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Kiwi UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya takes on Brazilian Paulo Costa at UFC 253. Video / UFC / TheMaclife

Live updates of the Kiwi-heavy UFC 253 card, headlined by Israel Adesanya’s UFC title defence against Paulo Costa.

Adesanya vs. Costa staredown turns into belt-throwing. Video / RT Sport

First things first – what’s going on?

The Kiwis are taking over Fight Island.

On Sunday, UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya puts his title on the line against unbeaten challenger Paulo Costa in the main event of UFC 253. But Adesanya won’t be the only New Zealander to step inside the octagon, with Kai Kara-France, Brad Riddell and Shane Young – all part of Auckland’s City Kickboxing stable – also on the card.

The Herald on Sunday back page ahead of the Adesanya v Costa fight.
The Herald on Sunday back page ahead of the Adesanya v Costa fight.

No 7-ranked flyweight Kara-France will take on No 9-ranked Brandon Royval in his first appearance on the main card of a pay-per-view (meaning his fight goes behind the paywall). Rising lightweight contender Brad Riddell will look to add another loss to the impressive 21-2 record of Brazil’s Alex da Silva in the main fight of the preliminary card, while featherweight Shane Young makes his first appearance since last February, welcoming the UFC’s first Slovakian fighter Ludovit Klein to the promotion earlier on the prelims.

It’s the second time in as many years four New Zealand-based fighters will feature on a UFC card, following UFC 243 in Melbourne last October – the biggest event in New Zealand combat sports history – which featured Adesanya, Riddell, Dan Hooker and Luke Jumeau fighting in front of 57,000 people.

On Fight Island, there will be no crowd at all. Such is the way things work in the world of Covid-19.

What can you tell us about their opponents?

Paulo Costa is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, but is known as volume striker with an affinity for stopping his opponents. In his five UFC fights, he has four wins by TKO and just one by decision. He hasn’t knocked a UFC opponent out cold, but his pressure and relentless pursuit in the early rounds has broken opponents. This will be his first main event in the UFC, and only one of his fights has seen a third round, so his cardio is a big question.

Brandon Royval is just one fight into his UFC career, but that was an impressive submission win over tough veteran Tim Elliott. You can expect Royval to try take his fight with Kara-France to the ground, with Kara-France the better and more powerful striker of the two. This will be Royval’s first time fighting outside of the United States, which puts him at the disadvantage of not being accustomed to acclimatising. This is not your normal event, with the pair squaring off at approximately 5am local time.

Kai Kara-France last fought at UFC Auckland in February. Photo / Getty Images
Kai Kara-France last fought at UFC Auckland in February. Photo / Getty Images

Alex da Silva has an impressive 21-2 career record, but is 1-1 in the UFC. Fifteen of his 23 career fights came between 2014-15, though his two UFC bouts were both in 2019. In those fights, da Silva showed he has some confidence in his striking, but seems more comfortable when the fight is in close quarters – be that wrestling against the cage or on the mat. The Brazilian will have a small height and reach advantage over Riddell.

Shane Young will make his return to the UFC after more than 18 months out of action. Photo / Getty Images
Shane Young will make his return to the UFC after more than 18 months out of action. Photo / Getty Images

Ludovit Klein was a late replacement, with Nate Landwehr having to withdraw from his fight against Young after testing positive for Covid-19. Like Landwehr, Klein is a stand-up southpaw fighter whose best weapon is his left high kick which he can land as a single shot or to back up a combination with his hands.

Is Costa the most challenging test of Adesanya’s career?

Israel Adesanya will meet Paulo Costa in the main event at UFC 253. Photo / Getty Images
Israel Adesanya will meet Paulo Costa in the main event at UFC 253. Photo / Getty Images

Any fighter with knockout power is going to be a threat. Make one wrong move and you could pay dearly. However, it’s tough to say Costa is the toughest fight Adesanya has faced. Costa doesn’t have the resume to match the likes of Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker, and while he’s an exciting fighter to watch and has an underrated skillset, Adesanya has met more challenging opponents.

What other fights are happening?

Outside of the four Kiwis, there’s a lot to like on this card. For one, Adesanya v Costa isn’t even the only title fight on the card.

American Dominick Reyes and Poland’s Jan Blachowicz will square off in the co-main event for the vacant light heavyweight title in a match-up of durability and power, while on the prelims, Australian welterweight Jake Matthews gets the chance to step into the octagon against UFC legend Diego Sanchez

How can I watch the card?

Brad Riddell has made an impressive start to his UFC career. Photo / Getty Images
Brad Riddell has made an impressive start to his UFC career. Photo / Getty Images

The early prelims kick off at midday on Sunday on UFC Fight Pass – the company’s streaming platform. The main prelims get underway at 1pm on UFC Fight Pass, ESPN and Prime. The main card gets underway at 3pm and is available to watch on pay-per-view on Sky Arena or UFC Fight Pass.

The Herald will have live coverage of the card from 1.30pm.

What time will the Kiwis fight?

Shane Young v Ludovit Klein – approximately 1.30pm
Brad Riddell v Alex da Silva – approximately 2.30pm
Kai Kara-France v Brandon Royval – approximately 4pm
Israel Adesanya v Paulo Costa – approximately 5pm

Israel Adesanya v Paulo Costa – Tale of the tape

Age: 31 || 29
Record: 19-0 (14 KO/TKO) || 13-0 (11 KO/TKO)
Reach: 203cm || 183cm
Height: 193cm || 185cm
TAB: $1.51 || $2.40



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