As UFC 253 approaches fight night, the UFC continue to hype the main event as the fight of the year. They’re not wrong.
Israel Adesanya puts his middleweight title on the line when he takes on Paulo Costa, with both fighters undefeated and ready for war. There is a genuine dislike between the two, with their rivalry stretching back several years to when Adesanya called out the winner of Costa’s fight with Uriah Hall. Costa replied at the time with “who?”, believing he was way better than Izzy and he was looking up the rankings.
But after more than a year between his wins over Uriah Hall and Yoel Romero, Adesanya took over the division. Adesanya defeated Brad Tavares the night before Costa’s win against Hall, but during Borrachina’s time away from the octagon Stylebender defeated Derek Brunson, Anderson Silva and Kelvin Gastelum to win the interim world title and set up an undisputed title fight with Robert Whittaker.
Even when Adesanya won the belt, Costa suffered a torn rotator cuff which meant he missed out on the first title shot which went to Yoel Romero in one of the worst fights of 2020. But now Adesanya has promised to make amends at UFC 253.
With both fighters undefeated throughout their careers, this is the ultimate match-up. Not only is the title on the line but their perfect records are too.
Adesanya has already defeated the legendary Anderson Silva as well as Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero, three of the best middleweights the UFC has ever seen. A win over Costa and becoming the first man to beat him will elevate his standing among the best we’ve ever seen. He’s got a very long way to go before he reaches Anderson Silva’s legend but with the way he’s beating guys, and the calibre of guys he’s beating, he’s on his way.
He is one of the best, most creative strikers we have ever seen and despite the skinny body and slender frame he has power. As he said in his post-fight octagon interview following the win over Derek Brunson; he doesn’t throw and hope, he aims and fires.
Paulo Costa will pose a completely new threat to Adesanya though. He is comfortably the best boxer that Adesanya has faced in the octagon but he’s also the most powerful and the quickest. Costa has a fearsome stance, where he just marches forward and is willing to exchange. It’s almost a kill or be killed mentality. He took on Yoel Romero in a way that nobody else ever has. Not only does he have genuine one-punch knockout power, he has a willingness to attack the body of his opponent. He has a nasty hook to the mid-section that he throws better than anyone else in the company and if he can land it on Izzy and slow down the footwork and kicking game of the champion, he has every chance of winning the fight.
This is a fight that is about more than just technique and being the better MMA fighter. This is every bit as much to do with who wants it more. Both men are hungry and both men have all their pride on the line in this fight. It’s perfectly set up for fight of the year on Fight Island.
Should Costa win, he ends the Adesanya hype train. He continues as a dominant, powerful 185lber who has the skillset to knock out anyone and become a fan favourite through his style. A win for Adesanya puts him among the all-time great middleweight champions.