Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on “Fight Island” with UFC 253, which is set to pop off later TONIGHT (Sat., Sept. 26, 2020) on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. In the main event of the ESPN+-streamed pay-per-view (PPV) event, Israel Adesanya will put his Middleweight title on the line against Paulo Costa. In the co-headlining act, Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz will collide for the vacant Light Heavyweight strap.
Adesanya and Costa will finally put all of the trash talk to the side and let their punches and kicks take over in a highly-anticipated title fight. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a fight that’s had so much anticipation and drama attached to it. The two talented strikers have done a great job hyping up the fight over the last two years, exchanging insults over social platforms and through the mixed martial arts (MMA) media. While some think a recent friendly run-in took some air out of the heated rivalry, I wouldn’t go that far. There is real bitterness between the two, and there isn’t anything wrong with keeping it cordial prior to the fight.
Adesanya's rise as one of the biggest stars in the sport has truly been meteoric thanks to his busy schedule and exciting style of fighting. And when you pick a beef with perhaps the best MMA fighter of all time in Jon Jones, you get even more headlines, more buzz and your stock goes up higher. And all of this isn’t by accident, “The Last Stylebender” knows what he’s doing and he does it well. The thing about Adesanya is that nothing about him seems forced (I’m looking at you Colby Covington). Indeed, he is as authentic as they come. He’s passed all of the biggest tests thrown his way and now he has his biggest one in front of him ready to knock his block off.
Like Adesanya, Costa is undefeated so far in his MMA career (13-0, 4-0 inside the Octagon). Of his 13 wins, 12 of them are finishes including a whopping 11 knockouts. In short, the man hits like a Mack truck and can take you out in the blink of an eye.
Sure, UFC 253’s PPV main card could have used one more big fight, but the two title fights more than make up for it. Let’s not complain here, it’s a highly-anticipated event highlighted by the bitter feud between Adesanya and Costa.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
A fight between Heili Alateng and Casey Kenney was removed from this card for undisclosed reasons and moved over to next weekend's “Fight Night” event, which features a women’s Bantamweight bout between Irene Aldana and Holly Holm. On Sept. 17, Nate Landwehr tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced out of his fight against Shane Young, who was replaced by UFC newcomer Ludvoit Klein.
Claudia Gadelha and Yan Xiaonan were expected to throw down at this event before a knee injury suffered by Gadelha forced the promotion to move the fight to UFC Fight Night event in November. Marion Reneau was forced out of the event with an undisclosed injury and replaced by Sijara Eubanks, who stepped in to face Ketlen Vieira. It will be Eubanks’ second fight in a span of a few weeks as she looks to make a move up the women’s 135-pound division.
Klein got the call up on a week’s notice after Landwehr tested positive for COVID-19. He is currently riding a seven-fight win streak, six of those by way of stoppage. At 16-2, 15 of his wins have come by way of stoppage, so you know it’s pure entertainment when he steps in the cage. He will be taking on Young, who is 2-1 so far in his budding UFC career.
William Knight will look to pump some new blood into the Light Heavyweight division when he makes his UFC debut against Aleksa Camur, who made good in his Octagon debut back at UFC 246. Knight punched his ticket to the big show with a first round knockout win on Dana White’s “Contender Series.” That being said, he did have to win a few more on the regional circuit before getting his first shot inside the Octagon.
Danilo Marques is on a two-fight win streak, but hasn’t been all that consistent since 2016, going just 3-2. Marques has bounced around from promotion to promotion during his regional circuit stint, but now he is hoping to find a home inside the Octagon for an extended time. He will face off against Khadi Ibragimov, who is in desperate need of a win after dropping three straight.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
Diego Sanchez has stated that after he fulfills the final four fights on his current deal he intends to retire from the fight game. Recently, he called out Conor McGregor for his retirement fight and wouldn’t you know it, “Notorious” graciously accepted his request. Before that ever happens, “The Nightmare” has three more fights ahead of him, first of which is against the very tough Jake Matthews, who has won five of his last six outings. Sanchez needs a win here pretty badly because he hasn’t looked all that great in his last two fights. After losing to Michael Chiesa, Sanchez was on the verge of his second straight defeat at the hands of Michel Pereira. Had it not been for an illegal knee on the part of the overzealous Brazilian that prompted a disqualification, Sanchez would be winless (0-2).
Juan Espino hasn’t stepped foot inside the Octagon since Nov. 2018. Winner of seven in a row, Espino only has one fight inside the Octagon under his belt, a submission win over Justin Frazier. His opponent, Jeff Hughes, hasn’t had the best run as of late, losing two of his last three with a no-contest against Todd Duffee sandwiched between.
