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What mattered most at UFC 263 at the Gila Rivera Arena in Glendale, Ariz.? Here are a few post-fight musings …

1. Israel Adesanya returns to form

[autotag]Israel Adesanya[/autotag] didn’t put the exclamation point on his rivalry with Marvin Vettori like he was looking for, but after years of build-up stemming from a semi-controversial first fight, there was no doubt he’s the better man. Adesanya (21-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC) worked over Vettori (17-5-1 MMA, 7-3-1 UFC) with his slick and dynamic striking game for he majority of five rounds to defend his title by lopsided unanimous decision, and now he can put this chapter behind him. But more importantly, he can put his failed champ-champ bid with Jan Blachowicz in the past. Many wondered if Vettori would be able to replicate the game plan of Blachowicz from UFC 259 and exploit “The Last Stylebender” on the mat. He had a couple moments, but it was no dice for the most part. It reinforced the importance of weight classes, and when it comes to 185 pounds, Adesanya reminded us he’s far and away the top dog. It’s hard to envision anyone in this division beating Adesanya when he gets into his groove. A Robert Whittaker rematch is certainly the most compelling option available, and it’ll be interesting to see what adjustments he makes to knock Adesanya off his game in a rematch.

2. Brandon Moreno’s flawless coronation

[autotag]Brandon Moreno[/autotag] put on an A+ performance to take the UFC flyweight title from Deiveson Figueiredo, and that’s exactly what he needed in order to secure the gold. After fighting to a draw in December, Figueiredo (20-2-1 MMA, 9-2-1 UFC) seemed to have all the valid reasons for why the initial meeting was so close. He did two weight cuts in 21 days, was hospitalized during fight week with food poisoning, and had a point taken away due to a low blow. This time he can’t make such claims, at least to our knowledge. Moreno (19-5-2 MMA, 7-2-2 UFC) was flawless from start to finish en route to the third round submission win that made him the first Mexico-born champion in UFC history. He received a star reception for the performance, and it was hard not to feel emotional for one of the true good guys in the sport. “The Assassin Baby” has one of the great stories to getting his hands on the belt, too. From being a middling contender during the initial era of the 125-pound division, to getting released when it seemed the weight class was floundering, to what’s now a six-fight unbeaten run to claim gold – it’s pretty remarkable what he’s done. Can Moreno continue to evolve into being a dominant titleholder and the marketable Mexican fighter the UFC has been searching for since it broke into the country roughly a decade ago? At 27, it seems he has all the potential to become a superstar in his region.

3. Nate Diaz loses, but comes out a winner

How did it happen that despite getting battered for 24 minutes by Leon Edwards, one good moment to close the fight made [autotag]Nate Diaz[/autotag] feel like an even bigger star coming out of this event? That’s the power of this man’s brand, but you shouldn’t be surprised, motherf*ckers. Anyone who has been paying attention knows Diaz’s (20-13 MMA, 15-11 UFC) star power in the UFC has outgrown wins or titles. He has that unique element to him that can allow him to land one strong punch against Edwards (18-3 MMA, 10-2 UFC) in an otherwise one-sided fight, and then have the majority of the social media feedback claiming he was the real winner, despite clearly losing four of five rounds. It was all he needed, though. The moment opened the door for Nate to very predictably bust out the Diaz brothers classic about how he would’ve won with “street rules” or in a fight to the death, and that’s exactly the route he went at the post-fight press conference. You can’t blame him, either. The people eat him up, and will carry the water of that narrative on his behalf moving forward. Because of that, Diaz remains in such position that he can continue to pick his moments. He said he wants to get back in three or four months, but it all depends on the options that surface. When a good fight arises – such as a Conor McGregor trilogy or a Jorge Masvidal “BMF” title rematch – he can jump back in and have no one care in the least about the result with Edwards.

4. Demian Maia’s end game

We likely saw the last of Demian Maia inside the octagon after his unanimous decision loss to Belal Muhammad. Maia (28-11 MMA, 22-11 UFC), who is now 43, fought the final bout on his UFC contract, and while he once again didn’t look horrific in defeat to Muhammad (19-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC), it wasn’t his best effort. The Brazilian legend was reluctant to commit pre-fight to this being his final bout, but with him now a free agent, it seems there a good chance it was last in the UFC, at least. UFC president Dana White seemed to close that door for him, in fact, when he indicated he wouldn’t be signing Maia to a new deal that would give him a chance to exit the sport on a win. If it truly is the end, there will be time to reflect and focus most in-depth on Maia’s accomplishments in the weeks ahead. Anyone who has followed his career in the UFC knows, though, that the Brazilian is a legend in the octagon and one of the kindest people the sport has ever seen outside of it.

5. Jamahal Hill gets humbled

[autotag]Jamahal Hill[/autotag] went out of his way to make things extra personal with Paul Craig. In the end, he paid for it in the worst of ways. Not only did Hill (8-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) stumble as a sizable favorite to lose his undefeated record, but he got a serious stamp put on him when Craig (15-4-1 MMA, 7-4-1 UFC) dislocated his arm them pummeled him until the fight was stopped. I personally see no issue with Hill’s demeanor coming in. He felt he was slighted by Craig in the lead-up and revealed racist comments he received on social media by the opposing fan-base, and that fired him up for good reason. He danced his way to the octagon and marked his territory in the center during his introduction by Bruce Buffer, all in a sign of confidence he was going to blow Craig out of the water. It didn’t happen that way at all, though. He allowed Craig to pull guard early in the fight while they were dry to get in a position where he wanted, and once Craig got an arm isolated, Hill was fighting for his life before he even knew it. The referee should’ve spared him the additional punishment once his arm was toast – which is a whole other discussion – but still, this has to go into the book as a serious lesson for Hill.