UFC 263 featured three five-round fights at the top of the card. The favorites in two of those fights won via decision. The only finish to come in the trio of bouts was an upset victory — and a feel-good story.
In the main event, middleweight champion Israel Adesanya showed the 185-pound weight class it’s going to take more than a few takedowns to unseat him from the top of the heap with a shutout win over Marvin Vettori.
In the co-headlining contest, Brandon Moreno, who the UFC released after a two-fight losing skid in 2018, captured the UFC flyweight crown with a submission win over the favored Deiveson Figueiredo.
Moreno returned to the UFC in 2019 after he won the LFA flyweight title and went 3-0-2 prior to UFC 263. With his upset submission win over Figueiredo, the 27-year-old became the first Mexican-born champion in UFC history.
Before the two title fights, Leon Edwards defeated Nate Diaz via unanimous decision. However, in the aftermath of Edwards’ win, it sure felt as if Diaz was one of the biggest winners on the fight card.
Read on for the winners and losers from UFC 263.
Israel Adesanya: Israel Adesanya bounced back from his loss to UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz by showing the middleweight division they are going to have do more than take him down if they want to beat him. Marvin Vettori landed four takedowns on 14 attempts, but he did little when he got the middleweight champ to the mat. Adesanya used the cage to assist in his takedown defense, and when he hit the mat, Adesanya did a nice job getting back to his feet. Outside of those four takedowns, Adesanya dominated the fight. He used slick movement in his defense and mixed up his striking techniques to flummox Vettori and keep him guessing as to what was coming his way. Adesanya delivered another dominant title defense at UFC 263.
Brandon Moreno: Brandon Moreno fought Deiveson Figueiredo to a majority draw in December. With that outcome, Figueiredo retained the flyweight title. Figueiredo hadn’t had a full camp before that fight and was coming off a win over Brandon Royval a few weeks before. My assumption was that with a full camp, Figueiredo would run over Moreno. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
In what might have been the best fight of his career, the 27-year-old Moreno took the fight right to the champ and didn’t give an inch. He was the better fighter in every way on Saturday and with a third round submission win he became the first fighter to finish Figueiredo and more importantly, became the UFC flyweight champion.
Nate Diaz: Make no mistake, Nate Diaz lost to Leon Edwards. Edwards beat him for 24 minutes. Diaz will wake up on Sunday with stitches in his right eyebrow and on the left side of his head. His leg will be bruised and he’ll be limping. He’ll also be the guy that fans and media will talk about into the coming week or longer.
I think Daniel Cormier summed it up best when he wrote:
“And once again Nate Diaz shows up and even after losing a fight his stock rises. That flurry is all that’ll be talked about! It’s about memories /land Diaz leaves people with memories.”
That’s 100 percent true. Diaz left the cage on Saturday with a unanimous decision defeat on his record, but it seemed as if most of the fans couldn’t have cared less about the outcome of the fight. All they seemed to want to speak about was how Diaz stayed in there and almost took the win from the hands of his opponent and that’s why Nate Diaz gets what he wants from the UFC.
Belal Muhammad: Belal Muhammad did everything he needed to do to defeat Demian Maia. He stopped 20 of 21 takedown attempts, didn’t allow Maia to get any submission attempts and did more damage with his striking. A good win for Muhammad.
Paul Craig: Paul Craig was the coolest of customers at UFC 263. He pulled guard and then just went ahead and secured a nasty armbar that left Jamahal Hill’s arm flopping around every which way. A very impressive win from Craig, who is now on a three-fight winning streak with three finishes.
Drew Dober vs. Brad Riddell: In the lead up to UFC 263, many had the lightweight matchup between Drew Dober and Brad Riddell circled as a potential barnburner. The two 155 pounders delivered and then some. Throughout a very competitive first 10 minutes the two were fairly evenly matched. Riddell was more effective with his striking, but Dober stayed alive thanks to his power and iron chin. The third round was more of the same, but with time ticking down, Riddell gave the judges all the reason they needed to side with him when he staggered Dober and finished the fight with strong striking. This was the exact type of fight the UFC always hopes it will get to lead into a pay-per-view event. Just an excellent bit of matchmaking and the fans who didn’t know about these two before UFC 263 would be crazy not to follow them from now on.
