UFC 253 ‘Adesanya vs. Costa’ Play-by-Play, Results & Round Scoring

By: Jay Pettry
Sep 26, 2020
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Khadis Ibragimov (206) vs. Danilo Marques (206)

Round 1

Welcome back to “Fight Island,” with a card that will treat fans with a duo of title fights later on tonight. Before those championship affairs, we get things started in the light heavyweight division, as Ibragimov (8-3, 0-3 UFC) tries to keep his spot on the roster as he takes on the debuting Marques (9-2, 0-0 UFC). Referee Jason Herzog draws the first assignment of the evening, and there is no touch of gloves to begin the night! Both men come out cautiously with high guards, and Marques sneaks in a jab before shooting in low for a takedown. The Russian stuffs it with a guillotine choke, and he staves off a takedown by threatening with it. Marques drags him down but as a result, he actually pulls Ibragimov on top of him. Ibragimov has no interest in playing ground games, and he jumps right up from top position. The Brazilian follows him back up and ties him up in the clinch before pursuing a single leg takedown. Ibragimov hops around on one foot while landing a few left hands to stop the takedown. Ibragimov grabs the fence, and Herzog slaps it away, but Ibragimov still is able to turn and wind up on top. Like before, he jumps back up and the two separate back on their feet. Marques sticks out a jab, and Ibragimov wings a right hand back at him that gets blocked. Marques is already taking deep breaths halfway through the round after all those takedown attempts, but he still sits down on a heavy leg kick that makes Ibragimov twist his leg and grimace in pain. Ibragimov charges him like a bull to land a few punches although several are blocked, and Marques is bloodied up but still alright. The Brazilian shoots in for a single again, and Herzog shouts for the Russian to not grab the fence. Ibragimov keeps his back pressed to the cage to defend the takedown, and he blocks a high knee but gets yanked down. Marques trips Ibragimov down, and he quickly hops on to Ibragimov’s back but is riding very high on it. Ibragimov attempts to shuck him off and stands up, so Marques quickly latches on with a rear-naked choke. The two men tumble to the canvas, and Marques tries and fails one last time to finish the choke. The round ends.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Marques
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-9 Marques
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Marques

Round 2

Marques reaches out his left hand to try to set something up, and Ibragimov chops at it with his fist to get it out of the way. Marques lands a heavy leg kick, and Ibragimov loads up on a right hand so hard that he might have thrown out his shoulder. The Russian shakes it out a few times, but he unloads another with that arm when Marques closes the distance. Marques paws at his bloodied nose a few times as the action stalls out, with both light heavyweights engaging in a prolonged staring contest for well over a minute. Ibragimov breaks the strikeless period with a left hand followed with a looping right, and as he attempts the same two punches, Marques changes levels and takes him down. Ibragimov gets back to his knees, and the Brazilian circles around and takes his back. The newcomer quickly sets up his rear-naked choke again, and Ibragimov defends it while looking to buck his opponent off of him. Marques uses his forehead on the fence to stay in the position, as he fishes for a choke but cannot get anything from it. This position also stalls out as Ibragimov tries to catch his breath, with Marques nowhere near getting a choke while keeping a hook in to hold the back position. Marques throws a single right hand to prevent a potential referee standup, but with both hooks in, Herzog is not saying a word. Flat on their backs, Ibragimov looks to his corner and gives them a thumbs-up. Marques rides out the round in this position without doing anything with it.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Marques
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-9 Marques
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Marques

Round 3

The two fatigued fighters have no interest in touching gloves to celebrate their work or lack thereof, and instead start the round patiently again. Ibragimov aims a counter right hand from a Marques leg kick, and Marques sneaks in his own right hand. Both men trade single strikes, and Marques runs forward to get a takedown. Once again, Ibragimov clearly grabs the fence to stay upright, and Herzog admonishes him without even issuing a formal warning. Ibragimov throws a few punches but comes up short, and he sticks out a jab a couple times to little effect. Marques reaches with a left hand to the body, and Ibragimov gives him a few more jabs back for his effort. The Russian aims to the body and head, and slings a right hand that clips the Brazilian. Marques shoots in low to take the fight down, and Ibragimov grabs the cage again. Ibragimov tries to cinch up a guillotine choke, and Marques spins out of it and tries to get up to take the fight down to get on top. Herzog’s voice is already starting to strain as he yells at Ibragimov to grab the fence, because the Russian does it again to stay on his feet. Marques pulls his opponent’s legs out and winds up on top. When he attempts to take the mount position, Ibragimov sweeps him and takes top position. Ibragimov lands a few right hands from above, and Marques sits up and is able to take Ibragimov down. Ibragimov gets to one knee against the cage wall, and Marques digs a knee to the side. Marques jumps on to the back to snatch hold of a rear-naked choke, but it is not under the chin and just holds tight until the horn concludes this grueling match.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Marques (30-27 Marques)
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-9 Marques (30-27 Marques)
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Marques (30-27 Marques)

The Official Result

Danilo Marques def. Khadis Ibragimov via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

Jeff Hughes (258) vs. Juan Francisco Espino Dieppa (255)

