The UFC kicks off their second stint at “Fight Island” on Saturday night with an 11-fight pay-per-view card. Headlining the evening is a clash of two undefeated fighters, as UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya is booked against Paulo Costa.
Here’s a preview of Saturday night’s action.
Early Preliminary Card (7:00PM EDT / 3:00AM GST) (ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass)
Bout 1: Khadis Ibragimov (8-3) vs. Danilo Marques (9-2) (Light Heavyweight)
Kicking off the evening is a two-fight series of fights under the “Early Prelims” banner. Danilo Marques will step in for his UFC debut when he faces Khadis Ibragimov. Marques has been somewhat absent from the sport, with his most recent fight being an early 2018 win over Cleiton Caetano, capturing the Gladiator CF Middleweight Championship in the process.
The fight is Ibragimov’s fourth attempt at picking up a UFC win. Entering the promotion in 2019 as the former M-1 Light Heavyweight Champion, Ibragimov lost bouts to Da Un Jung, Ed Herman and Roman Dolidze.
Bout 2: Jeff Hughes (10-3) vs. Juan Espino (9-1) (Heavyweight)
Juan Espino will end his extended layoff from fighting when he faces Jeff Hughes on Saturday. He last competed in November of 2018, winning season 28 of “The Ultimate Fighter” by defeating Justin Frazier.
Hughes has yet to win in the UFC, as his three appearances have been two losses and one no contest. His last fight was in October of 2019, dropping a decision to Raphael Pessoa.
Preliminary Card (8:00PM EDT / 4:00AM GST) (ESPN 2 / TSN 5)
Bout 3: William Knight (8-1) vs. Aleksa Camur (6-0) (Light Heavyweight)
The third bout will see two products of TV series “Dana White’s Contender Series” face off. Aleksa Camur, still undefeated, earned a UFC contract in 2019 with a victory over Fabio Cherant. He made his UFC debut last January, picking up a decision win against Justin Ledet.
Knight earned his UFC contract this month, defeating Cody Brundage on September 1st. He had previously fought on the 2019 season of the show, being signed to a developmental contract following a win over Hedem Alacabek.
Bout 4: Shane Young (13-4) vs. Ludovit Klein (16-2) (Featherweight)
Shane Young will look for his third UFC win when he faces Ludovit Klein on the prelims. Young’s last fight was in early 2019, earning a decision win over Austin Arnett at UFC 234. His previous fight was a 2018 victory over Rolando Dy. The win was a bounce back from his promotional debut in 2017, losing to now-UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski.
Klein carries a seven-fight streak of wins into the cage with him, with five of the fights ending in a finish.
Klein missed weight for the fight, coming in four pounds over the non-championship featherweight limit.
Bout 5: Diego Sanchez (30-12) vs. Jake Matthews (16-4) (Welterweight)
UFC veteran Diego Sanchez will fight on the prelims, taking on Jake Matthews. Sanchez won his last fight, although it came due to his opponent, Michel Pereira, landing an illegal knee. Prior to the win he dropped a decision to Michael Chiesa in July of 2019.
Matthews will look for his third-straight win in the fight, with his previous victories in the streak having come against Rostem Akman and Emil Weber Meek.
Sanchez is a heavy underdog for the fight, with sportsbooks listing him around the +500 range.
Bout 6: Brad Riddell (8-1) vs. Alex da Silva (21-2) (Lightweight)
The prelims finishes with a lightweight bout between Brad Riddell and Alex da Silva. Riddell is on a five-fight streak of wins which dates back to before his UFC run. He made his promotional debut last October, defeating Jamie Mullarkey at UFC 243. He has returned once since then, defeating Magomed Mustafaev via split decision last February.
Da Silva returns to action after his first UFC win. Bouncing back from his debut loss, da Silva defeated Rodrigo Vargas in August of 2019.
