Champion Israel Adesanya on Marvin Vettori’s rematch at UFC 263: “This time we won’t need the judges”
GLENDALE, Arizona – Marvin Vettori walked towards the center of the octagon expecting to have his arm raised. This was not the case.
Israel Adesanya won the bout by split decision, but was not satisfied. The fight was much tighter than he had expected.
The two middleweights have been hoping for a rematch since then and will get it on Saturday night at UFC 263, returning to the desert three years later.
This time, Adesanya’s championship belt will be on the line.
“I’m here to take revenge for that first fight, whatever it is, and become the first Italian UFC champion,” Vettori said at a heated press conference this week.
Adesanya (20-1) and Vettori (17-4-1) won’t be the only rematch with a title on the line at Gila River Arena.
Flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo will stake his belt against No.1 contender Brandon Moreno in a rematch of a draw at UFC 256 in December. The main card will also feature No.3 welterweight Leon Edwards against fan favorite Nate Diaz, welterweights Demian Maia against Belal Muhammad and light heavyweights Paul Craig and Jamahal Hill.
Adesanya and Vettori last fought in 2018 in an untitled bout at Glendale. Adesanya was seen as a promising player in the division, but had his hands full with the heavy-handed Vettori.
Known as a puncher, Vettori surprised Adesanya with his wrestling ability, beefing him up around the mat when he took down the Nigerian freestyle fighter.
Adesanya did most of his work, as he usually does, with agility, kicks and strikes to win the split decision.
Adesanya won the interim middleweight title with a unanimous decision over Kelvin Gastelum and won the title unification fight with a second round knockout of Robert Whittaker in late 2019.
He won two more fights before losing a unanimous decision to Jan Blachowicz while trying to add the light heavyweight title to UFC 259.
Now Adesanya gets another hit on Vettori.
The Italian has won five consecutive matches, including a unanimous decision against Kevin Holland in April.
The revenge numbers are just as entertaining as the original. The buildup of the fight certainly was.
“This time around, we won’t need the judges,” Adesanya told a rowdy crowd at Thursday’s press conference.
The second title fight is just as grueling.
Figueiredo (20-1) and Moreno (18-5-2) have a lot of animosity between them, exacerbated by a draw at UFC 256 in Las Vegas that left neither of the fighters satisfied.
The two flyweights traded beards leading up to Saturday’s main co-event.
“He talks a lot and I’m going to shut him up by knocking him out in the first round,” Figueiredo said.
Figueiredo won the flyweight belt with a second round submission from Joseph Benavidez in Abu Dhabi last July. The Brazilian fighter defended his title with a first-round guillotine choke against Alex Perez at UFC 255, then fought Moreno three weeks later.
Moreno also fought on short notice in a hastily arranged fight after UFC 256’s main card was decimated by COVID-related injuries and fight cancellations.
Figueiredo spent the night before the fight in hospital with an undisclosed illness, but had enough energy to trade blows with Moreno in a thrilling title fight. Figueiredo scored a point in the third round for a low blow, but won a majority draw to retain his belt, depriving Moreno of a chance to become the first UFC champion born in Mexico.
“I’ve been very honest with myself in how I feel about the fight,” said Moreno. “The guy tried to knock me out in the first round, then he tried to make excuses. It’s okay. This Saturday night is the real deal.”
Diaz got a lot of support, especially from Mexican-American fans, at the press conference, but Edwards is the punters’ favorite.
Edwards (18-3-0) has won eight straight games since his decision loss to current champion Kamaru Usman and is looking to build his resume against Diaz to hopefully win the title.
“Nate Diaz has that reputation and all the hype and it’s actually a good thing for me,” he said. “Everyone will watch and when I do what I do, people will want me to be the one (to get a title shot).”
Diaz (21-12) beat Conor McGregor with a submission in 2016 and took an extended hiatus after losing a decision to McGregor in the rematch a month later. Diaz lost to Jorge Masvidal in a doctor-saved third round TKO in his last fight in 2019.
“I’m excited to fight a worthy opponent and that’s what I’m here for,” he said. “I come to win.”