We return to Abu Dhabi for UFC 253 on September 26, 2020. Middleweights Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa have the headlining fight with both coming into this match undefeated and the champion Adesanya defending his title for the first time in 2020. It’s also the first time since 2009 that two fighters are entering a title bout unbeaten in the UFC. Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz are battling for the open light heavyweight title since Jon Jones has moved up to heavyweight leaving big shoes to fill.
Let’s talk about the matches individually and make some predictions below.
Israel Adesanya (19-0) vs. Paulo Costa (13-0)
Adesanya is a great kickboxer who has been doing MMA since 2017 and is undefeated since going professional in February 2018 and took KO’s championship over Robert Whittaker. He almost lost his first title defense against Yoel Romero but managed to pull through. He has flash and speed. Costa is also undefeated in MMA and has KO’d eleven of his opponents, with only Romero being able to get to the scorecards. He also has one submission, and his 5-0 record inside the UFC is with four knockouts. Additionally, Costa has size on his side. He is huge for the middleweight division and walks around in between fights more than the light heavyweight limit.
Prediction: This will be a banger, but I see Costa winning this in the second round by KO over Adesanya. I think Costa brings too much power into the ring to be worried.
Dominick Reyes (12-1) vs. Jan Błachowicz (26-8)
This being Reyes’ first fight since his controversial loss to Jon Jones in February. In nine out of his 12 pro wins, he has devastatingly finished his opponents. He is a force to be reckoned with and will be looking to make a statement. Blachowicz has a long history with many ups and downs in his UFC career, but a recent 7-1 record of his last eight fights have helped him stay in the top contender conversation.
Prediction: Out of these two, Reyes is the hungry one looking for redemption. Nothing is more dangerous than a man on a mission, and I think Reyes will take the win and not let this go to the judges. I’m just unsure of the round as Balchowicz is no chump.
Kai Kara-France (21-8) vs. Brandon Royval (11-4)
Kara-France has been trying to get the flyweight title since moving back to the division when he joined the UFC in December of 2018, but all of his fights seem to go to the judges, and he can’t end fighters. Royval recently appeared in the UFC with a win over Tim Elliot by submission and has finished 10 of his 11 victories. He also has never been stopped since becoming a pro.
Prediction: I think Royval takes this and finishes the fight in the third round, most likely by submission. Kara-France can’t seem to bring the heat when needed, and Royval is a freight train in the ring, with the only stop being victory.
Ketlen Vieira (10-1) vs. Sijara Eubanks (6-4)
In the women’s bantamweights category, we have Vieira coming off a loss to Irene Aldana. Before this, Vieira had ten wins in a row, finishing six of those opponents. Eubanks entered the UFC and scored back-to-back wins but then lost back-to-back fights. She is on a two in a row streak again. So we will see if she can break the curse she has developed.
Prediction: Unfortunately, I don’t think Eubanks can finish Vieira. I predict Vieira will take the fight to the end and win by decision but expect a nasty and bloody battle.
Hakeem Dawodu (11-1-1) vs. Zubaira Tukhugov (19-4-1)
Dawodu joined UFC with a 7-0-1 record, and he lost for the first time during his UFC debut to Danny Henry but has since won four straight victories. He is definitely on a roll. Tukhugov, though, has a troubled past. He was one of the fighters in the UFC 229 post-fight calamity between the Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov teams. Plus an earlier drug test failure. These issues resulted in him not seeing any fights from May 2016 thru September 2019. Upon his return, he had a split draw with Lerone Murphy. Then he managed a TKO against Kevin Aguilar in February of this year, so he seems to be getting his feet back under him.
Prediction: I think Dawodu will take the win by decision here. He has the momentum and can bring the pain in the ring. Tukhugov is tough, though, and will make him work for it.
UFC 253 is a heavily stacked card and potential hall of fame moment for whoever wins in the Adesanya vs. Costa fight. I hope you tune in on Saturday, 26 September, at 10 pm EST on ESPN+!
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