Israel Adesanya retains title, defeats Marvin Vettori in rematch at UFC 263
31-year-old wins by unanimous decision
Israel Adesanya won a unanimous decision in a rematch against Marvin Vettori to defend his middleweight championship at UFC 263 Saturday night.
Adesanya (21-1) kept out of reach from Vettori's powerful punches most of the night and used his feet effectively, keeping the Italian fighter off balance.
Adesanya won 50-45 on all three judges' scorecards in the third full-capacity UFC event without coronavirus-related restrictions.
Adesanya lost to light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz in his last fight while trying to add a second title belt, but remains undefeated as a middleweight.
Turned it AROUND 🔁🤯 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UFC263?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UFC263</a> <a href="https://t.co/rbaJo1gLmH">pic.twitter.com/rbaJo1gLmH</a>—@ufc
In the co-main event, flyweight Brandon Moreno (19-5-2) became the first Mexican-born champion in UFC history, using a rear naked choke in the third round in a rematch against Deiveson Figueiredo (20-2-1).
The two title fights in the desert were tainted with bad blood.
Adesanya and Vettori fought in Glendale three years ago, a split-decision win by Adesanya that left neither fighter satisfied.
Vettori believed he won, Adesanya thought it was too close and the buildup to the rematch was contentious, including an off-the-rails news conference Thursday.
Vettori (17-4-1), as he did in the first fight, had some success on the ground in the rematch after a couple of takedowns. Adesanya wriggled free and was effective with his feet, wearing out the Italian's front leg while dodging most of his big punches.
Adesanya snaked out of another takedown and continued to work over Vettori with his feet to defend his title.
Figueiredo and Moreno fought in December, a draw that kept the title belt in Figueiredo's corner and denied Moreno's bid to become the UFC's first Mexican-born champion.
Like Adesanya and Vettori, the two flyweights verbally jabbed at each other in the fight's lead-up, the intense Figueirdo doing his best to get under the skin of the happy-go-lucky Moreno.
Moreno, the No. 1 flyweight contender, went after the Brazilian from the start in the rematch, stunning him with a big shot in the first round. He reversed a takedown in the second round and forced Figueiredo to submit with a choke 2 1/2 minutes into the third, sending roars echoing off the rafters.
🇲🇽🇲🇽🇲🇽 VIVA MEXICO 🇲🇽🇲🇽🇲🇽<br><br>🏆 <a href="https://twitter.com/theassassinbaby?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TheAssassinBaby</a> LEFT NO DOUBT!!!!! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UFC263?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UFC263</a> <a href="https://t.co/rJoEn1OXQE">pic.twitter.com/rJoEn1OXQE</a>—@ufc
Figueiredo put the bad blood aside after the fight, hugging then picking up the emotional Moreno to the delight of the crowd.
Charismatic welterweight Nate Diaz — he lit up a joint at the pre-fight news conference — returned to the octagon after a nearly two-year absence and was a massive crowd favorite, yet a big underdog by the oddsmakers against third-ranked Leon Edwards.
The 36-year-old from Stockton, California, still had plenty of fight — and showmanship — left in him, wobbling Edwards with a big left in the fifth to bring the crowd off their feet.
The Englishman managed to evade Diaz (21-13) over the final minute and won by unanimous decision, putting himself in position for a possible title shot against Kamaru Usman. Diaz, who faces an uncertain future, invited everyone in the arena to his house for a party after the fight.
Light heavyweight Paul Craig opened the main card by breaking Jamahal Hill's arm in the first round, winning on a TKO when Hill couldn't defend himself while being pummeled to the head.
Welterweight Belal Muhmmad followed with a unanimous decision over Demian Maia.
Unbeaten Russian Movsar Evloev used a string of takedowns to defeat Calgary featherweight (Mean) Hakeem Dawodu on the undercard of UFC 263 Saturday night.
While Evloev dominated the first two rounds, Dawodu rallied in the third with some punishing strikes. But it was too little too late for the Canadian, who saw his five-fight UFC win streak snapped.
All three judges scored it 29-27 for Evloev, awarding the Russian a 10-8 edge in the second round.
Evloev, a former M-1 bantamweight champion, won his fifth straight in the UFC.
"He is a good fighter. Five-fight win streak, a good Muay Thai striker, throws very hard punches, very hard kicks," Evloev said. "I was ready for this. We trained a lot for three months."
Also on the undercard, Swedish bantamweight Pannie (Banzai) Kianzad won her fourth straight with a unanimous (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) decision over veteran Canadian Alexis Davis in a back-and-forth bout.
Evloev held a slim 42-39 edge in significant strikes, according to UFC Stats. But he landed nine of 13 takedown attempts, controlling the Canadian on the ground.
Both fighters scored with some early strikes. The Russian connected with a big overhand right early while Dawodu managed to mark up Evloev's left eye.
Executing a trip, Evloev got Dawodu to the ground but only briefly. Dawodu got back to his feet, only to be slammed back down seconds later as Evloev stuck to his back like a limpet.
Evloev scored an early takedown in the second round. Dawodu got up, only to go down again. Evloev, with his legs wrapped around Dawodu, looked to do damage and sink in a submission.
Dawodu managed to stay on his feet for most of the third, connecting with strikes. Evloev wobbled after one exchange, waving to the crowd afterwards as if the damage had been minimal. But Dawodu promptly wobbled him again with a blow.
Evloev responded with yet another takedown to survive Dawodu's rally. Dawodu had a 31-17 edge in significant strikes in the third.
Kianzad (15-5-0) had success with her striking early on against Davis, whose face soon showed damage. Davis kept coming forward, absorbing blows to deliver shots of her own.
Davis' corner told their fighter to take Kianzad down in the third round and "be violent." But the fight remained on the feet with Davis circling Kianzad. Both scored with punches.
"She kicks pretty hard," Kianzad said after the fight. "I hit her with a couple of right hands, I thought that was it, but no, it was not it. She was really tough, but I felt sharp."
Davis has lost four of her last five fights and is 7-6-0 in the UFC.
The 36-year-old Davis, a native of Port Colborne, Ont. who now makes her home in San Jose, was coming off a dominant decision win over Sabina (Colombian Queen) Mazo in February, following a 19-month layoff due to shoulder surgery.
The Canadian had her first pro fight in 2007, competing in Strikeforce and Invicta FC before moving to the UFC in 2013. She fought for the bantamweight at UFC 175 in July 2014, losing by KO to (Rowdy) Ronda Rousey in 16 seconds.
Kianzad, a 29-year-old born in Iran, is ranked 11th among UFC bantamweights. She lost her first two UFC outings.
With files from The Canadian Press