Adesanya Retains Title, Knocks Out Costa in Virtuoso Performance

Jenn Connor
BarnBurner Sports Writer


Sunday, September 27, 2020

In an outstanding display of speed and power, Israel Adesanya retained his middleweight title with a second round knockout of previously unbeaten challenger Paulo Costa at the UFC 253 main event at Fight Island, Abu Dhabi Saturday night.


It was clear from the outset that Adesanya’s speed was going to be a problem for Costa. The champion landed lightning fast leg kicks almost at will in the opening round, and amid gamesmanship from both fighters in the opening stanza Adesanya easily had the advantage. 


Costa tried to press forward in the second round only to be met by a series of stiff jabs from the champion.  Adesanya, showing the depth of his arsenal, then landed a swift leg kick that struck Costa on the side of his head, opening a cut and leaving the challenger somewhat dazed.  Adesanya, seizing the opportunity, floored Costa with a right and after a vicious flurry of ground and pound referee Jason Herzog jumped in, ending the bout with just over a minute remaining in the round. 


The clinical performance by Adesanya, now 20-0, raises questions as to what lies ahead in the division.  Robert Whittaker, who Adesanya has already beaten squares off against veteran Jared Cannonier and Adesanya indicated that should Cannonier prevail he would be deserving of a title shot.  Beyond that it would appear that legitimate contenders are few and far between. 


In a stunning co- main event, Jan Blachowicz knocked out number one ranked contender Dominick Reyes in the second round to capture the  light heavyweight title vacated by Jon Jones.  


Reyes, who lost a controversial split decision to Jones in February 2019,  came into this one favoured to lay claim to the belt many thought should have already been his.  It was clear from the opening round that Blachowicz was not going to cooperate and that he had plans of his own.  


Both fighters started cautiously, each respecting the other’s power.   Reyes caught Blachowicz with a left early in the opening round but Blachowicz responded, landing a vicious kick that caused visible bruising and swelling on Reyes’ right side.  Blachowicz was the busier fighter and with an edge in significant strikes had the edge in round one.  


Reyes came out more aggressively in the second round, but with less than a minute remaining,  Blachowicz caught Reyes with a chopping left hook to the right temple, sending Reyes staggering backwards to the canvas.  Blachowicz pounced on Reyes and landed some heavy blows but referee Kevin Sataki had seen enough, stopping the fight at 4:36.  


The undisputed light heavyweight champion quickly called out Jones after the fight and there is no doubt that a Blachowicz/Jones bout would be one fans would love to see.  


In the opener of the main card, Canadian featherweight Hakeem Dawadu earned a split decision over Zubaira Tukhugov.  The Alberta native enjoyed a 69-35 advantage in significant strikes and was clearly the fresher fighter in the final round, imploring Tukhugov to meet him in the middle of the ring to settle the matter.  Tukhugov however continued to retreat, looking fatigued, Dawadu easily winning the round and deserving of the decision. 


In a lively women’s bantamweight tilt, Ketlen Viera utilized a strong ground attack and effective counterpunching to capture a split decision over Sijara Eubanks  Eubanks struggled to defend Viera’s takedown attempts in the first two rounds, which likely put her down two heading to the final five minutes.  Eubanks enjoyed greater success in the final frame, landing a head kick and some heavy overhand rights that likely won her the round but it wasn’t enough.  


Kai Kara France and Brandon Royval had a first round to remember in their flyweight scrap. France floored Royval early with a right hand and Royval, barely able to get to his feet somehow had the presence of mind to land a vicious spinning elbow that landed flush on France’s jaw.  Royval followed up, knocking France to the canvas with a knee strike and then ate some heavy shots in return as France got back to his feet.  The end to this one came early in the second round, Royval successfully applying a guillotine choke to force France to tap. 


The UFC remains at Fight Island for their next event, the headliner a women’s bantamweight bout between Holly Holm and Irene Aldana next Saturday night.