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UFC 253: Fight Island (Yas Island), Abu Dhabi

The MMA leader once again returned to the Middle-East and Fight Island, this time with the battle between two undefeated middleweight competitors at the top of the bill. The fight between Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa was the one everyone had their eyes on for UFC 253.The meeting of two undefeated fighters in a UFC title fight had only happened once before and never in the Middleweight Division, which added extra spice to an already spicy affair between two of mixed-martial arts stalwart athletes.

If the last stint that the UFC had on Yas Island is anything to go by then we were in for a treat because the island in the Emirates has served us up some incredible contests in the past and with this card, that trend looked set to continue at a steady pace. Although the middleweight clash at UFC 253 for divisional supremacy was definitely the main attraction, it wasn’t the only title fight the MMA watching public had to look forward to.

The co-main event featuring Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz for the vacant Light-Heavyweight belt was also a very enticing match-up with the two top contenders looking to become the first champion in that division not named Jones or Cormier for almost a decade. So with the fate of two titles to be decided let’s not wait around any longer, now its time to join the action from UFC 253 in the late-prelims.

Prelims

Light-Heavyweight Division

William Knight (U.S.A.) def. Aleksa Camur (SRB) — (Unanimous Decision — 29-28, 30-27, 30-27)

The opening action from the late-prelims kicked off with a contest between two former DWCS (Dana White’s Contender Series) competitors, and it started off with the Light-Heavyweights feeling each other out in of round one. The action stayed against the cage for most of the opening round with the powerhouse Knight being pressed against the cage by Camur but as the fight wore on Knight started to grind Camur down, nearly getting the submission at the end of the second round. Then in the last round Knight pretty much took over and dominated the proceedings, eventually winning comfortably on the judges’ scorecards.

Featherweight Division

Ludovit Klein (SLK) def. Shane Young (NZD) — (Knockout RD1 — Headkick, Punch Combo)

This one didn’t last long as a contest as UFC debutant Klein took this fight away from Young in the opening salvo. Klein and Young exchanged blows in the first, but Young’s return from injury didn’t last long when he got clipped with a head kick before being finished off with a nice, fast combo. Klein switched to the big leagues coming off an impressive 7-fight win streak. After this showing the Slovakian looks like a formidable future contender moving forward, with the confidence from this result I’m sure Klein will be looking to get back in the Octagon before the end of the year.

Welterweight Division

Jake Matthews (AUS) def. Diego Sanchez (U.S.A.) — (Unanimous Decision — 30-26, 30-26, 30-26)

The vastly experienced Diego Sanchez, having amassed a 15-year long resume within the UFC over 4-weight classes is always unpredictable but was outworked on every front by his younger opponent. Matthews rocked the veteran at the end of round one and began to take over in the second with some good boxing skills. Then in the final round, the Ozzie dropped Sanchez again but never really looked to get the finish even after opening a nasty gash over his opponent’s eyebrow, instead, he remained on top and saw the round out to claim the victory.

Lightweight Division

Brad Riddell (NZD) def. Alex Da Silva (BRA) — (Unanimous Decision — 29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Silva came into this fight with a lot of early finishes on his record, the Brazilian looked good in the opener, both physically and technically but after the first, he was outfought and outworked by Riddell for the remainder. Riddell had 5-straight wins before this contest and it is clear to see why, the Kiwi’s stamina and ability to fight both on the feet and ground makes him a live contender in this division for sure, it should be interesting to see if he can break into the top 15 of UFC’s most stacked weight class.

Brad Riddell looking happy in his post-fight interview after securing the victory
Brad Riddell looking happy in his post-fight interview after securing the victory

Main Card

Now with the undercard from the late-prelims concluded, its time to move onto another bill chalk full of MMA talent. As I mentioned earlier, there is two titles fights on the main card, but there is plenty more combat to get through before the gold rush begins, calling the action will be Jon Anik and UFC superstar Paul Felder. Anik time and time again proves he is the best colour commentator in the game, not only is he incredibly educated on the the fight game but he is also really entertaining, Felder proved that he is every bit as good at calling the fights as he is at throwing down in Octagon. Now with the stage set, lets get the ball rolling on the rest of the fights from UFC 253.

Featherweight Division

Hakeem Dawodu (CAN) def. Zubaira Tukhugov (RUS) — (Split Decision — 30-27, 28-29, 29-28)

Out of fights on the undercard this one really stuck out from the crowd. The match-up between the aggressive Muay-Thai style of Dawodu and the mixture of striking/wrestling from the Team Khabib member Tukhugov made for an exciting fight and it didn’t disappoint. In the first two rounds the opposing styles meshed well, with “Zuba” landing some good strikes as the he traded blows with Dawodu. As the fight played out the Canadian started to take over. Not only was his striking on point, so was his takedown defence. Dawodu snuffed out the Russian every time he tried to take the fight to the ground. In round three he tried to make an exciting finish but “Zuba” wouldn’t engage and Dawodu deservedly had his hand raised at the final bell, extending his win streak to five.

Bantamweight Division

Ketlen Vieira (BRA) def. Sijara Eubanks (U.S.A.) — (Unanimous Decision — 29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

The Brazilian Viera looked more than a little rusty in the first after little to no in-ring action over the past 13 months. This first signs of the rust been shaken off came in round two as Vieira began to nullify the American’s advances and as the fight wore on she used her length to control the range over Eubanks. In the third “Sarj” tried to up the tempo but never really manged to close the distance to any great effect and Vieira was able to see the fight out and get back on win street without taking any damage so she might be back in action before the new year.

