UFC 263: Adesanya vs. Vettori staff picks and predictions

Israel Adesanya is favored to win his middleweight title fight with Marvin Vettori at UFC 263. | Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images

Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for UFC 263: Adesanya vs. Vettori.

Are you a believer in the Bloody Elbow curse? You know, the one where we all pick one fighter and they lose? Well is UFC 263 the card to test out that level of cursedness! We all believe Israel Adesanya will beat Marvin Vettori in the middleweight title main event, likewise Deiveson Figueiredo over Brandon Moreno in their flyweight title rematch, ditto for Leon Edwards in his five-rounder with Nate Diaz. Let’s see how cursed we can make this card, or if it gets lifted on Saturday night!

Israel Adesanya vs. Marvin Vettori

Anton Tabuena: Both men improved significantly since their first meeting in 2018, but I think it’s still going to have the same outcome. I think Vettori can make the bout ugly and control Adesanya by the fence to avoid and lessen the amount of striking exchanges, but I still don’t think that wins him the fight, especially going five rounds. It might not end up as the most entertaining contest, but I think Adesanya will be able to defend takedowns really well for the most part, and I believe he’ll also be too slick on the feet. I can see him catching Vettori eventually as takedown attempts and clinch entries become more desperate, but I’m going to pick Israel Adesanya by decision.

Mookie Alexander: Vettori will surely draw from his own success against Adesanya in the first fight and be emboldened a bit by how easily Big Jan controlled Izzy on the mat. It could be replicable to some extent but I also feel that part of Adesanya’s issues with Jan boil down to size and strength. At 185 and since that first Vettori fight Adesanya has been close to impossible to takedown and garner any sort of meaningful control time. If that stays the same then I feel like Vettori may land a few strikes on Adesanya but eat far more in return. Vettori is tough as nails so I don’t think we’ll see a KO but Vettori’s recent issues fading in the later rounds don’t bode well against the champ. Israel Adesanya by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Just out of sheer toughness and consistency, Vettori has a solid shot to trouble Adesanya. He can eat big shots, push forward, and make Adesanya pay for his tendency to get out of position defensively on the back foot. Something Gastelum did very well in their fight, but Whittaker couldn’t manage at all in theirs. The problem for Vettori, however, is that given a fairly straight forward arsenal of 1s and 2s, he’s just not much of a finisher at all. Even if he can go 5 rounds with the ‘Last Stylebender’ I don’t see that as a series of exchanges that Vettori will get the better of. Wrestling is a good option to change all that up. But Vettori’s initial shots tend to be focused on pushing opponents to the fence, and chaining from there. And Adesanya with his back to the fence is almost impossible to take down. Israel Adesanya by decision.

David Castillo: The first fight was a good example of tone as much as style making fights. Vettori set a specific tone, and the resulting tone took away Adesanya’s weapons. For a time. And now here we are, waiting to see if Jeremy Horn can upset Chuck. I like a lot of what Vettori can do, specifically in this matchup, but I never saw the first fight close so much as competitive in spots where you’d expect the reverse to be true. Vettori overachieved on the feet, but he also ended up losing enough exchanges to be forced into plan B. I don’t expect either plans to work. Israel Adesanya by Decision.

Staff picking Adesanya: Anton, Stephie, Mookie, Dayne, Lewis, Harry, Zane, David, Phil
Staff picking Vettori:

Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno

Anton Tabuena: It’s a rematch from an extremely close bout, where both should already be very familiar with what each other brings, so I think it’s just more logical to pick the more potent finisher. It should be fun and entertaining either way, but I think Figuereido just has more avenues to victory, while Moreno might have to go through another grueling 25 minutes, and survive those bombs to win the belt. Deiveson Figueiredo by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: If Moreno can have any sustained success taking Figueiredo down and getting time-consuming top control he’s got a real shot. Hell we saw him land plenty of clean strikes on Figueiredo but much like Moreno, Figueiredo’s chin is ridiculously good. It’s just hard to ignore how much more offensively potent Figueiredo is compared to everyone else at flyweight, and his body work will be instrumental. I also suspect that with a full camp and proper time to prepare he’ll be better at energy management than he was last time. Moreno is a live dog but the pick is Deiveson Figueiredo by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: The lessons of the first fight were that while Moreno can definitely take Figueiredo’s power, Figueiredo can also take Moreno’s pace. Moreno showed some very slight, but consistent grappling advantages as well in their first fight. Mostly due to the fact that Figueiredo is willing to give up takedowns in the knowledge he can scramble through them. Both men are impossibly tough, so I doubt we’re heading for any kind of finish. Which means if Figueiredo can land bigger and better and keep pace with Moreno, I have to pick him to win. He’ll definitely walk into some big shots and takedowns from Moreno, but unless the ‘Assassin Baby’ can either tie him up for significant amounts of time, or really put him away, I just see too much good offense coming from the champ in every round. Deiveson Figueiredo via decision.

