Israel Adesanya Confounds Marvin Vettori, Retains Middleweight Crown in UFC 263 Headliner

By: Tristen Critchfield
Jun 12, 2021

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Israel Adesanya made sure there would be no dissenting scorecards in his rematch with Marvin Vettori.

“The Last Stylebender” was in peak form in the UFC 263 headliner, retaining his middleweight crown with a clear-cut, five-round verdict over Marvin Vettori at Gila Riva Arena in Glendale, Arizona, on Saturday night. Adesanya swept the scorecards by identical 50-45 counts to extend his winning streak to 10 at 185 pounds. Included in that run is a split-decision triumph over Vettori at UFC on Fox 29 in April 2018.

A more evolved version of Adesanya (21-1, 10-1 UFC) was rarely threatened by Vettori (17-5-1, 7-3-1 UFC) the second time around. The City Kickboxing standout kept his opponent guessing with confounding movement, punching combinations to the head and kicks to the head and legs, the latter of which made the “The Italian Dream” stumble on multiple occasions. Though Vettori was able to land a few takedowns in the early portion of the fight, Adesanya returned to his feet without issue and denied many more of his foe’s shots as the time went on.

It was a nice bounceback effort for the Nigerian-born Kiwi, who was coming off a failed bid for light heavyweight gold against Jan Blachowicz at UFC 259 in March. Vettori, meanwhile, saw a five-bout winning streak come to an end. In the aftermath of his latest triumph, Adesanya turned his attention to a rematch with Robert Whittaker, whom he defeated via second-round knockout to claim the 185-pound throne in October 2019.

“Whittaker, my arch-nemesis, Bobby Knuckles. I don't know what the fu-k's gonna happen with COVID; we need to run that back in Auckland, in my territory this time,” Adesanya said. “I’ll tell you what it is. I get to decide, you don't get to decide. 'Cause why? I'm the motherf-cking king, b-tch.”

Moreno Taps Figueiredo, Claims Flyweight Gold

Brandon Moreno left no doubt this time around.

After shocking the world by battling Deiveson Figueiredo to a majority draw in a “Fight of the Year” contender last December, Moreno claimed flyweight gold in emphatic fashion, submitting his Brazilian foe with a rear-naked choke 2:26 into the third round of the UFC 263 co-main event. With the win, Moreno joins Figueiredo, Henry Cejudo and Demetrious Johnson as the fourth 125-pound champion in UFC history.

“This moment is so amazing. This f-cking life,” said Moreno, who became the first Mexican-born champion in promotion history. “UFC released me, I wasn't that proud of my life, but watch me hold this belt. I feel so amazing.”

Moreno (19-5-2, 8-2-2 UFC) set the tone from the opening bell. He landed consistent punching combinations before dropping Figueiredo with a jab late in Round 1. From there, the Mexican standout showcased his grappling prowess, assumed top position during a scramble in Round 2 and ended the period there. Round 3 saw more of the same, when “The Assassin Baby” quickly took Figueiredo (20-2-1, 9-2-1 UFC) down, transitioned to his back and locked in a body triangle. Moreno diligently hunted for the rear-naked choke, using punches to create openings before eventually sliding his arm under his adversary’s neck. It was only a matter of moments before Figueiredo had to ask out of the fight.

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Edwards Dominates Early, Then Holds Off Bloodied Diaz

For four rounds, Leon Edwards was simply too technical, too well-rounded and too poised for Nate Diaz. The final frame, however, was a matter of survival.

The Team Renegade member earned his first triumph since July 2019 with an impressive performance, taking a unanimous decision over Diaz in a five-round, non-title affair. Edwards earned a trio of 49-46 scorecards from the cageside judges, disappointing the pro-Diaz audience.

For the majority of the contest, Edwards (19-3, 1 NC, 11-2, 1 NC UFC) dictated the terms of engagement. He chopped away with low kicks, landed multiple takedowns and connected with several straight left hands that drew nods of acknowledgement from his opponent. “Rocky” also landed several solid elbows, including one that appeared to open a nasty cut over Diaz’s left eye. Through it all, Edwards ignored his opponent’s attempts to taunt and bait him into a brawl.

“Nate's a veteran. I hit him with everything and the kitchen sink,” Edwards said. “Fair play to Nate, he's so good. I give my respect to Nate.”

Just when it appeared that Edwards was going to cruise to the finish line, Diaz made things interesting in the final frame. During a late exchange, the Stockton, California, native tagged Edwards with a straight left that had the Englishman wobbling all over the cage. Diaz (20-13, 15-11 UFC) doggedly pursued the finish on his suddenly-reeling foe, but Edwards retained enough awareness to make it to the final horn. While Edwards made a case for a welterweight title shot, Diaz admitted he had a hard time getting out of first gear.

“I had a hard time getting going all day today, all month long,” Diaz said. I had a cut in training about a month ago. I think that slowed my whole momentum down. “Congratulations to Leon, I wish I could have took his ass the f--k out.”

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Muhammad Thwarts Maia’s Grappling

Solid takedown defense and timely punching combinations carried Belal Muhammad to a three-round verdict against former ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship gold medalist Demian Maia at welterweight. “Remember the Name” earned scorecards of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 from the judges in what was a grueling affair contested primarily on the feet. The 43-year-old Maia has lost five of his last eight UFC appearances dating back to July 2017.

Maia’s gas tank gradually waned with each failed takedown attempt. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt grounded Muhammad (19-3, 10-3, 1 NC UFC) in the opening frame but couldn’t keep him down long enough to seriously threaten with any submissions. The rest of the way, Muhammad stuffed multiple shots while tagging his adversary with crisp straight punches -- including one that made Maia (28-11, 22-11 UFC) stumble backwards in Round 3. Unable to drag his man to the canvas, a fatigued Maia was unable to match Muhammad’s output on the feet. When all was said and done, Maia landed just one of his 21 takedown tries in the fight.

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Craig Snaps Hill’s Arm, Wins Via TKO

In an ideal world, Paul Craig would have earned a quick submission triumph against Jamahal Hill.

In reality, the Scottish fighter’s latest effort will go down in the record books as a technical knockout victory. Either way, it was a tough night at the office for light heavyweight prospect Jamahal Hill. Craig (15-4-1, 7-4-1 UFC) won his third straight in UFC competition, forcing a stoppage from referee Al Guinee at the 1:59 mark of Round 1 when he trapped Hill in a triangle from his back and landed punches and elbows from his back.

Hill (8-1, 1 NC, 2-1, 1 NC UFC) was already rendered helpless before that final assault. Craig wasted little time pulling guard and quickly transitioned to an armbar. Hill escaped once, but “Bearjew” secured an overhook and locked in the maneuver once again, this time bending his foe’s limb at an awkward angle. The Dana White’s Contender Series alum then had to endure a salvo of strikes as his injured arm flopped uselessly inside Craig’s guard.

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