Lauren Murphy vs. Joanne Calderwood: Lauren Murphy and Joanne Calderwood had a fairly even first round, but Murphy used her strength to own the second stanza. She kept Calderwood on the mat for most of the second round. Calderwood turned things up in the third, stopped the takedowns and upped the aggression, but it was not enough to sway two of the three judges. With her split decision victory, Murphy extended her winning streak to five straight and could be the next woman to face 125-pound champion Valentina Shevchenko.
Movsar Evloev: Movsar Evloev might not be a huge name in the UFC’s featherweight division, but that might change after UFC 263. Evloev’s chain wrestling was incredible during the first two rounds. He got rocked in the third, but quickly took the fight to the mat to settle things down and stay undefeated.
Pannie Kianzad vs. Alexis Davis: This was an enjoyable scrap and I think it was a lot closer than the judges scored it. Kianzad was the more effective striker in the first stanza, but Davis did an admirable job in slowing Kianzad with calf kicks in the first and second stanza. Once Davis had slowed Kianzad, she showed more movement and some effective striking in the latter part of the second round. The third stanza was a fun back-and-forth affair.
Terrance McKinney: I’m going to ignore the fact that Terrance McKinney injured himself celebrating his seven-second TKO win over Matt Frevola. McKinney delivered a picture perfect 1-2, and that was the end of the night for Frevola. An incredibly memorable debut for McKinney.
Marvin Vettori: After his fight opposite Israel Adesanya ended, Marvin Vettori — according to Adesanya — said he thought he beat the middleweight champ. If that actually got said, I would hope that Vettori sits down with his coach, who told him he was losing the contest, and reviews the tape. If that happens, I hope the coach, Rafael Cordeiro, makes Vettori point out where and how he thought he won.
Deiveson Figueiredo: I don’t know if we’ve seen the last of Deiveson Figueiredo in the flyweight division, but perhaps we have. Brandon Moreno handed Figueiredo his first stoppage defeat and ended Figueiredo’s reign as 125-pound champion on Saturday. The fight, which Moreno won via rear-naked-choke, was not particularly close. Figueiredo’s weight cuts are rough and at 33 they will not get easier. With the title in another man’s hands, it might be time for Figueiredo to start a new chapter of his career as a bantamweight.
Demian Maia: If it’s possible, the UFC needs to give Demian Maia the opportunity to fight in Brazil for his final UFC bout.
Jamahal Hill: Here’s hoping Jamahal Hill is not out of action too long after his loss to Paul Craig because his arm did not look good in the aftermath of his loss.
Darren Stewart: Darren Stewart seemed a little too accepting of his position on the mat in the third stanza. Perhaps the move to 205 was not wise?
Matt Frevola: There’s not much to say here. Terrance McKinney had no problem blasting Frevola with a 1-2 and ending Frevola’s night in seven seconds.
Chase Hooper: Chase Hooper is still a (mostly). one-trick fighter. His striking is developing, but it’s still far from doing anything but distracting his opponents and maybe setting up his takedowns.
There is no quit in 21-year-old and that’s admirable, but it might result in him taking more damage than he needed. Hooper needs time to develop his striking skills. If the UFC cared at all about this young man as a potential future UFC fighter it would keep him on a development deal and bump him down a level of competition.
Luigi Vendramini: Luigi Vendramini got eaten up by the jab and technical striking of Fares Ziam in the first two rounds. He then came out like a house on fire in the third and put it to his opponent. Had he been more aggressive in the early going, Vendramini might have got the win. He showed Ziam’s future opponents that he does not like getting pushed around, so there is that.
Jake Collier: Jake Collier started out strong in his bout against Carlos Felipe. He showed a lot of movement and activity early, but he visibly faded in the second stanza and his body language was not good. He was on the wrong end of a split decision, but I have to wonder if he had better body language if he would have won this fight.
