UFC 263
By Thomas Gerbasi, On Twitter: @TGERBASI

UFC 263 Prelims/Main Card Previews and Predictions

UFC 263 is finally here! Expect a night filled with violence and fireworks when the UFC athletes square off in Glendale, Arizona.

Early Prelim Gem

(UR) Chase “The Dream” Hooper versus (UR) Steven “Ocho” Peterson (Featherweight) (Jake Staires)

Peterson will lose 20% of his purse due to weighing in three pounds overweight.

Steven Peterson makes his long-awaited return to the UFC as he takes on a rising star in the featherweight division Chase Hooper. While Peterson took a break after going 2-3 in his last 5 fights, Hooper has been slowly making a name for himself over the last year and a half. Although he looks like a child and almost lost his second straight fight before pulling off an amazing heel hook against Peter Barrett, the potential is obvious. Being 2-1 since entering the UFC, Hooper has all the potential to nail the hammer down a little bit further against a veteran in the UFC. Yes, Peterson’s career in the UFC has left a lot to be desired. Look for Hooper to push the pace but eventually surprise Peterson with a flurry on the feet that gets the job done. The Dream’s fights don’t tend to go the distance. Hooper via TKO (2nd round).

Prelims

The UFC 263 prelim card is stacked with great fights. There are a few ranked fights and a couple exciting unranked fights.

(#14) Movsar Evloev versus (#15) Hakeem Dawodu (Featherweight) (Garrett Burroughs)

A traditional wrestler versus striker matchup, Movsar Evloev and Hakeem Dawodu present the fans with what should be a very intriguing featherweight matchup. Undefeated in his professional career, Evloev uses his grappling ability and wrestling background to grind out decisions. His last fight back in January of this year against Nik Lentz showed how dominant he could be. Still, Dawodu is no easy out. Riding a 5 fight win streak of his own, he will look to keep this fight standing to the best of his ability. The key for him will be able to snuff the takedowns of Evloev, which boasting an 88% takedown defense, shouldn’t be too hard of an issue. I have been high on “Mean” Hakeem Dawodu for a while now, and I think that train keeps moving at UFC 263. Dawodu via 3rd round TKO.

(#3) Lauren Murphy versus (#6) Joanne Calderwood (Flyweight)

Lauren Murphy and Joanne Calderwood square off in a women’s flyweight bout on Saturday, June 12th. Lauren Murphy, the number 3 ranked flyweight contender, is on a four-fight win streak and looking to get a shot at the title. Joanne Calderwood, the 6th ranked flyweight contender, is looking to get inside the top 5 of the division with a win over Murphy. Lauren Murphy is a complete fighter with great striking and good submission skills. She is mainly a striker and only goes to takedowns in dire scenarios. Joanne Calderwood is also a great striker, but in my opinion, she has superior grappling. I think Calderwood will do her best to get the fight on the ground so that she can utilize her wrestling and submission skills. I predict Calderwood by submission in the third and final round.

(UR) Eryk Anders versus (UR) Darren Stewart (Light Heavyweight) 

A rematch of their fight back in March of this year that ended in a no-contest due to illegal knee, Eryk Anders and Darren Stewart look to lock horns again. Anders, a former linebacker for the University of Alabama turned MMA fighter, is looking to pick up his first win since October of 2019. Stewart is also looking to get back into the win column for the first time in over a year. Both men are knockout artists throughout their career, 7 for Stewart and 8 for Anders, so expect this to either be a dud or a barnburner. I’m going to lean Stewart here, and Anders will be cut from the roster with a loss regardless. Stewart via unanimous decision. 

(#13) Drew Dober versus (UR) Brad “Quake” Riddell (Lightweight)

Drew Dober is set to take on the New Zealander Brad Riddell in a matchup in a matchup that could place the winner on the fringe of the top 10 in the lightweight division. With Dober’s last two losses coming against Beniel Dariush and Islam Makhachev, he still has the confidence to lay claim in the company’s most competitive division. Before his tough loss to Makhachev, Dober pieced together a 3 fight winning streak which saw him earn multiple Performace of the Night bonuses. Riddell will be no easy task with him on a 6 fight winning streak and owning a 3-0 record inside Dana White’s playground. While Dober will aggressively attempt to get Riddell to the mat, Riddell will use his good takedown defense to stay on the feet and outstrike the bigger Dober for 15 minutes. Riddell could grow to be a dark horse in the land of 155ers. Riddell via unanimous decision.

UFC 263 Main Card

(#14) Paul Craig versus (#15) Jamahal Hill (Light Heavyweight)

This is one of the more enticing fights on the UFC 263 card. Paul Craig and Jamahal Hill are both at the bottom of the light heavyweight division, but both are trying to make a push towards the top.

