HomeTop NewsUFC 263 results, takeaways: Brandon Moreno gets his moment in the spotlight,...

UFC 263 results, takeaways: Brandon Moreno gets his moment in the spotlight, Israel Adesanya rights the ship

With a pair of title fights in the books and a dramatic late surge from fan-favorite Nate Diaz in Glendale, Arizona, on Saturday, it’s time to take stock of what we learned at UFC 263.

Israel Adesanya defended his middleweight title for the third time and Brandon Moreno produced his breakthrough moment by capturing the 125-pound title in a rematch with Deiveson Figuereido. 

Meanwhile, Leon Edwards took one step closer to fighting for the welterweight crown but needed to walk through hell late against Diaz. 

Here are the five biggest takeaways from an unpredictable night inside the Octagon. 

1. Israel Adesanya-Robert Whittaker II could be an instant classic

With his March loss to light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz now firmly in the rearview mirror, Adesanya reinstated both his dominance atop the middleweight division and his place alongside Kamaru Usman atop the sport’s pound-for-pound list. Adesanya relied on the timing and accuracy of his counter strikes to handle Marvin Vettori’s forward pressure with relative ease in their rematch, which the champion claimed via shutout decision across all three scorecards. The win sets up another rematch, albeit a much bigger one, in the form of Whittaker, the former champion who lost via second-round TKO to Adesanya in 2019. There’s an argument to be made that Whittaker was not at his best in their first fight thanks to the toll of injuries and mental fatigue following a string of taxing title defenses. One could also build a strong case that Whittaker’s three decision wins — all against elite competition — that have followed showcased just how even more evolved his overall game has become. This rematch between these stud middleweights is nothing short of a superfight in the Oceanic region of Australia and New Zealand, where both fighters reside. It would also be among the best fights the sport could make and could prove to be just another chapter in their growing rivalry. 

Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including instant analysis of UFC 263 below.

2. Moreno’s feel-good moment won’t be forgotten soon

First, let’s remember how close UFC president Dana White appeared to be to folding the promotion’s flyweight division after longtime champion Demetrious Johnson was finally unseated in 2018. Then, when you take into account Moreno, in 2018, was among a group of 125-pound fighters the promotion cut in a move that appeared to seal the division’s fate, you had the perfect backdrop for an emotional scene. A native of Tijuana, Moreno became the first Mexican-born UFC champion in promotional history — creating very few dry eyes in the process in nearby Glendale, Arizona — by thoroughly dominating Figueiredo via third-round submission in their rematch. The affable Moreno alternated between gushing tears and hilarious cursing during his post-fight interview. Figueiredo even showed his foe, seven months after they fought to an all-action majority draw, the ultimate level of respect by lifting Moreno up to celebrate. The decision to keep the division alive turned out to be a smart one given the parity and excitement among the current title contenders. But it also produced a relatable moment about hard work and perseverance paying off that was as pure as any moment in UFC history. 

3. Nate Diaz nearly stole the war but he badly lost the battle

In about as “on brand” a scenario as any Diaz fan could’ve asked for, the mercurial anti-hero’s improbable rally in the final minute of Round 5 while bloodied and battered to nearly stop Leon Edwards was the highest possible theater. What it didn’t fully make up for, however, was the puzzling decisions Diaz made leading up to that which included going out of his way to seek the Edwards fight, petitioning for it to be five rounds and waiting until literally the last minute to go for broke. At 36, Diaz was a full step behind Edwards at every turn and thoroughly dominated on the feet and on the ground, including a series of elbows in Round 3 that badly cut Diaz above his left eye and on the side of his head. While the fight will almost certainly be best remembered for Diaz’s near-miracle, there was more than enough evidence to cement that Diaz is no longer elite even if his celebrity and crowd-favorite status is as strong as ever. 

4. Leon Edwards is a legitimate welterweight title contender

The late flurry from Diaz notwithstanding, Edwards finally secured the kind of high-profile win his impressive unbeaten streak  in 10 fights dating back six years badly needed. Despite a flurry of bad luck, injuries and even UFC brass failing to support his bid for a 170-pound title shot, there shouldn’t be anything left for Edwards to do but sit around and wait for champion Kamaru Usman. Colby Covington, who was stopped by Usman in a five-round war two years ago, will likely get a rematch against the champion first, largely because White remains such a huge fan of that fight and is hoping for a repeat in terms of the savage drama it produced. But Edwards, for how little in terms of fanfare his win streak has created, is the owner of his own potential redemption story considering he hasn’t lost since a three-round decision to none other than Usman in their 2015 meeting. For four-plus rounds on Saturday, Edwards was slick, efficient and picked his spots perfectly in terms of when to sit down on his shots and let his presence be felt. Considering Usman is likely entering his second straight rematch, there should be nothing stopping Edwards from getting his chance. 

5. UFC’s lightweight division is repopulating itself just fine 

The sudden retirement of unbeaten champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and recent slides from perennial forces Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson over the past year appeared to threaten the depth of what might have been the UFC’s deepest division at any single point in history. The all-action preliminary main event between Brad Liddell and Drew Dober was a nice reminder of just how hungry the next group in waiting truly is. Riddell recorded a key late knockdown and improved to 4-0 in the Octagon overall in a thrilling unanimous decision against the always game Dober. Riddell, the City Kickboxing product from New Zealand who trains with the likes of Adesanya and featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski, continued to solidify the idea that, at 29, he’s a future player in the division.