Israel Adesanya has retained his Middleweight title, putting on a striking clinic to defeat Marvin Vettori by unanimous decision at Gila River Arena in Glendale Arizona at UFC 263.
All three judges scored the contest 50-45 for Adesanya.
Adesanya showed off his striking from the opening bell, chopping at Vettori’s leg. Vettori was able to turn one of those leg kicks into a takedown, but was unable to hold the position for long. Adesanya’s feinting proved effective early, keeping Vettori guessing and attacking the legs, body and head.
Adesanya’s crisp striking and movement was on full display in the second round, able to swiftly avoid Vettori’s punches and counter with his own.
Going into the third, Vettori’s corner urged him to take the fight to the ground and he oblige landing an early takedown. He was able to transition to the back and get under the chin, sinking in a rear naked choke which Adesanya managed to escape. Back on his feet, Adesanya continued his relentless attack on Vettori’s leg.
A clearly compromised Vettori still kept pushing forward in the fourth round, securing another takedown, but Adesanya reversed position and got back to his feet again. On the feet, Adesanya looked in a class of his own.
The fifth round followed a similar narrative, with Vettori looking for a takedown. Adesanya was wise to Vettori’s strategy, defending his attempt. The fight remained on the feet where Adesanya continued to get the better of the striking exchanges and breezed to victory.
This marks Adesanya’s third title defence and his 10th win in a row at middleweight.
Post-fight, Adesanya called out Australia’s own Robert Whittaker for who he wanted to face as his next opponent
“Well you know the old mossie, my archnemesis, what’s his name, Whittaker, Bobby Knuckles.
“We need to run that back in Auckland, we need to run that back in my territory this time. I’ll tell you when it is, you don’t get to decide, I get to decide. Why? Because I am the king.”
Whittaker is currently on a three-fight win streak since his loss to Adesanya at UFC 243 in Melbourne.
Deiveson Figueiredo v Brandon Moreno
Mexico has its first UFC champion, with Brandon Moreno submitting Deiveson Figueiredo by rear naked choke in the third round to become the new UFC Flyweight champion.
Moreno looked the better fighter from the get go, being more active and out striking him 25 to 7. This culminated in Moreno dropping Figueiredo with a jab.
The second round was more even, Figueiredo landing an early takedown where he proceeded to attack the neck of Moreno, hunting for a submission. Moreno remained calm and was able to reverse position and takedown Figueiredo, with the fight remaining on the ground for the rest of the round.
Round three was all Moreno, with Figueiredo throwing with reckless abandon, looking to put Moreno’s lights out. Able to invade the incoming strikes, Moreno shot for a takedown and quickly transitioned to the back where he sunk in the rear naked choke, forcing Figueiredo to tap.
Moreno is the fourth UFC Flyweight champion in history and first ever UFC champion from Mexico.
To add to Moreno’s impressive performance, he becomes the first man to stop Figueiredo in his MMA career.
This fight was a rematch from the fight of the year candidate these two men put on in December last year at UFC 256 which ended in a draw.
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Leon Edwards v Nate Diaz
Leon Edwards earned the biggest win of his career, defeating Nate Diaz by unanimous decision 49-46 on all three judge’s scorecards.
The fight was the first five-round non-title co-main event in the promotion’s history.
Edwards looked the better fighter for most of the five round contest, attacking Diaz lead leg from the get-go. Both fighters were able to land good punches in the first, but with Edwards taking the fight to the ground and transitioning to Diaz back, he was not able to do anything of significance.
The second round was similar, with Edwards continuing to attack Diaz lead leg and landing another takedown. In the scrabble on the ground, Diaz threatened with a heel hook and then knee bar submission, but was unable to secure position.
It would not be a Diaz fight without seeing the Stockton native bleeding, with Edwards opening a cut above his left eyebrow with an elbow which followed a takedown attempt in the third round.
Edwards continued pouring on the pressure in the fourth, decisively calculated with his strikes and landing big punches which Diaz ate. Diaz came on strong late in the round, but Edwards managed risk well and was still able to land more and more damaging shots.
Edwards continued to accrue more damage in the fifth but Diaz, never out of the fight, wobbled Edwards with a minute to go. He wasn’t able to finish to job however, with the bell saving Edwards.
This now marks the 10th straight win for Edwards, who post fight called for a title shot against current Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.
Other notable performances
Belal Muhammad defeated Damian Maia by unanimous decision 30-27, 29-28, 29-28, showing great takedown defence by stopping 20 of Maia’s 21 takedown attempts.
Paul Craig earned a TKO victory over Jamahal Hill in the first round after badly dislocating Hill’s arm in an armbar submission to kick off the main card.
Adesanya’s teammate and New Zealand native Brad Riddell earned a unanimous decision victory over Drew Dober in a fight of the night contender on the prelims. All three judges scored the fight 29-28 for Riddell.
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