Dubai: Fireworks are guaranteed as the UFC returns to Fight Island on Saturday for UFC 253, a blockbuster card featuring two major title fights that kick-start five weeks of blistering MMA action at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
The main event is a monument middleweight clash between New Zealand’s Israel Adesanya and Brazil’s Paulo Costa, which marks the first time since 2009 that two unbeaten fighters have clashed in a title fight, The last time was when Rashad Evans lost his light heavyweight title to Lyoto Machida.
The co-main event features a clash for the vacant light heavyweight championship between American Dominick Reyes (12-1-0) and Poland’s Jan Blachowicz (26-8-0). The title was recently vacated by Jon Jones as he moves up to the heavyweight division.
Let’s take a look at all five fights scheduled for the main card from the first event in the UFC’s return to Fight Island.
Nigeria-born Adesanya was an accomplished and stealthy kick-boxer in the mould of boxing’s Floyd Mayweather who transitioned to MMA in 2017 and has found no match since his UFC debut in February 2018. He is the reigning middleweight champion and has won four Performance of the Night and two Fight of the Night bonuses worth $50,000 each in his eight UFC fights.
Costa is no slouch as 11 opponents have found out after having had their lights knocked out by the attacking Brazilian. Costa, who looks more like a heavyweight with his muscle mass, boasts a 5-0 record in the UFC with four knockouts.
The open dislike the two men harbour for each other adds another dimension to a fight that has the potential to bring the house down at Fight Island’s purpose-built arena on Saturday.
Prior to the main event, Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz face-off in a light heavyweight title blockbuster.
Reyes will be looking to bounce back following his controversial loss to Jon Jones at UFC 247 in February. Prior to that loss, Reyes was unbeaten in 12 professional fights where he finished his opponent on all but three occasions.
Blachowicz is a veteran campaigner who has found a new life in the Octagon scoring seven wins in his eight most recent fights including notable wins over former champion Luke Rockhold and Corey Anderson.
UFC 253 also features an intriguing women’s bantamweight clash between Brazil’s No. 7 ranked Ketlen Vieira and the No. 15 ranked American Sijara Eubanks.
Vieira will be seeking redemption following her first career loss to Irene Aldana in December, a defeat that snapped her 10-fight winning streak which included six explosive finishes, and a decision win over former star Cat Zingano.
Eubanks scored back-to-back wins on her UFC debut and enters Saturday fight with two-fight winning streak.
UFC 253 fight card
Live on UFC Arabia
Middleweight Israel Adesanya v Paulo Costa
Light-heavyweight Dominick Reyes v Jan Błachowicz
Flyweight Kai Kara-France v Brandon Royval
Bantamweight Ketlen Vieira v Sijara Eubanks
Featherweight Hakeem Dawodu v Zubaira Tukhugov
Lightweight Brad Riddell v Alex da Silva
Welterweight Diego Sanchez v Jake Matthews
Featherweight Shane Young v Ludovít Klein
Light-heavyweight William Knight v Aleksa Camur
Heavyweight Juan Espino v Jeff Hughes
Light-heavyweight Khadis Ibragimov v Danilo Marques