Round 1

The heavyweight division beckons for the only time tonight, in the form of a stylistic match up striker vs. grappler when “Lights Out” Hughes (10-3, 1 NC; 0-2,1 NC UFC) welcomes back Espino (9-1, 1-0 UFC) to the cage for the first time in almost two years. Since Espino has been away for multiple hand surgeries, Hughes has competed inside the Octagon three times, but has yet to come out with a win. Keeping things on the up-and-up is referee Kevin Sataki, and the two big men combining for 513 pounds of mass respectfully touch gloves. Hughes dances out of the way from an early leg kick, and the two look for angles for the next 30 seconds. Espino reaches with a right hand and ducks down for a takedown attempt but is way off. Espino does this again and grabs hold of Hughes’ leg, but Hughes is able to fight it off. He redoubles his effort and gets Hughes down, and Hughes grabs hold of the fence – hopefully this is not a theme tonight – to stay up. Espino pulls his legs out from beneath him and takes side control. Espino looks for an arm-triangle choke, but inadvertently lets Hughes back up to his feet. The Spaniard stays latched on and tosses Hughes back down. Hughes once more is able to get up, but only for a moment before Espino kicks his leg out again. Hughes gets to one knee against the fence, and Espino has a hook on to take Hughes’ back but allows Hughes to get back up. “El Guapo” does this so that he can commit to a double leg takedown, which he hits without issue. When he slams Hughes down, he lands a few heavy left hands before Hughes scrambles. Hughes pops up but gets lifted in the air, and the former Senegalese wrestling champ tosses Hughes down like he was a sack of potatoes. Espino is immediately going after an arm-triangle choke, and Hughes bursts out of danger but gets put back down to his back. Espino dives back down and locks up a scarf hold headlock. The TUF winner squeezes with all his might and cranks Hughes’ neck to force the tap, and this rare “big man” submission maneuver has now been notched inside the Octagon by Espino. Also, as a note, in-cage Octagon interviews are back.

The Official Result

Juan Francisco Espino Dieppa def. Jeff Hughes R1 3:48 via Submission (Scarf Hold)

William Knight (205) vs. Aleksa Camur (206)

Round 1

Up next back at light heavyweight, two men with an eye for the knockout square off as Knight (8-1, 0-0 UFC) tries to make good on his UFC debut against the unbeaten Camur (6-0, 1-0 UFC). These two heavy-hitters combined for 13 knockouts across their 14 career wins, and referee Lukasz Bosacki may have his hands full when the fists start flying. Knight sprints out of his corner to touch gloves, and he back off in time to avoid a front kick aimed at his face. Camur reaches with a left hand and comes up short, and when he flings out a naked front kick, Knight counters him with an overhand right and bowls Camur to the ground. The unbeaten fighter springs back to his feet and Knight presses him to the fence, where the two jockey for position while trading knees to the body. Both men turn one another around in the clinch as they try to impose their will, and Camur attempts and fails to trip Knight’s legs out from beneath him. Bosacki asks the two men to start fighting, as they appear to have ground to a halt against the fence. Camur obliges by landing a few knees, but another warning comes to ask for more action. Knight powers out of the clinch but gets bullied back to the wall, where Camur sneaks in an elbow and a few knees. Knight again goes to muscle his way free, but the Strong Style Fight Team fighter does not allow this. Bosacki separates the two men, and Knight walks forward to throw a front kick. He misses and goes after a low kick, while ducking out of the way from a big high kick. Knight slaps hard with a kick to his opponent's calf, and he fires off a jumping switch kick and a powerful combination right as the round ends.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Knight
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-9 Knight
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Knight

Round 2

The two men touch gloves again to open the round, and Knight starts off with a front kick. He keeps going in the form of a low kick, and Camur comes back at him with kicks of his own. When Camur strides forward, “Knightmare” darts out of the way but gets pressed to the clinch. Camur pushes him into the fence before ripping Knight down to the ground with a quick trip. Knight tries to scramble but gives his back up, and Camur is in an odd position that looks like the setup for a twister. Knight twists and turns and takes top position, but Camur simply stands up. Camur leaves his neck exposed, and Knight grabs on to it for a guillotine choke, but the undefeated fighter pulls his neck free. Camur lands a few knees and short shots, but Knight throws him down to the canvas. Knight starts to rain down heavy punches that are right on the mohawk line of the back of the head, and Camur powers his way back up and turns Knight’s back to the fence. Camur stays tight and looks for a trip, and Knight not only stops it but lands his own to take side control. Knight grinds his elbow on Camur’s face and Camur holds him tight to not eat shots. Knight starts dropping bombs before reaching for a straight armlock. Camur powers out but gives up his back in the process, and Knight hops on top in mount. Camur gets his man back to half guard, and Knight hunts for an arm-triangle choke before fishing for a straight armlock. Knight grips Camur’s left wrist and torques it with all of his might, and only the bell saves Camur from tapping to that nasty americana lock.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-8 Knight
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-8 Knight
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-8 Knight

Round 3

One more glove touch checks in the final frame, and Knight comes out firing with several low and body kicks. Knight commits to the calf kick and gets countered over the top with a right hand. Camur crashes forward to clinch up, where he uses his elbow to trap Knight’s head to the fence. Knight muscles his way forward and leans over, taking Camur with him by sheer power. Knight hops into side control with ease, and he grips on to one of Camur’s wrists for another lock. Camur senses danger and powers out, and the two scramble wildly until Camur gets on top. Knight brute forces his way back up while on the balls of his feet, and he pushes Camur around while grabbing the lead leg. Camur elbows him in the face to stop that, and Knight again looks to change levels as Bosacki pleads for more action. Knight answers the call by scooping Camur up and slamming him down, taking half guard while staying heavy. Knight drops down a right hand or two as precious seconds tick off the clock for Camur. Knight advances to three-quarter mount and makes Camur look miserable while slamming him in the face with left hands. Knight keeps Camur’s left hand trapped around his head like a seat belt, and Knight pounds on him with more thudding fists. Knight sits up in mount, appears to salute the camera or his corner, and racks Camur with a final elbow before the horn mercifully sounds to end the fight.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Knight (30-26 Knight)
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-9 Knight (30-26 Knight)
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Knight (30-26 Knight)

