The UFC is back in action with an absolutely stacked PPV card, featuring two title fights and the return of Nate Diaz. The headliners are one of those title fights, as Israel Adesanya and Marvin Vettori collide for the second time. The first fight saw the judges award Adesanya a split decision win, as well as a blueprint to beating the future Middleweight king. With the animosity between the two all week at a high, the anticipation for this fight is through the roof. The second title fight is also a rematch, as Champion Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno will look to get a result this time around – with the last fight resulting in a draw. The first fight between these two was an absolute banger, could a second instant classic be in store? Lastly, needle mover and fan favorite Nate Diaz returns to octagon against legitimate Welterweight title contender Leon Edwards, Given this fight is five rounds, which is odd given it’s not the headliner, I would be inclined to say the winner is getting a title shot against Kamaru Usman. With excellent fights all over this card, I’d advise not to blink.
UFC 263 PPV Main Card On ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
185 lbs.: UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya vs. Marvin Vettori 2 – When envisioning this fight, I see three different scenario’s. One, Marvin Vettori realizes his dream as the first ever Italian UFC Champion. Using wrestling throughout the fight, he neutralizes Israell Adesanya. Two, Adesanya comes out like a demon and force Vettori into a striking contest, ultimately landing a counter blow that rocks and puts down the Italian. Three, Vettori eats everything Adesanya has and they go back-and-forth in an instant classic – however Vettori’s timely takedowns aids him to an upset. Given I have two scenario’s in which I envision Vettori winning, you’d think that would be the scenario I go with. Wrong. I believe that the animosity of this fight is going to get to open up Vettori to being vulnerable. It might not happen early, but I do believe a finish by Adesanya will happen. Let’s say fourth round TKO.
125 lbs.: UFC Flyweight Champion Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno 2 – While the first fight is everything I expected, I actually don’t think the second fight will be a five round war. I believe that Deiveson Figueiredo will finish Brandon Moreno this time around. Not because Moreno is a lesser fighter or his durability I question, as his chin is truly made of iron. I just believe that the weight cut on three weeks notice, was way to much to ask Figueiredo to do. For a guy with a frame like his, and him admitting to weighing 143 pounds at fight night, it’s only a matter of time before he should go up to Bantamweight. Now, he was the last fighter at weigh-ins and needed to strip down naked to weigh-in. So there is concern there, but in my eyes, the less than three weeks fight cut is worse. I guess we’ll see. But my prediction still stands, Figgy retains the Flyweight title with a knockout victory over Moreno.
170 lbs.: Leon Edwards vs. Nate Diaz – The fact that this fight is five rounds, actually makes me lean Nate Diaz. If it were three, it would be hard to see Leon Edwards lose, given his background, momentum and just Diaz’s past problems against wrestlers. However, those additional two rounds could be problematic. Not because Edwards hasn’t gone five rounds (twice), but because of all the head games that Diaz brings to the table. Throw in the crowd heavily favoring Diaz and it could be enough to make Edwards show moments of recklessness. Then again, Edwards has been nothing short of brilliant in the UFC. He also seems laser focused and even in the lead up to this fight, has shown nothing mentally that would cause you to be worried. Perhaps, I’m thinking too much into this and should just pick Edwards. But the hell with that, give me 209’s Diaz to win via decision.
170 lbs.: Demian Maia vs. Belal Muhammad – This fight is a tough one to predict. We all know how talented both men are, it’s just a matter if Demian Maia has anything left in the tank at 44 years old. We know that Belal Muhammad is a workhorse, who mixes in his striking and wrestling excellently throughout a fight. With solid cardio and pace, Muhammad can grind opponents out for three rounds with no problem. Before his last fight against Leon Edwards, which ended in a no contest due to an eye poke, Muhammad had won four in a row and eight of his last nine. While a rematch against Edwards should of realistically happened, Muhammad deserved nothing less than high caliber in his next fight. He certainly got it, as Maia currently is second in UFC wins All-time to Donald Cerrone.
As for a prediction, give me Maia. This prediction might flame out on me, but his last opponent in Gilbert Burns was one of the worst fights he could of taken. Burns not only too is a wizard on the ground, but his striking and power have become legitimate. Muhammad doesn’t have the power to knock Maia out, which should give the Brazilian more time to implement his game. Throw in the fact that Muhammad has yet to face a legitimate wrestler/grappler besides Leon Edwards, and there is an area of unknown in his takedown defense. So with that, I’m banking on Maia strength to pull out the upset via submission.
205 lbs.: Paul Craig vs. Jamahal Hill – Pending Paul Craig pulls off some incredible submission, I don’t see him winning this fight. I don’t even see him making out of the first round. Craig has toppled three times in the first round before to strikers, make it four. Jamahal Hill looks to be the future at 205, and I see Craig as a stepping stone to getting him a top ten fight next. So with that, give me Hill to win via first round knockout.
UFC 263 ‘Prelims’ Card On ESPN/ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Drew Dober vs. Brad Riddell – The UFC gets it right with matchmaking sometimes and this is one of those times. With Fight of the Night written all over this, I expect an absolute battle on the feet. That is if neither pulls out the wrestling card on each other, something that clearly they have had trouble against. Anyways, let’s not think negative thoughts. Let’s see this fight as a striking classic, one in which I have Drew Dober winning. Since 2016, Dober has won eight of his last eleven fights, knocking out five opponents in the process. A change in camps has resulted in a transformation that has turned Dober into a high volume striker, with excellent cardio and legit knockout power.
