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# mexican standoff
Adesanya retains middleweight title but new flyweight champ crowned at UFC 263
Deiveson Figueiredo was dethroned by Brandon Moreno in Arizona.

mma-ufc-263-adesanya-vs-vettori SIPA USA / PA Images Israel Adesanya is still the man to beat in the middleweight division. SIPA USA / PA Images / PA Images

ISRAEL ADESANYA WAS back to his brilliant best overnight, defeating challenger Marvin Vettori with a show of superior striking and defending his middleweight title at UFC 263 in Glendale, Arizona.

It was a masterful return to form for the New Zealander on a wild night at the Gila River Arena that also saw the UFC crown its first-ever Mexican-born champion.

“I didn’t feel any threat at all,” said Adesanya, 31, after getting a comfortable unanimous decision.

Adesanya suffered the first loss of his MMA career in March after moving up a division and finding himself outmuscled. But Saturday saw him down to a weight class where he is noticeably more comfortable.

The Nigerian-born fighter’s speed around the cage and his precision striking, with low kicks and jabs, was too much for Vettori from the first bell. The Italian tried to use his bigger bulk to get Adesanya to the mat, but each time the New Zealander slipped out and got up to his feet again.

In the end, the judges’ cards read 50-45, 50-45, 50-45 –- and Adesanya was back in business, describing himself as “the king”.

There were questions before the fight about the mental toll on Adesanya of his career’s first defeat, and of the death last month of one of his close friends who was attacked on a night out in Auckland. Adesanya dedicated the fight to his friend, and laid his belt down in the middle of the cage in tribute.

Before Adesanya’s masterclass, the 18,000-odd fans in attendance raised the roof when flyweight challenger Brandon Moreno laid on a rear-naked choke in the third round that saw Brazil’s Deiveson Figueiredo first tap out and then hand over his belt to the Mexican.

Despite his nation’s storied history across all combat sports, there has never before been a Mexican UFC champion and the 27-year-old Moreno broke down in tears as he spoke in the cage afterwards.

“This moment is so amazing,” he said. “I’ve worked my whole life for this. Viva Mexico!”

The pair had thrown up one of the fights of the year when they met at UFC 256 last December, across five rounds of mayhem that was called a majority draw. This time around, Moreno left nothing to chance, moving with speed and purpose at a high tempo.

mma-ufc-263-figueiredo-vs-moreno SIPA USA / PA Images Celebrations for new flyweight champion Brandon Moreno. SIPA USA / PA Images / PA Images

Earlier in the night, Leon Edwards survived a late surge to defeat veteran Nate Diaz – who was returning to the octagon for the first time in 18 months – in a bloody encounter.

The 29-year-old battled Conor McGregor’s old rival, looking to stay in the mix for a world title shot after his last bout in March was deemed a no-contest following an accidental eye poke on Belal Muhammad.

The English welterweight had won his previous eight fights and dominated Diaz with forward pressure. Diaz came off the worse as the fighters hit the floor in the third round, with Edwards’ punches opening up a pair of cuts on the American’s face that began gushing blood.

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Edwards suffered a serious scare in the bout’s final minute as Diaz connected with a right and followed with a straight left to the jaw that knocked the Jamaican-born fighter back into the cage.

Edwards was swaying but Diaz could not get it done and the Birmingham-based fighter finished on the right side of a 49-46 decision from the judges.

Saturday night continued the UFC’s rollout of live events for American fans as the United States emerges from pandemic lockdowns that shut down most action for a year.

The UFC described the Arizona event as a sellout, much like the open-to-the-public events in Jacksonville, Florida, and Houston, Texas.

© – AFP, 2021

– Additional reporting from Press Association 


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