A trek back to Abu Dhabi for another round of “Fight Island” bouts will kick off with a UFC middleweight title showdown between a pair of undefeated fighters looking to stake their claim as the future of the sport.
Israel Adesanya will make his second defense of his title against the hulking Paulo Costa in the main event of UFC 253. It’s a battle between two fighters who have been on a collision course for the past 18 months as verbal jabs have been exchanged while climbing the ranks. But somebody’s ‘0’ has got to go on Sept. 26.
Will it be the unstoppable force of Costa, who aims to steamroll his opponents with his savage power? Or, will be the finesse kickboxer in “Stylebender,” who turns his opponents’ aggression against them with pinpoint striking?
The co-main event will determine a new light heavyweight champion now that Jon Jones has decided to move up to heavyweight as Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz will square off to determine the new king of 205 pounds. Reyes is coming off of a stellar performance that was just short of being the first man to defeat Jon Jones inside the Octagon at UFC 247. His opponent will be the surging Blachowicz, who has won three straight and aims to make his fourth come with a piece of gold that is wrapped around his waist.
Here’s what you need to know about betting on Saturday’s UFC 253 card, including updated odds for Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa.
UFC 253 odds for Adesanya vs. Costa
- Israel Adesanya: -176
- Paulo Costa: +145
(All odds via BetMGM)
A lot has been made of the battle of undefeated fighters who have demonstrated bad blood over the years. Costa has been a wrecking ball since arriving in the UFC in 2017. With the exception of Yoel Romero — who must be made of steel — Costa has obliterated every opponent he has faced inside of the distance. As a matter of fact, Costa has only gone the distance with Romero in his professional MMA career. He does have a loss on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil that came via split decision, but it didn’t affect his professional record. He’s a finisher first who has never seen the fourth round of a fight, which may present a problem against the current UFC middleweight champion.
Like Costa, Adesanya is undefeated with a record of 19-0. But unlike his UFC 253 opponent, his victories have come in a variety of ways. He’s gone the distance (Anderson Silva, Yoel Romero), been in dogfights (Kelvin Gastelum) and ran roughshod over opponents (Derek Brunson, Rob Wilkinson). At 31, he’s seen it all and has an impressive resume of opponents. The variety here will be the key as Adesanya’s fluidity as a fighter will pay off against a man who seemingly has one gear, straight ahead.
Adesanya (-176) is the deserving favorite here with an impressive resume that includes the names of Robert Whitaker, Yoel Romero and Kelvin Gastelum, who are all upper-crust middleweights. Although Costa (+145) has been a wrecking machine, he lacks a big name outside of Romero.
But that’s not why we’re picking Adesanya.
Styles make fights and Adesanya is a kickboxer who enjoys feasting on aggressive and one-dimensional opponents. Costa’s one gear, while great, can get him in a significant amount of trouble if he’s unable to cut off the cage and impose his will. Costa’s real opportunity, if he chooses to use it, is to find a way to get the fight down to the canvas and use his BJJ black belt.
It’s something that Costa has really used during his MMA tenure and he has one submission victory to his name. But Adesanya is fully expecting Costa to come directly at him for as long as the fight lasts. It’s wildly predictable and makes Costa ripe for being picked off by a counter right hand or setting up a brutal head kick. Adesanya’s movement will present a problem as Costa has yet to face an opponent with the kickboxing pedigree and lateral movement that the champion possesses.
There are also concerns with Costa’s gas tank. How long can he go full bore at Adesanya considering that he’s only fought 15 minutes once in his professional career. If Adesanya recognizes that he can’t get rid of Costa quickly, he’ll likely wait for him to expend his energy and take him out in the later rounds. With the odds for Adesanya by knockout sitting at +155, that’s the best value bet for the fight.
Yes, Costa is unbeaten but there are too many things working against him in this fight.
Adesanya vs. Costa prediction
- Hale’s pick: Israel Adesanya via (T)KO
- Best odds: +155