On Saturday night, the UFC will present one of its bigger cards of the year with UFC 263. The event takes place in Arizona and features some of the best matchups we’ve seen, with two title fights and a big marquee bout between Stockton’s own Nate Diaz and the UK’s Leon Edwards. The Edwards-Diaz bout bears the unique distinction of being the first non-main event, non-title five-round fight in the promotion’s history.
Almost every contest on the card is a compelling affair with some being important in their respective division’s ranking—I’m looking at you Lauren Murphy and Joanne Calderwood. Will JoJo be able to begin a hot streak or will Lauren’s strength advantage be too much for her? It seems insane that a possible title-eliminator like this would be buried so deep in the prelims. It should at least be the featured prelim.
I’d also like to draw your attention to the red-hot sizzler that will be Brad Riddell vs. Drew Dober. New Zealand’s Riddell is currently riding a six-fight win streak while Dober is coming off a loss that broke his three-fight winning stretch. There’s no shame in losing to Islam Makhachev but you can bet Riddell watched that footage on loop. City Kickboxing has had continued success and has become quite the formidable team.
The long and the short of this show is that it’s great. From top to bottom, it’s great. So, for those of you that skip the prelims and just show up for the main card, try changing it up this weekend.
We’ve selected four fighters from the event that will illustrate why they are worthy of their lofty or budget-conscious price tags in an effort to help you select your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups. Let’s get started.
Israel Adesanya, $9,300
Israel Adesanya and Marvin Vettori have come a long way since their first fight, three years ago. Vettori would fare better against him than anyone in the division, taking Izzy to a split-decision. Even if it was a losing bid, no one has done that well against him since (Blachowicz is excluded here because their fight was contested at 205 pounds). Will that bit of evolution and improvement be enough for Vettori to change his fortune in this fight? I don’t think it will. Israel has sharp, crisp boxing, he’s defensively sound, has good hand speed and excellent foot movement and perfect shot selection for every situation. He chops the legs with hard low kicks, and most importantly, he mixes things up, demonstrating a keen awareness of how important body work is.
Vettori has improved considerably, but not enough to take the crown. And one thing that has been presenting itself is flagging cardio in the last rounds. We saw it in both the Holland and Hermansson fights, and that is concerning, to say the least. Izzy does not have those issues and will likely be the fresher fighter throughout. The bad blood between them seems a tad bit manufactured, but I do feel Vettori might be layering that showboat anger with some real emotional angst underneath. He might want to keep that in check against a composed tactician like Izzy.
Price: Could be closer
DraftKings is hosting a big UFC 263 fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $750K in total prizes, including $200,000 to first place. The fantasy MMA contest locks at 6:00 p.m. ET on Saturday. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $750K 263 Special [$200K to 1st].
Leon Edwards, $9,500
Leon Edwards has been on one heck of a hot streak. Even if his last fight ended in a no-contest, he was winning before the eye-poke. Nate Diaz hasn’t graced the octagon since his 2019 Baddest MotherTrucker appearance, where the ringside physicians intervened on his behalf, stopping the fight due to a cut. And that has been a recurring problem for both Nate and his brother Nick along the course of their careers—both Diaz boys cut easily and bleed profusely. And what is one of Leon’s most effective weapons? You guessed it, brutal, slicing elbows. Just ask Gunnar Nelson about that, as he caught a couple of them in their 2019 battle. In the clinch, Edwards is so effective with good bodywork, bringing hard knees to the midsection while he works the outer edges of the ribcage. He’s also effective with low kicks to chop out the legs, as well as high kicks to the head.
Diaz might be able to pull off some ground magic, but even there, I think Edwards is too good a wrestler to find much trouble. At 36, the younger Diaz brother is no spring chicken and has a lot of wear-and-tear on him, thanks to 17 years and 32 fights, some of them grueling battles—most recently, the one with Masvidal, which was a lopsided beating with one-way traffic. His once lauded cardio seems to be a looming question, as well. I just have a hard time seeing this fight ending in an upset. Anything can happen, but one must be realistic.
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Brandon Moreno, $7,100
Brandon Moreno at $7,100 is a steal! One might even feel as though they are getting away with a bank heist by picking him. He had some excellent moments in the first fight, slamming some well-placed punches that stunned Figgy last December. Figueiredo is no walk in the park and will have the same advantage as Moreno will—they now both have experience and a working blueprint for the other. There’s no short notice aspect to this one. Just six months to reflect, watch tape, refine, prepare—and now we are here, on the eve of what will absolutely, unquestionably be the best fight on the card. I just know it.
Moreno has the aggression, power and cardio to get the job done. And Davy Figs seems to be trying to work himself into a fury, showing out at the press conference and pushing the “Assassin Baby” during the faceoff. Moreno has been as cool as a cucumber, even laughing off the hard push. He’s just as calm under pressure in the cage, too, and that is essential when he comes under attack. I can understand the odds being in Figueiredo’s favor, but this wide a gap is just begging for an upset. It’s just too hard to resist.
Pricing: A STEAL!!
Brad Riddell, $7,700
Drew Dober vs. Brad Riddell is going to be a firecracker. If this card didn’t have such an outstanding co-main event, this would be my early pick for fight of the night. Dober is coming off a loss that broke a three-fight hot streak that saw him dispatch three high-profile prospects, all by knockout. Then he ran into Islam Makhachev and got worked over like a Thanksgiving dinner before being arm-triangled in the third round. It was an eye-opener and showed once again that he has pretty sizable defensive gaps in his ground game. These are not new issues, either. Before Makhachev, he’d been submitted in his previous three losses to that one. He has a very sturdy chin that has only failed him once, over ten years ago.
Riddell is much less battle-tested than Dober, but he’s racked up an impressive 9-1 record, with notable wins over Magomed Mustafaev and Jamie Mullarkey that showcased his talents. A former kickboxer, Riddell is aggressive and fairly volume-heavy. He’s still a little green with setting up his strikes, appearing wild and undisciplined in the early goings, but he quickly settles into a good rhythm. Dober has decent grappling, but again, he can be scuttled and submitted. Riddell likely won’t be the one to do it, but stranger things have happened. I know Dober is a big step up, but Eugene Bareman has been doing great work with the City Kickboxing guys, and I think we might just see their next star made from this fight.
Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $750K 263 Special [$200K to 1st]
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