The UFC has touched down on Fight Island, and Saturday night sees UFC 253 take center stage for the promotion's second stint in Abu Dhabi. September's marquee event is headlined by a pair of championship fights, with middleweight champion Israel Adesanya meeting Paulo Costa in the main event after months of trash talk and posturing. The two undefeated rivals will throw down to close the show from Flash Forum on Yas Island.
In the co-main event, Dominick Reyes will battle Jan Blachowicz for the vacant light heavyweight championship. Reyes should, in the eyes of many, already be the 205-pound champion, but came up on the wrong side of the scorecards against Jon Jones in February. Blachowicz punched his ticket to the title shot with a three-fight winning streak, capped off by a knockout of Corey Anderson in their February rematch.
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Also on the card is a legend of the sport making perhaps one of his final walks to the Octagon in Diego Sanchez. Sanchez, who competed on the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter" TV show, will faces Jake Matthews at welterweight. Matthews has won five of his last six while Sanchez is 3-1 since 2018. Though, his last win over Michel Pereira came via disqualification for an illegal knee. That fight will take place on the preliminary card.
Buckle up, it's going to be a wild ride. Let's take a closer look at the rest of the card with the latest odds from William Hill Sportsbook.
UFC 253 fight card, odds
- Israel Adesanya (c) -175 vs. Paulo Costa +150, middleweight title
- Dominick Reyes -280 vs. Jan Blachowicz +230, vacant light heavyweight title
- Kai Kara-France -240 vs. Brandon Rovyal +200, flyweights
- Ketlen Viera -190 vs. Sijara Eubanks +145, women's bantamweights
- Zubaira Tukhugov -120 vs. Hakeem Dawodu +100, featherweights
- Jake Matthews -700 vs. Diego Sanchez +500, welterweights
- Brad Riddell -330 vs. Alex da Silva +260, lightweights
- Shane Young -125 vs. Ludovit Klein +105, featherweights
- Aleksa Camur -165 vs. William Knight +140, light heavyweights
- Juan Espino -300 vs. Jeff Hughes +240, heavyweights
- Khadis Ibragimov -160 vs. Danilo Marques +135, light heavyweights
With such a massive main event on tap, the crew at CBS Sports went ahead with predictions and picks for the main card. Here are your pick makers: Brent Brookhouse (Combat sports writer), Brian Campbell (Combat sports writer), Matthew Coca (producer), Jack Crosby (editor) and Michael Mormile (producer).
UFC 253 picks
|Adesanya (c) vs. Costa||Adesanya||Adesanya||Costa||Adesanya||Adesanya|
|Reyes vs. Blachowicz||Reyes||Reyes||Reyes||Reyes||Reyes|
|Kara-France vs. Royval||Royval||Royval||Kara-France||Royval||Kara-France|
|Viera vs. Eubanks||Eubanks||Viera||Viera||Viera||Viera|
|Tukhugov vs. Dawodu||Tukhugov||Dawodu||Dawodu||Tukhugov||Tukhugov|
Campbell on why Adesanya will win: This much-anticipated title bout is just about guaranteed to be a war as Adesanya plays the matador to Costa's bull. Provided the champion can survive the early and nonstop onslaught of Costa, it's hard to imagine the Brazilian slugger being as dangerous in the championship rounds. That's a big if, of course. But luckily for Adesanya, he has the life-and-death experience against Kelvin Gastelum to let him know he can get there.
Brookhouse on why Adesanya will win: Adesanya's fight with Yoel Romero was a weird byproduct of Adesanya wanting to throw counters, Romero not engaging much to allow it to happen and turning into an ugly stalemate. Costa will have no reservations about coming forward and letting his hands go. That, however, is where Adesanya thrives, with his ability to slip shots and land crisp, fight-ending counters. Costa could absolutely catch Adesanya with his own big shot for a KO, but Adesanya's technique gives him the edge.
Campbell on why Reyes will win: Reyes seemed to deserve better than the close unanimous decision he received against former champion Jon Jones. Because of how well Reyes fought against possibly the greatest fighter in the sport's history, it has started to feel like a formality that he will capture the vacant title. As long as Reyes retains the proper respect for Blachowicz's power and understands that it may take five full rounds for him to earn the title, look for him to get there. Yes, Blachowicz can make him pay should Reyes make a mistake. He will need to be smart and efficient to get the job done.
Brookhouse on why Reyes will win: Not to take anything away from Blachowicz, who is deserving of this spot, but this feels like Reyes' fight to lose. Reyes should, without a doubt, be the undefeated light heavyweight champion of the world right now, holding the single most impressive victory in the UFC by becoming the first man with a legitimate win over Jon Jones. But judging is a funny thing, and now he gets a consolation prize after Jones moved up to heavyweight. We've seen that Blachowicz is a beatable fighter, which doesn't mean he will lose to Reyes, but Reyes is a dynamic, skilled fighter beyond anyone Blachowicz has ever been able to beat.
Who will win Adesanya vs. Costa, and how will each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on every fight at UFC 253, all from the incomparable expert who's up almost $20,000 on MMA in the past 20 months and nailed 20 of the last 24 main events.