In the words of Bruce Buffer, IT’S TIIIIIMEEEE!!! The world leader in MMA returns tonight with UFC 263 live in front of a sold-out crowd from the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
Coming off of the buzz of the Floyd Mayweather vs. Jake Paul PPV last weekend, this card was initially receiving little buzz at the beginning of the week, despite the fact that it is an incredibly deep card, prelims included. Now, it’s time to get hyped about it because it is here.
Let’s take a look at how the card breaks down.
The main card of UFC 263 kicks off with a three-round light heavyweight bout between #14 Paul Craig (14-4-1) and Chicago-born #15 Jamahal Hill (8-0, 1 NC), who got into it a bit on Embedded when they crossed paths while signing posters. Craig hasn’t lost since June 29, 2019, and Hill hasn’t lost in his pro career with the exception of his no contest on May 30, 2020.
UFC 263’s second fight of the PPV features a welterweight bout between MMA legend #9 Demian Maia (28-10) and Chicago’s own #12 Belal Muhammad (18-3, 1 NC). Muhammad is coming off a disappointing no contest to Leon Edwards (who is also featured on this card) back in March 2021 when the fight was called off due to a nasty eye poke from Edwards to Muhammad. Muhammad will be looking for a bounce-back win here to get back in position to climb the rankings at welterweight. Meanwhile, this will be the last fight on Demian Maia’s UFC contact and he has openly talked about how this may be his last MMA fight.
Leon Edwards (#3) vs Nate Diaz
The Return of Nate Diaz….and Leon Edwards
He’s back! Stockton’s son, Nate Diaz is back for his first fight in over a year and a half, after losing in the BMF fight to Jorge Masvidal on November 2, 2019. Diaz has said for years that he is tired of cutting weight to 155, so his return at welterweight is not surprising.
That said, Nate’s call out of #3 Leon “Rocky” Edwards came as a surprise to many. Yet somehow, in some weird way, it makes sense. Not counting the 5:18 of fight time that Edwards had in his fight with Belal Muhammad in March 2021, Edwards hasn’t fought since his last win against Rafael Dos Anjos in July 2019. Injuries, COVID lockdowns, and some other complications have plagued Edwards’ many attempts at a return.
From Edwards’ perspective, this is the perfect tune-up fight for his return to his quest for a welterweight title shot. From Diaz’s perspective, this fight makes for an interesting return to fighting. Likely in the tail-end of his career, this hand-picked fight allows Diaz to be put directly into title talks if he were to win.
Diaz will have to overcome a lot to enter those title talks, however, as he enters this fight as a +400 underdog according to most sportsbooks, with Edwards being a -600 or more favorite.
Deiveson Figueiredo (C) vs. Brandon Moreno (#1):
A WAR of a Rematch
When (C) Deiveson Figueiredo and (#1) Brandon Moreno first squared off for the Flyweight Championship in December 2020, we got a surprise war for the ages. In a fight that was considered the runner-up for the 2020 fight of the year, Figueiredo retained his title via a majority draw, a rare outcome. This time around, it will be very interesting to see if Figeuiredo can continue his vicious title reign which he’s held since February 2020, or if the fan-favorite Moreno can put it on him again and fulfill his title dream.
The line on this one has stayed relatively close given the close result of their first fight, but Figueiredo is currently the favorite at roughly -205, with Moreno as the +166 underdog.
Israel Adesanya (C) vs. Marvin Vettori (#3)
The Rematch We Didn’t Expect
Since losing to Israel Adesanya in April 2018, Marvin Vettori (17-4-1) has gone on an undefeated 5-0 run since, earning his way to a rematch against the now-champion.
Adesanya (20-1) finds himself in a career-first position as he is coming off of his first professional loss after failing to gain “champ champ” status against Light Heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz in March 2021. The dominant Middleweight Champion has reigned as champion over the division since October 2019, and the UFC turned some heads when announcing a rematch against Marvin Vettori instead of a rematch against former champion Robert Whittaker, which many fans thought would surely be next.
Nevertheless, we are here now. Following a split decision victory in their third-round match-up in April 2018, Adesanya will look to start lapping his competition, which he said he was inspired to do by fellow African-born champion Kamaru Usman. If Adesanya can keep this fight at distance, you would think he will be able to use his long-range to piece up Vettori from afar as he did in their first fight; however, if Vettori can get inside and use his power and wrestling, it will be interesting to see how Adesanya can adjust.
One thing to watch for will be Adesanya’s wrestling defense following his defeat from Blachowicz, which came mostly due to a lack of wrestling defense. Watching to see if Vettori will try to expose Adesanya’s wrestling again will be a key factor, as well as seeing if Adesanya’s wrestling defense has improved. Vettori has said that he will do everything to get a win by “any means necessary” to become the UFC’s first Italian-born champion.
Adesanya remains a decent favorite at -280, while Vettori is a decent underdog at +205.
A stacked card like this means a lot of betting opportunities. I’m always a fan of low-risk, high-reward bets, so here are the bets that I’ve placed, for transparency’s sake.
- Nate Diaz, Moneyline (+355):
- In total transparency, I had a $5 free bet. So I threw it on Diaz all the way back on May 26 when he was a +355 underdog. In hindsight, I wish I would’ve held onto it because he is now a +405 underdog. However, since I had some house money to play with, I figured I’d throw it on a fan favorite who was a long shot to win.
- $5 free bet to win $12.75
- Israel Adesanya, Moneyline profit mega boost (+263):
- When I found out BetRivers was offering a UFC 263 profit mega boost, boosting Adesanya’s odds from a -275 favorite to a +263 underdog ($5 max bet), I couldn’t help myself. However, it also made me slightly worried, because what does BetRivers know that I don’t??
- $5 bet to win $13.15
- Drew Dober (-152), Darren Stewart (+124), Hakeem Dawodu (+196), 3 leg Moneyline parlay (+999):
- As I said at the beginning of this article, even the prelims of this card are stacked. They also include a few underdogs that I would consider very live dogs. So, I threw together a fun little prelim parlay. Coming out at +999 odds, a $5 bet wins me $49.96 here, which I don’t mind.
- $5 bet to win $49.96