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Guide to UFC 263: Adesanya Vs. Vettori 2

Getting prepared for UFC action this coming Saturday? Here is everything you need to know about the event with our Guide to UFC 263.

UFC 263
Date: June 12, 2021
Location: Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona

Main Card
Start Time: 10:00 p.m. ET, 7:00 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN+ pay-per-view

UFC Middleweight Championship- Israel Adesanya(c) vs. Marvin Vettori

Overall Records: Adesanya 20-1, Vettori 17-4-1
UFC Records: Adesanya 9-1, Vettori 7-2-1
Last Fight: Blachowicz def. Adesanya (title fight), UDec, UFC 258 (3/6/21), Vettori def. Holland, UDec, UFC On ABC 2 (4/10/21)
Last Five Fights: Adesanya 4-1, Vettori 5-0
Rankings: Adesanya C, Vettori #3
Betting Odds: Adesanya -265, Vettori +210
Preview: The main event of UFC 263 sees a rematch of a bout that took place just over three years ago in the same building. UFC Middleweight Champion Adesanya returns to his division, looking to bounce back from his first career loss, when he defends against Vettori. Adesanya was attempting to become a two-division champion in March, but came up short in dropping a decision to UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jan Blachowicz. It ended his perfect record at 20-0, but now he can turn his full focus to running through the middleweight division that he remains at the top of. It will be the third title defense of Adesanya’s undisputed reign.

Vettori gets a title shot on the heels of not only winning five straight fights, but being the one who was available to fight on this date. It comes right around two months after his last fight, a lackluster decision win over Kevin Holland. It wasn’t a win to make people clamor for Vettori to get a title shot, but with Robert Whittaker unable to take the fight right now, he became the next in line and quickly said yes. While his win streak has been solid, he doesn’t have that real signature win, which makes him the big underdog in this one.

These two fought in April 2018, a fight won by split decision by Adesanya. Adesanya clearly won the fight, as all but two media scores had it for him, and the general consensus was the scorecard for Vettori was a bad score. Vettori has been upset since that fight, thinking he was robbed, but he was in no way robbed at all, but now is his chance to prove that he is better than the champion. Vettori and his team are going to be looking at that Blachowicz fight for the blueprint to defeating Adesanya, but that is still easier said than done. Vettori and Blachowicz are different fighters- Blachowicz is patient and more powerful while Vettori is aggressive and fights recklessly sometimes. Adesanya will still have the speed edge, and he is a pinpoint striker with excellent counters. Vettori is likely going to try and push this against the fence, but Adesanya does work well in the clinch and has good takedown defense. Adesanya should use a gameplan that sees him control the distance and utilize a lot of leg and body kicks to keep Vettori out of the takedown range.

It also could come down to if Adesanya is in the head of Vettori. Vettori is an emotional fighter, and those emotions take over sometimes. It’s clear early in fight week that Adesanya has seemed to get to Vettori, as Vettori is already trying to start confrontations in the host hotel. I think this fight will go a lot different than the first fight did, and I’m not sure there is a middleweight that can beat Adesanya. He is still, by far, the most talented fighter at 185 pounds, and the Blachowicz loss didn’t hurt his stock at all as a fighter. I see Adesanya being pinpoint with his striking, and overwhelming Vettori early on before finishing him off in the second round.

