UFC 253: Return to Fight Island with @DieHardMMAPod

by Pub Sports Radio

UFC 253: Return to Fight Island

By: Clint MacLean (@DieHardMMAPod)


The UFC has finally done it! After so many cards shattered by COVID cancellations, they have made the (correct) choice and made a 2nd trip out to Abu Dhabi. The fighters and their camps are once again tested prior to travel, and they are kept safe on a COVID-free Island so that we can all bet like degenerates on some serious MMA action.


UFC 253 is a card stacked to the brim with fighters poised for a breakout performance, and the matchmaking is spectacular. Kicking off the night, we do have the poorest offering on the card when 0-3 Khadis Ibragimov has an opportunity to right the ship against a dangerous UFC newcomer who hasn’t fought in 2 years. I have a bet on the dog Danilo Marques who is a Demian Maia trained BJJ practitioner and a huge man, but after that, we do get to the good stuff. TUF winner and world-class grappler Juan Espino is finally making his UFC debut after winning The Ultimate Fighter.


Juan Espino is facing the training partner of current UFC Heavyweight champion Stipe in Jeff Hughes. Hughes is 0-2-1 in the UFC and needs a win here. He has a strong takedown defense, and he will need every bit of it against Espino.


Moving on to the Preliminary card, we have a few Dana White Contender Series stands outs in William Knight and Aleksa Camur going head to head. Both men are packing serious power, and between them, there is only one loss. Camur is an undefeated prospect with 1 UFC fight under his belt, and Knight is coming off a vicious KO win. This is a fight that should be an absolute banger, and I am rolling with the dog. I think Camur leaves too many openings, and you simply cannot afford to take shots from Knight.


The rest of the preliminary card fills out with a few City Kickboxing Fighters and Diego Sanchez. City Kickboxing is one of the hottest gyms on the market right now, and this card feels like it should’ve been down under to spotlight them. Both Shane Young and Brad Riddell have dangerous opponents in front of them, but they are battle-tested and extremely well trained. Diego Sanchez, on the other hand, has embraced Joshua Fabian’s School of Self Awareness and has not been looking like the Nightmare we all know and love. Fresh off an Illegal Knee disqualification “win,” Diego has signed a brand new four-fight deal with the UFC and is trying to go out in style. Unfortunately for him, he is facing a hungry young Jake Matthews who has him out skilled and out trained. Saturday could be a sad night for Ultimate Fighter Season 1 fan.


The main card of UFC 253 is STACKED. We are treated to an absolute brawl between Hakeem Dawodu and Zubaira Tukhugov. I fully expect fireworks from this fight, and I have a feeling somebody is going to sleep. Hakeem sets a blistering pace but leaves himself open to being cracked. Tukhugov has serious power early in the fight but seems to fade in the later rounds. Either man could win this fight in a vicious manner.

We top the card off with City Kickboxing’s Kai Kara France taking on the hot submission artist Brandon Royval in his 2nd UFC outing, and I believe that this fight is closer than it is lined. KKF is a very technical fighter who is defensively sound on the feet, but I believe he has peaked! I think Royval is a vicious fighter who never quits and can push a pace that may cause Kai to fade. If this fight hits the mat, Royval will have a serious opportunity to snap a limb. I got the dog here.


The Co-main event and the main event are stellar! After Jon Jones vacated the UFC’s Light Heavyweight belt, it has left us in a strange position. Jan Blachowicz had a solid claim to being the next contender at 205, but many felt Dominick Reyes beat Jon Jones in their close fight and deserved a rematch. We have the top 2 contenders at 205 scrapping over the belt that Jon left behind, and it’s a surprisingly great fight. Dom has a huge reach advantage and a youth advantage. Jan has fast technical hands and an underrated grappling game. Blachowicz is also bringing a wealth of experience to this fight that might allow him to get one over the young gun. Once again… I think we might have a live underdog.


The main event is a rare occurrence in the UFC when two undefeated fighters are battling a belt. MMA is not like boxing in that padded records are far rarer and it’s extremely hard to get to the top of the pile without running into an opponent who can expose a weakness in your game. Both Paulo Costa and Israel Adesanya have faced challenges in their careers and come through with flying colors, and they have been talking crap to one another the whole way. All the bad blood and trash talk is finally coming to a head Saturday, and only one man can keep their undefeated record. We have a battle that is speed and precision against raw power. I believe Izzy will play the outside and pick his shots when Costa crashes in attempting to land a bomb. Costa has been nothing but durable through his UFC career and is coming off taking the best shots that Yoel Romero had to offer. I think it might take a while, but eventually, Izzy will find that button. Prediction: Israel Round 4 knockout.

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