MAFB: UFC 253 Adesanya vs Costa
Well, well, well how the turntables turn. Who knew that the best base for MMA is hundreds of fights worth of experience rather than b-b-b-bulking into the next Valdir Segato. Israel Adesanya silenced many of his doubters and reclaimed the casual masses after delivering a stonking two-round melting of Paulo Costa. I mean, let us give the big lad some credit. On the losing end of every exchange on social media and at the press conferences, Adesanya was under the cosh with his reputation on the line. The man even had his earing called out, albeit, politely, as Costa said he saw his own mother in Israel. Months of banter is fabulous motivation it would seem, as Adesanya’s striking looked as polished and refined as it ever has in the octagon. A true champions performance.
The rest of the card was pretty eh. Reyes vs Błachowicz was one-note until Reyes decided to lunge into the pocket and walk straight onto the Polish power. Congrats to Jan, though. That is a man who has plugged away hard in the background for large stretches of his career. Wheres Corey Anderson at… I need to hear a “THERE ARE LEVELS TO THIS”. Elsewhere, Brandon Royval established himself as more than a one-fight wonder. Going toe-to-toe with Kai Kara-France on the feet, Royval eventually submitted him with a brutal guillotine in the second round. Brad Riddell also looked fabulous in the closing stages of his bout. Elderly newcomer, Alex da Silva, sprung a few surprises in the first round with some explosive grappling exchanges but Riddell dominated the closing stretch.
Possibly the biggest surprise of the night was Diego Sanchez’s performance. Sanchez’s striking was abysmal; random potshots and weird spinning backfists after his shadowboxing exchanges. What was comforting for Sanchez fans, however, was his work off of the back. Continually looking for submissions and attempting to land cutting elbows on the forehead of Jake Matthews, Sanchez was a real menace on the mat. Of course, Sanchez should be nowhere near the octagon, but it was comforting that Sanchez was not slumped ala Matt Brown style again.
Israel Adesanya vs Paulo Costa (Adesanya def. Costa // TKO Round 2 3:59)
Adesanya may have executed one of the finest championship gameplans of all-time. Laying down a striking clinic from the opening bell, Adesanya showed patience and killer instinct in equal parts. Key to his success, Adesanya pumped out a ridiculous leg kick that tore up the knee ligaments between Costa’s calf and thigh. Leaving a red welt on his left leg, Adesanya effectively rooted Costa in the middle of the octagon as a sitting duck. Without his usual mobility, Costa really struggled to cut off the octagon and was unable to find a plan B. Not that he was given much time to adapt to his increasingly dire circumstances. Adesanya mesmerised his opponent with a display of subtle feints that drained Costa mentally and physically as he bit hard on every trick.
There was one very brief moment in the fight where it looked like Costa may be able to mount some form of offence. Bull-rushing his way into the pocket with his dangerous hooks, Costa caught Adesanya with a hard body kick as he tried to slip out the side. Adesanya shrugged it off, however, and reset himself in the centre of the octagon. Reach proved itself King too, on the night. Adesanya’s eight-inch reach advantage was sponged for every inch of its worth. Waving in front of Costa’s face as a distance gauge and barrier to Costa’s explosive outbursts, Adesanya was able to tag his man with a jab that could simply not be answered. The ramping frustration was evident as Costa’s most effective work came from taunts and imitating the guard of previous shared opponent, Yoel Romero. Overloaded mentally, Adesanya was able to sneak in the overhand right behind the ear of Costa that would finish the fight. Of note as well, Adesanya’s finishing was top notch as he delivered brutal ground and pound on top of a turtled Costa.
The future for both men:
Israel Adesanya – Reigning Middleweight champion and successfully completing the second defence of his title in stunning fashion. Mocked relentlessly on social media after his farcical decision victory over Romero, Adesanya has surely won back the casual audience after his striking clinic over a very loud opponent. A rematch with Robert Whittaker will eventually take place, but most likely before then, a fight with Jared Cannonier or even… Jack Hermansson (please, please, please)!
Paulo Costa – A loss would have been an extremely humbling pill to swallow for the outspoken Brazilian. Such a humbling, however, leaves Costa in a precarious position. Having lost much of the goodwill of the casual crowd, Costa will need a flashy victory to regain their support. Hardcore fans will still tune in to watch the juicy sloot throw high octane hands against any of the Middleweight threats. Dereck Brunson or Kelvin Gastelum would be fun opportunities for all men involved.
Kai Kara-France vs Brandon Royval (Royal def. Kara-France // Submission Round 2 0:48)
It is always a pleasure to see the little guys prove Dana White wrong and put on a galvanising spectacle. Whether the Flyweight division will survive White’s wrath is still uncertain, but fights like Kara-France and Royval gives the division the best possible chance to remain. Kai entered the bout as the far more accomplished and regarded striker. It was Royval, however, who push the paced from the get-go. Royval’s imposing figure looked a weight class above Kai, and he pressed his opponent back against the octagon by throwing body and head kicks. Kai’s natural counter-striking game was enabled by Royval, as Kai had to make no effort to close the distance himself. Dropped with a hard counter right after lingering in the pocket, Royval pulled out the Uno reverse card after he connected on a spinning elbow while retreating. With both men dropped and wobbled for the remainder of the fight, a back and forth scrambling affair occurred.
Royval’s submission game is truly entertaining, constantly searching for the finish with a diverse arsenal of chokes. Armbar, Neck Crank, Rear-Naked Choke and Guillotines galore, Royval refused to let up on Kai. To his credit, Kara-France valiantly defended many of the submission attempts with as much technical ability as heart. Despite falling to a guillotine choke in the second round, being submitted by Royval is not a shameful result. Moreover, Kai had likely not recovered from the hellbow he received in the first.
The future for both men:
Kai Kara-France – A tough loss to swallow for Kai after trying to rebuild from his decision loss to Brandon Moreno. No doubt Kai is certified UFC quality, but questions do remain over his ceiling. A loss to Royval will eventually look less damning if (or when) Royval goes on an extended tear-up of the Flyweight division. David Dvořák would be a fun fight for both men.
Brandon Royval – Royval’s striking intensity was a nice addition to his game, but his striking defence need to be sharper against the harder hitters of the division i.e. Deiveson Figgy-Pudding. Brandon Moreno is the next big step-up in the rankings (and now confirmed), but a fight with Askar Askaraov would have been a more sensible step-up in quality.
1 – Completely Amateur (Regional Can)
5 – Average calibre (Feeder League Elite)
10 – Prodigious (GOAT).
N/A – Categories that weren’t touched upon during the fight.
Sexy 1300 x 1013 Breakdown
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Prospect Watch: Juan Espino
Veteran Schooling: Jan Błachowicz TKO Dominick Reyes
Biggest Surprise: Jan Błachowicz TKO Dominick Reyes
Fight of the Night: Kai Kara-France vs Brandon Royval
Finish of the Night: Israel Adesanya TKO Paulo Costa
Take-away comments: Espino is a weird ‘prospect’ as he is thirty-nine years old lol. BUT, he does not have a lot of miles on his body and he is in the most forgiving divsion in regards to age. It is just nice to have a submission specialist in a division for sluggers.