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UFC 253: Best bets for Adesanya-Costa

By Reed Kuhn  () 

USATSI_14157343

Main event: Israel Adesanya -170 vs. Paulo Costa + 150 (middleweight)

It’s a battle of young, undefeated phenoms in a division that has experienced a rapid rotation of champions. The incumbent champ, Israel Adesanya, has never been an underdog in his UFC career and won’t be Saturday. However, his price will be one of the most affordable we’ve seen for him on his perfect streak. 

Neither he nor Paulo Costa has ever landed an offensive takedown in the octagon, so we should expect a standing duel. It pits Adesanya’s elusiveness against Costa’s aggressive style of brawling. Costa is willing to eat punches on his way to landing damage, which usually works for him. But it’s all the more reason to expect Adesanya’s massive reach advantage to aid him in a high-movement, counterstriking strategy. For two guys who normally deliver fantastic finishes, we might actually get to see them fight it out for several rounds.

Pick is Adesanya “and still.” Over 2.5 rounds.

Co-main event: Dominick Reyes -275 vs. Jan Blachowicz + 235 (light heavyweight)

It’s the first of two title fights on the night and the first time in a long while that a league-compliant Jon Jones is not the presumed champ. Dominick Reyes was the last man to challenge Jones for the light-heavyweight title, and he surprised some by winning the early rounds against the champ. 

While the late-career surge Jan Blachowicz has displayed is certainly impressive, it was pieced together on the back of taking on some opponents past their prime or at least not known for durability. Reyes is much younger and more resilient, and his offense is technical enough to have beaten Jones for at least 10 minutes. Blachowicz will of course have the puncher’s chance, but it’s unlikely he can win a five-rounder, and at some point his durability will start to fade.

Lean is Reyes, but his price can’t climb much further. Fight does Not Go to Decision.

Ketlen Vieira -170 vs. Sijara Eubanks + 150 (women’s bantamweight)

This matchup has been slapped together after an ongoing rotation of late fight replacements and fight card swaps. Ketlen Vieira, in theory, has been ready to go for weeks, having been slated for several cards dating back to July. Having just lost her most recent opponent last week, she will now face Sijara Eubanks on short notice. Since opening as a bigger favorite, Vieira’s price has become more affordable. 

Vieira has faced stiffer competition, and while Eubanks is known for athleticism and grappling, Vieira’s record includes more impressive submissions and wins over physically strong (and highly ranked) opposition. The numbers give Vieira the edge in a fight that could see lots of ground scrambles.

Pick is Vieira at moneyline prices, assuming she stays under -200.

Zubaira Tukhugov -115 vs. Hakeem Dawodu -105 (featherweight)

Featherweights will open the pay-per-view portion of the card, and the matchup is even enough that we could see the odds flip more than once by fight night. Hakeem Dawodu has a wealth of Muay Thai striking experience, but in the octagon his stats don’t show technical superiority. He has above-average accuracy and a very high pace but below-average defense. That’s despite having one of the longer reaches in the division. 

Zubaira Tukhugov is the same age, durable and with solid striking defense. Though he’ll give up the reach differential, he is much more likely to try to take the fight down. By closing the distance, he’ll nullify the busy long-range striking of Dawodu. 

Lean is Tukhugov, especially if he’s at pick-’em odds or plus money.

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