Leon Edwards came in undefeated in his last nine fights. He was a 5-to-1 favorite. Yet he was largely overlooked in the buildup to UFC 263 because all of the attention went to his opponent, Nate Diaz.
Perhaps Edwards has our attention now.
Edwards bloodied up and thoroughly dominated Diaz on Saturday night in Glendale, Arizona -- for 24 of the fight's 25 minutes, anyway -- on his way to a lopsided unanimous decision in a bout that largely overshadowed UFC 263's two title fights. Israel Adesanya defends his middleweight title against Marvin Vettori in the main event, and Deiveson Figueiredo puts his men's flyweight belt against Brandon Moreno on the line in the co-main.
"I'm young, 29 years old, still learning, still growing," Edwards said. "I look forward to my title shot."
Like those bouts, Edwards-Diaz was scheduled for five rounds, the first nontitle, non-main event in UFC history to get that treatment. It ended with all three judges scoring the bout 49-46 for Edwards, a 29-year-old Jamaica-born Englishman.
Edwards picked Diaz apart with punches, elbows and kicks, damaging his lead leg and opening cuts on the head of Diaz. Edwards appeared to be coasting to victory until a straight left hand by Diaz changed everything. Edwards wobbled, then retreated, and when Diaz came in pursuit, all Edwards could do was grab and clinch and hold on until the horn.
"Nate's a veteran, you know? I hit him with everything but the kitchen sink," Edwards said. "So fair play to Nate. He's a soldier. He gained my respect today."
Edwards has been clamoring for a title shot against Kamaru Usman, who happens to be the last man to defeat him. UFC president Dana White has said Colby Covington is next for the champ, but this performance on a big stage might change the boss' mind. Edwards is No. 4 in ESPN's welterweight rankings, Covington No. 2.
Diaz, who is 36 and from Stockton, California, is possibly the most beloved fighter in MMA, a reputation cemented in big moments. Diaz shared the Octagon with Conor McGregor in two of the top pay-per-views in UFC history, and also headlined a high-profile PPV with Jorge Masvidal.
"I had a hard time getting going all day today, all month long," Diaz said. "I got a cut in training about a month ago, and I had a really good flow going, good training. I think it slowed my whole momentum down."
-- Jeff Wagenheim
Israel Adesanya retained his UFC middleweight title with a dominant unanimous-decision victory over Marvin Vettori in Saturday's main event of UFC 263 in Glendale, Arizona.
All three judges scored the bout 50-45 for Adesanya.
-- Marc Raimondi
Brandon Moreno wasn't even supposed to be competitive with Deiveson Figueiredo the first time they fought in December. And after showing he could be competitive in a majority draw, he still wasn't supposed to win their rematch on Saturday.
WOW @theassassinbaby did it!!! Amazing performance 🇲🇽 you got another champion. And wow Brandon the club that you have joined is amazing!!!!— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) June 13, 2021
No one will count out Brandon Moreno anymore.
-- Brett Okamoto
Muhammad had one goal, really: Stay off his back. He succeeded in that mission and basically the rest took care of itself.
In a tactical performance devoid of mistakes, Muhammad outpointed Maia by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) in what could end up being Maia's final UFC fight. This was the final fight on the grappling legend's UFC contract.
Maia tried hard in every round to get the bout to the ground, but failed. Muhammad was very technical in defending Maia's single-leg takedown attempts. And while Muhammad could never really string together long combinations on the feet or any hugely damaging blows, he did enough there to earn the win.
Muhammad started getting more in the groove with his boxing in the second and third rounds as Maia tired from his failed takedown attempts. Muhammad stunned Maia with a couple of right hands in the third round and landed a hard left uppercut. Maia landed a few left hands on the feet, too, but nothing that made much of an impact.
Muhammad, 32, is unbeaten in 10 of his last 11 fights. The Chicago native bounced back from a no contest finish against Leon Edwards in March, a bout that ended in the second round when Edwards accidentally poked Muhammad in the eye. Maia, a 43-year-old Brazil native, has dropped two straight following a three-fight winning streak.
Craig put a definitive stop to the hype around Hill, as he pounded out a TKO finish after injuring Hill's left arm.
Craig, of Scotland, pulled Hill to the floor early and immediately attacked his right arm. Even though Hill was standing over Craig's guard, he couldn't pull his right arm free, and was in constant trouble in the position. Craig continued to roll through armbar and triangle attempts, until it was clear Hill's left arm had been compromised in one of the positions. UFC president Dana White later said the arm wasn't broken, but it was dislocated and popped back into place.
