Following a somewhat tumultuous start to the new for the UFC, the promotion is set to roll out its first pay-per-view card of 2023 on Saturday when UFC 283 invades Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro.
The event marks the UFC’s first event in Brazil since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 and features a pair of title bouts atop the marquee.
Former light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira returns to his home country to face Jamahal Hill for the vacant 205-pound title in the main event. Flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo and interim titleholder Brandon Moreno also meet for the fourth time in a 125-pound title unification.
Plus, the rest of the undercard sees a Brazilian in each matchup. Former title challenger Gilbert Burns is back in a welterweight contest against Neil Magny. Former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade moves up to flyweight to challenge Lauren Murphy. And fast finishers Johnny Walker and Paul Craig are set to meet at light heavyweight.
Let’s take a closer look at the biggest storylines entering this weekend.
Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news.
1. A much-needed return to business as usual for UFC
While UFC did officially kick off the new year last weekend with a Fight Night card inside its Apex facility in Las Vegas, UFC 283 represents the promotion’s first close up on a global scale since what has been a tumultuous month between PPV events during the holiday season. From a gambling scandal centered around former fighter/trainer James Krause to the ugly aftermath of the domestic assault caught on camera involving UFC president Dana White and his wife, combat sports’ biggest brand has consistently made the headlines in recent weeks for all the wrong reasons. This past Saturday, that only continued when White announced that Francis Ngannou has given up his heavyweight title to become a free agent, just when fans thought a superfight against Jon Jones was right around the corner. UFC has some serious work to do moving forward, both from the standpoint of repairing its public image and in terms of fighter rights (and pay), which was a big part of the reason why Ngannou exited. The best way to begin that process from a public relations standpoint is to deliver an exciting card, from top to bottom. With 15 fights currently scheduled and a raucous crowd expected, the expectations for drama — this time inside the cage — remain high.
2. The UFC light heavyweight division is a complete mess
That’s about the only accurate way to say it. Jiri Prochazka vacated his UFC title shortly before his scheduled rematch with Teixeira, after the two produced a title fight for the ages last June. But Teixeira wouldn’t agree to fight replacement Magomed Ankalaev on short notice, which led to Ankalaev fighting former champion Jan Blachowicz for the vacant title in December. That fight was ultimately ruled a draw, however, which left things even more unresolved and the fight bothered White and company so much that UFC brass decided to reward the 43-year-old Teixeira with a new title shot anyway, tapping the streaking Hill to be his opponent on that same night. The fight, on paper, offers no shortage of potential for fireworks, with the added bonus of Teixeira returning to fight in his native Brazil for the first time since 2014 and the chance to become a two-time champion. But even though Teixeira had denied the potential of it, what happens if he survives a war with Hill to recapture the title, only to then retire on the spot, comically leaving the UFC 205-pound throne vacant once more? Or what if Hill wins yet isn’t accepted by critics as the best fighter in the division, further watering down the value of the title? In the three years since Jon Jones initially vacated the title, the once glamor division for the UFC hasn’t felt all that glamorous.
3. Deiveson Figueiredo-Brandon Moreno is the gift that keeps on giving
Outside of fear that the 35-year-old Figueiredo, who has routinely had difficulties making championship weight, does so once again, the first quadrilogy in UFC history has all the makings to be as great as their first three offerings. Every matchup in this historic rivalry has delivered, whether that be a fight of the year contender in their first meeting (ruled a draw), or emotional victories by both in their subsequent sequels. For Moreno, the first Mexican-born UFC champion, his submission victory at UFC 263 was extra sweet considering he had been cut by the promotion just three years earlier. But Figueiredo’s response in 2022 by regaining his title in yet another five-round war — at age 34, no less — might have been the most impressive feat of this series. Oddsmakers have set their fourth meeting as a virtual pick ’em, even after Moreno rallied to stop Kai Kara-France last July to win the interim title. Regardless of who wins, Figueiredo and Moreno have already secured their spot in history and will likely be forever linked. The only question now is whether UFC 283 will be their final meeting or just another chapter in this storied rivalry that has been heavy on action, drama and both showcasing their indelible fighting spirit.
4. The UFC 283 tagline could just as easily be ‘Brazil against the world’
This is already a loaded fight card, with 15 total bouts in all, including the five that make up the PPV main card. But Brazilian MMA fans, among the sport’s most passionate base around the globe, will not only get a chance to see their first UFC card in person since 2020, the card itself is littered with domestic talent from top to bottom. In fact, all 15 bouts feature at least one fighter born in Brazil and two offer matchups of Brazilian-born fighters squaring off against one another. In addition to the title fights atop the marquee, the main card also features a trio of big opportunities for Brazilian fighters. Former welterweight title challenger Gilbert Burns looks to bounce back from a close defeat in his all-out war against Khamzat Chimaev by facing Neil Magny. Meanwhile, former women’s strawweight champion Jessica Andrade takes on flyweight contender Lauren Murphy in a key matchup for title positioning and light heavyweight Johnny Walker takes on Paul Craig.
5. One last ride for the legendary ‘Shogun’
Twenty-one years and 41 fights since he made his pro debut in his native Brazil, former UFC light heavyweight champion and Pride Grand Prix middleweight winner Mauricio “Shogun” Rua will make his final walk to the Octagon in Saturday’s featured preliminary bout. Rua, 41, will take on UFC newcomer Igor Poterya, a native of Ukraine who lost his promotional debut last July. And even though it has been close to a decade since Rua was still considered a legitimate title threat, his twilight in recent years has produced some surprising moments with flashes of what once made him great. Rua is 5-3-1 since 2015, including wins over the likes of Corey Anderson and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (twice). But along with his knockout win over Lyoto Machida to capture the UFC title in 2010, Rua will forever be linked to the five-year run he had in Pride through 2007, scoring wins over Alistair Overeem (twice), Nogueira, Kevin Randleman, Ricardo Arona, Quinton “Rampage’ Jackson and more.
Who wins UFC 283: Teixeira vs. Hill? And how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on every fight at UFC 283, all from the incomparable expert who’s up nearly $12,000 on MMA in the past four years, and find out.