The long-anticipated fight between middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa is finally happening on Saturday!
UFC 253 will be back on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, to start a series of 5 weeks’ worth of events. This comes as welcoming news to many fight fans, as the UFC Apex, where many of the recent pay-per-views and UFC “Fight Nights” have taken place, utilized an octagon that is 5 ft smaller than regulation. A fight of this magnitude deserves to take place in a setting that is equally beneficial to both fighters.
Along with the Adesanya-Costa title bout, the co-main event will be for the recently vacated light heavyweight championship between number 1 contender, Dominick Reyes and superstar Jan Blachowicz. I expect this fight to be another slugfest and could also live up to the hype of the main event.
In this article, I will go in-depth on both of these championship fights, things I expect to witness from both fighters from a strategic standpoint, and how I predict the fight to go.
UFC 253 Co-Main Event: Reyes vs. Blachowicz for the Light Heavyweight Championship
This fight was the most recent addition to this pay-per-view, as it was only a little over a month ago that Jon Jones relinquished his title, in an effort to focus on his heavyweight debut. Dana White and the matchmakers wasted no time in filling this vacancy, by pinning the man many continue to argue beat Jones for the title in Dominick Reyes against Jan Blachowicz, who just knocked out Corey Anderson in round one this past February.
How do I see this fight going?
Like I mentioned earlier, I expect this fight to be a true slugfest. In half of his UFC bouts, Dominick Reyes has finished his opponent in the first round, and in 3 of his past 5 fights, Blachowicz also ended his opponent’s night. As these statistics show, both of these fighters will be trying to knock the other out whenever the opportunity presents itself. That being said, I don’t think either of these guys will be able to pull this off. They each have great chins and can take a punch or two.
As disturbing as it may sound, I am anticipating a stand-up oriented “bloodbath” in this fight, similar to the likes of Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald a few years back…okay, fine, maybe not that bad but you get the point. Reyes and Jan will be giving their all in the octagon for the title, and I would not be surprised if this fight overtakes the main event for “Fight of the Night.”
My prediction: Dominick Reyes wins by unanimous decision (R5)
Even though Jan has looked great in his last few fights, notably in the KO victories against Luke Rockhold and Corey Anderson, I like Reyes’ chances of edging him out by decision. Many do not remember that prior to the controversial loss to Jon Jones, Reyes had not lost a single professional MMA fight and has yet to be outstruck by any opponent he has faced. I believe he is the better of two great fighters and will demonstrate why that is, especially in the later rounds of this bout.
UFC 253 Main Event: Israel Adesanya vs Paulo Costa for the Middleweight Championship
“Stylebender” vs “Borrachina” has been billed as the fight of 2020, by the likes of Dana White and MMA pundits. It has elements that entice all forms of fight fans, as both fighters have strong standup games, and it would not be a surprise to see it also going to ground or a lot of time in the clinch.
How do I see this fight going?
I see this going one of two ways: a very technical fight dictated by Adesanya or Costa committing to the finish early on and Adesanya staying on the defensive for the majority of the fight. Both option lead towards a more technical fight but let me explain the difference between the two.
What do I mean by technical fight dictated by Adesanya? It’s not that Stylebender can’t strike, as 14 of his 19 MMA victories were by knock out, but he will definitely be the aggressor against Paulo Costa. Even though both fighters are listed at 185lbs, it is obvious that Costa will be weighing closer to 200lbs on fight night. His much more muscular build, compared to Adesanya’s leaner one, should give Costa the striking edge and clear weight advantage.
Adesanya being the smart fighter that he is, will have a game plan having expected this. I anticipate it being one that consists of a lot of counterstrikes, especially coming from leg kicks. He will also have a 3-inch height advantage, so similar to his last fight against Yoel Romero, he will be keeping a good distance from Costa.
I also expect to see a lot of moments, especially if this fight goes into the later rounds, where Izzy will attempt to press his opponent against the cage as a way of “gassing him out.” If this is the direction the fight goes, I would not be surprised if many watching will voice their displeasure at Adesanya, like they did after the Romero bout, but he could care less. If Izzy can dictate the fight like this, he will surely have the advantage, assuming this goes to the judges’ decision.
So let’s talk about the more entertaining option 2, shall we? This is the one where Paulo Costa is committed to getting the finish early, despite concerns that he may rapidly lose energy before the later rounds. Of course, Adesanya will be anticipating this, like I mentioned above, but option 2 introduces the possibility that he can’t do anything about it as its happening.
Sure, Izzy will be keeping the distance, but what if Costa breaks through and lands a few clean shots? The advantage now lies in the favor of Costa and Adesanya will be looking to try to stay alert to prolong the fight until the later rounds, where he is more comfortable.
Costa will be looking out for Izzy’s counter hooks or elbows, especially if he starts landing a barrage of punches, but as his 5-round contest against Yoel Romero showed us all, he has one hell of a chin.
My prediction: Paulo Costa wins by knockout (R2)
Yup, I am going against Vegas and most MMA experts in saying I believe Costa is going to succeed in finishing Adesanya in round 2. I believe we will see elements of both options I proposed, at least attempted by both fighters, but Costa’s chances of implementing option 2 will be the more successful. Izzy undoubtedly can take a punch but has never faced an opponent with the knockout ability and sheer power of Paulo Costa before.
Costa comes into this title fight incredible hungry and determined to prove to the world he is indeed the best middleweight there is. I think he will succeed in doing so.