Israel Adesanya underlined his dominance of the middleweight division with a strategically-brilliant defeat of Paulo Costa in the main event of UFC 253 at ‘Fight Island’ on Sunday morning.
The Nigerian-born fighter, known as ‘The Last Stylebender’, targeted Costa’s lead leg with kicks and stomps in round one while also using his own fleet footwork to prevent the Brazilian cutting off the Octagon.
Costa looked for more engagement in round two, but Adesanya continued to avoid the exchanges and began to mix in strikes to the head. A head kick from Adesanya opened a nasty cut above Costa’s eye and signalled the beginning of the end for the challenger.
The two finally exchanged punches in close quarters and Adesanya landed a glancing blow off Costa’s temple, sending him tumbling to the canvas. The champion jumped on top and unleashed a brutal flurry of strikes, forcing the referee to call a halt to the action at the 3:59 mark of round two.
“I still don’t like him. I don’t know him personally, I don’t wish he dies or anything, he’s alive, I let him be alive,” Adesanya said after the fight, referring to a personal war of words between the two leading into UFC 253.
“This is the game we play, this is violence and I told you guys that it was going to be violent and I said it, it’s going to be violent and it’s going to end fast and that’s what I did. I’m fresh, I can go next weekend, I can go anytime. I want to spend time with my family because it’s been a crazy year, so I want to go spend time with my people.
“I’ve been telling you guys, but everyone thinks … like Roy Jones said, ‘Y’all must have forgot’ because of what happened last time. I had to remind the world who’s the best.”
Adesanya improves to 20-0 (while Costa suffered his first career defeat) and believes that Jared Cannonier could be his next opponent: “If he beats Robert Whittaker, he’s next.”
The co-main event saw Jan Blachowicz record a surprise second-round TKO win over Dominick Reyes to claim the vacant light heavyweight crown, and the Pole took little time in calling out former division king Jon Jones.
“I don’t know, only one that is on my mind,” Blachowicz said. “Jon Jones, where are you? Don’t be a quitter.”
Jones recently vacated the light heavyweight title after dominating the division for nearly a decade, deciding to move up to the heavyweight ranks.
The next UFC event is a Fight Night on Sunday 4 October, headlined by a women’s bantamweight clash between Holly Holm and Irene Aldana.
UFC 253, main card results
Main event: Middleweight: Israel Adesanya def. Paulo Costa via second-round TKO (strikes)
Co-main: Light heavyweight: Jan Blachowicz def. Dominick Reyes via second-round TKO (punches) to win light heavyweight title
Flyweight: Brandon Royval def. Kai Kara France via second-round submission (guillotine choke)
Women’s bantamweight: Ketlen Vieira def. Sijara Eubanks via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Catchweight: Hakeem Dawodu def. Zubaira Tukhugov via split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)