The UFC kicks off its return to Fight Island with the UFC 253. The big event takes place this Saturday in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, in the continuation of events without fans in attendance due to the corona virus. Israel Adesanya defends his middleweight title against Paulo Costa in a much-anticipated grudge match in the headliner, while Dominick Reyes battles Jan Blachowicz for the vacant light heavyweight title. MMA Viking cast their eye over another top-class fight card with their betting preview and tips for UFC 253.
UFC 253 Pelim Card Betting Tips
A light heavyweight bout opens the early prelims as Danilo Marques makes his UFC debut against Khadis Ibragimov. Marques is on a two-fight winning streak and despite Ibragimov currently undergoing a three-fight losing skid since debuting for the promotion, the Russian is a slight betting favorite over the Brazilian.
Juan Espino returns to action for the first time since November 2018 when he meets Jeff Hughes in a heavyweight encounter. The Spaniard -- a winner of his last seven outings -- should be hopeful of his chances against Hughes, who is yet to win in the UFC in three attempts.
More light heavyweight action is on show as unbeaten 24-year-old prospect Aleksa Camur faces William Knight. Camur is coming off a unanimous decision win over Justin Ledet while Knight, 31, is coming off his second win in Dana White's Contender Series following a TKO win over Cody Brundage earlier this month. Oddsmakers favor Camur.
Featherweights collide as Shane Young meets Ludovit Klein. Young is on a two-fight winning streak and is 2-1 in the UFC with his only loss coming to featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski back in November 2017.
The one and only Diego Sanchez will look to make it four wins in five when he faces Australia’s Jake Matthews in welterweight action. Sanchez returned to the win column after earning a disqualification victory over Michel Pereira back in February. Matthews is on a two-fight winning streak and has won five of his last six with his most recent outing being a unanimous decision win over Emil Meek. Expect the 26-year-old to make it three in a row against the aging and slowing Sanchez.
Brad Riddell will look to continue his rise in the lightweight division when he faces Alex da Silva Coelho. Riddell is coming off a split decision win over the always-tough Magomed Mustafaev which followed his war against Jamie Mullarkey in his UFC debut last October. Da Silva Coelho, meanwhile, earned his first UFC win by outpointing Rodrigo Vargas in August last year. Despite an impressive 21-2 record for the Brazilian, oddsmakers are heavily favoring Riddell to go 3-0 in the UFC.
UFC 253 Main Card Betting Tips
Hakeem Dawodu (11-1-1) vs. Zubaira Tukhugov (19-4-1)
Exciting Canadian prospect Hakeem Dawodu is looking to make it five wins in a row in the UFC when he takes on Zubaira Tukhugov in a featherweight bout. Dawodu is coming off a split decision victory over Julio Arce in November last year.
Tukhugov, meanwhile, last enjoyed a TKO win over Kevin Aguilar in February earlier this year and having only suffered one defeat in his last 12 outings, the experienced Russian -- who trains with Khabib Nurmagomedov -- will prove a stern test for Dawodu. It’s no surprise to see Tukhugov be a slight favorite over Dawodu.
Ketlen Vieira (10-1) vs. Sijara Eubanks (7-4)
There is women’s bantamweight action in store as Ketlen Vieira faces Sijara Eubanks. Vieira is coming off her first career defeat after suffering an emphatic knockout at the hands of Irene Aldana in December last year.
She will undoubtedly be looking to return to the win column with a bang and climb her way back to title contention. Eubanks, meanwhile, is on a two-fight winning streak following decision victories over Sarah Moras and Julia Avila. Eubanks has always shown to be durable so expect Vieira to outpoint her.
Kai Kara-France (21-8, 1NC) vs. Brandon Royval (11-4)
Kai Kara France will be seeking a new winning streak when he faces Brandon Royval in flyweight action. Kara France returned to the win column with a unanimous decision win over Tyson Nam in February after suffering his first UFC defeat against Brandon Moreno in December.
In total, the New Zealander is 4-1 with the UFC. Royval, meanwhile, enjoyed a successful UFC debut when he submitted Tim Elliot in May. Despite Royval being on a three-fight winning streak, Kara France is more experienced and has faced better competition overall so all signs point to him winning his fifth outing with the promotion.
Dominick Reyes (12-1) vs. Jan Blachowicz (26-8) - Light Heavyweight Title Fight
There will be a new light heavyweight king when Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz battle for the vacant title. Reyes is coming off a razor-thin unanimous decision defeat -- his first career setback -- to former champion Jon Jones in a bout many believe he should have won. With “Bones” now focused on heavyweight, it is Reyes time to try and capture gold again.
The American should be extremely confident of his chances given his showing against one of the pound-for-pound greats in Jones. Blachowicz has also been impressive in recent years as he is coming off a knockout win over Corey Anderson and has won seven of his last eight outings.
Given the styles of both fighters, this should be a largely striking affair and one Reyes should fancy his chances in given his height and reach advantage. And while there is always a chance of Blachowicz catching him with his Polish power or trying to get take-downs, the oddsmakers see Reyes getting the win, which is the safest play here.
Israel Adesanya (19-0) vs. Paulo Costa (13-0) - Middleweight Title Fight
The beef will finally be settled when Israel Adesanya defends his middleweight title against Paulo Costa in a highly-anticipated grudge match. Adesanya remains undefeated and despite a drab unanimous decision win over Yoel Romero in his last title defense back in March, the kickboxer has been very impressive otherwise in his UFC career.
Costa is also undefeated but has faced far less competition than Adesanya. That said, the Brazilian had perhaps the most impressive win over Romero than any other fighter in the UFC. Now he is recovered from shoulder surgery and ready to take the next step toward the title.
Given Costa’s style of pressuring and brawling against Adesanya’s distance management and counter-striking, this is guaranteed to be an explosive matchup. The first few rounds will be crucial as if Costa isn’t able to put Adesanya away. Moving forward against “The Last Stylebender” is a dangerous game.
The Nigerian born fighter is faster and has a more dynamic attack and at some point in the bout should be able to put together a flurry of punches and kick to stop Costa. I like a play on a finish with Adesanya keeping his belt.
About Ryan O’Leary
Ryan O’Leary is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist and commentator. The Swedish-based writer is the founder and editor at MMAViking.com, which is the premier source for Nordic mixed martial arts news since 2008.