David Castillo: As great as the first fight was, I really felt like Fig wore on Moreno. The only round that made me think Moreno might be a real threat was the second round, which saw Moreno mix in more takedowns, and more body work with his power hand. Without that, Moreno is still kind of at the mercy of Figueiredo’s power, and how that dictated the pace of the first fight. Moreno was at his best trying to transition with grappling (it’s what preceded his big fourth round push), but without better defense, he was never able to do it consistently. As such, I believe Figueiredo when he says he can’t make this fight shorter. You’re my carnal Brandon, but sorry. Deieveson Figueiredo by TKO, round 5.

Staff picking Figueiredo: Anton, Stephie, Mookie, Dayne, Harry, Lewis, Zane, David, Phil
Staff picking Moreno:

Leon Edwards vs. Nate Diaz

Anton Tabuena: This is really interesting to me, because Edwards seems to be the exact type of ninja opponent that Diaz has always wanted, especially in a five round fight. He may be a big, true welterweight, but he doesn’t (normally) rely on wrestling and physicality to ragdoll and overwhelm opponents with strength. He’s a slick striker that (normally) prefers to utilize distance and technique rather than just relying on KO power to brutalize opponents early. He (normally) prefers body kicks to leg kicks. And he (normally) isn’t an explosive fast starter, and tends to get in a groove as the fight progresses. That’s exactly what Diaz has always asked for, but I think Edwards is just so much better and more technical in all those areas, that even if he didn’t switch things up and basically played to Diaz’s strengths, he’d still be the favorite. He also of course has all the skills to adjust and make things easier on him to pick apart Diaz’s predictable approach. Given all of that, can Diaz still impose his will like he did with Pettis and Cerrone? Can he pressure Edwards to the fence, make him brawl on his own terms and slowly break him down? Can he pull off another massive McGregor-like upset and prove he’s still elite at 36? I kinda doubt it, but because it’s Diaz, I’m still intrigued and really looking forward to seeing it all unfold. Leon Edwards by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: Other than the aura of Nate Diaz, what compels you to pick him against any top opponent at 170? Edwards’ output tends to wane in later rounds in five-rounders but I can’t make a serious argument that Diaz is in his prime. Edwards’ jab, low kicks, body kicks, elbows, and his underrated wrestling can give Diaz fits. He’s just a better fighter and I’d be surprised if Nate made this competitive. Leon Edwards by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Edwards really should win this. The only real kink in the gears is his tendency to like to coast once he feels that he’s in control. And the fact that this is 5 rounds, perhaps giving Diaz multiple opportunities to rally while Edwards. But, between a rock solid wrestling game, and a very slick power striking game from range, there’s a lot of opportunity for ‘Rocky’ to do what Ben Henderson did to Diaz back in… 2012??? Jesus that was a long time ago. The biggest red flag for me here, honestly, is that Diaz hasn’t even looked like he has indomitable cardio in his back pocket anymore. By the third round against Masvidal, he was absolutely huffing. If Edwards starts strong, that’s even less reason to be confident in a late Diaz rally. Leon Edwards via TKO, round 4.

David Castillo: In a way this fight is perfect for Diaz, but also a nightmare. Perfect because if, for some bizarre reason, Edwards decides to do absolutely nothing, I can see where Diaz’ awkward raw output might be something he can dry edge his way into a judge’s decision with. But except for that stylistic note, Diaz isn’t that good anymore. He can take punches, and strut, but that’s kind of all he’s been doing lately. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong. But I kind of just hate this matchup. To help Edwards’ profile, it’s okay I guess, but it’s a really uninteresting fight between a welterweight who is no longer a contender with nothing but a challenge to an imaginary belt to his name versus an elite contender. Well, and the Diaz name. This is also a fight I can fully see being a complete bore to watch. Leon Edwards by Decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Diaz looks old, slow and shot, and any moments of success lately have largely come via pure durability. As Zane mentioned, he doesn’t even have great cardio by MMA standards any more, he just has toughness in spades. Edwards is in some ways a style nightmare (an actual welterweight, a low kicker, a counterpuncher, and perhaps most importantly a very strong wrestler and clinch fighter). However, he’s also someone without massive dynamic threats who always lets his opponent into the fight in one way or another. So it feels like there’s probably going to be a moment for Diaz fans to cling onto when Leon gets buzzed or gets into trouble in a scramble. Other than that, I think he just works his way to a workmanlike decision that gets people cross. Leon Edwards by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Edwards: Anton, Stephie, Mookie, Dayne, Harry, Lewis, Zane, David, Phil
Staff picking Diaz:

Demian Maia vs. Belal Muhammad

Anton Tabuena: I wouldn’t hesitate to pick Maia if this happened a few years back, but now I’m just not so sure anymore. While losing to Burns isn’t anything to be ashamed of (and a really bad match up), Maia is already 43. He’s obviously not in the peak of his career, but if Belal willingly has exchanges with him on the ground, it could still be a competitive fight. Ah, f—k it, I already went with my head on my main event pick, so I’m going with my heart here. Demian Maia by Submission.

Mookie Alexander: It only takes one takedown for Demian Maia to put you in trouble, but if he is ineffective with his takedowns early he will gas out and Muhammad will put a pace on him that he can’t keep up with. This just seems like a matchup Maia isn’t really capable of winning at this stage of his career. Muhammad has the better striking and he’s hard to take or keep down. Belal Muhammad by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Three or four years ago, I would absolutely have picked Maia, maybe only with some slight hesitation. And, honestly, I kinda still expect that Maia will have a really good first round. Muhammad is no kind of finisher and Maia still had great early success against Gilbert Burns before getting sparked. The big thing is that given Muhammad’s own strong grappling defense, and Maia’s tendency to need to grind his way to victory rather than snatching up the instant sub, it feels like a strong start just won’t be enough. If Maia starts to flag going into the second and third rounds, Muhammad will be right there pouring busy striking volume on him. Belal Muhammad via TKO, round 3.

Phil Mackenzie: This really feels like one of several fights we’ve seen down the years, where the grappler has an obvious finishing edge which is balanced by the other guy is a decent wrestler with a good gas tank (Oleinik-Omielanczuk, Soto-Yahya, Covington-Maia). Which means that Maia is basically going to have to sub Belal Remember The Name Muhammad within the first three minutes (not impossible! Belal Remember The Name Muhammad is not the world’s greatest anti-southpaw fighter, or quickest starter). Other than that he’s going to be getting buzzsawed. Belal Remember The Name Muhammad by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Maia: Anton
Staff picking Muhammad: Stephie, Mookie, Dayne, Harry, Lewis, Zane, David, Phil

Paul Craig vs. Jamahal Hill

Mookie Alexander: Craig’s gonna get lit up. Jamahal Hill by TKO, round 1.

Zane Simon: I have a lot less faith than Hill in his ability to grapple with Paul Craig if need be. And his takedown defense hasn’t even been tested since he gave up a half dozen to Darko Stosic. So, if Craig gets in on his hips early, who knows what could happen. Still, I’m gonna pick Hill’s speed, power, and sprawl to keep things standing just long enough for him to end the fight. Jamahal Hill via KO, round 1.

Staff picking Craig:
Staff picking Hill: Anton, Stephie, Mookie, Dayne, Harry, Zane, David, Phil

Drew Dober vs. Brad Riddell

Mookie Alexander: I feel like a lot of this fight is dependent on Dober’s fast starts and Riddell’s slow starts, as well as whether or not Dober wants to wrestle. It’s been a good while since he’s been a willing wrestler and he’s not really been a dominant one at all. Riddell has been matched up with nothing but opponents who have been spamming takedowns against him to little success. I’m selfishly hoping Dober doesn’t do that and we get a banger that the kickboxer Riddell edges out in the end. Brad Riddell by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: If I’m assuming that this is going to be a pretty pure kickboxing bout carried out in the pocket, standing, between two iron-jawed, power punching juggernauts, then I just kinda have to pick Riddell as the more technical, creative fighter. The big mark in Dober’s favor is that he comes out firing on all cylinders and Riddell absolutely doesn’t. Riddell has yet to out-work anyone in round 1 of any of his UFC bouts. If Dober can keep his output high enough, he may just beat Riddell in a footrace to the finish. But, Riddell tends to get much much better as the fight goes on, so I’ll take him to start putting things together after a rocky beginning. Brad Riddell via decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Close fight, Riddell has technical edges in defence and composure, Dober is just insanely tough and starts faster. I’ll pick for that, essentially. One of the funnier potential dynamics is that both of these guys are surprisingly willing offensive wrestlers without incredible takedown defense of their own. I will be particularly entertained if Riddell gets into trouble in round 1 and then just outwrestles Dober for the rest of the bout. Drew Dober by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Dober: Anton, Stephie, Dayne, Harry, Phil
Staff picking Riddell: Mookie, Zane, David

