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UFC 253 PREVIEW: “THE LAST STYLEBENDER” TO PUT PAOLO COSTA TO SLEEP

Two big Championship fights slated for UFC 253 – MMA analyst KC breaks it down

PHOTO CREDIT - QUINN ROONEY

Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya, 19-0 vs Paolo “Borrachinha” Costa 13-0, for the 185lb Middleweight belt

When is the last time two undefeated fighters fought for a Championship?

Nov 2015, Holly Holm 10-0 fired the kick heard round the world taking Ronda Rousey 12-0’s belt. The only other time was May 2009 when Machida 15-0 beat Rashad Evans 13-0-1 for the belt. Yes, this is a big deal.

The New Zealander (by way of Nigeria) Adesanya is the undisputed, undefeated 185lb Champion. He is a charismatic, decorated kick boxer, and fights everyone. Him asking for the Yoel Romero (scariest guy ever) fight – when he didn’t need to – says all you need to know about his confidence and courage. He may be the most talented fighter in UFC history, and since his first fight here was Feb 2018, he has wasted no time….

The Brazilian Costa is a wrecking ball. Plow forward type brawler, not afraid to get hit. An absurdly jacked (there are Q’s about Brazilian supplements), athletic slugger who is also listed as a BJJ blackbelt (apparently his brother gave it to him, so …) but he’s barely been off his feet in the octagon, ever, and by choice. To be sure, neither of these two have ever even ATTEMPTED a takedown in their careers, so this will unmistakably be a kickboxing match … So the massive Edge goes to the 75-5 career kickboxer of Adesanya. Add in that Costa had also never been out of the second round in his career before his last, 3-round war with Yoel (this a glaring stat), Adesanya has another huge advantage in experience.

How can the decently shorter Costa win?  Knock him out of course.  Is it possible?  Absolutely.  In every one of Israel’s fights (maybe not Brunson) he’s been tagged hard.  Romero got the first real punch scored. Vettori gave him many problems, Anderson Silva exchanged with him, the much shorter Gastelum nearly got the job done, even at-the-time-champ Whittaker got to the rangey six foot 4 fighters face (before getting KO’d in the 6-minute affair). So, for Costa fans, watch the recent Volk over Max, Emmett over Burgos, or Poirier over Hooker’s fights for inspiration… all were a little different in talent levels, but the smaller striker did win…. it’s not easy, and pretty rare.

My prediction: Israel cannot afford too many direct power shots from this guy. Costa is a force.  But Adesanya’s savvy footwork, outside striking, and accurate counter punching will put the Kiwi up huge on points, every round. If he can avoid the first-round onslaught, he will inflict a ton of damage in later rounds as Costa rapidly fatigues (too much muscle mass does this – see Woodley, Francis). Adesanya probably finishes him, but it will be close, as Israel may respect Costa’s power too much and just toy with him. I am taking the TALENT, the SIZE, the Gas tank, the experience….. which usually always works. Costa has more than a puncher’s chance because of the obscene 185lb power in him in the first round. So I guess -170 is the right line as it reminds me of the Stipe vs Ngannou line and fight.  But outside of the KO, this is an unbalanced fight in terms of ability. It’s a good bet.
Take Adesanya -170….. (AND small on Costa by KO in Round 1 +700).

Dominick Reyes, 30 vs Jan Blachowicz, 37

Reyes had the unlucky fortune of dominating the greatest martial artist ever in Jon Jones for the first 2 rounds rather than the last 3.  Dominick came out blazing, and ran out of gas.  The judges made the right decision to give Jones the marginal win, but we all know damn well Reyes scored the fight in his own mind as a win. And that matters.

I’d imagine the young, hungry fighter has improved his cardio and is even better at present.  And that’s pretty scary at 6 foot 4, 205lb ex Free Safety, and now with the confidence from that JBJ fight….

Jan has won 7 of his last 8, with his only loss to the dangerous Thiago Santos, and his latest win a nice KO that sent Corey Anderson to Bellator. I have very few issues with the Pole, he’s gigantic as well, has accuracy in his hands, strength in his clinch, and the ability to lights out anyone.

Jan could turn this into a slop fest for a few rounds, tire them both out, and score a late finish….

But …. he won’t.

I cannot get over that he slithered out of a split decision versus the eminently hittable Jacare Souza – a worthy 205 champion should have little trouble with the far-past-his-prime Brazilian.  I also think Reyes is excellent and deserved, regardless of how painfully dorky he comes across in interviews.  Reyes gets the KO in style, and takes the belt that Jones has owned for a decade – and will now breathe life into 205 by fighting the rest of the division.

Hakeem Dawadu vs Zabaira Tukhugov

Yes, this is the rat that jumped into the cage at Madison Square Garden after McGregor had been thoroughly abused by Khabib, and sucker punched Conor from behind.  Yes, this is “Mean” Hakeem who used to knock everyone out, and now he usually at least wins. See where this going? Let’s hope Mean gets another big KO… or at least a judge’s decision.

Brad “Quake” Riddell 8-1 vs Alex “Leko” da Silva Coelho 21-2

Riddell is a tough fighter, won me over in his debut vs the Aussie bruiser Mullarkey. Wow, was that a painful and dangerous fight. I like these kickboxer styles vs Brazilian grapplers to score a ton of points, and win fairly easy if they don’t get finished. I don’t think Leko has the skills to finish a veteran like Riddell.  Add in that Quake is a leader on the superb team coming up from Auckland with Adesanya (they like to fight on the same card these maniacs – think it helps.)
Riddell win.

William Knight 8-1 vs Aleksa Camur 6-0

Aleksa is the much more polished fighter and trains with Stipe (remember my call on Aspinall who trains with Tyson Fury), that’s all I really needed to know. And that his name is Aleksa.  And while Willie Knight looks like an action figure (please google before betting big), and does the gymnastic hand springs in the ring after wins, he needs to learn how to fight first.  Camur gets the win.

Diego Sanchez 38, 30-12 vs Jake Matthews

This is just an eye sore to see Sanchez’s name. The Hall of famer (yes, inducted 2019) should have called it quits many years ago.  He was the winner of the first two Ultimate Fighters – wins vs Kenny Florian and Nick Diaz for godsake. Those were back in 2005.  That was 30 Diego Sanchez fights ago when The Nightmare was already 14-0.

Jake Matthews has been in the UFC since he was 19 (read: tough as hell) and is only gaining steam.  The Celtic kid has very impressive wins vs Li Jiangling, Emil Meek, and Rostem Akman.  Why Sanchez now?……  Diego mercifully has turned into wrestler these days, so let’s hope Jake is happy to stay there, cause nobody wants to see the inevitable KO if they start swinging. Matthews is the lock of the century…. But he’s already -700.  It’s just shameful of Dana to continue wheeling out the obviously damaged veteran. This sport is awful at times.

The bet:
ADESANYA/REYES parlay – both just to win pays +120. Bit better than even money.

The hedge:
Reyes by finish in Round 1 tied to Costa finish in round 1 pays 43:1 (+4300, or 44.0 in UK) – it’s def in play.

Written by KC

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