The light heavyweight title bout will also take place this weekend.

UFC makes a triumphant return at Fight Island in Abu Dhabi for UFC 253 on Sunday. The event features two title fights at in the main event and the co-main event respectively. The main event will witness UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya put his belt along with his perfect 19-0 record on the line against the undefeated Paulo Costa, who has a career record of 13-0. 

The co-main event will witness a new era in the light heavyweight division as Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz battle over the vacant title in a quest to become the next man to reign over the 205-pound ranks.

Middleweight title bout – Israel Adesanya vs Paulo Costa

The feud between Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa has been brewing for quite some time now as both undefeated UFC athletes go against each other in a highly anticipated grudge match carrying all the elements needed to be a Fight of the Year contender.

In his first 25 months on the UFC roster, Adesanya went 8-0 inside the Octagon, winning the interim middleweight title in one of best fights against Kelvin Gastelum before unifying the belts with a second-round finish of Robert Whittaker last October. In his first title defence ‘The Last Stylebender’ edged out Yoel Romero in a tactical chess match that allowed the Nigerian-born New Zealander to maintain his place atop the division.

Speaking to the media ahead of UFC 253, Adesanya said, “The only people he ever beat that are worthy of anything are two guys that are ranked, Uriah Hall and Romero. Who else has he beat that’s ranked? I can list you four guys that I have. You have to understand there are levels to this. Like I said, he’s dumb, but that’s what makes him dangerous as well because he’s not scared to walk forward and throw punches and kicks all around the Octagon. I don’t like these kind of trash-talkers. This sport doesn’t need kind of attitude. You don’t need this to sell a good fight. You just need to go and make a good fight.”

Costa made his UFC debut in 2017 by knocking out Garreth McLellan in 77 seconds. He followed that win with three second-round knockout victories over Oluwale Bamgbose, former UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks and Uriah Hall. The Brazilian has a perfect 5-0 record inside the Octagon and is 13-0 overall, with his fight of the night-winning victory over Romero at UFC 241 last summer standing as the best fight of his career to date.

Speaking to the media ahead of UFC 253, Costa took a jibe at Adesanya and said, “I really think he has good skills. His best skill is running away, avoiding the fight. He’s very good at that. Very good when he wants to do that. I try to ask him why he just stood when he faced Romero. The only thing more disturbing than his hair was his fight against Romero.”

Light heavyweight title bout – Dominick Reyes vs Jan Błachowicz

A new era in the light heavyweight division begins this weekend as Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz battle for the vacant title in a quest to become the next man to reign over the 205-pound ranks.

Dominick Reyes is a former NFL hopeful with sneaky athleticism, long limbs and proven finishing abilities but will be entering this fight on the back of a loss to Jon Jones in February. Prior to his UFC 247 encounter with Jones, the American has comfortable wins over Chris Weidman and posted quality performances against former title challengers Volkan Oezdemir and Ovince Saint Preux to solidify his standing as one of the top contenders in the division. 

Now, seven months after nearly dethroning one of the most dominant champions in UFC history, Reyes ventures back into the Octagon, focused on walking out with the light heavyweight belt around his waist this time around.

Speaking to the media ahead of one of the most important fights of his career, Reyes said, “My goal in every fight is to finish the fight. You never go into a fight looking for a decision, but sometimes you run into some dude that can just take everything you’ve got and it goes to a decision. That’s not something I’m thinking about or worrying about it all. I obviously enjoy finishing fights, I like finishing fights – there’s no better feeling in the world than knocking someone out. I love that feeling and I want to get back to it.”

At one point, Jan Blachowicz lost four out of five bouts in UFC, winning one against a low-profile Igor Pokrajac. After that, Blachowicz won seven out of eight bouts, the last one against Corey Anderson, avenging the defeat from UFC 191. Following that knockout in February, the 37-year-old Blachowicz is now the No. 3 ranked fighter in the 205-pound division. The Polish veteran is fundamentally sound and well-rounded with a lot of power and a sneaky good submission game which was his go-to strategy in fights against Nikita Krylov, Luke Rockhold, and Corey Anderson.

Before the bout, Blachowicz said, “I’m going to be ready, for sure, 100%, for this fight. I hope he will be ready also. I don’t want any excuse after the fight. That’s it. We’ve got the same time. I’ve got six weeks, he’s got six weeks, so for me, it’s not a problem. I’m happy, I’m excited, I cannot wait to step into the octagon and start punching him.”

Ranking at the top of the light heavyweight division, both fighters have proved that they are deserving of the opportunity to contest for the vacant title. Will the second time be the charm for Reyes to claim the belt this year, or will Blachowicz once again flash his Polish power and earn UFC gold in the process?