The UFC octagon returns to Abu Dhabi as Yas Island is once again transformed into ‘UFC Fight Island’ for a five-week run of events at the Emirate. Kicking off proceedings is a huge pay-per-view extravaganza, as UFC 253 features two world title fights that pack some serious knockout power. But where can we find the value in the markets? Here are our best value selections for fight night on ‘Fight Island’.
Slick striking goes up against brute force as former kickboxing ace and reigning UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya faces hulking Brazilian powerhouse, Paulo Costa. As striking style matchups go, this one is just about as contrasting as you’ll get.
Adesanya’s technical brilliance, control of range and speed advantage should give him the competitive edge over the hard-hitting, but limited, Costa, and “The Last Stylebender” is a deserved 8/15 favourite heading into the matchup.
The #WhatOddsPaddy markets can often throw up some interesting bets that stray away from the norm, and there are three excellent selections worth considering, based on how you feel the bout will play out.
Costa went all the way to the scorecards with the ludicrously powerful Yoel Romero in his last outing, so some may feel he’ll have the durability to make it to the scorecards. But, with Adesanya’s striking ability likely to see him rack up the rounds, the 4/1 on Adesanya winning the fight by unanimous decision looks a solid option if you fancy the fight to go all 25 minutes.
Also intriguing is the 4/1 available for Adesanya to land two or more takedowns in the fight. Yes, he’s a striking specialist, but his trips and level changes have caught opponents by surprise before, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Kiwi world champion threw in a takedown attempt or two during the course of the fight. It’s a little side bet to consider, for sure.
But the pick for this fight mirrors my overall prediction for this fight. I see Adesanya starting steadily, then picking off Costa from range and, as the fight heads into the championship rounds – uncharted water for the Brazilian – I expect Adesanya to turn up the power and stop a tiring, slowing Costa before the judges can be called into action.
Adesanya to earn the KO/TKO victory in Round 4 or 5 is a very tasty-looking 8/1. That’ll do nicely.
We spoke about the contrast in styles in the main event, and there’s a similar difference in approach between the two men in the co-main event, too. Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz will do battle for the vacant UFC light heavyweight title, with the fleet-footed, but powerful Reyes looking to outwork the more flat-footed, but deadly Blachowicz.
In terms of a stylistic breakdown, this one is relatively simple. Reyes will look to present a constantly moving target and pick off Blachowicz from the outside, while the big Pole will attempt to unleash one of his devastating punches to separate the American from his consciousness. Both men have serious knockout power, which means the odds on either man scoring a knockout finish are pretty stingy. But both men have also shown some outstanding durability, and I like the chances of the pair battling all the way to the scorecards.
Reyes should hold the edge in any fight that goes the distance. His striking output should be higher, his variety of offence is wider and he fights at a faster pace than Blachowicz, who will be a constant danger throughout, but will offer a more orthodox challenge.
The 7/2 available on Reyes to win via unanimous decision looks good value.
One of the most intriguing fights on the card on Saturday is the featherweight clash between Canada’s “Mean” Hakeem Dawodu and Russia’s Zubaira Tukhugov. Both men are heading into the bout looking for revenge – Dawodu for Tukhugov’s sucker-punch on sometime teammate Conor McGregor at UFC 229, and Tukhugov for Dawodu’s win over teammate Marat Magomedov four years ago – so it should offer a high-tempo, explosive encounter.
But who wins, and where’s the value?
Paddy has Tukhugov the narrow 4/5 favourite (with Dawodu even money) so the fight is a virtual coin-flip. But from covering both men’s fights over the years, Dawodu’s striking looks a little cleaner and carries more destructive power than Tukhugov’s, and that could be the key in what promises to be a back-and-forth war.
Both men are pretty durable, so it’s a decent bet that the fight will go all the way to the scorecards, and the 11/5 on “Mean” Hakeem getting the nod looks like the best value pick here.
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