Israel Adesanya expertly picked apart Paulo Costa to retain his middleweight title and extend his perfect professional record to 20-0 at UFC 253 in Abu Dhabi.
The event marked a return to ‘UFC Fight Island’ and Adesanya made a second successful defence of his crown by finishing the previously undefeated Brazilian via a second-round TKO.
Yas Island has been transformed into an isolation bubble for fighters, teams and media for a five-event run, and the first show of the promotion’s second stint also saw a new champion crowned in the co-main event as Poland’s Jan Blachowicz won the vacant light heavyweight title.
In the main event, Adesanya, 31, focused much of his attack on Costa’s lead leg in the first round, connecting with 15 leg kicks inside the opening five minutes, while the Brazilian was more patient than some expected.
However, the fighters continuously exchanged comments as they attempted to goad each other into an early mistake.
Adesanya’s leg attack continued through round two as the Nigerian-born New Zealander masterfully controlled the range and picked off Costa, 29, almost at will, with the Brazilian struggling to land anything of substance.
Then, as an increasingly frustrated Costa looked to close the distance, Adesanya struck and dropped the hulking Brazilian with a counter right, then finished his man with ground strikes after three minutes, 59 seconds.
“Too easy,” exclaimed UFC commentators Jon Anik and Paul Felder as former kickboxing star Adesanya sealed his ninth straight UFC win to further cement his status as the world’s premier 185lb fighter.
while the man himself said he proved his naysayers wrong after he received criticism from some quarters following his lacklustre display against Cuba’s Yoel Romero in his previous appearance at UFC 248 in March.
“You all must have forgot. I have to make you remember, we’re the best,” said Adesanya, referring the criticism he received from some quarters following his lacklustre display against Cuba’s Yoel Romero in his previous appearance in March.
He then stated he would like to face Jared Cannonier in his next title defence, if the American can defeat former champion Robert Whittaker in their fight at UFC 254 on 24 October.
“Anderson Silva lived a great legacy and I want to do service to the middleweight division,” he said. “Jared Cannonier, I love his energy, he’s a beautiful man. I said, ‘You destroy Robert Whittaker, you’re next.'”