Title rematches get the spotlight this Saturday (June 6, 2021) when Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heads to Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., for UFC 263. The ESPN+-streamed pay-per-view (PPV) main event sees Middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya, return to the division to face Marvin Vettori, who fought him to a split decision back in 2018 (watch it), while Flyweight kingpin, Deiveson Figueiredo, and Brandon Moreno run back their epic Dec. 2020 draw.
Earlier that evening, Nate Diaz returns to action against Leon Edwards in a historic five-round fight, while Demian Maia squares off against Belal Muhammad and Jamahal Hill meets Paul Craig.
UFC 263 features nine “Prelims” undercard bouts this time around, the first five of which air on ESPN+/Fight Pass. Let’s have a look:
135 lbs.: Pannie Kianzad vs. Alexis Davis
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 28 finalist Pannie Kianzad (14-5) initially struggled to find her footing in UFC, dropping her first two bouts to prospects Macy Chiasson and Julia Avila. She went on to win her next three, including a decisions over Bethe Correia and Sijara Eubanks in successive efforts.
She is the taller of the two by one inch.
Alexis Davis (20-10) claimed victory over fellow Strikeforce import Liz Carmouche in her UFC women’s Flyweight debut, only to lose her next three. With her back against the wall, “Ally-Gator” upended highly-touted Sabina Mazo in Feb. 2021 to snap a two-year victory drought.
She’s dispatched eight professional opponents via submission during her 14 years as a professional.
Davis deserves all the credit in the world for her performance against Mazo; she hobbled an ostensibly superior striker with her relentless leg kick attack and enjoyed considerable success on the ground despite “Colombian Queen’s” improved takedown defense. I’ll admit I was wrong to write her off, but I do think she’ll have issues here. Kianzad figures to be the larger woman by a decent margin, has the same sort of stinging jab that Mazo used to good effect, and doesn’t figure to hand Davis takedowns with errant body kicks.
The big concern for Kianzad is Davis’ leg kicks, as “Banzai” can overcommit to her right hand. Still, she should be able to stay at a distance and pepper a resilient Davis to claim a decision.
Prediction: Kianzad via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Frank Camacho vs. Matt Frevola
Frank Camacho (22-9) kicked off his UFC career with three consecutive “Fight of the Night” awards, two of them against dangerous contenders Li Jingliang and Drew Dober. He enters the cage this weekend on the heels of two consecutive first-round stoppages, the most recent of which saw him fall to late replacement Justin Jaynes in just 41 seconds.
Sixteen of his 19 stoppages have come by form of knockout.
Matt Frevola (8-2-1) followed his successful turn on the Contender Series by putting together a 3-1-1 UFC start before a combination of COVID and injuries kept him on the shelf for 15 months. He last saw action in January, stepping up on short notice against top prospect Arman Tsarukyan and suffering a unanimous decision loss.
He gives up one inch of height and two inches of reach to “The Crank.”
Before Frevola withdrew because of COVID protocols and Jaynes took his place against Camacho in June 2020, I gave my thoughts on this match up, ultimately declaring that Frevola would hold his own in a brawl while capitalizing on Camacho’s shaky takedown defense to blunt any attempts to build momentum. My thoughts haven’t really changed one year later, with the possible addendum that Frevola has a not-inconsiderable chance of scoring a Jaynes-like stoppage.
Camacho’s just taken too much damage at this point and failed to adapt his game to compensate. Frevola’s too game for him to out-brawl and too adept with his wrestling for “The Crank” to bring his grappling to bear. In the end, Frevola mixes brawling and takedowns for a comfortable decision with the outside potential of a stoppage.
Prediction: Frevola via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Chase Hooper vs. Steven Peterson
Chase Hooper’s (10-1-1) gutsy effort against Canaan Kawaihae on “Contender Series” earned him a developmental contract, which ultimately brought him to the Octagon after a dominant submission of Luis Gomez in Titan FC. He’s 2-1 in the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion, a loss to Alex Caceres sandwiched between finishes of Daniel Teymur and Peter Barrett.
His professional stoppages are split 5/3 between submissions and knockouts.
Though his “Contender Series” war with Benito Lopez didn’t go his way, Steven Peterson (18-9) made it to the Octagon six months later to battle Brandon Davis to a “Fight of the Night” decision loss. He’s 2-2 since, including a “Performance of the Night”-winning spinning backfist knockout of Martin Bravo in Mexico City, Mexico.