Eryk Anders vs. Darren Stewart

Zane Simon: I picked Stewart’s power and busy aggression to win this the first time around. Instead it seemed like he really struggled with Anders’ size and physicality in clinches and was in a pretty bad way by the time that illegal knee landed and ended the fight. If Anders can constantly nullify Stewart’s power moving forward, he can push him onto the back foot where he’s a lot less comfortable. Coupled with some increased volume from Anders and I gotta take him for the win. Eryk Anders via TKO, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: The last time Stewart got fouled and had to have a rematch, he didn’t look great. He’s been reliant on his power and durability to bail him out, and Anders unfortunately has both of those things, together with a size advantage. Eryk Anders by TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Anders: Anton, Stephie, Mookie, Dayne, Harry, Zane, David, Phil
Staff picking Stewart:

Joanne Calderwood vs. Lauren Murphy

Anton Tabuena: They’re really burying a title eliminator in the prelims, but then also say that Shevchenko doesn’t have any worthy challengers to build up. Joanne Calderwood by Decision.

Zane Simon: This will very likely be a brutally close fight coming down to how judges weigh a few key moments of control and some questionably significant volume striking. Lauren Murphy almost always has one kind of fight. A busy, back and forth boxing match where she gets a couple takedowns and/or gets taken down a couple times. She tends to be very hard to control, however, so most opponents have to deal with her for the full 15. For Calderwood, her inconsistencies are much more glaring. Good grapplers can tie her up and get her out of the fight with decent consistency. All told, however, I just don’t think that Murphy provides enough of an innate threat to Calderwood to stop her otherwise massive outpouring of volume striking. If Murphy is going to have her typical standup bout, then that leaves a lot of chance for Calderwood to just put out a constant stream of kicks and punches. Joanne Calderwood by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Both women have had similar outcomes: close, nip-tuck decisions against Eye and Lee. My initial tendency is just to automatically favour the former bantamweight to overpower the strawweight, but Calderwood’s range kicking game will definitely complicate matters against someone as footslow as Murphy. Still, I think I’ll take Murphy to wade through it and stay in Calderwood’s face for a fight which will probably be close enough to have some dissenting scores. Lauren Murphy by split decision

Staff picking Calderwood: Anton, Harry, Zane, David
Staff picking Murphy: Stephie, Mookie, Dayne

Hakeem Dawodu vs. Movsar Evloev

Zane Simon: If Dawodu can show the wrestling defense to stay on his feet, then he can probably take advantage of just how confidently and aggressively Evloev steps into the pocket over and over. Even Nik Lentz went strike for strike with Evloev over the first two rounds of their bout. That’s a big, big if, however. Dawodu’s takedown defense has never been the highlight of his game, and he’s rarely, if ever had to face a wrestler as absolutely tireless in his approach and output as Evloev is. Movsar Evloev by decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Evloev has functioned as a good, jab-centric phase shifter and wrestler. What happens when someone can counter that jab? Conversely, Dawodu had some serious trouble with the athletically underpowered Julio Arce in the pocket, and got bodylocked and taken down. Movsar Evloev by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Dawodu: Mookie
Staff picking Evloev: Anton, Stephie, Dayne, Harry, Zane, David, Phil

Rest of the card

Pannie Kianzad vs. Alexis Davis

Staff picking Kianzad: Anton, Stephie, Mookie, Dayne, Harry, Zane, David, Phil
Staff picking Davis:

Terence McKinney vs. Matt Frevola

Staff picking McKinney:
Staff picking Frevola: Anton, Stephie, Mookie, Dayne, Harry, Zane, David, Phil

Luigi Vendramini vs. Fares Ziam

Staff picking Vendramini: Stephie, Mookie, Harry, Zane, David, Phil
Staff picking Ziam: Anton, Dayne

Chase Hooper vs. Steven Peterson

Staff picking Hooper: Anton, Stephie, Harry, Zane, David
Staff picking Peterson: Mookie, Dayne, Phil

Jake Collier vs. Carlos Felipe

Staff picking Collier:
Staff picking Felipe: Anton, Stephie, Mookie, Dayne, Harry, Zane, David, Phil

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