When Shane Young isn’t freaking Dana White out with his haka, he is getting work done inside the Octagon, winning two of his first three bouts with his lone loss coming against current 145-pound champion, Alexander Volkanovski. He was originally set to fight the aforementioned Landwehr before the fight was scrapped after Nate tested positive for COVID-19. Now, he will look to earn his third straight win against UFC newcomer Ludovit Klein.
Brad Riddell will look to earn his fifth straight win when he takes on Alex Da Silva, who is just 1-1 so far in his young UFC career. Riddell has a lot to gain with a win since he can possibly break into the Top 15. Da Silva, meanwhile, is looking for back-to-back wins for the first time since 2017.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Former M-1 Light Heavyweight champion, Khadis Ibragimov, has looked like a shell of his former undefeated self so far inside the Octagon, losing all three of his fights. If he drops his fourth straight I really don’t foresee the promotion holding on to him. He’ll have a good chance to get that “W” against Danilo Marques, who hasn’t been the most consistent fighter in a while.
Interest Level: 9 of 10
The rest of the main card will see surging Flyweight standout Kai Kara France face off against Brandon Royval. Winner of nine of his last 10 bouts, France is a top contender to fight for the division title in the near future. Before then, he has a tough task ahead of him in Royval, who has won three straight. Also, Sijara Eubanks will look to earn her second win the span of 11 days when she makes a quick turnaround to face Ketlen Vieira. Eubanks desperately wants to earn his first-ever title shot, and while she is a long way out, a win over Vieira is a step in the right direction. Vieira was on the fast track to a title shot herself before she was knocked out by Irene Aldana at UFC 245 in Dec. 2019, the first loss of her career.
Zubaira Tukhugov didn’t do himself any favors after missing weight by a whopping five pounds for his scheduled fight against Hakeem Dawodu (details). The fight will now go on as a Catchweight bout of 150 pounds instead of at Featherweight. At 4-1-1 so far in the division, Tukhugov has shown he can be a legit threat to the strap, but he will have to make up for his massive scale fail with an impressive showing later this evening. Dawodu, though, is currently on a four-fight win streak and is making great strides in the division. If he can pull off a huge win over Zubaira, it will go a long way for his own championship fight aspirations.
But of course, the fights fans are looking forward to are the two championship bouts. Adesanya is sitting on top of the world right now, and a win over Costa will only cause his stock to skyrocket while silencing the Brazilian bomber and handing him his first-ever defeat. For Costa, dethroning “The Last Stylebender” will be just the beginning of beautiful things for his career, which will likely come with a pay raise, more sponsorship opportunities and more.
And of course, the combat word awaits the crowning of a new champion at 205 pounds as Reyes and Blachowicz will scrap for the title left behind by former longtime division kingpin, Jon Jones. Reyes came ever-so-close to dethroning Jones during their fight at UFC 227 earlier this year, so you know he is coming in with a bevy of confidence, as well as anger. That’s because his loss to “Bones” was the first of his career, so he wants nothing more than to get back on track all while tasting UFC gold for the first time in his career. It will be tough sledding against Blachowicz, however, because the Polish-born bomber has the power to sleep his foes with one well-placed strike.
Blachowicz is coming in with three straight wins and having won seven of his last eight. His lone loss during that span is a defeat to former title contender Thiago Santos, which is nothing to hang one's head low over. The winner will have some mighty big shoes to fill if he even wants to come close to filling the gap left behind by Jones, who to this day has never tasted true defeat inside the Octagon. While it’s a long road to travel to get close to what “Bones” accomplished, all these two men are focusing on right now is winning the belt first.
Enjoy the fights!
Full Fight Card:
UFC 253 PPV Main Event:
185 lbs.: UFC Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa
UFC 253 PPV Main Card on ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
205 lbs.: Dominick Reyes vs. Jan Blachowicz
125 lbs.: Kai Kara-France vs. Brandon Royval
135 lbs.: Ketlen Vieira vs. Sijara Eubanks
145 lbs.: Hakeem Dawodu vs. Zubaira Tukhugov (catchweight of 150 pounds)
UFC 253 Prelims Card on ESPN2/ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Brad Riddell vs. Alex Da Silva
170 lbs.: Diego Sanchez vs. Jake Matthews
145 lbs.: Ludovit Klein vs. Shane Young
205 lbs.: Aleksa Camur vs. William Knight
UFC 253 Prelims Card on ESPN2/ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET):
265 lbs.: Juan Espino vs. Jeff Hughes
205 lbs.: Khadis Ibragimov vs. Danilo Marques
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 253 fight card this weekend RIGHT HERE, starting with the early ESPN 2/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance (also on ESPN 2/ESPN+) at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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