The UFC makes its return to the mystical, magical “UFC FIGHT ISLAND” (aka Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi, UAE) this weekend for a top-heavy pay-per-view card, UFC 253: Adesanya vs Costa.
Not only is this the return of UFC Fight Island, but the main event for the UFC Middleweight Championship is a historical matchup. When champ Israel Adesanya and challenger Paulo Costa step into the octagon, it’ll be only the second time in UFC history that two undefeated males fought for a UFC title (the champ is 19-0, Costa is 13-0). The only other time this has occurred was way back at UFC 98, when undefeated Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida battled for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.
Despite both their unblemished records, the champ, Adesanya, is a healthy
10/21 favourite at this point on MansionBet’s board. While both men are knockout machines – Adesanya has 14 career (T)KOs while Costa has 11, the Brazilian challenger is far more of a one-trick pony. He’s constantly moving forward looking for the knockout with his fists, kill or be killed. And so far, that’s worked fine for him. But if you look at his resume, he really hasn’t fought too many high-level fighters, and no one on Adesanya’s level. While it’s possible that he knocks out the New Zealander, I expect the champ to remain so after Saturday night, using a diverse striking attack and his huge size advantage (three inches taller, plus a huge eight inch reach advantage), not to mention his championship experience.
UFC Light Heavyweight Championship
Saturday’s co-main event is also a title fight, this one for the vacant UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. The title is vacant because long-time 205-pound king, Jon Jones, has decided to move up to the heavyweight division. Fighting to fill his large shoes in the division is Dominick Reyes, who was Jones’s last victim this past February, and journeyman Jan Blachowicz, winner of three straight.
The bookies predict this one to be even more one-sided than the main event, with Reyes currently sitting at
4/13. There are several reasons for this, but it’s probably mostly due to the fact that Reyes is a bonafide top prospect who has only lost to Jones in 13 pro fights, while his Polish counterpart, while a dangerous fighter, has been in the UFC since 2004, with a pedestrian 9-5 record, and has never sniffed a title fight until now. Plus, Reyes’s loss to Jones is heavily disputed, with most media members and fans disagreeing with the judges’ decision to score the fight for Jones.
Reyes striking power, plus Blachowicz’s tendency to not always fight smart and safe, could equal a KO for Reyes. Reyes to win inside the distance is currently at
10/11 if you want to ramp things up a bit.
Betting Tips for the Undercard
Outside of the top two fights, the rest of Saturday’s fight lineup is pretty bland. Here’s quick rundown of the rest of the main card and who I like in each matchup. I like Adesanya’s teammate, Kai Kara-France at
2/5 over Brandon Royval in a flyweight fight; Ketlen Vieira at
20/43 over last minute opponent Sijara Eubanks, who just fought on the 12th in Las Vegas and now is off to the Island; and Hakeem Dawodu at even money to use his five inch reach advantage to best Zubaira Tukhugov (who famously jumped the cage at UFC 229 and punched Conor McGregor after a brawl broke out after McGregor’s fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov). If you’re looking for dogs, nothing really jumps off the screen at me this week. However, I have read some good things about newcomer Ludovit Klein, so you might want to give him a look at
5/6 in his fight with Shane Young (Young is at
20/23, so Klein is the tiniest of underdogs).
*All odds correct at time of writing.