UFC Flyweight Championship- Deiveson Figueiredo(c) vs. Brandon Moreno

Overall Records: Figueiredo 20-1-1, Moreno 18-5-2
UFC Records: Figueiredo 9-1-1, Moreno 6-2-2
Last Fight: Figueiredo DRAW Moreno (title fight), UFC 256 (12/12/20)
Last Five Fights: Figueiredo 4-0-1, Moreno 3-0-2
Rankings: Figueiredo C, Moreno #1
Betting Odds: Figueiredo -230, Moreno +185
Preview: Another rematch highlights the second title fight on the UFC 263 card as UFC Flyweight Champion Figueiredo and challenger Moreno look to settle the score. They had one of the best fights in 2020, taking place at UFC 256 in December, where they fought to a majority draw in a back-and-forth battle. It only ended up being a draw due to Figueiredo being deducted a point due to a groin strike- had that not happened, Figueiredo would’ve retained the title via a unanimous decision. What made that fight even more compelling was the fact both men took it three weeks after competing at UFC 255 in November. With this rematch, they’ve had six months to rest, recuperate, and go through proper training camps to equally prepare for the fight. Figueiredo is looking to extend his six-fight unbeaten streak, and he’s suffered only one loss in his storied career. Moreno hasn’t lost in over three years, which came in his last fight before being cut from the UFC roster in his first stint, so he’s looking to make the remarkable turnaround and become a champion after not even being on the roster even two years ago.

Going into the first fight, the concern for Moreno was being able to withstand the power of Figueiredo. Figueiredo did land some hard shots, but Moreno was able to weather them and gave Figueiredo his toughest fight to date. However, that was also with both men having the quick turnaround, and with all of the time to prepare for this rematch, that should mean Figueiredo is at full strength with full power. Moreno is a pressure fighter who isn’t afraid to get hit, and while that style may have worked in the first fight, it might not work as well in this one. Also, everyone must remember that this fight wouldn’t even be happening had Figueiredo not gotten deducted a point in the first bout. They both got takedowns in the first fight, but neither went for submissions, and it just seemed like they would’ve rather boxed due to the short timeframe to prepare.

This is another title fight rematch I see going differently. The first fight was a wild brawl, but this one will be a more methodical approach from Figueiredo as he wins Moreno down early and scores a finish in the first half of the fight, stamping his claim as the best flyweight in the world.

Welterweights- Leon Edwards vs. Nate Diaz

Overall Records: Edwards 18-3 1 NC, Diaz 20-12
UFC Records: Edwards 10-2 1 NC, Diaz 15-10
Last Fight: Edwards NC Muhammad, UFC On ESPN+ 45 (3/13/21), Masvidal def. Diaz, R3 TKO, UFC 244 (11/2/19)
Last Five Fights: Edwards 4-0 1 NC, Diaz 3-2
Rankings: Edwards #3
Betting Odds: Edwards -575, Diaz +390
Preview: We have a third five-round fight, as this will be the first-ever non-title, non-main event five-round bout in UFC history when Edwards welcomes Diaz back to action in an important welterweight bout. For those wondering why this is five rounds, it stems from the UFC wanting to have marquee PPV co-main events be five-round fights, especially if there’s only one title fight on the card, just in case something happens to the main event. This was originally slated to take place last month at UFC 262, but a minor back injury to Diaz pushed it back a little. Edwards comes into this fight having not lost in his previous nine fights. He made his long-awaited return in March, but it was an unfortunate end as his fight with Belal Muhammad was stopped in the second round due to an eye poke and ruled a no contest. Diaz fights for the first time since being stopped by Jorge Masvidal due to cuts at UFC 244 in November 2019 in a BMF title fight. With Diaz, it’s always been a matter of when he would fight again, as he still has the urge to do so, he just wants something that makes sense and makes him money.

The winner of this fight could very well be next for UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, which may sound ridiculous in the case of Diaz, but who could draw the best against Usman? There’s your answer why it could happen. And, for all of the talk about Diaz not having fought in a while, if you go back two years to June 2019, both men have the same number of fights since then- two. This feels like a weird fight in the sense it kind of came out of nowhere, and it’s really hard to make out what is going to happen. Everyone knows how Diaz fights, with the southpaw boxing stance and the constant coming forward while taunting. His boxing is fantastic as he mixes his combos well, and he lands to the head and body well. His weakness on the feet is handling leg kicks from his opponents, and that is an area that Edwards is good in and will be willing to exploit. Edwards needs to keep Diaz from getting comfortable with the jab, as if Diaz is able to land it at will to the point where he is consistently doubling-or-tripling up on it, then Edwards could be in a rough position.