Now, Brad Riddell is an excellent striker himself. He too offers volume, but doesn’t have the power to disrupt the fight on the feet. Dober does. I also believe, even though I don’t want too, that Dober will mix in some takedowns. Riddell has shown a strong ability to pop back up, but a clear lack of cardio when fighting off takedowns has come with that. Dober, being as conditioned as is would take advantage of that situation – one I do envision. So with that, I have Drew Dober winning via TKO.
205 lbs.: Eryk Anders vs. Darren Stewart – The first fight between the two, I picked Darren Stewart. With the knowledge of seeing Eryk Anders dominate Stewart, only to halt the bout via illegal knee, I’m still siding with Stewart. The one concern I have is that this fight is at Light Heavyweight, so the naturally bigger man in Anders could be even scarier not having to cut the extra 20 pounds. The reason I’m going with Stewart is that he is the more consistent fighter. Anders has popped before in fights, and also laid an egg other times.
If Anders 2.0 comes out again in this fight, the Middleweight or Light Heavyweight division might have itself a problem. If not, I expect the solid takedown defense, cardio, sneaky wrestling and power of Stewart to rise to the occasion. So with that, give me Stewart to win via TKO.
125 lbs.: Joanne Calderwood vs. Lauren Murphy – When Joanne Calderwood is at her best, she is not only a handful, but the second best Flyweight in the division. However, plagued by inconsistent performances and momentary lapses, Calderwood has yet to fight for a title. This fight though is unquestionably, a title eliminator. Both are very deserving, especially Lauren Murphy, who enters this fight a winner of her last four. To boot, Murphy has even finished two of her opponents. With wrestling and excellent cardio, Murphy is the true definition of a workhorse. She’s also extremely durable, having never been finished in her professional career.
In my eyes, I like Joanne Calderwood on the sole basis that she comes out like the talent she is. If she doesn’t, Murphy will overwhelm her for three rounds. I’m hoping for my prediction sake, Calderwood shows up and shows off her patented striking volume. So with that, give me Calderwood to win via decision.
145 lbs.: Hakeem Dawodu vs. Movsar Evloev – I believe that Hakeem Dawodu is destined to become a contender at Featherweight, however three split decisions victories against opponents who spammed takedowns is a nice nod to Dawodu – but at the same time, a recipe for failure against someone who is a strong wrestler. Someone like Movsar Evloev. Who in four UFC fights, has landed 11 takedowns at a 37% clip. While I don’t see this fight being easy for either man, I do believe that Evloev will win a decision on takedowns and control.
UFC 263 Early ‘Prelims’ Card On ESPN+ (6 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: Alexis Davis vs. Pannie Kianzad – This is a good fight, but one I believe Pannie Kianzad wins. Should Kianzad be able to keep this fight upright, which she has done fantastically thus far, then realistically her striking should win this fight. Kianzad brings forth striking volume and really, each fight, an improvement in her overall abilities. So with that said, give me Kianzad to win via decision.
155 lbs.: Matt Frevola vs. Terrence McKinney – At first, I was all over Matt Frevola in this spot. Then, I looked up Terrance McKinney and found he is a JUCO All-American wrestler and a hell of a striker. While it would be nice to see him win a fight past two rounds, I don’t believe he is complaining by getting most of his opponents out of there in one round. I’m just worried his cardio isn’t up to snuff because if it isn’t and he can’t get Frevola out of there early, a storm will be weathered by the excellent cardio of the Long Islander. Now, I believe that Frevola is the better all around fighter, but McKinney certainly has the skillset and power edge that scare me. While I normally don’t go with fighters coming in on short notice, I’m very intrigued by McKinney and I’m siding with him to win via KO.
145 lbs.: Chase Hooper vs. Steven Peterson – I give Chase Hooper a lot of credit for getting to the UFC as young as he did. However, it’s clear as day, his striking isn’t UFC caliber. And that’s ok, if you can take opponents down and control them. Hooper though, hasn’t shown an ability to do that, as he boast a 7% takedown accuracy. In Hooper’s last two UFC fights, the inability to get the fight to mat lead to him getting tagged on the feet. I don’t see anything changing, as Steven Peterson boast solid takedown defense, good striking output and durability. In fact, I believe that Peterson will finish Hooper inside the distance via TKO.
155 lbs.: Luigi Vendramini vs. Fares Ziam – This fight to me comes down to if Luigi Vendramini’s grappling chops are as good as touted. If so, he should have no issue taking down the striking technician Fares Ziam – who has been taken down eight times in two UFC fights. To me, I see a clear route to victory for the ‘Italian Stallion’ via decision.
265 lbs.: Jake Collier vs. Carlos Felipe – I’m leaning Carlos Felipe here. He’s the natural Heavyweight, as Jake Collier was fighting at Middleweight just a little over five years ago. Throw in the fact that he most recently fought and beat a bloated Light Heavyweight in Gian Villante, and I’m concerned that his questionable durability at this weight class is heightened. I mean, he did get finished in 45 seconds by Tom Aspinall – which was the fourth defeat via finish out of his five losses.
Felipe boast excellent durability and pretty good cardio for a Heavyweight. What he has lacked, is finishing power – something that he was known for coming into the UFC. Despite that, I believe it takes little to put out Collier in this division. So with that, I have Felipe winning via knockout.