Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa spent months exchanging verbal shots, but when it came time to step into the Octagon at UFC 253, the only significant blows that landed were those of middleweight champion.
After spending a full round beating up Costa’s lead leg, Adesanya finished the challenger with punches in the second round of the main event on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
Adesanya’s strategy was apparent early as he kept distance and unloaded with kicks to Costa’s lead leg, alternating between kicks to the outside and stomp kicks to the knee. As Adesanya landed, Costa would respond with taunts before trying to cut off the cage. But Adesanya’s footwork was on-point, allowing him to slide away from any danger before resuming his leg attacks.
Costa looked to turn things up in Round 2, trying to pressure a bit more, but Adesanya continued to avoid the exchanges and began to mix in strikes to the head. A head kick from Adesanya opened a cut above Costa’s eye, and suddenly the challenger’s taunts stopped as he began to move backward.
As Costa finally got his wish and the two began to exchange in close quarters, Adesanya landed a glancing blow off Costa’s temple, sending him tumbling to the canvas. Adesanya wasted no time following Costa to the ground, unleashing a brutal flurry of strikes and forcing the referee to call a halt to the action at the 3:59 mark of Round 2.
“I still don’t like him. I don’t know him personally, I don’t wish he dies or anything, he’s alive, I let him be alive,” Adesanya said after the fight. “This is the game we play, this is violence and I told you guys that it was going to be violent and I said it, it’s going to be violent and it’s going to end fast and that’s what I did. I’m fresh, I can go next weekend, I can go anytime. I want to spend time with my family because it’s been a crazy year, so I want to go spend time with my people.
With the victory, Adesanya improved to 20-0 and dispatched a man many felt was his toughest challenger in the division. With options for fresh challenges dwindling after just two title defenses, Adesanya said he had already notified the man who could be next up of the opportunity ahead.