Setting the single-event record for most decisions in promotional history with 11, UFC 263 would prove to be a long night but one with many takeaways.
Starting with the headline act, Israel Adesanya would make a triumphant return to the middleweight division after a failed bid to become a double champion as ‘The Last Stylebender’ had too much quality for Marvin Vettori.
Making Vettori miss on the feet and stifling the majority of his attempts to ground the fight, Adesanya’s leg kicks and punching accuracy would see the Nigerian-born New Zealander walk away with a wide unanimous decision win.
In the PPV events second title fight, Brandon Moreno would claim the flyweight championship from Deiveson Figueiredo with a near-flawless performance.
From dropping the champion in the first round with a stiff jab until sealing a third-round rear-naked choke, Moreno would dominate the action with his speed and well-rounded skill set.
Elsewhere, Leon Edwards would almost snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory as 24 minutes of pure domination were nearly dashed and left for nothing as a one-two by Nate Diaz visibly stunned and wobbled him.
Successfully riding out the final 60 seconds, the shaky end to Edwards’ most notable fight will likely see him waiting longer for a title shot.
With such a big event now in the books, here are nine ideas for the UFC matchmakers to pencil into their calendars:
Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker II
Despite Marvin Vettori getting his title shot before Robert Whittaker, ‘The Reaper’ is the clear #1 contender in the 185 lbs division.
With Israel Adesanya immediately taking the opportunity to call out Whittaker for their rematch as well, Adesanya – Whittaker II is a no brainer of a decision.
Brandon Moreno vs. Askar Askarov II
From being cut as part of the UFC’s awful decision to wind down their 125 lbs weight class, Moreno would return as part of the promotion’s U-turn and is now their first Mexican-born champion.
With a fan-friendly fighting style as well as a joyous personality, Moreno can be a star for the promotion if handled correctly.
For his first title defence, Askar Askarov is a deserving contender for that berth but as long as the bout takes place in his native Mexico – the UFC will be doing right by their new champion.
Leon Edwards vs. Jorge Masvidal
While Leon Edwards was adamant post-fight that a title shot will be next for him, the final minute of his clash with Nate Diaz will very likely be held against him.
Add in that UFC president Dana White has reiterated that a Kamaru Usman – Colby Covington rematch will be next for the welterweight champion and another fight may well be forced upon ‘Rocky’.
If that’s the case, a fight with Jorge Masvidal would provide another big fight for Edwards thanks to their respective history with one another.
Nate Diaz vs. Tony Ferguson
Despite being dominated for 24 minutes out of 25, Nate Diaz’s late surge of offence was a reminder that one of Stockton’s favourite sons is a superstar in the MMA game.
With Diaz offering up that he would be happy to fight again in around 3-4 months time, a big name should be placed on his lap to capitalize on his continued stardom.
With Tony Ferguson in a similar bracket to Diaz thanks to his popularity, a 170 lbs fight between the two would draw big numbers and be a fascinating clash of styles.
Belal Muhammad vs. Neil Magny
Defeating Demian Maia is rarely a pretty sight but Belal Muhammad completely shut out the jiu-jitsu master with exemplary takedown defence.
With Muhammad now undefeated in his last six octagon appearances, the 32-year-old deserves to keep climbing the UFC rankings.
After Neil Magny recently picked up a decision win over Geoff Neal, a Muhammad – Magny bout would see the winner likely face off with a top-five opponent next time out.
Paul Craig vs. Nikita Krylov
Quickly pulling guard on Jamahal Hill, Paul Craig would know his best path to victory and achieved it in gruesome fashion.
Dislocating the arm of Hill in the first round, Craig is now unbeaten in five and can still boast a 100% stoppage record in his 15 career wins.
As for what’s next for the Scotsman, a fight with the well-rounded Nikita Krylov would test just how far Craig can go in the light heavyweight division.
Brad Riddell vs. Gregor Gillespie
Besting the #13 ranked Drew Dober in UFC 263’s fight of the night, Brad Riddell made it four decision wins out of four under the UFC banner.
The lightweight striker is as technical on the feet as they come but for the Kiwi to continue his climb up the rankings, a wrestler should be next up.
With Gregor Gillespie successfully returning to winning ways in his last outing, a re-booking of their proposed UFC on ESPN 21 fight would make sense for both men.
Lauren Murphy vs. Valentina Shevchenko
Getting the nod over Joanne Calderwood via split decision, Lauren Murphy should be the next challenger for the flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko.
After putting together a five-fight winning streak, the #3 ranked Murphy simply has to be the next women to face-off with ‘Bullet’ Shevchenko.
Movsar Evloev vs. Bryce Mitchell
Dominating Hakeem Dawodu on the mat, Movsar Evloev looks to be a big problem in the featherweight division.
Now holding a perfect 15-0 record, there is no need to rush Evloev’s career and so a fight with a fellow talented grappler in Bryce Mitchell would be a great ground battle.