Israel Adesanya proved yet again that he is in a class of his own at the top of the UFC’s middleweight division when he finished Paulo Costa in the second round of the pair’s UFC 253 main event on Saturday night.
The highly-anticipated grudge match between two undefeated fighters topped the card as the UFC returned to ‘Fight Island’ in Abu Dhabi, but for all the hype, the discrepancy in skill between Adesanya and his challenger was soon apparent.
Nigerian-born New Zealander Adesanya (20-0) landed more than 20 leg kicks across the opening eight minutes as he set out to destabilise Costa’s base, and while the Brazilian was able to land some signature body kicks, his most eye-catching moments in the first frame came in the form of his taunting of ‘The Last Stylebender’.
Costa (13-1) was beckoning on the counter-striker, who remained calm before increasing his output in the second round.
It was then that Adesanya cut open his challenger with a shin to the head before finding homes for some stern jabs.
Costa pressed forward, per his pugilistic DNA, but he did so on faulty legs. ‘The Eraser’ stepped into a left hook as Adesanya slid out of reach, and Costa toppled.
The champion was no less efficient in finishing off the Brazilian than he had been in engineering the fight-ending sequence, landing hammer fists on Costa to complete his masterclass and force referee Jason Herzog to call a stop to the action.
In the evening’s co-main event, Poland’s Jan Blachowicz (27-8) also secured a second-round TKO victory, defeating Dominick Reyes (12-2) to win the light heavyweight title vacated by Jon Jones in August.
As with the main event, it was a left hand that signalled the beginning of the end, Reyes’ legs buckling underneath him as he found himself on the receiving end of Blachowicz’s “Polish power”.
Thirty-seven-year-old Blachowicz – who became his nation’s first male UFC champion with the win over Reyes – immediately called out Jon Jones, who gave up the light heavyweight strap last month ahead of a planned move to the heavyweight division.
UFC 253 results in full:
Israel Adesanya (C) def. Paulo Costa via second-round TKO (strikes, 3:59)
Blachowicz (C) def. Reyes via second-round TKO (strikes, 4:36)
Brandon Royval def. Kai Kara-France via second-round submission (guillotine choke, 0:48)
Ketlen Vieira def. Sijara Eubanks via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Hakeem Dawodu def. Zubaira Tukhugov via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)
Brad Riddell def. Alex Da Silva via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Jake Matthews def. Diego Sanchez via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)
Ludovit Klein def. Shane Young via first-round KO (strikes, 1:16)
William Knight def. Aleksa Camur via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Juan Espino def. Jeff Hughes via first-round submission (arm triangle, 3:48)
Danilo Marques def. Khadis Ibragimov via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
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