The fight wasn't immediately stopped following Hill's injury, however. Craig continued to control him in a triangle attempt and rained down elbows from his back. Eventually the shots were too much, and the referee was forced to step in.
There was some bad blood between Craig and Hill, from Michigan, going into the fight. The two had a bit of an altercation in the host hotel the week of the fight, but Craig was very respectful towards Hill following the win.
Craig is now unbeaten in five consecutive fights, with a record of 4-0-1. His job appeared to be in jeopardy just two years ago, when he struggled through a 2-4 skid, but he has since turned the corner. He earned a $50,000 bonus for performance of the night.
Hill, a former contestant on Dana White's Contender Series, falls to 2-1 in the UFC.
-- Brett Okamoto
Dober staggered Riddell about a minute into the fight. Riddell stopped Dober in his tracks later in the first round. They each landed several big shots, often trading them in a rock-'em-sock-'em back and forth. And when the horn sounded, they smiled at each other and fist-bumped.
These guys came to fight.
They did a lot more trading of heavy punches and kicks in Rounds 2 and 3, mixing in takedowns as well. As the fight wore on, Riddell edged ever so slightly ahead. He rocked Dober with a minute to go in the final round, and that may have sewed up the decision for the 29-year-old New Zealander, a training partner of middleweight champ Israel Adesanya, who fights in the main event.
All three judges scored the fight 29-28 for Riddell, who won his seventh in a row.
Dober, who is 32 and from Denver, lost his second in a row after a run of three straight knockouts.
Both fighters earned $50,000 fight-of-the-night bonuses.
Anders performed better the first time around against Stewart. He did not get a victory in that one. This time, though, he did.
Anders bested Stewart via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-27) in a rematch from a March fight that ended in a no contest. On Saturday, Anders utilized a clinch game in a pretty listless first two rounds, but turned it on in the third, getting in top position and landing hard ground and pound.
On March 13, Anders dominated Stewart on the feet until he landed an illegal knee with Stewart's knee down. Stewart could not continue, and the bout was ruled a no contest. The first fight was contested at middleweight. This one, the two men fought at light heavyweight.
Stewart took Anders down briefly in the third round, but Anders swept and got on top. He landed from there and then landed hard lefts as Stewart got to his feet against the cage. That was more than enough to cement the victory.
Anders, 34, has just one loss in his last five fights. The former University of Alabama football player has rebounded after a three-fight losing streak in 2018 and 2019. Stewart, a 30-year-old England native, is winless in three straight and four of five.
Valentina Shevchenko just might have her next opponent.
Murphy has emerged as a likely candidate for the UFC's next flyweight title shot, following her split decision victory. After a close first round, Murphy, of Houston, dominated Calderwood on the floor in the second and pulled off two 29-28 scores. A third judge saw it 29-28 for Calderwood.
Awesome fight by both girls. Congrats @LaurenMurphyMMA— Randa Markos (@randamma) June 13, 2021
Calderwood, who fights out of Las Vegas, had some success on the feet with elbows and leg kicks, but Murphy responded with heavy right hands of her own. The action was relatively even on the feet, but it was one-sided on the ground. Murphy converted a takedown early in the second, but struggled to get Calderwood down in the third.
Murphy has now won five in a row, and went into the bout as the UFC's No. 3-ranked flyweight. Calderwood was ranked No. 6 going in.
Evloev remained undefeated by being relentless with his ground game for the first two rounds, then getting another takedown when he really needed it.
The 27-year-old Russian landed four takedowns in the first round, controlling Dawodu on the canvas for most of those five minutes. When he came out for Round 2, Evloev took Dawodu to the mat again within 15 seconds, controlling the middle round with more grappling. He was fully in charge.
In the final round, though, after fending off a couple of takedown tries, Dawodu landed a left hand that wobbled his opponent with a minute to go. The crowd erupted, but Evloev waved his hand over his head, as if to say, "I'm fine." But Dawodu landed flush with a right hand, then another. Was Evloev going to survive?
He did, leaning on his best friend: the takedown. Evloev took the fight back to the canvas and made it to the horn. He got to hear the judges' scorecards: three scores of 29-27, giving him his fifth UFC victory.
Dawodu, who is 29 and from Calgary, Alberta, lost for the first time since his UFC debut in 2018.
The UFC women's bantamweight division might have a new contender.
Kianzad outboxed Davis en route to a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) victory, one of the best of her career thus far. Kianzad landed punching combinations early and often, causing swelling and bleeding on Davis' face from the first round.
