expect Maia to land takedowns and secure enough control time to win by decision if he doesn’t put Muhammad to sleep before the end of the third.
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