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|Kai Kara France||-240
(C) Israel Adesanya vs Paulo Costa – Middleweight Division
Israel Adesanya -182
Dominick Reyes vs Jan Blachowicz – Light Heavyweight Division
Dominick Reyes -286
Kai Kara France vs Brandon Royal – Flyweight Division
Brandon Royval +188
Ketlen Vieira vs Sijara Eubanks – Women’s Bantamweight Division
Ketlen Vieira -177
Hakeem Dawodu vs Zubaira Tukhugov – Featherweight Division
Hakeem Dawodu +100
One of the sport’s biggest rivalries comes to a head this Saturday night as the middleweight title is on the line between the undisputed champion Israel Adesanya and the number-one contender Paulo Costa. In what should be the fight of the night (and possibly fight of the year) one of these two undefeated fighters is set to taste defeat for the first time in their professional career.
In the co-main event, two of the best light heavyweights in the world do battle over the recently vacated light heavyweight title. Former champion Jon Jones vacated the title earlier this year, expressing his interest to move up to the heavyweight division. The last man to fight him, Dominick Reyes, and the man considered to be next in line to fight him, Jan Blachowicz, will now step into the octagon against one another to fight for the championship.
UFC 253 kicks off the second stretch of events the UFC will hold in Abu Dhabi on Fight Island. The promotion will be in the country over the next five weeks with their stay culminating in late October with the UFC 254 card headlined by champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje for the lightweight title.
|UFC 253 Information|
|What||UFC 253: Adesanya vs Costa|
|Where||Flash Forum, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi|
|When||Saturday, September 26, 10PM EST|
|How to watch||PPV, UFC Fight Pass,Watch on ESPN+ here!|
All the smack talk has led up to this point – two outspoken, undefeated stars of the sport finally do battle in the octagon for the undisputed middleweight championship. Four straight wins for Adesanya led to him fighting and defeating the middleweight GOAT Anderson Silva and the rest is history.
Adesanya went on to defeat Kelvin Gastelum for the interim middleweight title in what was deemed the fight of the year. Following that, Adesanya would unify the belts by defeating undisputed champion Robert Whittaker by second-round knockout. After that unification bout, the trash talk with Paulo Costa would reach new heights – but Adesanya had other plans first. Wanting to prove he could beat anyone, Adesanya hand-picked Yoel Romero as his first title defense. He would defeat Romer via a five-round unanimous decision. The fight with Costa was now inevitable.
The middleweight champion stands at 6 ft. 4 in. tall and has an incredible 80-inch reach. He trains out of his home country of New Zealand with the infamous City Kickboxing gym, who would be considered 2019’s Gym of the Year. Under the tutelage of head coach Eugene Bareman, Adesanya holds a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and continues to train his unmatched striking techniques. The former kickboxer (who went 75-5) has been fighting since 2009 and is considered the fourth-best pound-for-pound men’s fighter on the planet.
Israel Adesanya isn’t the only man to have defeated Yoel Romero and former champions. Also undefeated heading into Saturday, Costa’s career really started to take off when he defeated the former welterweight champion, Johnny Hendricks, via a dominant TKO performance. Costa followed that up with another second-round TKO over the always dangerous Uriah Hall.
Like Adesanya, Costa’s most recent fight came against Yoel Romero. In what was an absolute barn-burner of about Costa and Romero would go toe-to-toe and Costa would come out as the victor, landing the more dominant shots and walking away with the unanimous decision victory in what was easily named the fight of the night.
Although physically gifted, Costa will actually be at a significant physical disadvantage come Saturday night. Costa stands four-inches shorter than his opponent and will also have an eight-inch reach disadvantage. With Adesanya’s precision, that could spell doom for Costa. But he does have his power. The Brazilian fighter trains under head coach Eric Albarracin at Club Atletico Mineiro. Fighting since 2012, Costa has the advantage on the ground should the fight go that way, holding a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He is one year younger than his opponent and comes into this fight as the clear cut number one contender for the middleweight title.
There are many fans and pundits (as well as Dominick Reyes himself) that truly believe that he should already be the light heavyweight champion.
After amassing 12-straight wins (six of them in the UFC), Reyes finally got his chance at immortality when he was put up against the light heavyweight champion at the time, Jon Jones. Prior to the title fight, Reyes had notable knockout wins over the likes of Jared Cannonier and former middleweight champion Chris Weidman. The title fight with Jones took place at UFC 247 this past February. The fight would be highly competitive, lasting all five rounds and going to judges’ decisions. Unfortunately for Reyes, the judges sided with Jones. It marked the first and only loss of Reyes’ professional career.
He has been calling for a rematch ever since but now that seems unlikely as Jones has vacated the light heavyweight title and stated his intentions to move up to the heavyweight division. A fight for a vacant title is the next best thing for Reyes.
Born in California, the southpaw fighter stands at 6 ft. 4 in. tall and has a reach of 77 inches. He trains out of his home state at the Cage Combat Academy. At just 30-years-old, Reyes has been fighting since 2014 and holds a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He is still ranked as the light heavyweight division’s number-one fighter heading into this weekend.
Last February, Blachowicz was one win away from a title shot against Jon Jones. He fought Thiago Santos at a Fight Night event and was defeated via TKO in the third round. Santos went on to fight Jones for the title. Since the loss, Blachowicz has won three straight, including two knockouts – both of which earned him performance of the night bonuses.
