Israel Adesanya defends his UFC middleweight title in a hugely anticipated fight with Paulo Costa at UFC 253 on UFC Fight Island on September 26, but will ‘The Last Stylebender’ leave the Octagon still the king of the 185lb division or can Costa knock the unbeaten champion off his perch and maintain his own perfect record?
Road To Israel Adesanya v Paulo Costa
UFC president Dana White expects the middleweight title fight between Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa to be the ‘Fight of the Year’ and who can blame in. Unbeaten Adesanya is an incredibly gifted striker who has gone from debutant to champion in one of the most competitive divisions in the sport in the less than two years, while Costa is a wrecking ball who’s devastating finishing power have helped him go 13-0 as a professional, with 11 of his victories coming via strikes and only one of them coming by a judges verdict.
“I don’t know what you guys think, but I predict that’s ‘Fight of the Year,’” White told reporters. “I think stylistically, it’s the perfect fight. If you look at the way Costa fights, he puts pressure on you, he stays in your face the whole time. Adesanya likes to stay on the outside and pick you apart. I think that fight is going to be an absolute war. Just stylistically, it matches up really, really well, and both guys are animals. Both guys want this fight really bad, and I think it’s going to be ‘Fight of the Year.’”
So how did we, and these two fighters, come to this point?
Adesanya first debuted in the UFC back in 2018, having caught the eye fighting in Australia and China, and he made an immediate impression as he dispatched Rob Wilkinson inside two rounds in the first of four fights he would have that year. By the end of 2018 he had secured his biggest win to date, stopping Derek Brunson in the first round, and 2019 he took his name to the next level with a string of high-profile wins that propelled him to the top of the division.
Anderson Silva and Kelvin Gastelum were bested over five rounds as ‘The Last Stylebender’ showcased his tremendous striking ability to the world, and in October of that year he became the undisputed king of the 185lb division by picking apart Robert Whittaker in the second round before finishing him. Whittaker was in the fight when he attacked with a flurry of shots, but Adesanya showed off his incredibly speed, timing and precision with lighting quick right-left combination that sent Whittaker tumbling to the canvas, and he followed it up with a couple of shots to wrap up the win.
It was highlight real stuff from the 31-year-old New Zealander and although the same could not be said for his first defence, an underwhelming decision win over Yoel Romero, he remains one of the most exciting and intriguing fighters the UFC has on its roster. The same can be said for Costa though.
The 29-year-old Brazilian has actually been on the UFC’s books longer than the champion, but he has been nowhere near as active as Adesanya, stepping into the Octagon just five times since the start of 2017 when he signed his deal. This lack of activity has been down to a number of reasons, but when he did step inside the cage he left no doubts about how dangerous he is.
Having stopped a couple of lesser known fighters in the first half of the year, Costa stepped up his game in late 2017 to take out former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks inside two rounds. His sole appearance in 2018 saw him take out Uriah Hall in just over seven-and-a-half minutes, and although his only 2019 outing brought an end to his streak of stopping opponents, a decision win over long-time contender Yoel Romero cemented his status as one to watch in the 185lb division.
Costa now has an opportunity to become THE man in the middleweight ranks, but can this heavy-hitting striker solve the Adesanya puzzle to dethrone the New Zealand ace, or will ‘The Last Stylebender’ get back to his highlight-reel best to send the challenger home empty-handed? Read on for our Israel Adesanya v Paulo Costa betting tips and predictions for UFC 253…
Israel Adesanya v Paulo Costa UFC 253 Betting Tips & Predictions
This has all of the makings of a classic fight because their styles complement each other so well. Costa boasts devastating knockout power, as evidence by his record, and we know that he is going to relentlessly pour forward here, keeping the pressure on Adesanya while trying to back him up against the cage and narrow down escape routes. He is not some crude striker either – Costa does have skill to go along with the blunt force trauma that he can dish out, but let’s be very real here, he does not have the striking prowess that the champion has.
Adesanya has already staked a claim for being one of the most impressive strikers the UFC has ever seen – he may be the most impressive. Having gone 75-5 as a professional kickboxer he has made a seamless crossover to MMA. While his not one of the more imposing middleweights, he is athletic, incredibly agile and very fast. And of course, he also has out of this world technique when it comes to striking. “I don’t throw and hope… I aim and fire” is a famous quote of his and that is exactly right. He may not have headline-grabbing stopping power, but he lands consistently with sniper-like precision and that helps him wear down and opponents and, more often than not, stop them.
