With UFC 263 about to kick off, one of the most stacked cards we've seen in recent history has many implications for the future of respective divisions. From the main event to the early prelims, here are some of the fights that have a chance to shake up whole divisions in the sports premier company.
Chase Hooper has been one of the featherweight division's rising stars for some time now. At 21, "The Teenage Dream" already has 12 professional fights with an excellent record of 10-1-1. Hooper faces veteran of the sport in Steven Peterson (who weighed in over the 145 limit) and hopes to continue taking steps forward in his career. If Hooper can pull out a decisive victory, the young prospect can be expected to move his way up the card along with a step up in competition to truly start his journey to title contendership. However, if the 21-year old loses, he's still got plenty of time to develop, and it will only serve as a lesson for future training camps and fights.
The prelims of this card are truly special. Every fight has severe implications for the future of these fighters, starting with Movsar Evloev (14-0) vs. Hakeem Dawodu (12-1-1). Both of these fighters bring intensity and pace to their bout, with both looking to solidify their status as fringe contenders in an already deep featherweight division. Dawadu, who's won his last 5, is looking for a decisive victory over the undefeated Russian. With 2 of his last three wins coming via Split Decision. Dawadu needs a statement victory.
Further along in the prelims, women's flyweight contenders Lauren Murphy and Joanne Calderwood face off in a fight to decide who should face the dominant Valentina Shevchenko. With Valentina already defeating most ranked contenders in the division, it only makes sense for the winner of this fight to go on and fight for the belt.
The main event of the night is pretty straightforward as far as future implications. If Israel Adesanya wins, he continues his reign as the dominant 185-pound champ. However, if Vettori win's there are many directions the UFC can take with future title bouts. If an immediate rematch is not made, Robert Whitaker is at the top of the list for contenders ready to fight someone new for the belt.
In the co-main, Deiveson Figueiredo is looking to prove that his last fight was a fluke. The God of War has walked through everyone in front of him until his last bout with potential NMF titleholder Brandon Moreno. If Figueiredo comes out and dominates, there aren't many places the men's 125 division could go. Askar Askarov seems like the only man in the division who stands a chance against the champ. However, if Moreno wins, the UFC might have a new star in the making.
Leon Edwards vs. Nate Diaz is by far the most exciting fight on the card, in my opinion. Coming off a loss and a two-year absence away from the sport, Nate Diaz is looking to face one of the most underrated and best strikers on the UFC roster. With a win over Edward, Nate Diaz could see himself immediately back into the top 5 of the rankings. The stakes are much higher for Leon Edwards. Being ranked as the number 3 welterweight, if Leon were to lose to Nate, it could delay the title shot he has been waiting for even further. Sitting on an eight-fight win streak (with his last fight being a no-contest), Leon Edwards' title shot is long overdue. A win would propel him into that position, with a loss drastically dropping him down the ladder.