The Official Result

William Knight def. Aleksa Camur via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)

Ludovit Klein (150: Missed Weight) vs. Shane Young (146)

Round 1

At a 150-pound catchweight, Klein (16-2, 0-0 UFC) makes his short-notice debut after missing weight by four pounds against City Kickboxing rep Young (13-4, 2-1 UFC). Referee Kevin Sataki is on top of the action, and the two men consider touching glove but give up on it before their historic battle of Slovakia vs. New Zealand. Young starts out with a low kick, and reaches out with a jab a few times. Klein kicks the body and Young is already reddened up from it. A left hand from Klein has also marked up Young’s face, as they kick together one another at the same time. Klein rushes forward with a jab and a back fist before blasting off a head kick, and before Young clatters to the ground, “Mr. Highlight” lands a trio of pinpoint-accurate punches to seal the deal. Sataki dives in as Young is in a bad, bad way, unconsciously reaching for a takedown against anyone in the area including Sataki. What a way to make your debut, all while becoming the first person to finish the durable Kiwi Young.

The Official Result

Ludovit Klein def. Shane Young R1 1:16 via KO (Head Kick and Punches)

Diego Sanchez (170) vs. Jake Matthews (170)

Round 1

Sanchez (30-12, 19-12 UFC) is back and this time with an additional cornerman (Stephan Bonnar) beyond self-awareness coach Josh Fabia, and he will be facing a tough test in the form of “The Celtic Kid” Matthews (16-4, 9-4 UFC) at welterweight. The third man inside the octagon is referee Jason Herzog, and the two 170-pounders have absolutely no interest in touching gloves before the action begins. Sanchez races forward with a body kick, and he eats a right hand and rolls around to try to get out of harm’s way. Sanchez gets back to his feet after Matthews grabbed hold of it, and he just barely ducks an overhand right that zips past his head. Sanchez evades another heavy shot and whiffs with a return fire leg kick. Matthews sneaks in a right hand when Sanchez closes the distance, and nearly turns Sanchez into a Pez dispenser with an uppercut. Sanchez goes to the body and swats at the head, but Matthews rolls with it. Sanchez starts waving his hands around in a stance more likely seen in “Cobra Kai” than the UFC, and Matthews fires a kick at his head. The Aussie walks forward to land a body shot and avoids the Sanchez counterattack. Matthews snaps Sanchez’ head back with a right hand, and ducks out of the way when Sanchez swings at him with open hands. “Nightmare” leaps forward with a right hand, and Matthews avoids it while landing one of his own to sting the TUF 1 winner. Sanchez comes up short with a counter, although he does land a leg kick. Sanchez surprises the Aussie with a right hand, and Matthews backs away to reset. Sanchez stalks him down and rushes forward hands down with a barrage of punches, but Matthews is able to jog out of the way. Matthews scores a one-two and evades the swarming attack of Sanchez, but “Nightmare” keeps at it with looping punches. Sanchez lands a slapping body kick and changes levels for a takedown. Matthews defends it and decides to take Sanchez down, where he hops on top to get off some ground-and-pound. When Matthews sits up, Sanchez hunts for a heel hook. Matthews punches his way out with a few fierce right hands that hurt Sanchez, and the round ends.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Matthews
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-9 Matthews
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Matthews

Round 2

Sanchez comes out with his nose already bleeding, and Matthews plants a right hand on that nose. Sanchez swarms in with several wild punches, and Matthews is able to avoid them in time. Sanchez tries this flurry once more, and Matthews snaps out a jab to keep him at bay. Sanchez lets fly a heavy leg kick, but “The Celtic Kid” walks through it. Sanchez explodes forward with winging, slopping punches that do not reach his opponent, and Matthews walks him down to the cage before scoring a quick uppercut. Sanchez circles around and switches stances a few times to shake it out, but Matthews stays composed and scores a right hand followed by a one-two. Sanchez takes a right hand so he can land a body kick, but Matthews redoubles his effort with another right hand that makes Sanchez back off. When the original TUF winner comes forward, again Matthews is ready for him with that right hand. Sanchez races forward and just misses with an overhand right, and Matthews accurately targets the nose again. Matthews gets up another uppercut, and clips Sanchez at the end of a left hand. Sanchez grins and starts throwing bombs like the days of old, but Matthews is able to avoid the brunt of the damage. An open-handed slap skims over Matthews’ head, and Matthews returns fire with a closed fist that makes Sanchez retreat. “Nightmare” shakes off the cobwebs only to get tagged again a few times, and Matthews is able to dart out of the way after landing to avoid the Sanchez blitz. Sanchez lands a calf kick and blocks an uppercut that is aimed at his face, and he ducks down to attack but gets cracked on the way in. The horn concludes this second frame.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Matthews
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-9 Matthews
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Matthews