Edwards may try to clinch and push the fight up against the fence working for takedowns, but maybe he doesn’t want to go to the ground with Diaz, who is dangerous down there. What Edwards should possibly look at doing is use clinch work to land elbows and cut Diaz open, as he is easy to cut open and any time a cut opens up, it could end a fight. Edwards’ path to victory involves leg kicks, takedown pressure and trying to cut Diaz open. Diaz’ path to win is just constant boxing pressure, and turning it into a conditioning battle where he would have the advantage.

This is a weird fight to predict, and I think the betting odds for Edwards are too long. It almost feels like people are guaranteeing him to win, and I see the result being anything but that. I think he will win, but it’s not going to be easy, and I see it going the full 25 minutes. This should be a good one, though, and it’s a really strong fight that I don’t think is being given enough credit.

Welterweights- Demian Maia vs. Belal Muhammad

Overall Records: Maia 28-10, Muhammad 18-3 1 NC
UFC Records: Maia 22-10, Muhammad 9-3 1 NC
Last Fight: Burns def. Maia, R1 TKO, UFC On ESPN+ 28 (3/14/20), Edwards NC Muhammad, UFC On ESPN+ 45 (3/13/21)
Last Five Fights: Maia 3-2, Muhammad 4-0 1 NC
Rankings: Maia #9, Muhammad #12
Betting Odds: Maia +175, Muhammad -225
Preview: Maia shaves off any potential retirement plans for at least one more fight as he fights for the first time in 15 months when he squares off against Muhammad in this welterweight bout. Maia is looking to bounce back from a first-round TKO loss to Gilbert Burns, which happened at the Brazil card in March 2020 that had no fans in the building due to COVID, which was the final event before the two-month UFC shutdown. Prior to that loss, Maia had built himself back up into the title picture with three straight wins, and he’s looking to show he can still compete with the top fighters at age 43, even though he will admit his career is winding down and he doesn’t know how much longer he’ll compete. Muhammad is looking to bounce back from the disappointing no contest he had with Leon Edwards in March, which was stopped in the second round due to a bad eye poke suffered by Muhammad. He’s recovered and is looking to get back into the win column. Prior to that fight, he had won four straight and eight of his last nine overall, solidly putting himself inside the top-15 and making him a threat to contend for the welterweight title.

Maia is incredible in the sense that he’s won eight fights while landing ten significant strikes or less, which shows how crafty he is. Maia is going to be trying to get Muhammad down right away, there’s zero question of that. Muhammad hasn’t had to wrestle defensively, even though he has an 85% takedown defense rate. If Maia can get Muhammad to the mat, it’s open season for Maia and Muhammad should be prepared to fight off his back. Muhammad needs to get his striking going right away as Maia is starting to show that he can’t take many punches any longer. If Muhammad gets that right hand going and tags Maia early, it could be an early end to the fight. He should also let Maia wear himself down, as the gas tank favors Muhammad. This is a fight that Muhammad should win, just in the sense he’s on the rise and Maia is on the verge of retiring at any moment. However, Maia is crafty enough to pull out the upset. I don’t see it happening, but it wouldn’t be all that crazy if it did, though I see Muhammad putting Maia away early in this one.

