We return to ‘Fight Island’ this weekend in Abu Dhabi for UFC 253 which is full of action fights that is headlined by a clash between two undefeated stars of the Middleweight division. Israel Adesanya attempts to defend his UFC gold for the second time against the Brazilian Paulo Costa and in the co-main event Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz battle it out for the vacant Light Heavyweight title. Let’s get stuck into the action below.
Promos may make you see this as Adesanya’s hardest test to date and that Costa will cause him all sorts of issues, but I really don’t see it that way at all. Adesanya has some of the crispest striking the UFC has seen since prime Anderson Silva and has a fantastic understanding of distance management and throwing ‘smart strikes’ rather than power punches. He has three inches of height and eight inches of reach over Costa that will allow him to keep it at the range where he can hit Costa without being hit back. This will result in Costa to having to blitz attack which plays right into Adesanya’s style. Costa doesn’t have the raw power of Romero nor the all-round toughness of Whittaker or the boxing of Gastelum making this Adesanya’s easiest fight in the last few years.
Costa’s strength is his high-volume power strikes for the first two rounds before the lactic acid takes hold in those enormous arms and the output falls off. Add to that Costa has only really fought one legitimate striker in Uriah Hall who he struggled to put away and I really don’t rate his power that much. I’m not saying he doesn’t punch hard, but he isn’t a one punch knockout fighter and the idea he is going to walk Adesanya down and put him away is ludicrous. Adesanya knows his strength’s and weaknesses well and it is also relatively safe to assume Costa won’t take him down which frees up his striking even more. I expect Adesanya to stick and move, much like he did in the Whittaker fight. The route to victory for Costa will be through targeting Adesanya’s body as his hook to the body I see as his best strike. However, I do see this as routine for Adesanya and expect him to put away a wilting Costa late in the fight in what is a dominant performance by the champ.
From a betting standpoint I don’t want a bar of this fight. Reyes is a dominant favourite and rightly so as he has the better striking and athleticism but Blachowicz carries power that will last all five rounds which will be an ever-present danger for Reyes. Both men have quite underrated wrestling that they are unlikely to use and expect this to be a standing affair. With the durability of both men this fight likely lasts into the latter rounds so if there was a play, I would suggest over 2.5 rounds or even the fight to go the distance. This is one I am staying away from, but it should be a great fight and one that I am happy to sit back and enjoy.
Ludovit Klein steps into this fight on short notice for Nate Landwehr who tested positive to COVID-19 and gets a fantastic opportunity to kick his UFC career off in style. The 25-year-old has racked up a 16-2 professional record and what is most impressive is the adaptions he has made after each of his losses. He is a striker who has a sneaky submission game and has finished 15 of his 16 wins. He should have the speed and power advantage over Young and is a great underdog play.
Aleksa Camur is an impressive prospect who is 6-0 in his professional career. He made the most of his Contender Series opportunity knocking out Fabio Cherant midway through their fight before winning a close decision in his UFC debut. Camur is one of champion Stipe Miocic’s main training partners and I am sure since his close victory in January he would have continued to progress. Regardless he should be too much for Knight who shoots for countless takedowns without the wrestling chops to pull it off. I don’t see this going to the ground and therefore Camur should outbox and outwork Knight, likely stopping him at some point in the second round.
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