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The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s return to The Grand Canyon State features a loaded slate of prelims. In the featured slot at UFC 263 this Saturday at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, rising New Zealand striker Brad Riddell gets his toughest test to date against Drew Dober. Their lightweight battle could go any number of ways, but above all else, it figures to be an absolute banger. Meanwhile, the most important bout of the bunch is likely the women’s flyweight affair between Lauren Murphy and Joanne Calderwood, with the winner expected to earn the blessing and the curse of a title fight against Valentina Shevchenko. A collision between top featherweight prospects Movsar Evloev and Hakeem Dawodu looks like the other highlight of this slate, though there is plenty to like from top to bottom.
Now to the preview for the UFC 263 “Adesanya vs. Vettori 2” prelims:
Lightweights#13 LW | Drew Dober (23-10, 9-6 UFC) vs. NR | Brad Riddell (9-1, 3-0 UFC)
ODDS: Dober (-140), Riddell (+120)
Riddell has already established himself as a must-watch fighter, and the Kiwi has a chance at achieving something greater. “Quake” is the latest City Kickboxing convert from kickboxing to mixed martial arts, and it is hard not to draw a direct comparison to teammate Israel Adesanya. Similar to Adesanya, the worry was that Riddell’s takedown defense would not hold up at the UFC level, and while that remains a concern, it has not really mattered in terms of Riddell racking up the wins. His debut against Jamie Mullarkey resulted in a back-and-forth war, and while his subsequent fight against Magomed Mustafaev figured to be too much too soon, his offense mostly turned Mustafaev into an ineffective control wrestler as Riddell took over the fight. Alex da Silva Coelho had him in a bit more early trouble with a wrestling-based attack, but after coming back to win that fight, Riddell looks ready for the next step up. That comes against Dober, who has improved greatly since his early days on the UFC roster. Frankly, it was difficult to tell what Dober’s UFC-level skill was in his first few Octagon bouts, but a breakthrough win over Scott Holtzman in 2016 established him as a fun high-volume and low-power striker. The lack of power was always a bit of a surprise given Dober’s well-built frame, but it has finally turned the corner in recent years. Up until his March loss to Islam Makhachev, Dober was riding a string of three straight knockouts, including quick finishes of Marco Polo Reyes and Nasrat Haqparast. Dober’s wrestling defense looks like it will always be a liability—Beneil Dariush turned around their fight on the mat and Dober had little answer for Makhachev—but he has otherwise proven himself to be on the fringes of the lightweight elite. This is basically a coinflip of a fight, as it represents a huge step up for Riddell but also a kind stylistic matchup given Dober’s disinterest in wrestling; if anything, Riddell might actually be the likelier fighter to try and take this to the mat. Riddell tends to start cold and seems to have sacrificed some of his striking defense to shore up his takedown defense, so there is actually a chance that Dober can end this early with a big counter before his opponent finds his groove. However, if this makes it out of the opening exchanges, this is an even fight that is more about the ensuing violence than the eventual result. The pick is Dober via decision.
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