The boxing shown by Kianzad was pretty slick throughout. She found a home often for a left hand at the end of combinations. A pair of right hands in the second round snapped Davis' head back. Davis was able to gain some momentum, landing right hands in the second and third rounds that opened a cut near Kianzad's left eye. Davis had her best round in the third, but Kianzad was able to finish the fight with a right hand and then a left that wobbled Davis.
Kianzad, 29, has won four straight and six of her last eight. The Iranian-born fighter is unranked by ESPN in the women's bantamweight division, but that could very well change after this victory. Davis, a 36-year-old Canada native fighting out of California, has lost four of her last five.
It only lasted seven seconds, but a lot happened in McKinney's UFC debut.
McKinney (11-3), who accepted Saturday's lightweight contest against Frevola (8-3-1) on short notice, recorded the fastest stoppage in the division's history, as he knocked out Frevola in just seven seconds.
McKinney's debut even got the attention of UFC superstar Jorge Masvidal, who tweeted, "So close!" The tweet was in reference to Masvidal's record 5-second knockout, courtesy of a flying knee against Ben Askren in 2019.
So close! #ufc263— Jorge Masvidal UFC (@GamebredFighter) June 12, 2021
Following the stoppage, McKinney leapt off the cage in celebration and injured his right knee. He said afterwards he would be OK, although he limped out of the arena.
"I buckled my knee," McKinney said. "It's super tight right now.
"I think I just tweaked it a little bit, but I'm definitely going to go to the doctor and get an MRI and make sure everything is ok."
McKinney dropped Frevola in the opening exchange with a left hand to the chin. Frevola tried to sit up from the shot, but McKinney followed it with several hammerfists to finish the job. It is his fourth consecutive finish inside the first round.
The 26-year-old, who fights out of Spokane, Washington, just fought in the LFA promotion on June 4, prior to receiving an offer to fight at UFC 263.
The smoothest path to victory for Peterson would have been to keep the fight standing, since his opponent was a highly skilled grappler with a limited striking game. Instead, he spent much of the three rounds on the canvas with Hooper. He spent a significant part of that time delivering damage from the top, but in the end Peterson won by surviving Hooper's strongest submission try.
Two of the judges gave all three rounds to Peterson, and the other scored the fight 29-28.
Peterson, a 31-year-old from Dallas, did some strong work on the feet but did most of his best work on the canvas, fending off a nonstop flow of Hooper's submission attempts. Peterson has won two in a row after a two-fight skid.
Hooper, who is 21 and from Enumclaw, Washington, has lost two of his last three fights after starting his career unbeaten in his first 10 fights.
Despite the gritty win, Peterson did not cover himself in glory this weekend. He missed weight by 2½ pounds on Friday and had to surrender 20% of his purse to Hooper. And at the start of Round 3, Peterson feigned a glove touch but instead fired a big overhand right.
This drew a disparaging remark on the broadcast from analyst Paul Felder: "Dirty move, Joe."
To which Joe Rogan replied, "Kind of what you'd expect from a guy who missed weight."
Ziam lulled Vendramini to sleep for two rounds with his jab. In the third, Vendramini finally woke up, but it was not enough.
Ziam escaped with a majority decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-28) victory in a bout that featured a wild momentum swing early in the third round. Ziam used his beautiful jab and his reach advantage to keep Vendramini at distance over the first 10 minutes. Vendramini turned it on in the third, landing big combinations on the feet, sending Ziam to the canvas and working for a submission from there.
It wasn't the amount of dominance that led to a 10-8 from all three judges, though, which would have made it a draw. One judge did score the third 10-8 for Vendramini.
Ziam, 24, has won two straight after dropping his UFC debut in September 2019. The France native has won seven of eight. Vendramini, a 25-year-old Brazil native, has lost two of three in the UFC.
Felipe (11-1) picked up his third win in a row, and had himself a good time doing so.
Felipe, of Brazil, defeated Collier (12-5) via split decision in a three-round slugfest. In a heavyweight fight that never hit the floor, it was Felipe's superior boxing and head movement that stood out. Two judges scored it 29-28 for Felipe, while a third had it 29-28 for Collier.
Greaaaaat way to start the night #ufc263— Randy Costa (@RandyCosta135) June 12, 2021
A former middleweight, Collier, of Missouri, landed some good shots early on, and caused Felipe's right eye to swell badly with punches. Collier started to tire in the second round, however, and struggled to deal with Felipe's pressure. Nevertheless, he did land more overall punches than Felipe, but Felipe's shots appeared to carry more weight.
Despite the swelling on his eye, Felipe taunted Collier at times, brushing punches off his shoulders and shuffling around the cage.
The victory improves Felipe's record in the UFC 3-1. Collier is now 1-2 since moving to the heavyweight division last year.