Light Heavyweights- Paul Craig vs. Jamahal Hill

Overall Records: Craig 14-4-1, Hill 8-0 1 NC
UFC Records: Craig 6-4-1, Hill 2-0 1 NC
Last Fight: Craig def. Rua, R2 TKO, UFC 255 (11/21/20), Hill def. Saint Preux, R2 TKO, UFC On ESPN 19 (12/5/20)
Last Five Fights: Craig 3-1-1, Hill 4-0 1 NC
Rankings: Craig #14, Hill #15
Betting Odds: Craig +250, Hill -325
Preview: A nice light heavyweight bout opens the main card when a pair of streaking 205-pounders square off as Craig looks to become the first man to defeat Hill in what should be an exciting fight. Craig comes into this fight on a four-fight unbeaten streak. He started that streak with a submission win over Vinicius Moreira, but then fought to a draw against Shogun Rua. He came back to submit Gadzhimurad Antigulov, and then finished Rua in the second round in their rematch in November. Craig is known for pulling out last-second victories, but he’s shown lately that he’d rather get the job done sooner. Hill comes into this fight unbeaten in his nine professional fights. He really should have nine wins, but he has a no contest on his belt after the Nevada commission overturned an impressive win he scored due to their stupid bylaws on post-fight drug tests for marijuana. It’s a disservice to Hill’s overall record, but it’s treated as a win. He fights for the first time in 2021 after scoring a second-round TKO win over Ovince Saint Preux in December, and he has six finishes in his nine career fights.

Both of these men are long heavyweights, and this is going to be a traditional grappler against striker battle. Hill will have a three-inch reach advantage over Craig, and he knows how to utilize it very well. Hill lands nearly eight significant strikes per minute, among the best at 205 pounds, and he’s very accurate as well. Craig knows how to avoid eating shots and is good at taking shots as well, using them to lure opponents into a clinch battle to where he can take them down. Craig is not afraid to let opponents know he’s going for the takedown, because, after all, he’s attempted fifty takedowns during his UFC career. He’s only scored on 26% of those attempts, but if he gets you to the mat, he hunts for submissions right away and can easily put foes away on the mat. Hill has only defended about half the takedowns attempted on him, and he last two opponents didn’t even bother, nor did they really have the chance to try a takedown.

This is going to come down to whether Craig can get it to the mat, because if it stays standing for the majority of the fight, Hill has the power to finish it. Craig has to test Hill on the mat. Craig is known for pulling victory from the brink of defeat, and he may have to do something similar here. I sense Hill kicking off the main card with an emphatic victory.

Preliminary Card
Start Time: 8:00 p.m. ET, 5:00 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN & ESPN+

Lightweights- Drew Dober vs. Brad Riddell

Overall Records: Dober 23-9 1 NC, Riddell 9-1
UFC Records: Dober 9-5 1 NC, Riddell 3-0
Last Fight: Makhachev def. Dober, R3 SUB, UFC 259 (3/27/21), Riddell def. da Silva, UDec, UFC 253 (9/26/20)
Last Five Fights: Dober 3-2, Riddell 5-0
Rankings: Dober #13
Betting Odds: Dober -150, Riddell +125
Preview: An exciting lightweight match-up headlines the prelims as Dober looks to get back into the win column while Riddell looks to keep his perfect UFC record in tact. Dober is looking to rebound from a third-round submission loss to Islam Makhachev at UFC 259 in March. That ended his three-fight win streak. Dober has been impressive since the start of 2017, with his only two losses coming to Makhachev and Beneil Dariush, and not many people are beating those two right now. Riddell comes into this fight on a six-fight win streak, the last three of which have come as a member of the UFC roster. He’s been the distance in all three of those wins, so he’s looking for his first UFC finish, but a win regardless could see the teammate of Israel Adesanya break into the top-15.

This is an interesting fight as both are excellent on the feet, with both having great power and durability. Both also have tremendous gas tanks, so they can go the full fifteen minutes with no issues. Dober is going to have to start strong from the southpaw position, as Riddell’s biggest hinderance is his tendency to start slow. If Riddell gets off to a quick start, Dober will be in trouble early. Riddell is more of a mixture of striking, as he lands good kicks to go along with his punches, while Dober has a powerful left hand. Riddell is the more accurate striker and does eat less shots than Dober does traditionally. There likely won’t be much of a ground battle, as both men prefer to keep it on the feet and do their damage there.

Riddell will be eager to set the tone for the City Kickboxing team, and hoping that a win here would bring a carryover effect to the main event. This has all the makings of being the best fight on the card, and should be an exciting striking battle. It’s close on the betting odds, and I tend to favor Riddell slightly to get the win in a real toss-up fight.

