The best and worst from UFC 253: Adesanya vs. Costa

Israel Adesanya demolished Paulo Costa to retain his UFC Middleweight title last night
Israel Adesanya demolished Paulo Costa to retain his UFC Middleweight title last night
Scott Newman

UFC 253 was a bit of a strange show in the end. A bunch of slower fights to begin the night suggested we were heading for one of those damp squib UFC shows, but then an astonishing Flyweight fight turned the night around somewhat.

The show was still hinging on the two UFC title fights at the top of the card, and thankfully, both of them delivered hugely. We’ve got a new UFC Light-Heavyweight champion, while the UFC Middleweight title ended up staying exactly where it’d been before the event.

Here are the best and worst moments from UFC 253: Adesanya vs. Costa.

#1 Best: Adesanya remains the UFC’s undisputed Middleweight king

Adesanya dominated Costa en route to a second round TKO win
Adesanya dominated Costa en route to a second round TKO win

I’ll front up and say that I picked Paulo Costa to unseat Israel Adesanya this weekend and leave with the UFC Middleweight title. I figured ‘The Eraser’ would be able to use his aggression to corral Adesanya, and maybe even take him down and test his ground game.

That idea turned out to be horribly wrong. Costa simply looked like a rabbit in the headlights as ‘The Last Stylebender’ chopped up his left leg in the first round. And in the second, more of the same followed before Adesanya landed a flush head kick and finally a glancing shot directly to the temple to finish the Brazilian off.

People have been questioning Costa’s gameplan, but the most likely truth is that Adesanya is a lot, lot trickier to get a handle on than non-fighters understand. In that sense, he’s very much the Anderson Silva of his generation, and everyone should remember ‘The Spider’ making UFC legends like Forrest Griffin and Rich Franklin look pretty stupid.

Who’s next for the Stylebender? Well, he mentioned Jared Cannonier in his post-fight interview, but can anyone really see ‘The Killa Gorilla’ pushing him any harder than Costa did?

For me the biggest test for him could be a left-field one. What if Colby Covington were to move up to 185lbs? His pressure and wrestling game would certainly bring something to the table that Adesanya hasn’t seen before in the UFC.

Either way, ‘The Last Stylebender’ is as dominant a champ as the UFC has to offer right now, and this was an excellent title defense for him.

#1 Worst: Bonnar can’t arrest Diego’s slump

After his loss to Jake Matthews, Diego Sanchez ought to consider retirement
After his loss to Jake Matthews, Diego Sanchez ought to consider retirement

UFC veteran Diego Sanchez has been fighting at the top level since 2005, longer than basically anyone else on the promotion’s roster right now. His demise has been spoken about for what seems like forever, but recently it felt more real than ever before.

Sanchez’s last two UFC outings saw him cornered by a lone coach – the inexperienced Joshua Fabia – and despite beating Michel Pereira by DQ in February, he’d looked outclassed in both fights. That’s why the news that UFC veteran Stephan Bonnar would be cornering Diego in his fight last night with Jake Matthews didn't come as a great surprise.

Unfortunately, the addition of ‘The American Psycho’ couldn’t help Sanchez at all. He was easily beaten by Matthews, who basically shut down all of the veteran’s offense, comfortably outstruck him, and then dropped him in the third round to put a capper on things.

‘The Nightmare’ reportedly has three fights left on his UFC contract, but should he really be encouraged to take them? In all honesty, the answer is no.

Sanchez is arguably the most exciting fighter in UFC history. His bouts with the likes of Nick Diaz, Gilbert Melendez, Karo Parisyan and Clay Guida are amongst the best in MMA history. But right now, he simply shouldn’t be fighting in the UFC, point blank, as sad as it is to admit that.

#2 Best: Blachowicz becomes an unlikely UFC champion

Jan Blachowicz is one of the more unlikely champions in UFC history
Jan Blachowicz is one of the more unlikely champions in UFC history

Who is the most unlikely UFC champion of all time? Before last night, you would probably have had to say Michael Bisping. ‘The Count’ was always considered a great fighter, but for a long time it seemed like he wouldn’t come close to a title shot, let alone winning the UFC Middleweight title itself.

But Bisping – at the tail end of his career at the age of 37 – was able to knock out the heavily favoured Luke Rockhold to claim the gold. Well, after last night, the UFC may have a more unlikely champion than the Brit.

Jan Blachowicz debuted in the UFC with a win over Ilir Latifi, but midway through 2017, the Polish fighter was just 2-4 in the promotion. And at that point he was already 34 years old! The likelihood of him ever being in title contention at Light-Heavyweight – let alone holding UFC gold – was preposterous.

And yet after UFC 253, ‘The Prince of Cieszyn’ is the new UFC Light-Heavyweight champion. And not only that, but he won the title in style, too.

Blachowicz was an underdog against Dominick Reyes – who came as close as anyone to dethroning longtime UFC champ Jon Jones earlier this year. But he took the fight to ‘The Devastator’ from the off, breaking him down with shots to the body before finally landing a killer left hand in the second round.

Reyes was horribly stunned by the punch, his legs turned to rubber and he went down, and seconds later Blachowicz had his hand raised.

Quite how the Pole has been able to improve so much at such an advanced age – for a UFC fighter – is anyone’s guess, but he’s done it and he deserves his spot at the top of the 205lbs mountain. The only question now is how long he can hold onto his title.

#2 Worst: The event’s slow start leaves fans pining for Las Vegas

Ketlen Vieira's fight with Sijara Eubanks was largely forgettable
Ketlen Vieira's fight with Sijara Eubanks was largely forgettable

UFC 253 was the promotion’s first event on Abu Dhabi’s ‘Fight Island’ since July. And while it looked no different to any other UFC show outwardly, it quickly became obvious that this wasn’t taking place in the UFC APEX in Las Vegas.

Those APEX shows of course use the UFC’s smaller Octagon – with a diameter of 25 feet – whereas the shows on Fight Island use the larger, 30 foot Octagon. So was anyone really surprised when 6 of the first 8 fights last night went to a decision and weren’t exactly inspiring viewing?

Put simply, it should be obvious to any fan – and to the UFC themselves – that the smaller Octagon guarantees far more action than the larger one. So why not make the switch permanent? After all, we’ve seen some truly incredible fights and shows at the APEX over the past few weeks.

Now, with the next 4 UFC events on Fight Island, we’re probably going to be in for some slower shows. And that’s just sad by anyone’s standards.

#3 Best: Royval and Kara-France save the show

Brandon Royval's fight with Kai Kara-France was action packed
Brandon Royval's fight with Kai Kara-France was action packed

With three fights remaining on the card, UFC 253 was looking like a major letdown. The aforementioned 6 decisions in 8 fights meant for a much slower pace, and the two fights that opened the main card – Hakeem Dawodu vs. Zubaira Tukhugov and Ketlen Vieira vs. Sijara Eubanks – were skippable at best.

Thankfully though, Flyweights Brandon Royval and Ka Kara-France decided to change all that. The two men went to war from the off, with Kara-France dropping Royval literally in the opening seconds of the first round before ‘Raw Dawg’ returned the favour moments later.

From there, the two men exchanged huge strikes, takedowns and submission attempts until finally, Royval caught ‘Don’t Blink’ in a tight guillotine choke to coax out a tap in the second round.

Did the fight benefit from following a series of slower ones? Perhaps, but even so, Royval and Kara-France put on a show in every possible way last night. They were each awarded a $50k bonus from the UFC for their efforts following the event, and lord knows few fighters have deserved it more. This fight was awesome.

Edited by Sai Krishna


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