Flyweight Division

Brandon Royval (U.S.A.) def. Kai Kara-France (NZD) — (Submission RD2 — Guillotine Choke)

Things weren’t all smooth sailing for the American Royval as he was caught with a huge shot from Kara-France in the first but still manged to stun his opponent during the exchange with a spinning-elbow as he advanced. This was a sign of things to come for the New Zealander as he was later caught coming in again this time not with a strike but with a submission. Royval used Kara-France’s aggression against him and was able to lock in a guillotine choke to call a halt to the action. Royval looks like another on the long list of exciting prospects coming through, and even though he admitted to lacking some power in the post-fight interview his technical ability should be more than enough to paper over any cracks the American may have on the physical side of his game

Light-Heavyweight Division — Vacant Title Fight

Jan Blachowicz (POL) def. Dominick Reyes (U.S.A.) — (Technical Knockout RD2 — Punch Combo)

For the past decade two men by the names of Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier have dominated the Light-Heavyweight Division but with Jones moving up and “DC” calling it a day on his fight career UFC 253 would be a new dawn for the 205 weight-class. There was no better way to usher this new era in than a match-up between a fight in Reyes that nearly—if not—defeated Jones in his last fight against the “Polish Power” of Jan Blachowicz. The Polish fighter had only lost one of his previous eight fights coming into this one and looked imperious in his past few fights and sought out to complete his dream of finally having UFC gold around his waist. 

This motivation was clear for all to see as he pieced up Reyes in an impressive manner, getting the better of almost every exchange over Reyes, using his power to devastating effect, especially in the second when he spread Reyes nose all over his face. This was the beginning of the end for Reyes as he was soon caught with some more big shots that left him stumbling. Blachowicz pounced on his down opponent and wailed on him causing the referee to step in a wave off the action, crowning a new Light-Heavyweight champion. It will be very interesting to see how the veteran moves on now, there are some potentially big fights for him, he called out Jon Jones after the bell, but it might be best for the UFC as a whole if Jones stays committed to moving up so we can see some fresh match-ups in the future.

Dana White puts the belt around Israel Adesanya's waist as he gets his hand raised in vistory, Paulo Costa applauds the champion
Israel Adesanya gets his hand raised in victory

Middleweight Division – Title Fight

Israel Adesanya (C) (NGA) def. Paulo Costa (BRA) — (Technical Knockout RD2 — Strikes)

Now to the main event of the evening, this is the one we were all looking forward to from UFC 253 and in a way in was a little anti-climatic but only due to how impressive Adesanya was from second one. Once again “The Last Stylebender” was prophetic in how he would achieve victory. In the build up to the fight Adesanya said that he would pick Costa apart, that he was too one dimensional for him, a come forward fighter that only moved in straight lines and would not be able for his versatility, which was pretty much spot on when the fight played out. Costa kept moving forward and Adesanya welcomed him on, greeting him with ferociously accurate low-calf kicks. The attack on the Brazilian’s base paid dividends for Adesanya because after Costa’s leg got torn up by the champion his movement slowed and his attacks became static.

This sluggish movement allowed Adesanya to sit down on his shots more and whip Costa with some punishing kicks. This was the chance for Adesanya to close the distance on the exchanges with Costa which eventually led to “Izzy” getting the big finish, cementing his place at the top of the division extending his undefeated MMA record to 20-0. This may well have been Adesanya’s best showing in the UFC and after the fight called out Jared Cannonier if he can beat Robert Whittaker next month. Whomever the winner may be they will surely provide Adesanya with a stern test but if he can put in another master class like he did against Costa then I’m sure he will be more than capable of passing it.

Final Thoughts

UFC 253 is just the beginning of a very busy schedule in the Middle-East over the coming weeks and just like the last stint on Fight Island it got off to a stellar start, with some great standout performances. On the undercard Ludovit Klein and Brad Riddell looked good value for money, Klein especially, coming in at short notice for his UFC debut and scoring the knockout. It should be interesting to see how fast Dana White moves the Slovakian Featherweight, but I’m sure he will be more than up to the task. In the undercard feature fight, Riddell showed his qualities in his victory over Da Silva, putting his great stamina and tidy technique on display, and just like the aforementioned Klein I’m sure he caught more than a few eyes at the weekend.

The biggest performance of the night came from the champion in the main event of UFC 253. Adesanya is already streets ahead of everyone else in the division but looks like he is still improving, with each passing fight he becomes more and more comfortable in the Octagon and his own skin as a fighter, every fight is a learning opportunity for the champ and he is a willing pupil, his fighting IQ is next level and his genius for the brutal ballet that is MMA just keeps growing with each outing. “The Last Stylebender” said he wanted to clear out the Middleweight Division then move up to Light-Heavy and if he keeps going at this rate then it won’t be long before he will have to make the move up in weight classes.  Like many, I am eagerly in anticipating Adesanya’s next move, and it looks as though it will be the winner of Whittaker Vs Cannonier next month, either way, sign me up, until then I’m out and I hope you enjoyed all the action, I’ll be back for UFC 254.

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Written by Vincent Greene

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