Light Heavyweights- Eryk Anders vs. Darren Stewart

Overall Records: Anders 13-5 1 NC, Stewart 12-6 2 NC
UFC Records: Anders 5-5 1 NC, Stewart 5-5 2 NC
Last Fight: Anders NC Stewart, UFC On ESPN+ 45 (3/13/21)
Last Five Fights: Anders 2-2 1 NC, Stewart 2-2 1 NC
Betting Odds: Anders -150, Stewart +125
Preview: Another rematch takes place on this card, this time in the prelims as Anders and Stewart run it back after an unfortunate end to their first fight in March. Things were just getting heated up between the two in the first round when Anders landed an illegal knee as Stewart was downed, and it was determined that Stewart was unable to continue in the fight. Since it happened in the first round, it was ruled a no contest, and they will pick up where they left off here. They will be fighting at 205 pounds this time, unlike when they fought at 185 last time, as this fight was put together on shorter notice than last time, and they both cut large amounts of weight, especially Anders, who has missed weight before. Both men are looking to get back in the win column after not scoring wins in their prior two fights, and this could honestly be a fight to keep a spot on the roster.

The fact that this is at 205 instead of 185 makes it more interesting, as the fight being at a higher weight probably favors Anders more. Anders has a lot of power in his fists, and when he’s fought at 205 before, it’s come through more than his time at 185. Stewart does have good power and Anders tends to get hit more than he lands. The bigger Octagon this time will also play a difference, as Anders likes to move forward and Stewart is comfortable fighting off his back foot. Anders was having the edge in the first fight before the illegal knee, and it’s hard to see it going much different in this one, especially with the huge change in weight classes. Stewart is a game fighter who deserves to stay on the UFC roster even with a loss, but this fight looks like it favors Anders, as long as he doesn’t make a mistake again.

Women’s Flyweights- Lauren Murphy vs. Joanne Calderwood

Overall Records: Murphy 14-4, Calderwood 15-5
UFC Records: Murphy 6-4, Calderwood 7-5
Last Fight: Murphy def. Shakirova, R2 SUB, UFC 254 (10/24/20), Calderwood def. Eye, UDec, UFC 257 (1/23/21)
Last Five Fights: Murphy 4-1, Calderwood 3-2
Rankings: Murphy #3, Calderwood #6
Betting Odds: Murphy +115, Calderwood -140
Preview: An important fight in the women’s flyweight division takes place here as the next challenger for UFC Women’s Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko could emerge from this bout between Murphy and Calderwood. Murphy comes into this fight riding a four-fight win streak, which includes wins over ranked fighters Andrea Lee and Roxanne Modafferi. Murphy has been vocal after each of her last couple of wins that she’s ready to fight for the title, and it would be hard to deny her a shot with a fifth consecutive win. Calderwood had a title shot all but locked up last year, as she was expected to fight Shevchenko in 2020. However, Shevchenko needed time to recover from surgery, and Calderwood wanted to stay active, so she took a fight against Jennifer Maia, which saw her come up on the losing end. She got back into the win column with a decision win over Jessica Eye in January, and a title shot could be looming with another win here.

Murphy is going to have to have her boxing at the highest-level, because she is out-matched on the feet. Calderwood is a crisp kickboxer who lands nearly seven significant strikes per minute, while Murphy lands around four. Calderwood mixes punches, kicks and knees in the clinch very well, and her clinch game has gotten way better, as shown in her win over Eye, which had a lot of battling in the clinch. Murphy is a gritty fighter who does like to take opponents down, and five of her six UFC wins have seen her take her opponent down. Her striking defense is also good, but she hasn’t fought a polished striker like Calderwood yet in her UFC career. Murphy would be best-served turning it into a grappling battle, but Calderwood has turned into a very solid, well-rounded fighter.

Both women tend to keep their fights close, and I don’t foresee a finish happening here. It will come down to who can impose their will better. Murphy is determined, and that could see her score the upset, but this fight has Calderwood getting a decision written all over it.