But for that approach to work Adesanya needs to limit the opportunities that Costa has to land big shots, and I expect him to do just that. It will not have gone unnoticed that the challenger did begin to tire dramatically during his decision win over Romero last time out, and that will be Adesanya’s key to victory here, even in the smaller Octagon which has been the subject of much debate over the past couple of months.
The champion is going to move around, counter-strike from range and pick and choose his moments to get inside for a more aggressive striking flurry. Then, as Costa slows down, he will move up through the gears to put on a striking clinic and pick the challenger apart. I would not be shocked to see Adesanya get a late stoppage, but he will have to be wary of that one big shot that could change things dramatically throughout the 25 minutes, and for that reason I expect Adesanya to adopt a disciplined approach despite all of the pre-fight trash talk. The judges will be called upon to determine the winner and when they do it will be Adesanya’s hand that is raised.
Israel Adesanya v Paulo Costa UFC 253 Price Boosts
Israel Adesanya v Paulo Costa Tips: Expect UFC 253 Predictions
In this episode of UFC: Inside The Octagon, John Gooden and Dan Hardy preview the UFC 253 main event, as Israel Adesanya takes on rising star, Paulo Costa, for the mUFC iddleweight title. With both men unbeaten in MMA, someone’s ‘0’ has got to go as this rivalry finally comes to head in the UFC’s return to Fight Island.
Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker: “I think Adesanya has the skill set necessary to beat Costa. He’s very technical, he’s very good. He’s a good fighter. I don’t like him very much, but he’s a good fighter. But Costa’s dangerous. He’s so explosive, he’s got mad cardio and hits like a truck. Look at the size of him. I’m sure that does something. I’m sure that has something to do with why he keeps hurting people.”
Former welterweight title challenger Stephen Thompson talking to Submission Radio: “For someone like Izzy Adesanya, he’s got the potential to finish this guy [in the] second or third round. Izzy is a counter-striker, he waits for guys to make a mistake and then takes advantage of it. I think this falls right into his game plan, what he does best. The only thing about Paulo Costa is that he’s durable – he’s very, very durable. He’s very tough to finish. Izzy Adesanya is going to have a field day counter-striking this guy. I got my man Izzy winning that fight.”
UFC middleweight Jack Hermansson: “I believe that Paulo Costa will be the champion when I fight for title. He is going to put some pressure on Adesanya. Paulo Costa’s pressure is just insane. He’s throwing so hard with everything he’s got and he can do it for almost all of the rounds. It’s just incredible, the physique and the power that guy has. I think it’s going to be problematic for Adesanya.”
Adesanya’s coach Eugene Bareman talking to Submission Radio: “We can reflect back on a lot of Israel’s fights where he’s fought guys with big power and guys that were a lot more technically sound than Paulo Costa, but at the end of the day we haven’t fought Paulo Costa, and he seems to be a very powerful striker. And the part that you just never know until you’re in the cage, is how powerful this person is. Can Israel deflect his shots? Can Israel move out the way of his shots? That’s the part that we never really know until the opening 30 or 40 seconds, and that’s always the most nervous time. I think Israel can mitigate his power, and what I think will happen is that he just doesn’t have enough diversity in his striking to stay with Israel during the fight, to stay on equal part with Israel. If you’re just relying on your power and you have nothing to back that up, there’s nothing behind it, there’s no other plan that you know intimately, then it’s just not going to be enough.”
Israel Adesanya v Paulo Costa Tips: UFC 253 Fighter Predictions
Israel Adesanya talking to MMA Junkie: “This guy gasses after the first round. We have five rounds. Look at me in all my fights in the fifth, the fourth round, the third round, the later rounds – I’m always fresh. Precision is going to be the key to this fight. Precision, skill and just taking him out one by one. After the last fight, the performance that Yoel Romero brought, he was lackluster. I’ve never been in a boring fight in my life. I had all this criticism, justly or unjustly. That was a dip, and now this is the rise back. What better antagonist than this guy, who was undefeated, a KO artist and looks the way he does, ballooned up. It’s like David and Goliath. I f**k this guy up, and it’s just spectacular. As they say: Someone’s 0 has got to go. It’s a beautifully set up story.”
Paulo Costa talking to MMA Junkie: “Even after I knock him out, I will not shake his hand. It will be wild. It will be savage. I believe [I will knock him out] in the second round because he will run a lot in the first round. I will not be staying and waiting for him. I will hunt him inside the cage and close the distance and land my shots to his body and his face. Don’t go so fast like [Robert] Whittaker and don’t go slow like [Yoel] Romero. Make a balance. I think I am very different from both guys because I can pressure him every minute for the 25 minutes. I can keep the pressure very, very aggressive against him. I can push him at all times, and I have a lot of power… I just need one shot to finish the fight.”