Al Guinee: Al Guinee was the ref in the Paul Craig vs. Jamahal Hill fight. You know, the ref that allowed Hill’s arm, as Craig described it, flop around like a wet fish after Craig dislocated it with an armbar. That Guinee allowed the fight to continue after Hill’s arm was so clearly damaged was a colossal error on his part and one that should not go unnoticed by any athletic commission.
UFC middleweights: I didn’t see any UFC middleweights come out and say that Jan Blachowicz wrote the blueprint on how to beat Israel Adesanya. But if any 185-pounders thought that after the 205-pound Blachowicz defeated Adesanya by taking him to the mat in their light heavyweight bout, Adesanya proved that assumption to be false.
UFC Fighters: It seems as if the UFC adds the logos of additional “partners” to the fighting surface for every fight card. Yes, it’s unsightly and distracting, but even more bothersome, each of those logos represents a significant amount of revenue that goes to the UFC and not to the fighters. And I’m not talking some of that revenue goes to the UFC or the majority of that revenue. No, all of that revenue goes to the UFC.
Terrance McKinney’s leg: I’m not saying Terrance McKinney shouldn’t have been jazzed after he scored the fastest stoppage in UFC lightweight history in his promotional debut, but I am saying (in hindsight) that he should have kept his feet on the ground after the win. McKinney seemed to injure his leg pretty badly after a brief celebration. Hopefully he’s okay and can capitalize on the momentum of the big win. Also, I hope the UFC won’t fight an insurance claim from McKinney if he needs care for an injury.
The UFC: The UFC showed a couple of promos for a video it did about T.J. Dillashaw. I’m going to offer this, if the UFC is going to attempt to make Dillashaw, who was popped for using EPO, into a sympathetic figure, it needs to take that video back into the cutting room and edit it in a more truthful manner. Dillashaw cheated. He made a choice and got caught. Any attempt to spin that into making Dillashaw look like anything other than guilty is despicable.
Leon Edwards: Leon Edwards picked Nate Diaz apart for 24 minutes. He had Diaz bloody, bruised and limping, but he could not finish him. During that time, Edwards did what Edwards does, he fought smart and tactical. He seemed to do everything right for most of the contest, but what he didn’t do was put Diaz away. He allowed Diaz to come back and put it on Edwards for the last minute of the five-round contest and almost score an upset victory.
Edwards is a tremendous fighter. He has not lost in his past 10 fights. He had a chance to score a title fight with a dominant victory over Diaz. Yes, he won 49-46 on all three scorecards, but the talk coming out of the fight wasn’t about Edwards, it was about Diaz. Because of that, it’s doubtful that Edwards will get a fight against the 170-pound champion, Kamaru Usman, who incidentally is the last man to defeat Edwards.
It’s rare that a fighter wins a five-round fight and doesn’t move up, but Edwards was ranked No. 3 in the official welterweight rankings and Diaz was not ranked inside the top-15. At best, I suspect Edwards will hold on to his spot after UFC 263. He needed more.
Hakeem Dawodu: Had a rough first two rounds against Movsar Evloev, but nearly came back in the third with his striking. Dawodu showed a lot of heart in this one after things really went against him for the first 10 minutes
Steven Peterson: Steven Peterson was the better fighter in his matchup against Chase Hooper, but he was too willing to tangle with Hooper on the mat throughout the fight. I’m not really sure why Peterson did this, but by doing so he made the fight more competitive than he needed to. Not that it was all that competitive, but it would have been even more lopsided had Peterson kept the fight standing.
Fares Ziam: Fares Ziam showed nice technical striking and good movement, including nice feints. He had Luigi Vendramini biting and backing up during the first two rounds. However, he did not deal well with the pressure of his opponent in the third.
Carlos Felipe: I like that Carlos Felipe can switch between slangin’ and bangin’ and technical striking in a matter of seconds. I don’t like that he seems more focused on showing off for the fans than he does in actually fighting.