 Paul Craig is the definition of a submission master, with 12 submission victories in his MMA career. In past fights, he has done a great job at using his striking to set up takedowns and submissions. Even though he is mainly a submission guy, he has really impressive striking, landing 49% of his significant strikes.

Jamahal Hill is an undefeated fighter who is looking to make a name for himself. He is a great striker, with 4 knockouts in his eight wins. In addition to those 4 knockout victories, he also has 4 decision victories. Hill lands significant strikes at a 53% rate, which is impressive for a light heavyweight. This fight really excites me because it pits two different styles against each other. Hill is a striker who wants to keep the fight on the feet, while Craig is a wrestler who wants to get submissions. The winner of this fight will be whoever defends the other style more effectively while still being able to implement their own style. I predict a unanimous decision victory for Jamahal Hill. I think his striking will be too accurate and it will overwhelm his opponent.

(#9) Demian Maia versus (#12) Belal “Remember The Name” Muhammad (Welterweight)

After going through an unfortunate sequence of events in his last fight against Leon Edwards, Belal Muhammad gets back in the octagon to face the 43-year-old Demian Maia at UFC 263. With Muhammad going on a tear before the no-contest with Edwards, Maia will face a tough task in his first fight back in nearly 15 months. One would think that Maia is close to calling it quits, but everyone saw the three-fight win streak he rattled off after a rough losing streak against the division’s elite. While Maia has made a career of stopping the momentum of younger fighters with his flawless BJJ practices, Muhammad has proven to be successful against opponents with Maia’s game plan. Muhammad avoids takedowns and submission attempts and finishes the Brazilin legend before the judges get their hands on it. Muhammad via TKO (3rd round).

(#3) Leon Edwards versus (UR) Nate Diaz (Welterweight)

Nate Diaz makes his long-awaited return at UFC 263. What a fight for fans of the sport. The highly anticipated return of Diaz to the octagon against a perennial title challenger in Leon Edwards. Edwards has had a string of bad luck over the past few years. Notably, the eye poke against Belal Muhammad and the slew of fights that were canceled over the past two years, leaving “Rocky” having fought one time since July of 2019. Will ring rust play a factor? The question can be asked for both men. Diaz has not fought since a doctor stoppage ended his fight with the god-awful Jorge Masvidal back in November of 2019. Edwards’s last loss came against the champion at 170lbs, Kamaru Usman, in December of 2015. This one is a weird fight to pick because conventional wisdom should lean toward Edwards, but boy is it hard to bet against Nate Diaz. If I have to give an official prediction, I believe Edwards will win a decision, but if this fight is overdue to a stoppage, it’s Diaz, no doubt. Edwards via unanimous decision. 

(C) Deiveson Figueiredo versus (#1) Brandon Moreno (Flyweight) 

If you are not excited about this title fight, you may not have a pulse. In a rematch of a fight of the year candidate in 2020, Brandon Moreno is looking to take Deiveson Figueiredo’s flyweight belt. The two fought to a draw in their first fight at UFC 256, and it was maybe the most even fight I have ever seen in the UFC. Both men traded shots and takedowns for 25 minutes.

The champion, Deiveson Figueiredo, is the dictionary definition of well-rounded. He has power, wrestling, submissions, and a ridiculous motor. With 9 knockout victories and 8 submission victories, he can win a fight however he wants. Landing 52% of his significant strikes and 50% of his takedowns, Figueiredo poses many problems for anyone he fights.

The #1 contender, Brandon Moreno, made a name for himself at UFC 256 when he stood toe to toe with the champion for 25 minutes. Moreno has elite wrestling and ridiculous submission skills. With 10 victories via submission in his MMA career, he is a scary fighter if he can get you to the ground. While he is not known for his striking, Moreno still has good power and accuracy in either hand. He has 2 knockout victories in his UFC career. I really think, unlike the last fight, Moreno is going to push the fight to the ground, where I think he has an advantage over the champion.

After 25 minutes, I think Brandon Moreno is going to do enough to take the belt from Figueiredo. I think he will use his wrestling to control the clinch and gain an advantage in ground control time. I also think his striking will be even crisper than the last time we saw him, and I would not be surprised if he can land a knockdown and then use that to control the champion on the ground. Regardless of the outcome of the fight, expect a fight of the year and instant classic after this one is over.

(C) Israel Adesanya versus (#3) Marvin Vettori 

Listen, I understand Marvin Vettori is on a nice little run. Vettori has won five straight fights and is currently #3 on the UFC Middleweight rankings. Yet, look at the guys he’s faced: Cezar Ferreira, Andrew Sanchez, Karl Roberson, Jack Hermansson, and most recently, Kevin Holland. He has beaten a bunch of unknowns. Holland never panned out. Hermansson was always overrated, and honestly, I don’t even know if the other fighters he faced are on the roster. No analysis, no looking into this too much. Adesanya by KO and it’ll be early. Adesanya via 2nd round KO.

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