5 Fights We Need to See After UFC 263

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IJune 13, 2021

5 Fights We Need to See After UFC 263

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    UFC 263 went down on Saturday night in Glendale, Arizona, and the card was by all accounts a banger.

    In the main event, middleweight champion Israel Adesanya defended his throne with a workmanlike unanimous decision victory over Italy’s Marvin Vettori, rebounding from a loss to light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz in the process. 

    In the co-main event, the flyweight title changed hands, as Brandon Moreno put forth a career-best performance with a second-round submission win over the highly regarded Deiveson Figueiredo. 

    As if all of that wasn’t enough to wow fans, the card also featured a big win from Birmingham’s Leon Edwards, who dominated Nate Diaz en route to a decision win, as well as impressive victories from fighters like Belal Muhammad, Paul Craig, and Lauren Murphy.

    It was the kind of card that will keep fans talking for days. One of the biggest topics of conversation, as ever, will be what’s next for the event’s stars.

    The UFC matchmaking team works in mysterious ways, but here are the fights we’re hoping to see going forward.

Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker 2

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    Despite his recent light heavyweight loss to Jan Blachowicz, Israel Adesanya remains the true king of the middleweight division. He reaffirmed that in the UFC 263 main event with a decisive unanimous decision win over Italian challenger Marvin Vettori.

    While Adesanya has only been the middleweight champion since late 2019, he’s been so dominant that he’s all but cleared out his division. As such, the time has come to start recycling opponents he’s already beaten—like the former champ Robert Whittaker. 

    Adesanya beat Whittaker to capture the middleweight strap back in 2019. The win was decisive enough that, under ordinary circumstances, a rematch wouldn’t be necessary. Whittaker, however, rebounded from that loss with three straight wins over world-class foes: Darren Till, Jared Cannonier, and most recently, Kelvin Gastelum.

    The former champ has earned a crack at redemption, and from the sounds of it, he’s ready for it.

Brandon Moreno vs. Askar Askarov

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    Brandon Moreno has never looked better than he did in his UFC 263 flyweight title win over Deiveson Figueiredo. The Mexican star made Figueiredo look like he was stuck in quicksand, and after tenderizing him with a spear-like jab, submitted him with a third-round rear-naked choke.

    While a rematch with Figueiredo is certainly possible given that the pair fought to a draw less than eight months ago, it would be great to see Moreno begin his reign by defending his title against a fresh contender like Askar Askarov.

    The Russian, who holds the No. 2 spot in the flyweight rankings, boasts an impressive 14-0-1 record, with wins over the likes Time Elliott, Alexandre Pantoja and Joseph Benavidez, and his lone draw coming against Moreno.

    Suffice to say that he’s earned the opportunity, and he and Moreno have a score to settle. It makes all the sense in the world.

Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman/Colby Covington Winner

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    Generally speaking, fighters don’t earn title shots by beating unranked fighters, but No. 3-ranked welterweight contender Leon Edwards has done just that.

    On the UFC 263 main card, the Brit picked up a decisive unanimous decision victory over Nate Diaz. While Diaz isn’t anywhere near a spot in the welterweight top-15, he remains one of the most popular fighters in the sport, which makes him a valuable name to have on your resume. 

    Throw in the fact that Edwards was already on a nine-fight unbeaten streak—with wins over the likes of Rafael dos Anjos, Donald Cerrone and Gunnar Nelson—and it’s undeniable: the man deserves a crack at the welterweight strap.

    According to UFC President Dana White, welterweight champion Kamaru Usman will next defend his title against long-time rival Colby Covington. Once that fight is the books, however, Edwards deserves his opportunity, regardless of which man is sitting in the throne.

Paul Craig vs. Volkan Oezdemir

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    Scottish light heavyweight Paul Craig entered his UFC 263 main card fight with unbeaten knockout artist Jamahal Hill as a substantial underdog. He clearly didn’t receive that memo.

    Early in the first round, the Scotsman dragged the fight to the mat and promptly got to work with what is undeniably some of the best jiu jitsu in the light heavyweight division. While the tap never materialized, he managed to ruin Hill’s arm from guard, forcing the referee to intervene, which meant a TKO victory.

    It was one of the most impressive wins of Craig's career, and he should be rewarded for it. From here, he should be matched up with No. 9-ranked light heavyweight contender Volkan Oezdemir.

    It’s admittedly a big of a step up for Craig, who was ranked at No. 14 ahead of UFC 263, but he’s earned it, and Oezdemir has been struggling with consistency, and is probably due for a bit of a step down in competition. 

    It makes all the sense in the world.

Lauren Murphy vs. Valentina Shevchenko

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    Leon Edwards wasn’t the only fighter to earn a title shot at UFC 263.

    On the event’s undercard, flyweight contender Lauren Murphy made her claim to a crack at champion Valentina Shevchenko undeniable with a hard-fought decision triumph over Scotland’s Joanne Calderwood. 

    With that win, Murphy—who was already ranked at No. 3—is now on a five-fight streak, with triumphs over solid opposition like Andrea Lee and Roxanne Modafferi. If she’s indeed granted a shot at the champion Shevchenko, she’ll enter the cage as a gargantuan underdog—like everyone else with the misfortune of fighting the Kyrgyzstani champ—but it’s an opportunity she’s earned.

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