UFC 263: Applying Pressure

  • June 12, 2021, 03:45 PM
  • Miguel Navarro
UFC 263: Applying Pressure

3 years ago in Glendale, Arizona, UFC newcomer Israel Adesanya took on fellow middleweight Marvin Vettori in his second UFC bout. Even with his lack of octagon experience compared to his opponent, The Last Style Bender entered the cage as the betting favorite. Despite Vettori’s best efforts, Israel Adesanya would walk away with the nod, earning a split decision victory over The Italian Dream.

But on June 12th, just three years later, the two middleweights will not only be squaring off again, but they’ll be meeting in the same arena they fought in the first time. However, this fight will be for the 185-pound title.

After their fight in April 2018, not only would Israel Adesanya go on to win seven straight fights, he would also capture the UFC middleweight championship a little over a year later. To say that the stock of Adesanya has catapulted within the last three years would be an understatement. The Nigerian born fighter has become one of the sport’s biggest superstars to date.

Adesanya’s natural charisma and ability to put on a show, all while finishing his opponents impressively, felt like an unstoppable force. Or at least that’s how it seemed until earlier this year.

In March, Adesanya dared to reach a new level of greatness that very few in the sport have been able to achieve. Style Bender went up to the light heavyweight division to challenge the current 205-pound champion, Jan Blachowicz, in attempts to become both middleweight and light heavyweight champion. Despite Adesanya’s valiant efforts, he would be handed his first loss in his MMA career by the Polish champion via unanimous decision.

It’s very rare to see a defending champion defend their belt off a loss. But it should also be noted that Adesanya didn’t take too much damage in his fight with Blachowicz. So, it’s not like he got out worked or classed on the feet. The factor that truly solidified Blachowicz’s victory over Adesanya was his grappling and takedowns.

That hole being exposed in Adesanya’s game could be a major factor in this rematch on Saturday.

All while Israel Adesanya was going on a tear, Marvin Vettori was able to stack five straight victories of his own. And even though the victories may not be highlight real finishes, Vettori was able to evolve and become a whole lot more confident in the meanwhile. The same thing that won Vettori the third round in their first fight, and the same reason why Adesanya ultimately lost to Jan Blachowicz, could be how Marvin Vettori becomes the first Italian born UFC champion.

The biggest thing that has been exposed in Adesanya’s game has been his skill level on the ground. Especially in his first bout with Vettori. In the third round, Vettori was able to take Adesanya down and hold him in half-guard. There wasn’t much of an attempt to even pull full guard, or escape, from the New Zealander. And that right there will be Vettori’s key to victory.

If Marvin Vettori tries to pull a Paulo Costa and try and trade with Adesanya, he’ll find himself exactly where Costa was at by the end of that night. Although, it’s not like Marvin Vettori is known to fight like that. Vettori wins this fight by making it “boring” and long. You’re not putting Israel Adesanya to sleep in the first round. Vettori can’t let his emotions get the best of him and let him think he can stand and trade.

Reason being, it doesn’t take very long for Adesanya to find his range and timing. Once he has that, and you try to strike with him, it’s only a matter of time before he catches you. And considering the two have already met in the octagon, who knows how much time Adesanya will need to warm up. But you never know what can happen in fighting, so never say never. 

The middleweight title won’t be the only belt up for grabs on Saturday, however. In the co-main event, flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo will once again take on Brandon Moreno in their highly anticipated rematch. Their first fight ended in a majority draw and was awarded fight of the night, and rightfully so. Even if this rematch is a quarter of the first bout, we’re in for a killer co-main event.

Both men wasted no time with feeling each other out in their first going. The pace that was set in the beginning of the fight, carried out until the final horn. But unlike the rematch taking place in the main event, this fight feels a bit more “in the air”. Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno have been training for one another since the late November 2020.

They both clearly did their homework last time they fought. That’s why it was so close. However, I think this time we’ll see a clear winner. Both men are durable and not easy put away, but I think that one of them will get the job done.

Out of the two men in the co-main, I’m curious to see how the defending champion makes adjustments. Because if there’s one thing that Figueiredo clearly had over Brandon Moreno, it was power. Figueiredo felt Moreno’s power, and was ultimately able to handle it well. It’ll be fun to see how Deiveson Figueiredo has evolved as a champion. Because winning this rematch, especially if he puts Brandon Moreno away, will be such a statement to his reign as champion.   

That is of course if he can put Brandon Moreno away. And after that first bout, we all know that’s much easier said than done. Despite the power advantage, Moreno was able to eat most the champ’s heavy strikes. In fact, it was Moreno who had the champion hurt at one point in their first fight.

Moreno’s approach going into this rematch shouldn’t change all that much. He had great success in the first bout with his speed, jab, high kicks, and takedowns. Moreno was able to land 4 out of his 7 attempted takedowns. If Brandon Moreno wants to hear Bruce Buffer say, “And new!” he’ll have to apply the pressure in the rematch.

Speaking of applying pressure, if there’s anyone in the UFC that’s known for that, it’s Nate Diaz. Stockton, California’s very own will be returning to the octagon to take on undefeated welterweight contender, Leon Rocky Edwards.

A Diaz fight feels a bit harder to come by nowadays, but a Leon Edwards fight might be even rarer. If you’ve been following the sport, then you already know about Edward’s notorious string of bad luck. Numerous fights were planned and announced, yet they would always fall through at some point. And as if the pandemic didn’t help, Edwards didn’t fight once in the 2020.

However, even when the Jamaican born fighter was finally able to return, his fight against Belal Muhammad was stopped from an accidental eye poke by Edwards. Muhammad was unable to continue, and the doctors waved off the fight.

But you know what they say, ask and you shall receive. Leon Edwards has been looking for a fight for almost two years. And a fight is exactly what he’ll get out of Nate Diaz.

The status and popularity of Nate Diaz seems to get bigger every time he returns. He is a huge fan favorite for a clear reason. Edwards won’t have to worry about Diaz not applying the pressure. Because when have you ever seen a boring Diaz fight?

It's not like Edwards will be easy to overwhelm though. Edwards can wrestler and strike very very well. He is the betting favorite for a reason. If Edwards can put Diaz away, he’ll be able to make a strong case for a title shot. And it would be hard to deny him of one.

The main card for UFC 263 will be starting at 7 p.m. PST (10 p.m. EST). Be sure to give us a follow-on twitter (@RebelReportUNLV) during the fight for live results and coverage!

Miguel Navarro

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