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Saturday’s UFC 253 headliner was billed as a potential “Fight of the Year” contender, a clash of undefeated titans in the middleweight division.
In the end, it was little more than a showcase for reigning 185-pound champion Israel Adesanya. “The Last Stylebender” was never threatened by Paulo Costa on Saturday night in Abu Dhabi, and he ultimately cruised to a technical knockout victory 3:59 into the second round. The City Kickboxing representative saw the writing on the wall early.
“After the first round,” Adesanya said at the UFC 253 post-fight press conference. “I was so fresh. I looked over and I could see he was sitting down. In the second round, his antics, what they want — they want me to stand there. ‘Come, come, why you running, come here.’ They just want me to stand there so you can punch me.
“I’m not stupid, dummy. I told you he’s dumb. I’m smart. I understand his f—-ing game.”
Adesanya chopped away at Costa’s legs for much of Round 1 while frustrating his brawling-minded opponent with clever movement. He ignored the Brazilian’s taunts and really got rolling in the second stanza, when he tagged “Borrachinha” with a multi-punch combination, floored him with a left hook and ended the fight with a barrage of vicious ground-and-pound.
Adesanya’s superior fight IQ was evident throughout the lopsided affair.
“I’m 10 steps ahead,” Adesanya said. “I told you guys I’m 10 steps ahead. You think these are just words, but I’m 10 steps ahead. … I told you guys in the pre-fight I’m not a human punching bag. He’s only fought human punching bags, guys who will just stand there and cover up. They just let him tee off on them.”
The 31-year-old Nigerian-born Kiwi is 20-0 in mixed martial arts but pointed out that he has a wealth of combat sports experience that extends beyond the cage.
“This is my 100th win in combat sports all around. One fight, two fights, three fights, four fights, five fights, six fights – all the way to a f—-ing hundred. I’m not a f—-ing baby for this game. I’ve been in this s—t for a long time and I’m still fresh.”
After a somewhat lackluster showing against Yoel Romero at UFC 248 earlier this year, Adesanya still appears to be head-and-shoulders above the rest of the middleweight division. He has already targeted Jared Cannonier as his next potential challenger, but Cannonier must first get past Robert Whittaker at UFC 254 on Oct. 24 to be officially annointed as the No. 1 contender.
“I think Jared’s going to dust Robert Whittaker and I look forward to fighting him,” Adesanya said. “I think he’s going to get it done. I’m rooting for him. But if Robert Whittaker wins and he wants to get knocked out a third time, I can make that happen, too.”