After defeating former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold by KO, Blachowicz then defeated Jacare Souza by decision. His most recent fight came against top-contender Corey Anderson and Blachowicz would put on one of the most impressive performances of his career, knocking Anderson out in the first round. Jon Jones was in the crowd for a post-fight call-out but sadly the fight never came to be. Like Reyes, a fight for the vacant title was the next best thing.
Born in Poland, Blachowicz is seven years Reyes’ senior heading into Saturday night. He stands two-inches shorter than his opponent but his “Polish Power” will be at a one-inch reach advantage. Training out of his home country with Berku WCA Fight Team, Blachowicz has a significant advantage in the grappling department, holding a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Joe Moreira. Fighting since 2007, he is currently ranked as the UFC’s third-best light heavyweight in the division.
One of the best up-and-coming fighters out of New Zealand’s City Kickboxing gym, Kai Kara France started his UFC career with three straight wins over the likes of Elias Garcia, Raulian Paiva, and Mark De La Rosa. At UFC 245 last December, Kara France would suffer his first loss in the promotion, dropping a unanimous decision to Brandon Moreno. Kai Kara France most recently fought this past February taking on Tyson Nam at a Fight Night event. France would find himself back in the win column after defeating Nam via unanimous decision.
Standing at 5 ft. 4 in. tall, the New Zealand native has a reach of 66.5 inches. Training out of his home country with the aforementioned City Kickboxing gym, the flyweight currently holds a blue belt ranking in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Fighting professionally since 2010, Kai Kara France currently ranks as the UFC’s seventh-best flyweight.
Saturday’s pay-per-view event will mark just his second fight under the UFC banner. Brandon Royval made his debut for the promotion earlier this year in May when he took on Tim Elliott. Royval would impressively defeat Elliott, pulling off an arm triangle submission in the second round. He is currently riding a three-fight professional winning streak.
Royval stands five inches taller than his opponent at 5 ft. 9 in. He will also hold a four-inch reach advantage over Kai Kara France this Saturday night. At 28-years-old, Royval is one year older than his opponent. He currently trains out of his home state of Colorado with factoryX Muay Thai and is currently unranked by the UFC.
Undefeated at 6-0 when she joined the UFC in 2016, Ketlen Vieira started her UFC career by winning not only her debut but her first four fights in a row. She holds notable wins over the likes of Sara McMann and former title challenger Cat Zingano. However, Vieira would come up short in her most recent bout that took place last December at UFC 245. Vieira was put up against Irene Aldana and with just nine seconds left in the first round, Aldana would hand Vieira the first loss of her professional career by way of knockout.
The Brazilian-born fighter stands at 5 ft. 8 in. tall and has a reach of 68 inches. The 29-year-old trains out of her home country of Brazil with Team Feitosa as well as Nova Uniao Manaus. Fighting professionally since 2014, Vieira currently holds black belts in both judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. She currently finds herself ranked as the seventh-best women’s bantamweight in the UFC.
A former Ultimate Fighter contender, Eubanks was actually supposed to fight in the finale to crown the UFC’s first flyweight champion but was pulled after struggling to make weight. She entered the UFC officially in 2018 and won her first two fights in a row – including a win over Roxanne Modafferi, the woman who took Eubanks’ place in the finale of TUF. Eubanks would then move up to bantamweight and lose two straight to Bethe Correia as well as Aspen Ladd. However, Eubanks has bounced back in the bantamweight division, winning her last two straight by unanimous decision.
At 35-years-old, Sijara Eubanks stands five-inches shorter than Ketlen Vieira and will be at a one-inch reach disadvantage Saturday night. Known for her grappling abilities, the American-born fighter holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and currently trains at Nick Catone MMA under coaches Nick Catone and Mark Henry. She moved into the bantamweight rankings with her last win and currently sits as the 15th-best in the division.
Joining the UFC in 2018 as an undefeated professional, Hakeem Dawodu would suffer the first loss of his career in his promotional debut, losing to Danny Henry via guillotine choke in the first 40 seconds of their fight. Dawodu hasn’t been bested since, winning his next four straight over the likes of Kyle Bochniak and, most recently, Julio Arce – the latter of whom he fought last November at UFC 244 and defeated by split-decision.
Born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, the 29-year-old stands at 5 ft. 8 in. tall and has a reach of 73 inches. A known striker, Dawodu is a former professional kickboxer who held a record of 9-0 before moving into MMA. The featherweight trains in his home country with Champion’s Creed MMA. He is a former World Series of Fighting competitor, where he went undefeated. He is currently unranked by the UFC.
One of several UFC fighters to train with the legendary lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s team, the Russian-born Zubaira Tukhugov has seen much success thus far in his UFC career. His first and only loss in the UFC came against Renato Moicano back in 2016. Tukhugov then had to serve a suspension for his role in the post-fight melee between Team Khabib and Team Conor McGregor. He returned in 2019 to fight Lerone Murphy. The two fought to a draw. His most recent fight came back in February of this year. Tukhugov fought Kevin Aguilar and defeated him via first-round TKO, moving his name back into the win column.
The Russian fighter stands equal to his opponent at 5 ft. 8 in. He will be at a minimal half-inch reach disadvantage Saturday night. The freestyle fighter holds a master of sport in both hand-to-hand combat and combat sambo. He currently trains with Khabib et al at the American Kickboxing Academy in California. He has been fighting professionally since 2010.
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Ryan Bristlon is a Canadian writer currently residing in Hamilton, Ontario. He studied print and broadcast journalism at Humber College and has been a lifelong fan of the sport of hockey and the NHL.
Email: [email protected]More info on Ryan Bristlon
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