This Saturday night the UFC is holding potentially the greatest card of 2020 as current middleweight king Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya takes on rival Paulo “The Eraser” Costa in the main event of UFC 253 on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
Adesanya, the undefeated middleweight champion, is a superstar in the making. Before even making his UFC debut back in February 2018, Adesanya was making waves with fans as a popular kickboxer turned MMA fighter. Adesanya started drawing comparisons to legends Anderson Silva and Jon Jones for the way he fights and while many fighters would take these comparisons as a huge compliment, Adesanya didn’t care about them because he wants be Israel Adesanya and no one else.
Adesanya burst onto the scene at UFC 221 where he won by second round TKO. He has only picked up the pace, going 8-0 in the UFC to move to 19-0 overall. Adesanya had the chance to not only meet Silva, but to also face him in the octagon.
At UFC 234, Adesanya and Silva – his idol - was promoted to a three-round main event after the title fight between Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum fell through the day of the event. It was a very entertaining chess match that saw the passing of the torch as Adesanya won the fight by unanimous decision.
Adesanya’s most prolific fight saw him battling Gasteulum, the top-ranked contender, for the interim UFC Middleweight Belt at UFC 236.
The two started off very fast as Gastelum was able to hurt Adesanya in the first. Adesanya returned the favor in the second by knocking Gastelum down. Adesanya and Gastelum would slug it out for all five rounds before Adesanya captured the interim middleweight title by unanimous decision. The fight would go on to win 2019 Fight of the Year. Adesanya captured the undisputed gold at UFC 243 when he took on Whittaker for the undisputed middleweight title and knocked him out in the second round.
Adesanya faced longtime contender Yoel Romero this past March at UFC 248 for his first title defense. It was an uneventful fight which saw Adesanya continue his winning ways, defending his belt by unanimous decision.
Adesanya will need to avoid the pressure of Costa and attack the legs and body at a distance to keep Costa from advancing forward and slowing him down. Adesanya will use his range to land punches to just wear down Costa, but if the finish presents itself, the always accurate striker Adesanya will be sure to land that finishing blow. Adesanya will have a chance to add to his already impressive record with a win over Costa this Saturday.
Costa, currently ranked No. 2, is 13-0 in his impressive professional career. Costa is a powerhouse who somehow manages to make weight at 185 pounds, though he is much bigger than many of his opponents due to the fact he cuts quite a bit of weight. Costa is coming off a very close but entertaining fight with Romero last August that saw the Brazilian get tested like never before. Ultimately, Costa would go to decision for the first time in his career and win by unanimous decision, earning himself the title shot.
Costa has been verbally attacking Adesanya by calling him a “skinny clown” and saying Adesanya does a lot of running in his fights, so he’s the fastest man alive. Costa is 2-0 against Top-15 talent, while Adesanya is 6-0 over Top-15 talent. Before the Romero fight, Costa fought former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks at UFC 217 and defeated the former belt holder by second round TKO.
Costa also faced “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 17 runner up Uriah Hall at UFC 226. Costa was tested early in the fight but ended up TKO’ing Hall in the second round.
Costa will be looking to pressure Adesanya early by backing him up to the fence and landing brutal shots to the body that will open Adesanya up for the knockout blow Costa wants. Costa will be wanting the fast knockout this weekend and is looking to bring the UFC title back home with him to his home country of Brazil.
Also on the card, for the first time since 2011, someone other than Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier will hold the light heavyweight title as Dominick “The Devastator” Reyes looks to claim the belt he believes he already won when he takes on Jan Blachowicz for the vacant title.
Reyes, currently ranked No. 1 in the light heavyweight division, is coming off a very close and competitive fight with Jones, who is possibly the greatest fighter of all time. The unanimous decision went in favor of Jones, but very many people, including Reyes, disagreed with the decision and believe Reyes should have been crowned the new champion.
Many people, me included, didn’t give Reyes much of a chance in the Jones fight, but to everybody’s surprise, Reyes more than proved himself as worthy to be in the octagon with the best of the best.
Reyes earned the title shot by knocking out former middleweight champion Chris Weidman in the first round. Weidman moved up to light heavyweight to hopefully start a new chapter in his career, but Reyes had different plans.
Reyes has knockout power which is with him the entire fight and he will use his reach to counter and land devastating strikes to his opponents to finish the fight. Reyes will stop at nothing to capture the UFC title he believes should have been wrapped around his waist back in February.
Blachowicz, currently ranked third, is currently riding a three-fight win streak, with two of those wins coming by way of knockout.
Blachowicz has been around for many years in the UFC, but it seems as he’s getting older, he’s just getting better. Blachowiz debuted back in 2014 and won his fight by first-round TKO. Blachowiz went on to have mixed results over the course of his next couple of fights.
Blachowiz was close to securing a title shot last year after riding a four-fight win streak and he just needed to get past Thiago Santos to get closer to being a UFC champion. Unfortunately for Blachowiz, he would lose the fight by third-round TKO.
Blachowiz bounced back by welcoming former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold to the light heavyweight division. Things wouldn’t turn out well for Rockhold as Blachowiz knocked out Rockhold, who suffered a broken jaw, in the second round.
Blachowiz was in a main event against another middleweight contender moving up when Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza looked to start new at 205 pounds. In what was an uneventful fight, Blachowiz won by Split decision.
Blachowiz most recently faced Light Heavyweight contender Corey Anderson in a rematch that was almost five years in the making. Blachowiz lost the first time around, but this time Blachowiz knocked Anderson out cold in the first round and let the world know he wants his title shot.
Well, wish granted. Blachowiz will have his opportunity to win the UFC Light Heavyweight title this Saturday.
I can’t remember the last time I was this excited for a PPV card. UFC 253 has all the potential to be Card of The Year and I’m picking Adesanya to win by fourth-round TKO and Reyes to finally become the champion he’s destined to be by second-round knockout.
Catch all of the amazing fights this Saturday on ESPN+ PPV!
Tidwell picking record: 4-3 (Tyron Woodley lost last week to Colby Covington)