Round 3

Sanchez starts the third round with his hands behind his waist leaning against the cage, and after a few seconds of standing there, he runs forward with an attack similar to Jorge Masvidal against Ben Askren. The Aussie is wise to it and the knee misses by a wide margin, but he is unable to make Sanchez pay for it. Matthews cracks Sanchez with a one-two and sets him down hard, where he hammers down several punches to slash Sanchez’ right eyebrow open. The blood has positively erupted from Sanchez’ eyebrow, and a growing pool of blood is forming beneath his head fast. Matthews pays it no mind and lands some more ground-and-pound. Sanchez locks him down in guard, and he tries to kick his hips to hunt for submissions and stave off any further strikes. Sanchez grabs hold of the neck for a guillotine choke off his back, but it is nothing doing as Matthews stays patient and pops his head out. Sanchez kicks Matthews off of him and Matthews lords over him while trying to find a way back in to do some more damage. “The Celtic Kid” finds his angle and crashes down into the guard, while Sanchez twists and turns for any sort of Hail Mary submission, but none is to be had. Matthews gets off a few more heavy right hands as the blood continues to flow for Sanchez, and Sanchez throws his legs up for a triangle choke. Matthews stops it by smashing him in the face with several punches, but the crafty vet hunts for an armbar. Sanchez has it tight briefly, but the slipperiness allows Matthews to pull his arm and then head free from the submission danger. Sanchez looks away for several seconds to his corner as he decides to lock Matthews down. Matthews does not accept that, and postures up to get off several more punches. He lets loose one final salvo to wrap up this fight with style points, although Matthews was unable to get the finish he so desired.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-8 Matthews (30-26 Matthews)
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-8 Matthews (30-26 Matthews)
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-8 Matthews (30-26 Matthews)

The Official Result

Jake Matthews def. Diego Sanchez via Unanimous Decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)

Brad Riddell (156) vs. Alex da Silva Coelho (156)

Round 1

Headlining the preliminary portion of the card is another City Kickboxing prospect as Riddell (8-1, 2-0 UFC) comes to blows with “Leko” Coelho (21-2, 1-1 UFC) of Brazil. Keeping tabs on the lightweight contest is referee Lukasz Bosacki, and the glove touch is the first of many punches to come from these men. Riddell starts off with a few jabs, and he just barely avoids an overhand right while slinging a body kick. The Brazilian cracks him with a big right hand, and Riddell fires right back his way. The Kiwi kicks the lead leg and gets caught with a left hand, and Coelho ducks down to hit a takedown when Riddell is trying to land a counter. Coelho tries to get off some punches while on top, and Riddell keeps him high and tight as he scoots his way to the cage. Bosacki calls for more action, so Coelho sits up and smacks him with a right hand. Riddell gets to his knees and staves off a takedown from behind by keeping his balance. Coelho grabs hold of his back and is trying to trip the legs out to get the fight back down, and he successfully plants “Quake” on his face for a moment. Riddell powers back up and gets kneed to the thigh for his effort, as Coelho targets it a few times before tossing Riddell back down once more. Coelho falls off the back when trying to get a hook in, and Riddell now has his man pushed to the fence. Riddell pushes off to gain separation with a minute to go, and he takes stabbing front kick to the torso. Coelho tries to follow it with a head kick, but Riddell is able to avoid it and makes Coelho pay with a right hand. Riddell commits to his own takedown and Coelho snatches on to the neck with a guillotine choke. As Riddell rolls, it transforms into something akin to an anaconda choke, and Riddell returns to his knees and protects his neck enough to ride out the round.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Coelho
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-9 Coelho
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Coelho

Round 2

The two reluctantly touch gloves, and Coelho pushes forward to pursue a takedown early but Riddell muscles him around to stop it. Coelho turns about and hunts for a single leg takedown, and “Quake” stays on one foot with the other in the air as he pops Coelho in the face with his fist repeatedly. Riddell’s balance holds up as he stands back up with the cage behind him, and Coelho presses his full body weight on his man. Riddell pushes him off and nearly walks into a right hand that zooms past his face. Coelho plants a side kick to the body, and Riddell throws a body kick back his way. Coelho flings a head kick up and the knee cracks Riddell, who stumbles briefly. Riddell walks through it and fires back with a salvo that hurst the Brazilian. Coelho swings and misses, and dives forward with a takedown only to get staved off when an uppercut brushes past the side of his head. Riddell punches his way into a clinch, where he lands an elbow and separates. Riddell grabs hold of Coelho’s left leg and tries to hit his own takedown, but the Brazilian stays upright and the two trade heavy leather. Riddell walks forward to crack Coelho with a left and then a right, and he targets the body along with two to the head. When Riddell throws a body kick, Coelho catches him with a left hand. Riddell grabs hold of him and nearly takes him down, but Coelho saves himself by getting to a knee and standing back up. “Leko” tries to back him off with a front kick, but Riddell stands in front of him and slugs it out. The two land thudding body shots at the same time, and Coelho drops down for a takedown but the sprawl from Riddell stops it. Riddell chops at the lead leg and makes Coelho stumble, but the Brazilian keeps his balance and sends a jab off the forward bow. A few more punches from Riddell conclude this frame.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Riddell
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-9 Riddell
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Riddell

