UFC 263: 5 names to look out for

UFC 263
UFC 263

Another weekend is closing in, and another stacked UFC pay-per-view is almost upon us. This weekend's event will see the continuation of fans returning to arenas, after sold-out crowds enjoyed the bliss of live MMA action at UFC 261 and UFC 262.

The promotion will welcome an audience of 19,000+ to the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. The event will mark the third to be held in front of a full crowd since the easing of restrictions following the Covid-19 outbreak.

The PPV is stacked from top to bottom. At the top of the card, Israel Adesanya will look to bounce back from his defeat against Jan Blachowicz and maintain his unbeaten middleweight record. He defends his 185-pound belt against 'The Italian dream' Marvin Vettori. In another rematch, Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno will run it back after their 'Fight of the Year' bout in 2020. And in the UFC's first non-title and non-main event five-round fight, UFC legend Nate Diaz returns to the octagon to face welterweight contender Leon Edwards.

This is not one to miss...

With exciting bouts throughout, this weekend’s event could bring us more memorable moments, but who could be providing them?

Ahead of Saturday’s card, here are five names to look out for at UFC 263.

#5 Terrance McKinney - UFC lightweight

The UFC has reached a point with its recruitment where every card seems to have at least one highly-anticipated debut on it. Terrance McKinney ticks the box for UFC 263.

At just 26-years-old, Mckinney's potential is immeasurable. Since debuting in 2017, he's fought 13 times, winning ten and losing three. After consecutive losses to Sean Woodson, who he fought on DWCS, and Darrick Minner, who's won his last two UFC fights, 'T.Wrecks' has hit the form of his life. After a year-and-a-half away, McKinney returned to the sport and boy had he fixed whatever hindered him in the two fights prior.

Not many three-fight winning streaks have been as impressive. Across a three-month period in 2021, the lightweight collected three victories and three first-round knockouts that, combined, totaled just 1:45 inside the cage. His most recent fight was just a week ago. A win so soon after in his UFC debut will really establish his name as one to watch.

After his Ngannou-esque form, McKinney has secured a place in the UFC, but his debut will be no easy task. Across the octagon from him will be Matt Frevola (8-2-1). 'Steamrolla' had three fights canceled in 2020 and fell to a unanimous decision loss against Arman Tsarukyan when he returned earlier this year. Nevertheless, Frevola has already shown what he can do in the UFC and he'll be hoping to use McKinney to get back on track in the promotion.

Every single one of McKinney's 10 wins have come by way of a knockout or a submission, nine of which have come in the very first-round. He is one to watch this weekend.

#4 Fares Ziam - UFC lightweight

UFC Fight Night: Mullarkey v Ziam
UFC Fight Night: Mullarkey v Ziam

At UFC 263, Fares Ziam will be walking to the octagon for the first time in 2021. Since reaching MMA's biggest stage, he's 1-1. A debut decision loss to Don Madge wasn't the ideal start, but a unanimous decision win over Australia's Jamie Mullarkey last year more than made up for it, especially after Mullarkey's devastating KO win over Khama Worthy at UFC 260.

Ziam is just 24-years-old. The Frenchman built a five-fight winning streak leading up to his UFC signing. It included four TKO's and just one decision. He'll be looking to build on his latest victory and begin a UFC streak.

He'll be facing another young and hungry prospect in Luigi Vendramini. In what will be quite the Italian affair, 'The Italian Stallion' will be joining 'The Italian Dream' Marvin Vettori at the PPV. Like Ziam, Vendramini will be looking to begin a streak after following a debut defeat with an impressive rebound win in 2020.

Fares Ziam is always out to find a finish and 'Smile Killer' will be looking to make a statement on Saturday.

#3 Jamahal Hill - UFC light heavyweight

UFC Fight Night: Hill v Abreu
UFC Fight Night: Hill v Abreu

Jamahal Hill is a future star. If his record before facing Ovince Saint Preux hadn't shown that, his TKO win at UFC Vegas 16 certainly did. With every fight, Hill is getting closer to light heavyweight contendership. At UFC 263, he'll look to continue that trend.

