The UFC middleweight title will be on the line when champion Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya takes on Paulo “Borrachinha” Costa in the main event of UFC 253 in a still to be determined venue in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Adesanya and Costa have been going back and forth in social media for almost a year now. Costa was supposed to challenge Adesanya in the latter’s first title defense but after suffering a bicep surgery which forced him out of action for eight months. Adesanya went on to face Yoel Romero at UFC 248 last March 8th, winning by unanimous decision. Now that Costa is good to go, the match has been set.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 18, 2020
It can be recalled that Adesanya gave Costa the middle finger after knocking out Robert Whitaker at UFC 243. Costa attempted to leap inside the cage but was prevented by security. The champ even went on to call the Brazilian a “Ricky Martin wannabee” while Costa has returned fire by calling Adesanya a “skinny clown” among others. The two swear their beef is real and both have said that it won’t end even after they fight at UFC 253.
Let’s take a look at these two bitter rivals and see how they stack up at UFC 253:
Israel “Last Stylebender” Adesanya
Israel Adesanya is the current UFC middleweight title. Adesanya won the belt by knocking out Robert Whitaker at UFC 243. The Nigerian-born New Zealander is a former professional boxer and kickboxer. He won the Glory and King in the Ring kickboxing titles before transitioning to MMA. Adesanya won the Australian Fighting Championship middleweight title and Hex Fighting Series middleweight championship. He joined the UFC in 2018 and has been on a tear with eight straight wins inside the Octagon.
The 31-year old stands 6-4 tall with a reach of 85 inches and fights out of the orthodox stance. The Last Stylebender is undefeated in 19 MMA bouts with 14 knockouts. His last five bouts have been wins over Derek Brunson, Anderson Silva, Kelvin Gastelum, Robert Whitaker, and Yoel Romero and he’s earned a post-fight performance bonus in five out of his last six fights.
Adesanya lands an average of 3.96 significant strikes per minute with a 48% striking accuracy. He gets hit by an average of 2.4 significant strikes per minute and has a striking defense of 65%. Adesanya has never attempted a takedown in the UFC but he has a takedown defense of 86%.
Odds were taken from Bet365 as of 8/2/20
Paulo “Borrachinha” Costa
Paulo Costa is the #2 ranked middleweight in the UFC. He fought four the Jungle Fight promotion in Brazil and was the former Jungle Fight middleweight title. Costa was also a competitor at The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 where he lost in the second round. He joined the UFC in 2017 and has won five consecutive bouts under the promotion. Costa was supposed to be Adesanya’s first challenger, but he underwent surgery to repair an injured biceps.
The 29-yar old from Belo Horizonte in Brazil is an orthodox fighter who stands 6-1 tall with a reach of 71 inches. He has a record of 13-0 with 11 knockouts and 1 win via submission. Costa knocked out his first four UFC opponents including Uriah Hall and former middleweight champion Johny Hendricks. In his last bout, he went toe to toe against Yoel Romero in the Fight of the Night winner of UFC 241.
Costa is a volume striker who lands an average of 8.43 significant strikes per minute at a 57% accuracy. He gets hit by an average of 6.84 significant strikes per minute and has a striking defense of 53%. Like Adesanya, he has not attempted a takedown but he has an excellent takedown defense of 80%.
Adesanya opened as the betting favorite in this contest and that doesn’t come as a surprise. He is undefeated in his career and has been spotless inside the octagon. The Last Stylebender has been the favorite in seven out of his eight UFC bouts and the only time he was an underdog was when he opened at +160 against Robert Whitaker. Adesanya won that fight via knockout. At -175, this is the second-shortest odds in Adesanya’s career. He was a -115 against Brad Tavares at the TUF 27 Finale.
The only time Costa has been an underdog in the UFC was in his last fight when he was a +140 against Yoel Romero. He won that fight via a narrow split decision and it was the first time in his career that he went the distance. His previous 12 bouts ended in a stoppage including 11 knockouts. At +150 at Bet365 as of August 2, 2020, this is the biggest plus money placed beside Costa’s name and he’s looking to cash in for his backers and win the UFC middleweight title as well.
How Will This Fight Unfold?
Before he joined MMA, Israel Adesanya was a boxer and kickboxer. That’s the reason why he is a master of distance and has the ability to read his opponents inside the cage. Adesanya has a very high fight IQ and has great reflexes which enables him to evade his opponent’s big shots. He reminds me of a young Anderson Silva who dissects his opponents inside the cage, find their vulnerabilities, and finish them viciously. Like Silva, he is patient, calculated but very much deadly. The difference between him and the Spider is perhaps is the Stylebender’s superior power.
Costa meanwhile is a come-forward striker who uses his aggression to overwhelm his opponents. He is also a durable fighter who is willing to eat some shots so that he can land his own power punches. Borrachinha has stopped all but one of his opponents inside the cage. Much has been said about Costa’s chiseled frame and large body. While he has proved that he can carry his weight and size inside the octagon, it remains to be seen if he can go five full rounds against an elusive striker like Adesanya.
I can see this fight becoming a bull and matador affair. Costa will look for the early finish because he knows that the longer this fight goes, Adesanya’s quickness will be a problem for him. He will be willing to get hit for as long as he can give some of his own shots. On the other hand, Adesanya will be wary of Costa’s power and he will try to use every inch of the octagon so that he can tire out Costa. Adesanya will be looking to jab away and hopefully find an opening where he can hurt Costa.
Adesanya is coming off a disappointing effort against Yoel Romero. Like Costa, Romero had legit knockout power. However, what caused Izzy to be cautious against the Cuban was perhaps not his power but Romero’s Olympic wrestling background which he has not shown in the UFC. Costa does not have the same ground game and he is primarily a striker. Adesanya has a significant reach advantage over Costa. He will paw away at the Brazilian until the latter commits a mistake. When he does, Adesanya will take over. I won’t be surprised if Adesanya gets a knockout here. But most probably, this will be a unanimous decision win for the Last Stylebender.
Prediction: Israel Adesanya (-175)