Main Card (10:00PM EDT / 6:00AM GST) (PPV)
Bout 7: Hakeem Dawodu (11-1-1) vs. Zubaira Tukhugov (19-4-1) (Featherweight)
Rising featherweight Hakeem Dawodu will face Zubaira Tukhugov in the first bout of the five-fight pay-per-view card. Dawodu has won his last four fights. His sole loss in his career was his UFC debut in early 2018.
Tukhugov got back in the win column following a loss and a draw in February, stopping Kevin Aguilar in the first round.]
Tukhugov missed weight for the featherweight contest, coming in four pounds over the non-championship limit.
Bout 8: Ketlen Vieira (10-1) vs. Sijara Eubanks (6-4) (Bantamweight)
Returning only days after her last win, Sijara Eubanks will fight Ketlen Vieira on the main card of Saturday’s show. She takes the place of Marion Reneau, who was pulled from the card due to injury.
Vieira will attempt to bounce back from a loss for the first time in her career with the fight. Her last fight was in December, being stopped late in the first round by Irene Aldana. She previously had 10 wins as a pro, including four in the UFC.
Bout 9: Kai Kara-France (21-8) vs. Brandon Royval (11-4) (Flyweight)
Returning after his UFC debut last May, Brandon Royval will fight Kai Kara-France in the third-highest slot of a pay-per-view card. Royval, a former LFA Flyweight Champion, broke into the UFC recently with an arm triangle choke win over Tim Elliott.
Kara-France looks to be a tough opponent, as he has picked up a strong resume in the flyweight division. His last win was in February, defeating Tyson Nam via decision. The win was his fourth in the UFC and a bounce back from his sole UFC loss, which came against Brandon Moreno.
Bout 10: Dominick Reyes (12-1) vs. Jan Blachowicz (26-8) (Vacant UFC Light Heavyweight Championship)
The co-main event looks to open a new chapter in the light heavyweight division, as Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz will compete for the vacant 205-pound belt.
While legal and drug testing issues often interrupted his reign, the light heavyweight division was very much controlled by Jon Jones from 2011 to 2020. That reign seemingly ended recently, as Jones dropped the belt in hopes to move up to heavyweight.
Reyes is the last person who fought Jones and was a good challenge for him. Reyes was so much of a challenger that many argued he won the bout that Jones was favoured in on the scorecards.
The loss was the first of Reyes’ 13-fight MMA career. He previously had six wins in the UFC, including victories over Jared Cannonier, Volkan Oezdemir, Chris Weidman and Ovince St. Preux.
Blachowicz finds himself in a championship position following a strong run of victories from 2017 to 2020. Heading into late 2017, Blachowicz had lost four of his last five fights. He ended this pattern, stringing together four wins from 2017 to 2018. After a loss to Thiago Santos in early 2019, Blachowicz put together three more wins including a win last February over Corey Anderson.
Bout 11: Israel Adesanya (19-0) vs. Paulo Costa (13-0) (UFC Middleweight Championship)
In the main event of the show, Israel Adesanya will put his UFC Middleweight Championship on the line against Paulo Costa. The matchup sees a rare collision of two undefeated fighters, something you would see more in boxing than MMA.
The speed that Adesanya was sprung up to a championship level at in the UFC cannot be stressed enough. While some cases show that throwing a fighter up the rankings quickly is bad, Adesanya never slowed down with his success as the challengers grew larger.
Adesanya officially became champion on October 5th, stopping Robert Whittaker at UFC 243 in the second round. He has since defended his belt once, winning a decision over Yoel Romero last March at UFC 248.
Adesanya’s opponent, Costa, has had a short yet impactful stint in the UFC. Through five fights, Costa has remained undefeated and finished four of his opponents. His most recent fight, which happened in August of 2019, was a victory over Yoel Romero. The win showcased his ability to give and take a punch, fighting in a hectic three-round matchup.
Knockdown News will have live coverage of UFC 253 on Saturday night.