'Sweet Dreams' arrived in the UFC after a third-round TKO win against Alexander Poppeck in series 21 of DWCS. Hill has transitioned from the show into the UFC as well as anyone has. A decision win over Darko Stosic got the 30-year-old up-and-running last year.

Despite the result being overturned after Hill tested positive for marijuana, his next performance against Klidson Abreu really showed what he could do, before an absolute onslaught against Saint Preux in their co-main event matchup last December proved Hill was destined for the top. He'll look to take another step towards that becoming a reality in the UFC 263 main card opener this weekend.

After a period of inconsistency between 2017 and the start of 2019, Hill's opponent, Paul Craig, has won three of his last four fights and hasn't been beaten since a knockout loss to Alonzo Menifield two years ago. Submission wins over Vinicius Moreira and Gadzhimurad Antigulov, along with a TKO win over Mauricio Rua, have brought 'Bearjew' two performance bonuses in his last four octagon walks.

If Craig can take Hill down early and control him, a decision win for the Scottish light heavyweight isn't beyond the realms of possibility. But against a young, hungry and unbeaten prospect like Jamahal Hill, we could see Craig fall to his fifth MMA loss and 'Sweet Dreams' extend his unbeaten record to 9-0.

#2 Belal Muhammad - UFC welterweight

UFC 236 Holloway v Poirier 2
UFC 236 Holloway v Poirier 2

After an unfortunate outcome in his main event fight against top five welterweight Leon Edwards in March, Belal Muhammad will be looking to secure his place as a 170-pound contender at the second time of asking.

The part-Palestinian fighter has quickly become one of the most popular and entertaining members of the UFC roster outside of the cage. Inside the octagon, Muhammad is just as talented. The 32-year-old boasts a more than impressive 18-3 record, and his trio of defeats have come to some of the best in the UFC. Losses to Alan Jouban and Vicente Luque in 2016 stalled his rise, but eight wins in his nine fights after brought his name back into the spotlight.

A defeat to Geoff Neal in 2019 broke his first UFC winning streak, but wins against the likes of Takashi Sato, Lyman Good and Dhiego Lima saw Muhammad build another four-fight winning streak heading into his fight against Edwards. Against top 10 welterweight and grappling legend Demian Maia at UFC 263, Muhammad will be looking to become a contender at 170-pounds.

With Demian Maia towards the back-end of his career, it’s sad to effectively be predicting a loss that will signal the end of it. Of course, with his grappling skills and lengthy submission tally, that path to victory is never out of the question.

But Muhammad has been in the UFC for five years and has gained a lot of experience. It’s hard to see him getting caught. He has the pace and durability to grind out a decision and the power and finishing skills to end the fight early. Either way, I see “Remember the Name” joining the group of welterweight elites at UFC 263.

Catch our interview with Belal Muhammad below ahead of this one.

#1 Movsar Evloev - UFC featherweight

UFC 257: Lentz v Evloev
UFC 257: Lentz v Evloev

How good is the featherweight division right now? The 145-pound weight class arguably has the best set of prospects and future stars in the entire promotion. At UFC 263, two more will be in action against each other. Hakeem Dawodu is exciting but Movsar Evloev is about as hot a prospect as the UFC has had.

Not many names have arrived in the UFC with as much hype as Evloev, especially from across the Atlantic. In his ten fights before the UFC, the Russian won the M-1 challenge bantamweight title and defended it twice. An unbeaten 10-0 record and title around his waist made it impossible for the UFC to ignore Evloev.

Four decision victories, including against Mike Grundy and Nik Lentz, have boosted the 27-year-old's MMA record to 14-0 and gotten him off to the perfect start in the sport's leading promotion.

But Evloev will be facing his toughest test yet. Hakeem Dawodu is similarly highly-regarded. 'Mean' boasts a 12-1 record and hasn't faced defeat since his debut loss to Danny Henry back in 2018. Since then, the Canadian has defeated the likes of Julio Arce and Zubaira Tukhugov on his way to a five-fight winning streak. With Dawodu boasting seven knockouts and Evloev's technical abilities, this fight shows all the hallmarks of a tasty battle on the feet.

If there ever was a battle of prospects to watch, this is it.

Edited by Harvey Leonard
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