The UFC has no shortage of up-and-coming stars and this Saturday, some of their brightest are set to shine. All eyes will once again be on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi as some of the sport’s best young fighters step into the octagon for a great night of fights.
UFC 253 featured two championship fights, including one for the Light Heavyweight crown recently vacated by Jon Jones. The other is a Middleweight title fight between two of the most impressive strikers in the sport. Not to mention, a great flyweight bout between two potential future stars.
Let’s take a closer look at those three bouts:
Flyweight bout: Kai Kara France vs. Brandon Royval
The first of these three big fights features two young flyweights who look to continue their climb through the rankings. The seventh ranked Kara France boasts a 21-8 record, including nine wins by way of knockout. He also, despite being the younger of the two fighters, has a big experience advantage over his opponent, almost doubling Royval’s fight total. The one thing he does not have going for him is his “Don’t Blink” nickname. Each of his last five fights have gone to a decision. So if you take roughly 18 minutes to blink, you might miss his fight.
Royval is a dangerous submission specialist with an 11-4 record and seven wins by submission. He has won his last three fights in that manner, including an impressive win over fellow ranked fighter Tim Elliott in his UFC debut back in May. The ninth-ranked Royval also managed a baffling armbar victory in just 23 seconds in his last fight before entering the UFC. It will certainly be interesting to see which skillset wins out and which of these two fighters continue moving up the rankings.
Light Heavyweight Championship bout: Dominick Reyes vs. Jan Blachowicz
Longtime Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones is pretty much the unanimous pick for most talented fighter in the octagon. Now, with Jones making the jump to heavyweight, the light heavyweight door is open for someone new. Many think Dominick Reyes already has a claim to that throne. The 30-year-old boasts a 12-1 record with his only loss coming to Jones, and many fans thought he actually won that fight. In his 13 fights, Reyes has seven wins by knockout and two by submission, so it is unlikely he goes the distance again.
On the other hand, the veteran Blachowicz has been stopped only three times in his 34 career fights. Blachowicz has wins over big names like Ronaldo Souza and Luke Rockhold along with an impressive first round knockout victory over Corey Anderson in his most recent fight. The 37-year-old vet will come in as the underdog but certainly has a good chance of becoming the new Light Heavyweight champ.
Middleweight Championship bout: Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa
Two undefeated rising stars will step into the octagon Saturday to fight for the title of UFC Middleweight Champion. It’s rare that we get to see both champion and challenger enter with unblemished records having both already accomplished so much in their young careers.
Costa is as powerful a striker as you can see in this weight class. In his 13 career fights, the 29-year-old star has 11 knockout victories and has gone the distance only once. In fact, it wasn’t until his 10th career bout that his opponent even managed to make it out of the first round. He has explosive power in both hands and has finished UFC veterans like Uriah Hall and Johny Hendricks. He also won his most recent bout by decision against longtime Middleweight contender Yoel Romero.
Adesanya is coming off of the very same result, as he also dispatched of Romero to retain his Middleweight Championship back in March. But while Adesanya is also a dangerous striker, his style is a sharp contrast from Costa’s. In his 19 fights, the undefeated champ has won 14 times via knockout. But that result comes less from explosive knockout power and more from unique and creative striking that he bunches together to overwhelm his opponent. Adesanya is one of the most fun fighters to watch in this sport and one I would personally recommend any new fans to check out. This fight in particular is going to be a lot of fun and the winner is likely to be one of the sport’s biggest stars for years to come.
UFC 253 will be held Saturday night, September 26 at 10 PM ET. Fight fans can order the pay per view through ESPN+ and receive a special offer: $84.98 for UFC 253 and an ESPN+ annual plan. ESPN+ subscribers can order the pay per view for $64.99.