Featherweights- Movsar Evloev vs. Hakeem Dawodu

Overall Records: Evloev 14-0, Dawodu 12-1-1
UFC Records: Evloev 4-0, Dawodu 5-1
Last Fight: Evloev def. Lentz, UDec, UFC 257 (1/23/21), Dawodu def. Tukhugov, SpDec, UFC 253 (9/26/20)
Last Five Fights: Evloev 5-0, Dawodu 5-0
Rankings: Evloev #14, Dawodu #15
Betting Odds: Evloev -240, Dawodu +190
Preview: An interesting featherweight match-up between ranked fighters trying to work their way up the ladder kicks off the ESPN portion of the prelims as Evloev puts his undefeated record on the line against the streaking Dawodu. Evloev is a perfect 14-0 to start his professional career, with his last four wins coming inside the Octagon. He is coming off his toughest fight to date, a split decision win over Nik Lentz, but he now finds himself ranked 14th in the division, squarely in the hunt for future big fights. Dawodu enters this fight on a five-fight win streak, putting him at 15th in the division. Four of his five wins during his streak have been by decision, with three being splits, so he’s been in several close fights. He’s looking to get back to his finishing ways, as he has seven career wins by knockout.

One of the big things about Dawodu is that he’s an extremely dangerous striker, but he’s yet to really show it in the UFC. There’s a reason his nickname is “Mean”, yet, he’s been anything but. He is the best striker, let alone opponent, that Evloev has ever fought. Evloev has been more willing to show off his striking, but it isn’t at the level of Dawodu’s striking. Evloev might decide to look for the takedowns, but Dawodu has an 85% takedown defense rate, and he’s shown evolving takedown defense. Dawodu does tend to start slow, and Evloev is a very fast starter, so Evloev will likely win the first round. Dawodu is going to need to open up his striking more in this one, and he has the power and versatility to finish Evloev.

This is a real intriguing battle, and Evloev is a sizeable betting favorite, so there is tons of value on Dawodu in this one. I think Dawodu is just more ready to fight the top-ten of the division, but Evloev probably has the better long-term future. I’m smelling the upset in this one, with Dawodu pulling it out.

Early Preliminary Card
Start Time: 6 p.m. ET, 3 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN

Women’s Bantamweights- Pannie Kianzad vs. Alexis Davis

Overall Records: Kianzad 14-5, Davis 20-10
UFC Records: Kianzad 3-2, Davis 7-5
Last Fight: Kianzad def. Eubanks, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 41 (12/19/20), Davis def. Mazo, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 44 (2/27/21)
Last Five Fights: Kianzad 4-1, Davis 2-3
Rankings: Kianzad #11
Betting Odds: Kianzad -200, Davis +160
Preview: A bantamweight bout featuring a streaking fighter against a former title challenger looking for another shot headlines the early prelims as Kianzad takes on Davis in an intriguing battle. Kianzad comes into this fight riding a three-fight win streak. She scored two wins in 2020, getting decisions over Sijara Eubanks and Bethe Correia. Those wins moved her into the top-15 and a win her could get her inside the top-ten. Davis made her return after 18 months out of action in February, returning to the bantamweight division, scoring an impressive decision win over Sabina Mazo. It ended a three-fight losing skid that she was on at 125 pounds, and the renewed focus and another win here could see her vault up the rankings towards a potential second crack at winning UFC gold.

Davis excels in landing leg kicks, and those are her biggest weapons on the feet. She destroyed the lead leg of Mazo in her last fight, making Mazo hobble around, and it opened up the entire fight for Davis to take the win. Kianzad’s leg kicks have improved as well, but she needs to be prepared to check them coming from Davis. Kianzad works with a nice jab, and she has some good pop in her right hand, but she can rely on it too much. If Davis is teeing off on the lead leg and Kianzad is too focused on the right hand, it opens the door for Davis to score the takedowns. Davis is a strong ground fighter and has the edge over Kianzad there.

