The main event of UFC 253 is worth a lot more hype than it has received. An amazing clash of styles that illustrates the middleweight division’s most sterling talent, Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa is the first of two massive title bouts the community has been anxiously waiting for (the second being Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje).
If ever there were a classic example of the old adage, ‘styles make fights,’ this contest certainly fits the bill. Both men are phenomenal athletes with completely different strengths that could fuel either man to victory. There’s no clear-cut favorite and no significant gap in the odds. A fight of this magnitude warrants its own breakdown and official prediction, so let’s take a look at how these two titans of violence stack up.
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THE CHAMPION, ISRAEL ADESANYA ($8,500)
THE CHALLENGER, PAULO COSTA ($7,700)
Adesanya is a talented kickboxer with outstanding technical boxing, speed, exemplary fight IQ and overall athleticism. His long, lean frame is purpose-built for his range style, allowing those lethal kicks and crisp punches to keep the stockier, shorter Costa out of his personal space. Costa, an equally talented striker, possesses Herculean strength, power, and recuperative ability. His aggression and complete lack of fear has carried him to an undefeated record and this title shot.
Paulo will be looking to bull rush “The Last Stylebender,” throwing insane amounts of leather from Jump Street. He’s looking to put out lights and he wastes no time getting down to business. He’s not exactly patient, so he gives up a lot defensively, eating plenty of shots as he delivers them.
Costa averages a staggering 8.43 strikes landed per minute, while Adesanya, a gifted counter striker, averages 3.96 strikes per minute. The differences continue through their defense stats with the champ absorbing only 2.40 shots per minute while Costa eats quite a few to land all the volume he continuously bombards his opponents with—to the tune of 6.84 shots absorbed per minute.
The one thing both men seem to agree on is that they’re not particularly interested in initiating a ground war, as both have rarely attempted takedowns in their UFC tenures. Adesanya boasts a slightly higher percentage of defended takedowns—86%—while Costa is nearly as sound with an 80% rate. Israel has attempted submissions, Paulo has not.
When we go back to Adesanya’s fight with Kelvin Gastelum, we should note that Kelvin came very close to knocking Israel out, managing to drop him in the early goings of their fight. Adesanya recovered himself well, but again came close to being finished in round four from a solid headkick. If Kelvin’s fight IQ hadn’t taken a nosedive when he decided to change levels after really giving Izzy the business, who knows what would have happened. We might have seen a different champion.
Paulo Costa is a forward moving juggernaut, all violence and aggression. He likely hits harder than Gastelum and isn’t as easily controlled. He is on a mission. Israel Adesanya is a composed, collected countermeasure to the flurry of movement and power that is “Borrachinha.” He has a belt to defend. This is easily one of the most compelling fights of the year, if not the most.
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If I had to make a choice, and trust me, I’ve gone back and forth on this 100 times over, I think I’m leaning Costa. He’s got the weapons, the drive and the momentum to crowd Adesanya and lay into him with those hammers. I don’t think it comes easy, though. I’m estimating this hard-fought battle goes to the fourth round before the champion is dethroned.
Prediction: Paulo Costa ($7,700) defeats Israel Adesanya ($8,500)
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