This will be his first fight in more than 20 months, as he withdrew from planned bouts with Aalon Cruz and Seung Woo Choi.
Though Peterson is definitely closer to Barrett than Caceres in terms of overall skill, he’s got the tools to thoroughly ruin Hooper’s day. His solid wrestling, relentless advance and deep gas tank look sufficient to keep things on the feet and beat the life out of Hooper in the process. Plus, while his striking defense is nonexistent, so is Hooper’s striking offense, giving “Ocho” little reason not to just march forward and mash him with power shots.
Even if Hooper does somehow force Peterson to the mat, the latter’s difficult to hold down and borderline impossible to finish. And it won’t be long before Peterson returns to his feet and turns the pressure right back up. Hooper’s insane toughness saves him from a stoppage loss, but earns him a steady mauling.
Prediction: Peterson via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Fares Ziam vs. Luigi Vendramini
Fares Ziam (11-3) paved his road to the Octagon with five straight wins, among them a second-round knockout of TUF veteran Abner Lloveras. Though he fell to Don Madge in his Octagon debut, “Smile Killer” secured a spot on the scoreboard with a narrow decision over Jamie Mullarkey his next time out.
He is five inches taller than “The Italian Stallion” and will enjoy a two-inch reach advantage.
Luigi Vendramini (9-1) showed exceptional boldness in moving up to 170 pounds to fight Elizeu Zaleski on short notice, but found himself rewarded with a vicious second-round knockout loss. He would not see action again until more than two years later, when he flattened Jessin Ayari in 72 seconds to earn “Performance of the Night.”
All of his wins have come inside the distance, five of them via knockout.
It’s tough to get an accurate bead on Vendramini seeing as his only fight since 2018 lasted less than 90 seconds, so keep that in mind as I justify picking Ziam. The Frenchman figures to be the better technical striker of the two, helped in no small part by his considerable height and reach, and appears to be making solid strides in his takedown defense. Though Vendramini doesn’t need much of an opening to take the back, he’ll need to get through Ziam’s jab and knees first, which looks like a mighty tall task.
Vendramini did manage to wipe out a significantly larger man in Ayari, but the German’s pressuring style compromises his size advantage, while Ziam excels at using his reach to potshot his way to victory. In the end, expect him to pick apart the Italian at a distance.
Prediction: Ziam via unanimous decision
265 lbs.: Carlos Felipe vs. Jake Collier
Initially slated to make his UFC debut against Christian Columbo in 2017, a United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) violation kept Carlos Felipe (10-1) out of action until 2020, when he lost a majority decision to Serghei Spivac on “Fight Island.” He went on to defeat Yorgan De Castro less than three months later, then war his way to a narrow split decision over Justin Tafa in Jan. 2021.
All six of his professional finishes have come by form of knockout.
Nearly three years after moving from 185 to 205 pounds to upset Marcel Fortuna, Jake Collier (12-5) returned to the Octagon as a Heavyweight, falling to top prospect Tom Aspinall in his division debut. His sophomore effort proved more successful, as he outworked Gian Villante to even up his UFC record at 4-4.
He stands three inches taller than Felipe and will enjoy a 3.5-inch reach advantage.
Credit where it’s due: Collier proved that he can compete as a UFC Heavyweight, showing impressive striking versatility and a remarkably deep gas tank against Villante despite lugging around so much excess mass. Still, beating the likes of Felipe is a significantly greater ask than outclassing an overweight, underachieving Light Heavyweight. The Brazilian looks to have significant advantages in power and durability to go along with his own strong cardio, which should theoretically allow him to keep pace with Collier and slowly break him down.
Collier is definitely the better kicker of the two and is far less predictable with his offense, but he doesn’t seem equipped to slow down a guy who walked through all of Justin Tafa’s best shots. Expect “The Prototype’s” slickness to carry him to an early lead, only for Felipe’s pressure and body attack to steadily turn the tide en route to a late finish.
Prediction: Felipe via third round technical knockout
Four more UFC 263 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict tomorrow, including a clash of standout featherweight prospects and what figures to be absolute Lightweight mayhem between Brad Riddell and Drew Dober. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 263 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 263: “Adesanya vs. Vettori 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.