Last night (Sat., June 12, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) traveled inside Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., for UFC 263. Even the most cynical fight fan could get excited about last night’s pay-per-view (PPV) — a pair of excellent title rematches headlined the night. However, there was really a depth of quality throughout the event, which featured lots of exciting prospects looking to emerge as contenders.
Let’s take a closer look at the best performances and techniques:
Israel Adesanya shredded Marvin Vettori largely off the strength of his feints and left kick.
At the moment, the outside low kick is probably the most devastating strike in mixed martial arts (MMA). Every event, someone gets chopped down to the lead thigh or calf until they are a far lesser athlete. However, when fighters are opposite stance and therefore engaging in an open stance battle (Southpaw vs. Orthodox), that outside low kick is far less effective.
Adesanya is a switch stance fighter, but prior to this bout, he’s never hung out in Southpaw for such long periods of the time. The reasoning was clear: Adesanya wanted to destroy the lead leg, and by switching Southpaw, he could ram his shin into Vettori’s lead leg much more easily. To make things even worse, Southpaws are often less accustomed to checking that outside kick, because they mostly fight right-handed athletes.
Of course, that’s not to say just anyone could go leftie and kick Vettori’s lead leg to pieces. Adesanya still showed incredible craft with his hip feints, as well as using his right front kick to set up the left low kick.
The other seriously impressive part of Adesanya’s game was his defense along the fence. Vettori made the correct call in trying to herd Adesanya into the fence, it just didn’t help much! From that historically bad position, Adesanya’s head movement and counter punches still saw him lead the dance, and his takedown defense along the cage repeatedly flustered the Italian. Even when Vettori locked his hands on the double, he could seldom lift the taller fighter.
Brilliant work from the Middleweight kingpin, who returned to his throne in dominant fashion.
Moreno Makes The Adjustments
Brandon Moreno really just went out there and kicked Deiveson Figueiredo’s ass last night.
From the first bell, the two were clearly in different head spaces. Moreno was laser-focused, accurate and fast right away. Figueiredo, meanwhile, seem almost half-asleep and far too relaxed for the challenge ahead of him.
Moreno took that early advantage and ran with it. He went after the former champion, establishing his jab immediately before building upon the weapon with combinations. Rather than look to counter so often, Moreno lead the dance, and it resulted in some very effective early lands.
The Mexican athlete was ahead on the mat too. Both men scored takedowns, but whenever Moreno gained top position, he went after the back mount like a dog chasing a rabbit. When he captured the back, he attacked the rear naked choke with a similar determination, and he scored the submission finish!
It was a remarkable performance, and a great, rare moment where one of MMA’s clear good guys gets to raise a belt over his head.
Nate Diaz Never Die!
I wrote an entire piece about the timeless quality of Nate Diaz fights, so check that out HERE.
As for Leon Edwards, the man deserves a title shot. He hasn’t lost in forever, and outside of the final minute, he showed a huge deal of craft and composure to score yet another five-round victory. No one is going to be favored against Kamaru Usman, but Edwards’ combination of ripping kicks, precise distance management, and excellent wrestling are likely to test him as much as anyone.
2021, Year Of Limb Breaks
A slick, powerful striker with some skills on the canvas to boot, Jamahal Hill is really a great prospect at 205 pounds. Unfortunately, good prospects tend to fall into Paul Craig’s trap more than most — just ask Magomed Ankalaev, who seems nearly guaranteed to capture the crown at some point.
Craig wasted little time in this fight. He landed a decent body kick then promptly pulled guard. Almost immediately, Craig was cranking on an inside shoulder lock from the knee shield half guard; hardly the usual weapon a young fighter has to face! When Hill tried to posture out of the hold, he left his other arm extended.
Craig efficiently wrapped the arm up and snapped it in one smooth motion (watch highlights).
The fight didn’t end there, though. Hill maybe tapped, maybe not, and the referee let the bout continue. Craig transitioned to an unnecessary triangle choke and elbowed his opponent in the face until the referee finally started to realize that Hill could not defend himself with a shattered elbow.
The Rise Of Riddell
Brad Riddell is a contender at 155 pounds.
There’s a lot to be impressed with by the Kiwi kickboxer. With a great deal of Muay Thai and kickboxing experience in his back pocket, Riddell has been able to quickly put together wins inside the Octagon, which set up his showdown with Drew Dober last night. True to the advertisements, the two went to war ... and it was AWESOME.
Historically, Riddell’s wrestling has been something of a weakness, but he showed improvement there, even scoring a few brief takedowns of his own along the way. Really though, this was a kickboxing battle, and what impressed most was Riddell’s composure. “Quake” took some brutal shots in the first round, and Dober hits seriously hard. Yet later in the fight, Riddell was still able to comfortable stand in the pocket, slip strikes, and fire back with a vengeance. Most fighters cannot pull off the kind of slip counter Riddell used to drop Dober with in the third round at any point, let alone deep into a grueling fight.
On a final note: holy crap, Dober’s chin is incredible and borderline unfair.
A Perfect Introduction
Terrance McKinney entered UFC with perhaps the most absurd backstory of all time. Seriously, the man died twice (read that tale here).
Inside the actual Octagon, McKinney took a very short-notice debut against Matt Frevola, a pretty established tough out. “T-Wrecks” proved more than an intriguing story, however, blitzing his opponent immediately with a nasty one-two combination that put Frevola on the mat. A few follow up punches sealed the deal, earning McKinney a seven-second knockout win (watch highlights).
Then, he immediately injured his knee in celebration. Does it get much more entertaining?
For complete UFC 263: “Adesanya vs. Vettori 2” results and play-by-play, click HERE.