UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya clinched victory over Marvin Vettori retaining his undisputed 185-pound title in the main event of UFC 263 in Glendale, Ariz.
The pair had met before, when Adesanya claimed a split decision victory over Vettori in April 2018 in Nigeria-born Kiwi’s second UFC fight.
But in Saturday night’s rematch, Adesanya, 31, showed his class with a virtuoso performance as he parted the Italian for the duration of the five-round championship at Gila River Arena.
Vettori started the fight aggressively and landed an early takedown, but Adesanya quickly settled into his job and dominated the striking rallies, using repeated kicks on Vettori’s leading leg to punish the challenger. remotely.
Adesanya’s control over the fight caused a lot of consternation in Vettori’s corner between rounds, as coach Rafael Cordeiro implored his man to be more aggressive in his pursuit of the withdrawal.
But Vettori simply had no answer for the champion, who seemed in total control as he headed for a shutout decision victory with all three judges scoring the fight 50-45 in favor of Adesanya.
Following the official announcement of the result, Adesanya dedicated his victory to teammate Fau Vake, a promising fighter who died in May from injuries sustained in an alleged attack in Auckland, New Zealand.
“I just want to say Fau Vake, Fau Vake, Fau Vake, I love you, man… This fight that I dedicate to you, Fau,” he said.
Adesanya then said he wanted his next title defense to come against former Australian champion Robert Whittaker, but on condition that the fight take place in Adesanya’s hometown of Auckland after Adesanya dethroned Whittaker in Melbourne when they first met at UFC 243.
“We have to bring it back to my territory this time,” he said.
Moreno claims historic title
In the main co-event of the night, Brandon Moreno achieved a remarkable career turnaround by winning the undisputed UFC flyweight title.
Moreno, 27, subdued defending champion Deiveson Figueiredo via a bare back choke in the third round to win the title in the second attempt and thus become the first Mexican champion in UFC history.
Moreno started as the 16th seed of The Ultimate Fighter’s 24th season in 2016 and was dropped from the UFC roster in 2018.
But “The Assassin Baby” fought to return to the UFC in mid-2019 and rose to the top of the flyweight division. His first shot for gold came last December when he and Figueiredo, 33, produced one of the fights of the year in a bout that ended in a majority draw.
He demanded an immediate rematch and Moreno put in the best UFC performance of his career to defeat Figueiredo and win the undisputed 125-pound title.
Edwards survives Diaz fear to win big win
It was also a big night for Englishman Leon Edwards, who survived Nate Diaz’s dying onslaught to claim a landslide victory on the scorecards in a special five-round welterweight bout and went put in the frame for a shot. for the UFC welterweight title.
Edwards, 29, looked calm and composed as he made his way through the first four rounds of the bout but was in big trouble when Diaz connected with a huge straight that had the Birmingham native on wobbly legs .
But, despite pressure from the 36-year-old, Edwards survived to take scores 49-46 on all three scorecards and extend his unbeaten streak to 10 fights.
After the fight, Edwards paid tribute to the veteran of the Octagon, telling UFC commentator Joe Rogan, “Nate is a veteran, you know. I hit him with everything except the kitchen sink! So, fair play to Nate. I pay tribute to him.
“I was grabbed by the back hand, straight through the guard, but that’s what it is. I’m 29, I’m still learning, I’m still growing, so I’m looking forward to my title shot. “
When asked how hard Diaz had hit him on that last round, Edwards laughed, “Hard enough to make me wobble!”
“I probably faltered once in my career, so fair play for him, you know?”
“It came through the guard. I keep a wide guard and he came right in the middle with it, so fair play for Nate. “
Edwards’ victory puts him in a prime position to fight for the UFC welterweight title, with current champion Kamaru Usman the last man to defeat the Briton when they first met in 2015.
However, before fight night in Arizona, UFC President Dana White said former interim champion Colby Covington was the next man in line.
Craig claims stopping victory
Scottish submission specialist Paul Craig extended his 100% finish rate by claiming a TKO finish from fellow light heavyweight contender Jamahal Hill after the referee initially failed to notice Craig had dislocated the elbow of his opponent during the fight.
Craig of Coatbridge, 33, vowed to test the previously undefeated Hill, 30, jiu-jitsu in the evening’s first main card fight, and quickly dragged the ground action in search of a submission in the first round.
Craig locked Hill’s right arm and then switched to left arm as he secured a tight armband. After Hill refused to press the submission hold, Craig’s pressure finally dislocated the American’s arm as the crowd gasped in shock.
Remarkably, referee Al Guinee was unaware of Hill’s injury as the American bravely tried to continue. But, after realizing he had broken his opponent’s arm, Craig changed his target and connected with a series of elbows to Hill’s head to eventually force the stop at 1:59 in the first round.
“Either type, nap, or it slam, and tonight it broke,” Craig told UFC commentator Joe Rogan after his win.
“A hell of a opponent over there. Took these punches after his arm broke. It’s difficult.
“I felt him go. So there was little point in putting pressure on it. And that’s why I decided to keep nudging.
“It’s the referee’s job to protect my opponent. My job is to end the fight. “
The British lose the preliminaries
On the night’s preliminary card, England’s Darren Stewart lost to American Eryk Anders in their light heavyweight rematch.
The first meeting between the two ended in a controversial no disputed after an illegal knee of Anders, 34, which prevented Stewart from continuing, was ruled accidental. But there was no such controversy in the rematch as the pair fought in a grueling three-round battle in Arizona.
Although he faced a bigger man, Stewart, 30, rescinded Anders’ withdrawal threat and punished the former college football player with his knees to the body in the first round, but the American had the best of the trade against the second close.
This set up a crucial final round and, after Stewart landed a first out, Anders managed to turn the position around and dominate the remainder of the round to secure a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29- 27) on the dashboards.
Also on the preliminary card, Scotland’s Joanne Calderwood narrowly missed the scorecards after a two-way battle with flyweight contender Lauren Murphy in their 125-pound fight.
Murphy, 37, edged out the first round on two of the three scorecards, then won a dominant second round to gain the go-ahead on two of the three scorecards to edge Calderwood, 34, 29-28, 28- 29, 29-28 after a heated battle.