UFC 253 went down last night (Sat., Sept 26, 2020) inside Flash Forum on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. In the main event of the evening, Israel Adesanya continued his dominant run in the Middleweight division, retaining his strap by putting on a masterful performance against Paulo Costa before knocking him out in round two (see it again here). In the co-headlining act, Jan Blachowicz became UFC’s newest Light Heavyweight champion after he flattened Dominick Reyes with some seriously powerful bombs in round two (video replay).
Biggest Winner: Israel Adesanya
Adesanya continued to add to his already-impressive mixed martial arts (MMA) resume by knocking out one of his biggest tests to date in Paulo Costa ... and he made it look easy. Indeed, “The Last Stylebender” picked apart Costa with technical striking, especially his highly-impressive and accurate leg kicks, which had “Borrachinha’s” left leg looking like Urijah Faber’s leg did after Jose Aldo chopped him down back at WEC 48. But Adesanya didn’t just go low, busting Costa open with a nice high kick to the dome, before he ultimately dropped the hulking Brazilian and forced a referee stoppage with some nasty ground-and-pound. Adesanya now moves to 20-0 (9-0 inside the Octagon), winning all of his UFC fights in a little more than two years. It’s a truly remarkable run for the man who is undoubtedly on his way to becoming the face of the promotion. And what’s scary is that he already took out half of the Top 10, which means he could be on pace for a record-setting title reign.
Runner Up: Jan Blachowicz
Poland has itself another UFC title holder as Blachowicz became the promotion’s newest Light Heavyweight champion after knocking out Dominick Reyes in round two of the co-main event. And it was a dazzling performance, too, as a highly-confident “Prince of Cieszyn” was as smooth as silk in the bout, taking Reyes’ best shots while taking the time to set up his own. In round two, Blachowicz’s Polish power really started to shine through as he clipped Reyes with some powerful shots that rearranged his nose, then forced it to leak like a faucet. After clipping Reyes with a solid left that had him on wobbly legs, Blachowicz jumped in to put an end to the fight with some powerful follow up shots. In doing so, he earned his fourth straight win as well as a shiny new belt to present to his first child due in December, which is a perfect way for Jan to end a highly-successful 2020.
Honorable Mention: Brandon Royval
The Flyweight division has found itself a nice gem in “Raw Dawg,” as the scrappy 27-year-old has now won four straight, including his first two fights inside the Octagon. And they were against some seriously stiff competition, choking out Tim Elliott in his UFC debut this past May, before following that up with a beautiful performance against Kai Kara-France on “Fight Island.” And he’s as exciting as it gets, as Royval doesn’t believe in pumping the brakes whatsoever thanks to his aggressive, push-the-pace style that definitely keeps his foes on their toes. And that’s just what he did against France, smothering him the entire fight with his volume-based attack. In the winding seconds of round two, Royval managed to sink in a fight-ending rear-naked choke that earned him his fourth straight submission win, as well as his second consecutive $50,000 post-fight bonus award.
Biggest Loser: Zubaira Tukhugov
It wasn’t a good week at all for Tukhugov, who missed weight by a whopping five pounds, costing him a percentage of his fight purse. Come fight night, Zubaira hoped to make up for it with a memorable performance. And while he started off great in the first two rounds — which were rather entertaining — in round three, Tukhugov decided to coast, forcing Hakeem Dawodu to try and get the action going, at a few points chasing him around to engage. Dawodu even got a verbal warning from the referee on duty, who told the frustrated fighter to keep his curse words in check. In the end, Hakeem took home the split-decision win, which he earned in large part to Tukhugov’s decision to take his foot off the gas in the final frame. So not only did he lose a large percent of his fight purse for coming in heavy and likely lost some favor in UFC’s eyes, but he suffered his second loss inside the Octagon, slowing down his momentum.
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