Israel Adesanya proved he is here to stay as UFC middleweight champion after his two-round dismantling of Brazil’s Paulo Costa at UFC 253 on “Fight Island” Saturday night.
With plenty of bad blood shared between both men going into the event, Adesanya displayed controlled aggression as he picked Costa apart over two rounds before ending the bout in spectacular style.
In the co-main event, Jan Blachowicz upset the bookmakers’ odds when he knocked out Dominick Reyes to win the vacant UFC light heavyweight championship.
The Pole looked totally at ease as his aggressive style unsettled Reyes, before scoring the knockout win in the second round and UFC gold to boot.
We will take the night’s performances into consideration and give our picks for the best five fights that should be made as a result of UFC 253.
Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker or Jared Cannonier
If you weren’t a believer in Israel Adesanya before Saturday night, the Nigerian-born Kiwi made it clear that he will be the man to beat at 185 pounds for some time to come at UFC 253.
The unbeaten kickboxer-turned-mixed martial artist ended Paulo Costa’s UFC title dreams in less than nine minutes and managed to show his striking game is levels above in that limited timeframe.
Former UFC champion Robert Whittaker, the man Adesanya beat to assume his role as middleweight king, is all set to face Jared Cannonier at UFC 254 on 24th October.
It’s already being considered a title contender bout, with Adesanya saying he hopes Cannonier wins so he can attempt at overcoming a whole new test in the Octagon.
Whittaker got over his loss to Adesanya with a five-round decision win over Darren Till in July, so his fight with Cannonier is a quick turnaround for a fighter who has battled health issues and has been limited to just five fights since 2016.
The Aussie looked sharp against Till and seems to be in a better frame of mind to take on the Adesanya challenge for a second time.
Cannonier has looked like a man on a mission since moving to middleweight. The former heavyweight has wreaked havoc on the division since his move down in weight in 2018.
His run at 185 pounds has seen him earn TKO wins over former WSOF champion David Branch, legendary UFC champion Anderson Silva and top contender Jack Hermansson.
Jan Blachowicz vs. Thiago Santos or Glover Teixeira
Jan Blachowicz became one of the most unexpected UFC champions at UFC 253, but that’s not to say the Polish power striker hasn’t earned his spot at the top.
Blachowicz battered Dominick Reyes to assume the UFC light heavyweight throne of Jon Jones, punctuating his impressive run of form of four victories in a row and eight wins from nine Octagon outings.
The last loss Blachowicz endured was to former UFC title challenger Thiago Santos and it’s expected that the Brazilian will earn contender status once again if he can get past compatriot Glover Teixeira on 7 November.
Apart from his loss to then-champion Jon Jones at UFC 239, Santos has been a wrecking machine at light heavyweight since moving up a division.
“Marreta” boasts knockout wins over Eryk Anders, Jimi Manuwa and that aforementioned Blachowicz victory since his debut at 205 pounds.
His opponent is on a hot streak of his own. Another victim of Jones in a title fight, Teixeira has racked up four wins on the bounce since 2019.
Those successes over Karl Roberson, Ion Cutelaba, Nikita Krylov and former championship challenger Anthony Smith has rightly propelled the veteran into the title picture.
While I would expect Blachowicz to welcome the challenge Teixeira poses in the cage, it would make sense if Blachowicz would rather face Santos for a second time to erase his loss in February, 2019.
Paulo Costa vs. Darren Till or Jack Hermansson
Paulo Costa came up short in his first attempt at snatching UFC gold from the clutches of Israel Adesanya, but the Brazilian has plenty of ability and time on his side to put together another run at the title.
A win over the victor of the upcoming bout pitting Darren Till against Jack Hermansson would certainly reinsert his name in top contender talk.
Till and Hermansson are set to square off in December as this pair of scrappy Europeans vie for bragging rights in an increasingly competitive UFC middleweight division.
Dominick Reyes vs. Aleksandar Rakic
After coming so close to being the first man to truly defeat Jon Jones for his UFC light heavyweight championship, falling at the last hurdle against Jan Blachowicz for the vacant title must have hurt Dominick Reyes. That, and the nasty broken nose he suffered to his opponent’s “Polish Power”.
Knowing “The Devastator”, Reyes will want to get back into the Octagon to right those wrongs ASAP.
Serbian-Austrian Aleksandar Rakic is a light heavyweight on the rise and is looking for the opponent which will propel him up the UFC rankings.
Rakic is coming off an impressive win over former UFC title challenger Anthony Smith in August, and this match-up between two entertaining strikers will garner plenty of interest.
Brandon Royval vs. Jussier Formiga
In the third fight from top of UFC 253’s billing, Brandon Royval really impressed in his back-and-forth submission victory over New Zealand’s Kai Kara-France.
Royval showed grit and skill before snatching that guillotine choke against Kara-France, but a flyweight like Jussier Formiga could provide a different kind of test for the former LFA champion.
Formiga will also look at Royval as the kind of opponent that could rebuild his career at 125 pounds.
The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu expert has come up short in his last three Octagon appearances, losing out to top-ranked opponents in Joe Benavidez, Brandon Moreno and Alex Perez.
On the other side, a Royval victory over Formiga will make the rest of his 125-pound peers stand up and take notice.