Round 3

Bosacki kicks out Coelho’s corner, who stayed in the cage too long. Coelho apologizes by offering a hug, and Riddell obliges. When they separate, Riddell slings a right hand that dings off Coelho’s chin. Riddell marches forward with a chain of punches, and Coelho blocks some but Riddell gets a right hand off. “Quake” makes Coelho’s legs shake with a thunderous left hand, and the Brazilian stays together to brawl until changing levels for a takedown. Riddell sees it coming and stuffs it without concern, where he resumes marching Coelho down and landing heavily. Coelho swings and misses with a pair of “Mortal Kombat”-esque uppercuts, and Riddell hacks at the lead leg. Coelho wades forward but get clipped with a right hand, and he plants an elbow on the side of Coelho’s head when the Brazilian pushes a little too close. Coelho eats it like an acai bowl and initiates another clinch, where he might be using it to his bearings back. Riddell explodes out of the position and throws a right and a left that sneak past the guard. Riddell cracks his opponent with a left hand, and Coelho claims it was a poke to gain referee intervention. Riddell’s corner erupts as the strike was a punch where a knuckle landed and not an extended, and Bosacki realizes this and restarts the fight. Coelho thanks him for the pause with a booming right hand, and he tries to chain it into a takedown but Riddell reverses him and throws down the Brazilian. Riddell lets him get back up so he can work the body and fires off a head kick. Riddell pours it on as he targets the damaged eye with more big punches, and he lays into Coelho to the body and head. Coelho stings him back with a left hand, but Riddell is not backed off for long as the Kiwi shoots in for a takedown. Coelho tries to stop it with elbows to the side of the head, so Riddell stands up, elbows him back and lets him go. “Quake” attacks the body and head as the Brazilian’s eye swells up fast, and Riddell chooses to again pursue the takedown. Although he slams Coelho down, “Leko” spins around and takes Riddell’s back standing up. Landing a few knees to the posterior, the fight ends.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Riddell (29-28 Riddell)
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-9 Riddell (29-28 Riddell)
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Riddell (29-28 Riddell)

The Official Result

Brad Riddell def. Alex da Silva Coelho via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) 

Hakeem Dawodu (145) vs. Zubaira Tukhugov (150: Missed Weight)

Round 1

Kicking off the main card is another 150-pound catchweight affair, between two featherweights on the rise. Dawodu (11-1-1, 4-1 UFC) will try to keep his win streak intact against the much heavier Tukhugov (19-4-1, 4-1-1 UFC), with the latter coming in four pounds above the limit. Drawing this main card opener assignment is referee Kevin Sataki, and the two have no interest in touching gloves before initiating violence. With a huge frown on his face, Dawodu starts off the fight with a low kick and then a jumping front kick, but both fall short of his intended target. Dawodu jumps forward again with a kick that glances off the block, and a minute into the match, Tukhugov has yet to throw a strike. Dawodu kicks the leg as he walks down the Russian, and jumps with the kick once more. Dawodu swings and misses with an overhand right, and Tukhugov slips in a short left hand to land his first strike of the bout after about 100 seconds. Dawodu pays it no mind as he walks forward to land another leg kick. Tukhugov crashes forward but does not try anything, and Dawodu darts out of the way to avoid the potential strikes that do not come. Tukhugov scores a left hand after taking a leg kick, and Dawodu attacks the leg again. Dawodu paws with a right hand and avoids the counter, but a subsequent right hand from Tukhugov does score. Both men miss with punches and Tukhugov glances a right hand off the bow, so Dawodu chops down the leg once more. Dawodu flicks out a jab a few times, ducks a counter right and stings his man with his own right hand. Tukhugov hops in with a short right, and Dawodu keeps him at bay with a jab and a body shot. Tukhugov steps forward to get off a right hook, and evades the counter just in time. Dawodu lets fly a head kick and it is blocked, so the Russian comes at him with a pair of right hands that both do not land flush. This tentative round ends with a few jabs.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-10
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-10
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-10

Round 2

Dawodu starts the round throwing strikes including jabs and low kicks, but nothing lands. Dawodu finally scores one of his jumping front kicks to the midsection, and Tukhugov backs away surprised. Dawodu spins with a heel to the midsection, and Tukhugov crashes forward as his head clangs off his opponent’s. Both men land right hands in rapid succession and neither seem worse for wear, so Tukhugov follows it with an uppercut. The two jab at the same time, and Tukhugov dances out of the way from a leg kick. Dawodu tries to score an uppercut, and the two jabs at one another from a distance until Dawodu fires off another low kick. Tukhugov dings his man with an uppercut, and a big left hand stings Dawodu. “Mean Hakeem” fires right back at him and catches him, and the two engage in a tense striking affair where each men land sporadic shots almost at the same time. Dawodu kicks the lead leg and takes a right hand over the top, and Dawodu gets off several jabs. Tukhugov fires some jabs of his own, and he steps in to fake a trip takedown. Tukhugov fires off a few punches and slips the returning shots that come his way, as he motions towards his opponent and taps his forehead. Tukhugov shoots in for a takedown but gets stuffed, and Dawodu makes him pay with a big punch to the body. When Tukhugov walks forward, Dawodu ducks and cracks him to the body with a left hand. The Russian does not like this strike, and he bull-rushes forward to land a takedown. Dawodu complains of something and Sataki asks the fighters to keep it clean, and Tukhugov is on top while Dawodu is on his side in an unusual half guard position. Tukhugov slides over and lets Dawodu get to his knees, but the Russian trips the leg out. The round ends with Tukhugov holding on to opponent’s back.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Tukhugov
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-9 Tukhugov
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Tukhugov

