Annnnnd breathe. Well UFC 253 certainly lived up to all expectations and then some. A Middleweight masterclass. A new king in the Light Heavyweight division. Some brilliant performances from the UFC’s lesser-known prospects. And of course, a bit of controversy along the way.
So let’s not waste any time and dive into this week’s biggest winners and losers.
Winners: Israel Adesanya
Israel Adesanya has the rare ability to leave me speechless, while simultaneously making me want to talk about him for hours. After all the hype, and bad blood it was time to perform. And to say Adesanya performed would be the understatement of the year.
Watching ‘The Last Stylebender’ is like watching fight porn, and not just because of his controversial post-fight celebration. He’s been in the UFC for less than three years, and is already the second-best Middleweight of all time, in my opinion at least.
Anderson Silva’s legacy will be hard to top, but when you’re as composed and confident as Adesanya, the sky is truly the limit. Adesanya didn’t just beat Paulo Costa. He embarrassed him. In what was one of the most lopsided title fights in UFC history.
As discussed in the preview for this fight Jan Blachowicz has taken the long, and often perilous road to Saturday night’s title bout with Dominick Reyes. And now he’s the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Blachowicz was the underdog coming in but was seemingly unfazed by Reyes’ movement and footwork.
The 37-year-old destroyed ‘The Devsatator’s’ ribs with vicious left kicks throughout the first round. Before unleashing his legendary “Polish power” in the second round and dropping Reyes with a beautiful left hook.
Jan Blachowicz has gone from journeyman to champion. He has also proven all the doubters wrong and is still looking for the toughest challenge of them all. Jon Jones. Who hinted at a potential clash between the pair, on Twitter.
The future is anyone’s guess, but for now, let’s appreciate Jan’s unexpected rise.
It’s safe to say that Brandon Royval had a good Saturday night. The 28-year old beat City Kickboxing’s Kai Kara-France in the ‘Fight of the Night’. And in just his second UFC appearance has solidified himself as a legit contender in the Flyweight division.
During last week’s interview with All Access MMA, Royval discussed how his overwhelming striking style could lead him to victory. The Factory X product also felt that his “ground game is much better than” that of Kara-France.
It’s safe to say he was correct on both counts. Royval damaged the kiwi with some vicious strikes, including a brutal spinning elbow.
Before eventually demonstrating his elite-level ground game and winning the fight via submission. Yes, he got dropped early, but his recovery and post-fight honesty were brilliant to witness.
Losers: Paulo Costa
Losing to Israel Adesanya isn’t the end of the world. But, the manner in which you lose is important. And Paulo Costa’s performance on Saturday night left a lot to be desired.
The whole world expected an aggressive approach from the Brazilian. To use Israel Adesanya’s analogy, this fight was meant to be the bull vs the matador. Except, the bull didn’t charge. The bull didn’t do much of anything, to be honest.
Obviously, Adesanya’s brilliant gameplan played a part. But, you simply can’t expect to beat one of the world’s best fighters by taunting him from a distance while getting your leg chewed up.
Diego Sanchez is a legend. And seems like a genuinely nice dude. So watching him get destroyed by Jake Mathews was probably difficult for most MMA fans.
The TUF 1 contestant may have won three of his last five. But, hasn’t looked anywhere near world level for years, and if it wasn’t for a silly illegal knee from Michel Pereira in February, Sanchez would currently be on a three-fight losing streak.
Other than his parody of Jorge Masvidal’s famous knee, which was kind of funny. The fight was sad to watch. Sadly, it seems that the only one who doesn’t want Diego to retire is Diego himself.
I know that this list focusses a lot on the title fights. But how am I not going to place Dominick Reyes on here? ‘The Devastator’ was many people’s pick to replace Jon Jones as the division’s kingpin. And he failed to deliver on Saturday night in what was a very uncharacteristic performance from the Californian.
Reyes is still only 30 so he could still be a World Champion, but we’ve seen many elite fighters fail to recover from massive knockdown loses. Only time will tell which side of the coin Reyes falls on.
Dishonorable mentions: Zubaira Tukhugov and Ludovit Klein. Weighing in at 150 pounds for a Featherweight fight is unacceptable.