Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
It’s very rare for any UFC fighter to reach double-digit victories without a loss simply because all it takes is one punch, kick or choke out to lose in this sport. It’s brutal. What’s almost unprecedented is a championship fight featuring two undefeated fighters, but that’s what MMA fans will be treated to this Saturday at UFC 253. The main card begins at 10 p.m. ET from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi and is headlined by a middleweight title fight between champion Israel Adesanya and No. 2 contender Paulo Costa.
The UFC ranks the 31-year-old Nigerian Adesanya (19-0) as its No. 4 pound-for-pound fighter behind Jon Jones, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Stipe Miocic. Adesanya, considered one of the best strikers in MMA history, got his first UFC title fight (interim) against Kelvin Gastelum in April 2019 and won by unanimous decision as around a -200 favorite.
“The Last Stylebender” was only a slight favorite in a title unification bout against Robert Whittaker in October of last year but won by second-round knockout (punches) to become the undisputed middleweight king. Adesanya was then scheduled to meet Costa at UFC 248, but Costa couldn’t go due to a torn left biceps. Instead, Adesanya faced Yoel Romero in March and beat the former U.S. Olympic wrestler by unanimous decision. Adesanya is priced at -185 for this fight and has 14 of his 19 wins by KO/TKO.
Costa, a 29-year-old from Brazil, is 13-0 with 11 of those victories by KO/TKO, so it would be an upset if this goes the full five rounds. This is Costa’s first title fight. He also comes off a win over Romero in August 2019 by unanimous decision. “Borrachinha” is a +150 underdog for this one.
Adesanya-Costa is only the second time in UFC history that two undefeated males fight for an undisputed title. The other was in 2008 when champion Rashad Evans defended his light heavyweight title against Lyoto Machida at UFC 98.
The light heavyweight title is also on the line Saturday when American Dominick Reyes and Poland’s Jan Blachowicz square off. The light heavyweight title is vacant because Jones is having a spat with the UFC over money and also the fact Jones may compete as a heavyweight going forward if he can agree to a contract with the organization.
The 30-year-old Reyes (12-1) is the No. 1 contender in the division whose only loss was to Jones in February by unanimous decision. “The Devastator” is -300 for Saturday. Blachowicz, 37, is 26-8 and has evenly split his wins by decision (38 percent), submission (35 percent) and KO/TKO (27 percent). The division’s No. 3 contender is +230.