Round 3

The two charge out of their corner but stand in front of each other trying to reach their way in. Dawodu kicks the leg a few times, and lands a jumping front kick to the midsection. Dawodu whiffs with a big looping punch to the body, and he stalks his way in with another calf kick. Sataki asks them to fight as the action stalls, so Tukhugov jumps forward, gets off a left hand and jumps back. Dawodu attacks the leg two more times to make the Russian change stances, as his calf is welted up and swelling badly. Dawodu fires off a head kick, and Tukhugov races in to take the fight down. Dawodu stuffs it as he gets pushed across the cage, and Dawodu makes him pay with a left hand after they break. “Warrior” sells out for a double leg takedown, but Dawodu defends it and makes Sataki warn Tukhugov to advance his position. Dawodu not only staves off the takedown, but he avoids the back take and pushes off. Dawodu jabs out a few times as Tukhugov retreats, and he points to the ground like Max Holloway against Ricardo Lamas to slug it out with him. Dawodu digs to the body with a left hand, and Tukhugov backs off instead of engaging. Dawodu rips the body again and lands a right over the top before they clinch up briefly. Dawodu shoves him away and lands a hard right hand as he screams at him. “Mean Hakeem” curses at his opponent to fight and drops his hands by his waist, where he kicks Tukhugov to the body and leg as he is fired up. Sataki warns him for "cussing." Dawodu delivers one final jumping kick on the midsection, and the horn sounds to end this close fight.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Dawodu (29-29)
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-9 Dawodu (29-29)
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Dawodu (29-29)

The Official Result

Hakeem Dawodu def. Zubaira Tukhugov via Split Decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)

Ketlen Vieira (136) vs. Sijara Eubanks (136)

Round 1

In the first and only women’s match on the card, Vieira (10-1, 4-1 UFC) will look to bounce back from her first career defeat against Eubanks (6-4, 4-2 UFC), despite the Brazilian losing the majority of her corner team due to COVID-19. The Octagon ranger for this women’s bantamweight tilt is referee Jason Herzog, and the two women greet with a glove touch. Eubanks starts off with a jab, and Vieira crashes forward to punch her way in to clinch up. Eubanks thanks her for it by punching her opponent in the thigh once, and Vieira knees her a few times before Eubanks turns her around. The Brazilian grabs the knee as soon as Eubanks brings it up to try to take the fight down, but “SarJ” stops it from happening. Vieira sticks out a jab, and Eubanks counterattacks with an overhand right. Eubanks scores a heavy leg kick and the two women slug it out for a moment. Eubanks stings her with a reaching right hand, and she avoids the right hand that aims at her body. Vieira walks through a left hook to try to clinch up in the center of the cage, and Eubanks knees her in the belly. Vieira sells out for a trip takedown, but Eubanks stuffs it and snaps her head back with an uppercut. Vieira jabs only to have her lead leg kicked, and she backs away instead of following it up. The Brazilian comes up short with a one-two, and she follows it with a looping left hand that rings off the side of Eubanks’ head. Eubanks zings a right hand over the top, but Vieira is unfazed and delivers one right back. Eubanks rips the body with a right hand and is just able to get out of the way of a big right hook. Vieira stings Eubanks with a one-two, and she lands another after landing a body shot. Eubanks decides to target the body too, and when she throws out a naked leg kick, Vieira wings a right hand that tags Eubanks. The American wears it well and engages in a short slugfest only to come up missing with her strikes while Vieira is much sharper. Vieira gets off a crisp combination that rings Eubanks’ bell, and when Eubanks tries to fire back, the Brazilian lands a takedown. “Fenomeno” stays on top until the horn blares.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Vieira
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-9 Vieira
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Vieira

Round 2

Vieira opens the round with a jab, and she follows it with a one-two that Eubanks is able to swat away. Eubanks fires up a head kick that gets blocked before reaching the mark, and Vieira strides forward to clinch up. From there, the Brazilian lands a body lock takedown to get into Eubanks’ guard, where she drops down some punches as Eubanks tries to lock her down. Vieira tries to pull her arms free so that she can stay busy and keep Herzog from standing the fight up, and she does while Eubanks scoots her way to the fence. Eubanks shrugs at her corner when Vieira is trying to keep her grounded, and Vieira smacks her in the face when she does. Herzog stands the fight up without audible warning, and Eubanks appreciates the standup by letting loose several jabs and a massive right hand. Vieira blocks the right hand and lets her jab flow, leading Eubanks to crash forward and attack the body and head. Vieira is unable to counter her effectively, but she does halt an advancing Eubanks a few times with stiff jabs. When both jab at the same time, the reach advantage for Vieira allows her to land cleanly while Eubanks does not. Vieira keeps jabbing and breaking up combinations, but she takes a side kick to the body. Vieira comes back with a one-two, and ducks an overhand right that skims past her hair. Eubanks throws her foot up for a high kick, but it bounces off Vieira’s shoulder. Vieira dings her with a right hand, and then aims low when Eubanks ducks down to catch her bending over. Both women miss with one-two combination, and they swing until the round ends.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Vieira
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-9 Vieira
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Vieira

Round 3

The two women touch both gloves to start off the round, and an energized Eubanks comes out firing. She slings a few looping punches that glance off the head but do not land flush, and Vieira tries to counter but comes up short. Vieira rushes in for a clinch, and when Eubanks attempts a trip, the Brazilian shoves her away. Eubanks bites down on her mouthpiece and slings a big right hook, but it is nowhere near the target. She follows it with a shorter left hook that does get Vieira’s attention, and she plants a right hand on Vieira’s face. The two women swing for the fences for a moment, with the two bantamweights windmilling punches but not connecting on much. Vieira lands a right hand as Eubanks tries to roll with it, and “SarJ” connects with a low kick to make up for it. Vieira tries to charge forward, but Eubanks greets her with a right hand to make the Brazilian back away. Vieira gets her jab back going until they start swinging with reckless abandon, and both land a few times in a wild flurry. Vieira lands a left but allows Eubanks to circle out and work the body. Vieira attempts to clinch up again, and Eubanks makes her pay with a body shot. A right hand finds its home from Vieira, and Eubanks aims one back but only partially connects. Vieira shoots in for a double but Eubanks easily sees it coming and pushes her away. When Vieira goes up top, Eubanks kicks her to the body and counters her with a right hand. The two tie up in the clinch and both try to toss the other, and the ensuing scramble from Eubanks allows her to take the Brazilian’s back standing up. Vieira rolls for a kneebar right before the 10-second clapper, and Eubanks lands several hammerfists until the final horn puts this fight in the books.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Eubanks (29-28 Vieira)
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-9 Eubanks (29-28 Vieira)
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Eubanks (29-28 Vieira)

