UFC 263 is going to take place on June 12, 2021. The card consists of power-packed and super-hyped fights that will determine how the UFC divisions shape up in the near future. The event’s main appeal is created by two title fights.
Israel Adesanya defends his title against No. 3 middleweight fighter Marvin Vettori in the main event. In the co-main event, fans will see a spicy flyweight title rematch between champion Deiveson Figuiereido and challenger Brandon Moreno.
The UFC is also hosting its first-ever five-round non-title co-main event fight between No. 3 welterweight fighter Leon Edwards and fan-favorite Nate Diaz. The event will be watched by fans from all over the world. However, a few UFC stars will have a special interest in the fights, too.
In this article, we look at three such fighters who will be watching UFC 263 with great interest.
#3 – Askar Askarov
Askar Askarov is the latest rising star hailing from Dagestan, Russia. He made his UFC debut in 2019 against Brandon Moreno and impressed many MMA experts after forcing the fight into a draw. Just four fights into his UFC career, Askarov is already looking like a future flyweight championship contender.
Askar Askarov faced No. 5 flyweight fighter Joseph Benavidez at UFC 259 in March 2021 and dominated him for three rounds. The 28-year-old landed a higher volume of total strikes and significant strikes, while also converting five of six takedown attempts against Benavidez.
The undefeated Dagestani MMA fighter was adjudged a clear victor by the judges, with the scorecard reading 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26. After his win, Askarov said he wanted the title fight next. He said:
“This is the message I want to send to [UFC president] Dana White: Dana, all the guys I’ve fought in the UFC have been Top 1, Top 2, Top 3. I’ve fought all the top-ranked guys and I beat them. I’m here. I’m ready for this title. It doesn’t matter who has it, I want to fight for it.”
When Brandon Moreno faces Deiveson Figuierido at UFC 263 for the title, Askar Askarov will be watching it closely. After all, the winner of the bout could very well be his next opponent.
#2 – Kamaru Usman
Kamaru Usman won the UFC welterweight title against Tyron Woodley in 2019. Since then, ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ has defended his belt four times, against some of the most dangerous and top-ranked welterweight fighters. He has put away his opponents in three of the defenses via KO/TKO, too.
Right now, Kamaru Usman is on an unbeaten streak of 14 matches in the UFC (18 in his MMA career), which is a record in the history of the organization’s division. However, there is one specific fighter in the welterweight division that Usman needs to be wary of: Leon Edwards.
Leon Edwards is on an eight-fight winning streak in the UFC, and enters the octagon at UFC 263 against Nate Diaz. Edwards is a heavy favorite going against Nate. If the No. 3 welterweight fighter rises up victorious against ‘The Stockton Slugger, he will most likely pose problems for Kamaru Usman in the near future.
Kamaru Usman last faced Leon Edwards in 2015, winning via unanimous decision. While Usman has transformed into a champion over the years, ‘Rocky’ has displayed massive improvements too. Therefore, Usman is going to watch UFC 263 with complete attention.
#1 – Robert Whittaker
Israel Adesanya defeated Robert Whittaker in 2019 to become the undisputed UFC middleweight champion. Since that fight, Whittaker has gone on to face three other opponents – Darren Till, Jared Cannonier, and Kelvin Gastelum – coming up victorious against each via unanimous decision.
In the two years since losing the middleweight title fight against ‘The Last Stylebender’, Robert Whittaker has been working towards another title shot. Ahead of Whittaker’s fight against Kelvin Gastelum, it was believed that the winner of the bout would get a title shot against ‘Izzy’.
However, after Whittaker defeated Gastelum at UFC Vegas 24, the title shot against Israel Adesanya was given to Marvin Vettori, the No. 3 middleweight fighter. UFC president Dana White argued that ‘The Reaper’ wouldn’t be ready for another fight in two months’ time.
However, with Marvin Vettori taking on Israel Adesanya at UFC 263, Robert Whittaker will be watching the fight carefully. Dana White confirmed that Whittaker would be getting the next shot at the middleweight title. He said:
“He (Robert Whittaker) is the number one guy in the world, that’s not going to change during this fight and whoever wins, Whittaker will be next.”