By: Tanaay Shah
The Main Event
“The Last Stylebender,” Israel Adesanya makes the second defense of his middleweight title against, Paulo “Borrachinha” Costa, in Saturday night’s main event banger. This is only the seventh time in UFC history that both fighters are coming in with an undefeated record for a title fight. Adesanya has 19 straight pro-MMA wins while Costa is unbeaten in 13. The champion is coming off a fight against #5 ranked Yoel Romero in March, where he won a decision in a rather boring fight. Costa’s last fight was also against Romero in August 2019 in which he won a split decision in a heavy-hitting, back-and-forth fight. That was the first time in his career that Costa went to the judge’s scorecard. A bicep surgery has kept Costa out of competition for a year. Adesanya is a phenomenal striker, and is one of the best at understanding and using distance. Costa loves to come forward and keep a suffocating pace on his opponents with punches and kicks. He has a lot of power in those strikes, but one of his most underrated weapons are his body shots. He has hurt and buckled many of his opponents by digging into the body. However, Adesanya will cherish the challenger coming forward, where he will look to land precise counter strikes, like he did against former champion Robert Whittaker. It is important to know that Adesanya has had 4 five-round fights, and has gone to the judges scorecard in three of those. On the other hand, Costa has never been in a five-round fight. It is clear that the champion will have the advantage if the fight goes to the championship rounds because of his past experience and because Costa’s pace is not sustainable for five rounds, unless Costa worked really hard on his cardio. UFC President Dana White has mentioned on several occasions that this bout is his pick for fight of the year because of both their fighting styles. They love to stand up and strike. The build-up has been box office and tonight is going to be a war.
The Co-Main Event
Tonight’s co-main event is a light heavyweight title fight between #1 ranked heavy-hitting Dominick “The Devastator” Reyes, and #3 ranked Polish powerhouse, Jan Blachowicz. This is the first time that Jon Jones or Daniel Cormier are not featured in a light heavyweight title bout since 2011. Jones relinquished his light heavyweight title in August with aspirations to move up to heavyweight. This is a huge fight for the light heavyweight division, which has always been one of the premier divisions in the UFC. Fans have not been excited about this division besides when Jones fights, but Reyes and Blachowicz could change all that tonight. They are both high-level fighters and deserve the title shot. Reyes is coming off a very close loss to former champion Jones in February, in what was arguably Jones’ toughest challenge. Great performance from Reyes despite the loss. Blachowicz’s last fight was a first-round KO victory over former UFC contender Corey Anderson. Both fighters’ biggest strength is their power. Reyes has kickboxing skills with a deadly left hand, which he will constantly look to land. Blachowicz also has phenomenal striking and an underrated submission game. Reyes would not want to engage with Blachowicz on the ground. But I do not think Blachowicz will look to wrestle unless he absolutely needs to. This fight will mainly be a standup bout, and a new light heavyweight champion will be crowned tonight.
Adesanya vs. Costa over 2.5 rounds (-156)
The champion Adesanya has not fought since February, and did not take significant damage in that fight. The challenger has not fought since
August 2019, which means both fighters will have
Reyes by KO (+125)
There is no way that this fight goes the five rounds. Dominick Reyes has better striking and will be able to knock out Blachowicz. The big boys will exchange in the pocket and unfortunately for Blachowicz, he will get caught.
Royval to win (+188)
Brandon Royval is on a high after an impressive submission victory over UFC veteran Tim Elliot and will continue his winning ways against the well rounded Kai Kara-France. This is a phenomenal matchup and I believe that the underdog will get it done.
Vieira to win (-190)
#7 ranked Ketlen Vieira lost her last fight but won her previous 10 in a row, while #Sijara Eubanks is 2-2 in her last 4. Vieira, who is the better all round fighter will bounce back from that loss and get the win against Eubanks.
Tukhugov to win (-136)
The Russian Zubaira Tukhugov will use his world class grappling and wrestling to keep his pressure on Canadian up and comer Hakeem Dawodu. Dawodu has good power for the featherweight division and his best chance is to land a haymaker. Tukhugov will avoid this and maintain constant pressure on the Canadian.
*(Odds via https://sportsbook.fanduel.com/sports)
The UFC is back in Abu Dhabi on Fight Island for the next five weeks. Let’s hope this second visit to Fight Island is as entertaining as the first one, starting with a cracker tonight!
Watch the early prelims at 7:00 pm EST and the prelims at 8:00pm EST on ESPN2. Watch the main card at 10:00 pm EST, only on PPV. The main and co-main event are worth the PPV price alone. What a way for to kickoff Fight Island!