The Official Result

Ketlen Vieira def. Sijara Eubanks via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Kai Kara France (126) vs. Brandon Royval (126)

Round 1

The lightest men’s division is right around the corner, with two flyweights that both embody the nickname “Don’t Blink.” Kara-France (21-8, 1 NC; 4-1 UFC) is the one with that nickname, but “Raw Dawg” Royval (11-4, 1-0 UFC) is just as ferocious so referee Lukasz Bosacki may have his hands full in this one. They touch gloves before swinging for the fences. Royval immediately throws up a head kick and falls over. The Kiwi does not care, and Royval stands back up and eats a crazy right that drops him to a knee briefly. He stumbles and stands back up, where he slams his fist into Kara-France’s head when a spinning back elbow is flying his way and makes them both fall over! Royval appears to get away with an illegal knee when Kara-France is on the ground, and Royval crashes down into the guard. Both men scramble wildly and Kara-France tries to sweep him with an omoplata, but the American stays savvy and defends himself. The two men get back to their feet, and Royval cracks him with a spinning back fist, a knee and several other strikes to send Kara-France flying. The City Kickboxing fighter lands a few shots in response, but Royval lands the heavier strikes and sets Kara-France down again. Royval tries to set up a guillotine choke, and when he gets out, Kara-France attempts his own. This fight is absolutely wild! Kara-France sweeps the leg out and allows them both to stand up, where they return to the center of the cage and let loose a flurry that does some serious damage. Royval hurts Kara-France, and Kara-France cracks him with a right hand but “Raw Dawg” laughs it off and presses forward to the clinch. When they separate, Royval stick out a few jabs and a kick to end the round. That was an unreal round, almost certainly worthy of year-end consideration.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Royval
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-9 Royval
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Royval

Round 2

Royval comes out of his corner on the warpath, and as he fires several strikes out, Kara-France is right there to greet him. Royval lifts up a knee and gets countered with a right hand. Kara-France shoots in for a takedown, and Royval defends it not by sprawling but by jumping for a guillotine choke. By the time Kara-France lowers his opponent to the ground, he is already grimacing in pain as the choke is in tight as can be. Only a few more seconds tick by until Kara-France taps out, and this is a massive win for Royval. What a wild fight for as long as it lasted, and the UFC has a new flyweight contender on its hands.

The Official Result

Brandon Royval def. Kai Kara-France R2 0:48 via Submission (Guillotine Choke)

UFC Light Heavyweight Title Fight:
Dominick Reyes (205) vs. Jan Blachowicz (205)

Round 1

The first of two title fights is on tap now, as Reyes (12-1, 6-1 UFC) gets a second crack at a belt in two fights against KSW legend Blachowicz (26-8, 9-5 UFC). The light heavyweights with 25 combined finishes between them square off for the vacant throne after Jon Jones vacated his belt, and referee Kevin Sataki will make this match official as the two touch gloves. Blachowicz hacks at the lead leg early, and Reyes comes up short with a long straight left hand. Reyes kicks at the leg and Blachowicz returns fire, and the two men trade body kicks. Blachowicz just barely ducks a huge left hand in time, and looks surprised as he takes a leg kick. Reyes keeps chopping at the lead leg as he circles away, and the Polish fighter steps in with a left hand that gets blocked and body kick that gets in. Blachowicz winds up with a right hand, and he checks a leg kick. Reyes flips a high kick up only to get blocked, and he misses with a one-two. When Blachowicz walks forward, Reyes counters him with a short right hand but he takes a leg kick. Blachowicz rushes forward with three strikes that are each properly defended, and he throws a body kick that skims the midsection of his opponent. Blachowicz scores a left hook that draws Reyes off-balance, and he lets fly a body kick that slaps hard. Blachowicz attacks with a similar combination ending with that hard body kick, and there is a lot of marking on Reyes’ side from those body kicks already. Blachowicz swings and misses on a pair of punches, and the two cautiously back away from one another until the round ends with a body kick from Reyes.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Blachowicz
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-9 Blachowicz
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Blachowicz

