UFC 263 rolls into Arizona this weekend, with the small matter of a rematch between Israel Adesanya and Marvin Vettori for the World Middleweight title topping what is a bill stacked with talent from top to bottom.
There is undoubted bad blood between the pair, as Michael Bisping confirmed to The Sportsman this week. “They don’t like each other,” ‘The Count’ said. “It’s not fabricated, it’s not manufactured, it’s not trying to sell the fight. They just don’t like each other. They’re rivals, that’s why.”
Adesanya won their initial 2016 bout with a split-decision, and is the Betfred favourite to defend his title in the rematch.
Who Else Is Fighting?
Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno have a score to settle after their draw back in November, while England’s Leon Edwards faces UFC royalty in Nate Diaz in what is the first non-title fight outside of a main event to go the full five rounds as opposed to the usual three.
Joanne Calderwood is another British fighter with world title ambitions and is the slight favourite to take a step closer to that goal when she faces Lauren Murphy. A shot at Valentina Shevchenko’s flyweight title could await the winner.
Belal Muhammad returns to the ring after his freak injury which saw Edwards poke him in the eye last time out and he was left unable to continue. Muhammad faces off against Demian Maia in a welterweight contest, while Paul Craig has a tough ask against Jamahal Hill in their light heavyweight bout.
What Else Is On The Line?
The world middleweight title is up for grabs when Adesanya and Vettori go to battle. Bisping called Adesanya “the best striker in the whole of the UFC”, although did admit that the New Zealander could do with working on his ground work.
“You’ve got to get in his face. If you crowd the kicker, you get in the pocket, it’s harder for him. You’ve got to put him on the back foot and mix up the fight.
“I’m a massive fan of Adesanya, but he could definitely do with improving his ground work.”
Figueiredo is the Betfred favourite to settle the score when he defends his flyweight title against Moreno. Their initial draw took place back in December, and Moreno is up against it if he wants to come out on top this time out.
When Can I Tune In?
The undercard and main event will be available to watch on BT Sport 1, with coverage of the main card getting underway from 3am. More info is available at bt.com/sport/ufc.
Where Is UFC 263 Taking Place?
The event will happen in Arizona’s Gila River Arena stadium, spitting distance from downtown Phoenix. The arena has a seating capacity of 19,000 and was opened on Boxing Day 2003.
Edwards v Diaz
It may not be the main event, but Edwards v Diaz has got the MMA world and beyond talking about UFC 263.
Before that no-contest against Muhammad last time out, Edwards found himself on an eight-bout winning run stretching back to his defeat to UFC pound-for-pound number two Kamaru Usman.
In his chat with The Sportsman, Bisping spoke of his confidence in his compatriot Edwards against the former conqueror of Conor McGregor.
“Diaz is incredibly tough and he deserves everybody’s respect. He’s a fighter’s fighter. All the qualities you look for in a fighter, Diaz has.
“But he’s met his match here. Leon’s too big, he’s too good. He has more ways to win, Leon can out-grapple him, he can take him down whenever.”