If Kianzad can keep Davis out of kicking range, her punching ability is superior to Davis. This is another fight where I think the underdog should be the favorite, but it’s a close fight on paper. I see Davis landing the leg kicks being the biggest key to the fight, and being what leads her to victory.

Lightweights- Matt Frevola vs. Terrance McKinney

Overall Records: Frevola 8-2-1, McKinney 10-3
UFC Records: Frevola 2-2-1, McKinney 0-0
Last Fight: Tsarukyan def. Frevola, UDec, UFC 257 (1/23/21), McKinney def. Irizarry, R1 KO, LFA 109 (6/4/21)
Last Five Fights: Frevola 2-2-1, McKinney 3-2
Betting Odds: Frevola -275, McKinney +220
Preview: A late change to this lightweight bout feels like an all-too-familiar sight for Frevola, as he loses yet another opponent on fight week, but he still gets to compete against a newcomer in McKinney. Frevola was scheduled to fight Frank Camacho, but Camacho had to pull out after suffering injuries in a car accident on Monday, the day before he was scheduled to fly to Glendale for fight week. In steps McKinney, who just fought on Friday at LFA 109. He makes his debut on a three-fight win streak, with all three coming in the first round, in a combined 105 seconds, and all three coming since March 6. Even though this is his fourth fight in just over three months, he should still be fresh. Frevola is looking to rebound from a loss to Arman Tsarukyan in January.

That was the first time Frevola had fought since October 2019, as it has been a whirlwind time for him. He had three fights cancelled in 2020- his April bout was cancelled due to the UFC shutdown for the pandemic, his June bout was cancelled during fight week due to a cornerman testing positive for COVID, and his September bout was cancelled when he fractured his foot during fight week. He almost didn’t fight in January, as his original opponent was pulled due to breaking COVID protocols, but other circumstances led him to fighting. He’s hoping to shake all of that off and get back in the win column. With this being such a late change and McKinney being so active, it is hard to think that both men will be at their best.

Frevola will be fully prepared as he is the fresher fighter, and he has the Octagon experience. McKinney has some power, but his submission game shouldn’t be overlooked, and his favorite submission is the rear-naked choke. Frevola doesn’t mind getting in a brawl, as he can take shots as good as landing them, and he has the takedown to back him up, as he’s pretty good with his wrestling. McKinney does have good takedowns, but he’s also not as active in hunting submissions as Frevola is. McKinney will likely put up a good effort, but this is where all of that fighting catches up to him, as Frevola is a huge step up from his last few fights. Frevola should be able to use his brawling tactics, mixed with his wrestling, to score the win in this one.

Featherweights- Chase Hooper vs. Steven Peterson

Overall Records: Hooper 10-1-1, Peterson 18-9
UFC Records: Hooper 2-1, Peterson 2-3
Last Fight: Hooper def. Barrett, R3 SUB, UFC 256 (12/12/20), Peterson def. Bravo, R2 KO, UFC On ESPN+ 17 (9/21/19)
Last Five Fights: Hooper 4-1, Peterson 2-3
Betting Odds: Hooper EVEN, Peterson -120
Preview: The before our eyes progression of Hooper will continue to be shown here as he continues to move up the ladder when he takes on tough veteran Peterson in a featherweight bout. Hooper came into the UFC as an unbeaten 20-year-old with a lot of potential, and had a great showing in his debut, scoring a first-round finish of Daniel Teymur. He was then thrown to the wolves, dropping a decision against Alex Caceres, but then bounced back with a submission win over Peter Barrett, a fight that was more on his level. Peterson brings the natural progress of moving up the ladder, as he’s a veteran of 27 fights, with his last five coming inside the Octagon. He’s fighting for the first time since a September 2019 knockout win over Martin Bravo, and he has a 72% finish rate, so he won’t be an easy match-up for Hooper.

