An intriguing pair of title fights top the bill at UFC 253.
The main event of Saturday night's pay-per-view card, which kicks off a month-long string of UFC fight events in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, feature a pair of undefeated fighters in a middleweight grudge match.
Champion Israel Adesanya (19-0), of New Zealand by way of Nigeria, puts his title on the line against Brazil's Paulo Costa (13-0) in a classic matchup of flash versus raw power.
The 31-year-old Adesanya has turned into the first real breakthrough star since the promotion was bought by Hollywood entertainment titan WME/Endeavor in 2016. A next-level kickboxer who mixes flash with high fight IQ, Adesanya has won eight consecutive bouts since making his UFC debut in 2017.
In his most recent fight, at UFC 238, he went to a decision against Yoel Romero in what might be an instructive look at Saturday's fight. Costa is similar to Romero in that he's a big middleweight who cuts a considerable amount of weight and relies on a heavy power punching game.
Costa, ranked No. 2 in the division, has won all five of his UFC fights, four of them knockouts inside the second round, and his cardio remains an open question. In Adesanya's win over Romero, he waited out Romero's early onslaught, then turned up the heat when Romero tired.
The co-feature bout will see the UFC pivot away from the longstanding Jon Jones era at light heavyweight. Jones recently relinquished his belt in order to concentrate on a move up to heavyweight.
In his absence, the UFC has put together a bout to fill the 205-pound vacancy, as Dominick Reyes (12-1) of Victorville, Calif., takes on Poland's Jan Blachowicz (26-8). Reyes is currently ranked the No. 1 contender in the division; Blachowicz is No. 3.
Reyes' last fight was against Jones at UFC 247 in February, and his unanimous decision loss was widely considered a borderline robbery. That marked the 30-yar-old's first defeat in seven UFC bouts. The veteran Blachowicz, 37, was once considered a gatekeeper, but he's won three straight and seven of his past eight to earn his spot in the title fight.
--Field Level Media