Round 2

Reyes walks out and lands a heavy leg kick, and he blocks a big strike coming his way from Blachowicz. The Polish fighter slings a right hand over the top and Reyes is able to avoid it without concern, and he lets fly a head kick that slaps off Blachowicz’ guard. Reyes stabs the midsection with his toes and he dances out of the way when Blachowicz tries to counter him with a blitz. Blachowicz kicks the lead leg of Reyes and avoids the counter, all while stinging Reyes with a right hand that splits the guard. Reyes recovers and chops the inside of Blachowicz’s lead leg, but it is one-and-done. Reyes reaches out with a front kick but this one is not near the mark, so he throws low and lands a leg kick. The two swing it out and both land successfully in a short skirmish, leading them to back away and reset. Sataki warns the two from outstretching their fingers, but this does not stop them from doing so. Reyes whiffs a head kick that whizzes past Blachowicz’ head, and he chains the missed strike into another combination that ends with a head kick that gets blocked. Reyes moves out of the way of a looping right hand to clap a kick off Blachowicz’ body. Blachowicz marches forward and lands a heavy body kick on the spot of Reyes’ body that is already turning purple. Blachowicz blitzes in with a few punches, and he ends the combination with a kick. Reyes reaches him with a left hand, and Blachowicz attacks back with a series of punches that bust up the nose of Reyes. “The Devastator” unleashes a fury of strikes that backs Blachowicz against the fence, but Blachowicz plants his feet and fires back. The Polish powerhouse lets rip an uppercut and a left hand, before bouncing off the cage wall to get another angle. When Reyes swings a right hand too wide, Blachowicz cracks him with a shorter, cleaner left hook to put Reyes on baby deer legs. Blachowicz roars with excitement as he bowls Reyes over and starts raining down punches. He only needs to land a few as Reyes’ nose is looking shades of Andrei Arlovski or almost Olaf Alfonso. Sataki dives in to rescue a damaged Reyes, and although the stoppage may be considered premature to some, Blachowicz is now the new light heavyweight champion. Without any surprise, Blachowicz uses his post-fight interview to call out former champ Jon Jones.

The Official Result

Jan Blachowicz def. Dominick Reyes R2 4:36 via TKO (Punches)

UFC Middleweight Title Fight:
Israel Adesanya (184) vs. Paulo Henrique Costa (185)

Round 1

The main event of UFC 253 is a rare occurrence indeed, as this middleweight title fight will be only the second men’s championship bout where both men are undefeated. “The Last Airbender” Adesanya (19-0, 8-0 UFC) will look to bring it back home to City Kickboxing against the mammoth Costa (13-0, 5-0 UFC), and the 25 knockouts the two men share give many expectations that this one will not go the distance. Referee Jason Herzog draws the charge between two men with no love lost for one another, and it is not surprising that they do not touch gloves before getting down to business. Costa strides forward like he knows something we don’t, and Adesanya kicks him in the leg. Costa motions for him to kick it again, and Adesanya stands still, waits, and throws another. Adesanya chops at the lead leg again as he backs away, and Costa swings a body kick and misses. Adesanya slings a leg kick once more, and this time Costa gives it back to him. Adesanya again targets the legs that have clear cupping spots, and Costa cracks the body with a kick. Adesanya still keeps at the lead leg, and Costa nods at him and takes a step back to avoid a front kick. Like a surgeon, Adesanya aims a calf kick at the same spot once more, and he takes a body kick to the other side. Adesanya whiffs with a question mark kick, and Costa laughs it off but takes another leg kick. Costa walks forward with his hands behind his back, and he calls on Adesanya to fight him. The Brazilian lets fly a head kick that gets blocked in time, and when Adesanya kicks the leg again, Costa stands still and smiles at him. Adesanya mimics him and then hacks at the lead leg in the same spot. When Adesanya fakes a kick, Costa tries to rush him but “The Last Stylebender” darts out of the way in time. Two stomp kicks and another calf kick score for Adesanya, and Costa sticks his tongue out at him like Frank Shamrock against Bas Rutten. Adesanya stabs at the body with a kick, and Costa walks him down and signals for them to start throwing hands. Adesanya thanks him by kick the leg on the inside, and Costa crashes forward to blitz. Adesanya blocks the flurry and gives it back, leading Costa to taunt him and point to the ground. The horn ends with Costa shaking his head.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Adesanya
Brian Knapp scores the round: 10-9 Adesanya
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Adesanya

Round 2

Costa takes the center of the cage to start the round, only to back away briefly when Adesanya fakes a kick. The champ circles to the side and kicks the leg, and the lead leg is getting marked up as Adesanya lands another. Adesanya just misses a head kick, and Costa stays composed but takes one to the leg and a kick to the body as well. Costa fires off a head kick that is well wide of the mark, and Costa decides he will fight fire with fire and lands a pair of leg kicks on the inside and outside. Adesanya jabs at him and kicks the inside of the Brazilian’s leg. Costa walks forward with a left hand, and Costa takes a head kick on the side of the head and fakes that it hurt him like Anderson Silva against Chris Weidman. Adesanya does not fall into a trap and instead assaults the leg once again. Adesanya blasts Costa to the body, and Costa gives it back as he rushes in. When Costa bolts towards him, Adesanya catches him on the way in while backing away. Adesanya slams his leg into the knee and then blasts Costa in the head with a kick, and the Brazilian is not hurt but a little confused and cut on his eyebrow. Adesanya delivers a pair of leg kicks as Costa switches stances, and Adesanya kicks the other for good measure. Costa tries to step in with two left hooks, but Adesanya is well out of the way. Costa kicks the thigh, and Adesanya catches it and lands three punches. Adesanya sees his man is hurt, and he slips a wild punch and staggers Costa with a left hand to send the Brazilian careening to the ground. “The Last Stylebender” styles on his damaged opponent with some ground-and-pound as he hops into mount. A few more punches and an unnecessary yet devastating elbow from on high as Costa turns to his stomach seals the deal, and Adesanya is now 20-0 having handed Costa his first loss. What a masterful performance from the champ, who offers his next defense to Jared Cannonier should Cannonier defeat Robert Whittaker in a month. The next event next week also takes place on Yas Island, and we will see you there!

The Official Result

Israel Adesanya def. Paulo Costa R2 3:59 via TKO (Punches)
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