Peterson definitely isn’t on the level of Caceres, who also holds a win over Peterson, but he is a step-up from Barrett. Peterson likes to come forward constantly, and he has a good wrestling base and some good striking. He does tend to get hit a lot, which could open up Hooper’s left hand with his four-inch reach advantage. Peterson is going to have the power edge, so Hooper’s best path to winning is the takedown. Peterson doesn’t have the best takedown defense, but he is good at creating scrambles to get back to the feet. Hooper is very tough and will be tough to finish, but he may need some more seasoning. It’s tough to book him, as he really still isn’t ready for the UFC despite having two UFC wins. Peterson’s veteran savvy will be a key in this one, and he’s very difficult to finish. I see Peterson scoring the win and sending Hooper back to the learning tree.

Lightweights- Fares Ziam vs. Luigi Vendramini

Overall Records: Ziam 11-3, Vendramini 8-1
UFC Records: Ziam 1-1, Vendramini 1-1
Last Fight: Ziam def. Mullarkey, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 38 (10/17/20), Vendramini def. Ayari, R1 TKO, UFC On ESPN 16 (10/3/20)
Last Five Fights: Ziam 4-1, Vendramini 4-1
Betting Odds: Ziam -140, Vendramini +115
Preview: A lightweight bout between two fighters each making their third walk to the Octagon as Ziam and Vendramini both look to notch their second straight wins. Ziam is coming off a decision win over Jamie Mullarkey in Abu Dhabi in October, which was his sixth win over his past seven fights. Ziam has an impressive finishing rate, as nine of his eleven career wins have come via stoppage. Vendramini is also coming off a successful time in Abu Dhabi in October, as he finished Jessin Ayari in just 72 seconds in his first fight in over two years. It was a nice bounce back from a loss in his UFC debut, which ended the 8-0 record he had to start his career. Vendramini is also an impressive finisher as he has a 100% finishing rate coming into this fight.

It is hard to get a good read on Vendramini, as he has just under 90 seconds of action in over the past two years. Ziam is going to have a five-inch height edge and a two-inch reach advantage, and he knows how to use his jab and leg kicks, as well as clinch knees, to keep opponents at a distance. Vendramini is the better grappler of the two, but he does give up some ability on the feet. I see Ziam peppering Vendramini with the jab and keeping him at a distance, and Ziam wearing Vendramini down on his way to scoring a decision win.

Heavyweights- Carlos Felipe vs. Jake Collier

Overall Records: Felipe 10-1, Collier 12-5
UFC Records: Felipe 2-1, Collier 4-4
Last Fight: Felipe def. Tafa, SpDec, UFC On ABC 1 (1/16/21), Collier def. Villante, UDec, UFC On ESPN 19 (12/5/20)
Last Five Fights: Felipe 4-1, Collier 3-2
Betting Odds: Felipe -175, Collier +145
Preview: The standard potential heavyweight fight that could either be a doozy, or make someone snoozy, takes place in the opening bout as big boys Felipe and Collier look to provide some early fireworks. Felipe is coming in off of one of the better fights of the year, a split decision win over Justin Tafa in an entertaining battle in January. It was his second straight win, and he got a new contract afterwards. Collier, the former middleweight who looks like a completely different person, notched his first win as a heavyweight in December, scoring a decision win over Gian Villante that was very low on the excitement meter. He has rotated losses-and-wins in his eight UFC fights, so history would be against his side in this one.

Collier as a heavyweight is still a weird one. He’s going to have three inches in both height and reach over Felipe. Collier’s gas tank is better as a heavyweight than it was as a middleweight, which is surprising with all of the extra weight. Felipe also has good cardio, though, and is a very durable fighter who can walk through punches. Some of those punches he took from Tafa would finish anyone, and Collier doesn’t have the power that Tafa does. Felipe does have the power edge and his ability to pressure more puts the fight in his favor.

Collier will need to use his good kicks to keep Felipe from applying the pressure. This could be real fun or real boring, but I like Felipe to get the night kicked off in a positive manner with an impressive win.

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