Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight rivals Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa will go to war TONIGHT (Sept. 26, 2020) at UFC 253 from Flash Forum on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
Adesanya’s rise to champion has been both lightning quick and largely stunning to watch. “Stylebender” is well on the path to becoming one of the sport’s biggest stars, but the best way to take a major leap forward in that regard is coming out victorious in a high-profile grudge match. Costa may not have risen to his rank quite as quickly as Adesanya, but “Borrachinha” is still something of an overachiever, having earned this title shot in just his fourteenth professional fight. The powerful Brazilian has more depth and technique to his game than meets the eye, but it’s still plenty likely that he tries to overwhelm his rangier foe with pure offense.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Robert Whittaker (UFC 243), Yoel Romero (UFC 248), Kelvin Gastelum (UFC 236), Brad Tavares (TUF 27 Finale), Anderson Silva (UFC 234), Derek Brunson (UFC 230), Marvin Vettori (UFC on FOX 29)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Adesanya has a wealth of experience in the combat sports world, more than 100 professional bouts split between kickboxing, boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA). He’s a sniper at range, picking his shots masterfully both on the counter and while stalking opponents.
This bout will really test Adesanya’s ability to game plan and persevere. We all know what Costa is going to try to do: bully his skinnier opponent. Adesanya has to come prepared to deal with pressure and constant offense, as well as endure the rough moments when he does get caught in compromising positions.
A great deal of focus ahead of this bout has been on the jab, and how well Uriah Hall used the strike against Costa. Costa himself took note of this as well, adjusting his stance to fight behind his lead shoulder more effectively, which helps deflect straight shots. As such, relying solely on the jab to keep Costa honest might backfire.
Fortunately, the threat of the jab creates openings. If Costa is behind that lead shoulder, his lead leg is likely more susceptible to low kicks. Furthermore, Adesanya’s switch kick or Southpaw high kick could be a real threat, as Costa will essentially be turned and faced into the strike.
Jab, kick and move until the Brazilian loses a bit of steam, then it’s time to hunt counters.
Key Wins: Yoel Romero (UFC 241), Uriah Hall (UFC 226), Johny Hendricks (UFC 217), Oluwale Bamgbose (UFC 212)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Costa is a powerhouse. Despite being absolutely huge at the weight class and firing punches at a fairly ridiculous rate, his conditioning holds up well, and he shrugs off damage like few others.
Costa hits plenty hard, but he’s not typically a man destroying foes in one punch — he shouldn’t be chasing that one punch knockout against Adesanya, a man who has been stopped just once in his 100-some professional bouts. Costa breaks foes down with attrition, and he needs to stick to that style here, five rounds or not.
Body work is absolutely the biggest key to victory for “The Eraser.” Adesanya’s range control and head movement make his skull a difficult target, but the torso is much more available, particularly since Costa is willing to eat a shot if need be. Body punches will also serve the very valuable purpose of slowing his opponent’s feet, giving Costa more opportunities to force the pocket or jam Adesanya into the fence.
Furthermore, Costa has to kick effectively. Whenever backed up, Adesanya does a great job of moving his head and changing directions with his feet. His defense makes punches tricky in that situation, but a well-placed kick to the ribs or lead leg can really interrupt that rhythm and create bigger opportunities.
This is such an amazing style match, there’s bad blood, and it’s for the title — what more could one want?
As mentioned, Adesanya is on the fast route to stardom, still just a couple years into his UFC career while signing deals with PUMA. A dramatic victory over a dangerous and charismatic challenger? That’s a recipe for a big boost in popularity, which would definitely help Adesanya’s long term goals of securing super fights at upper weight classes.
Alternatively, Costa is becoming quite popular himself. He’s young and marketable, with the type of fighting style that sells itself. Were Costa to become champion by taking out the undefeated “Stylebender,” it would be an absolutely huge moment. Brazil would have a male champion again, and surely his countrymen and fans around the globe alike would be excited for the “Borrachinha” reign.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 253 fight card 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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One of these men is likely to leave the cage a significant star and strapped with gold. Which man will have his hand raised at UFC 253?