Sep 18, 2020
Sep 18, 2020

UFC 253 preview: Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa

Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa betting preview and odds

Adesanya and Costa stats

Adesanya vs. Costa predictions: Where is the value?

Adesanya and Costa's fighting styles analysed

UFC 253 preview: Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa

Both the UFC Middleweight Championship and two unbeaten MMA records are on the line as Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa face off at UFC 253. Will the defending champion Adesanya make it 20 fights without defeat, or can Costa become the first Brazilian to take the belt since 2013? Read on to inform your Adesanya vs. Costa predictions.

Event: UFC 253

Date: September 27, 2020

Venue: Flash Forum, Fight Island (Yas Island, UAE)

Adesanya vs. Costa: Tale of the tape

Israel ‘The Last Stylebender’ Adesanya


Paulo ‘Borrachinha’ Costa




193 cm


183 cm

84 kg


84 kg

203 cm


183 cm


UFC record



Overall MMA record



Striking accuracy



UFC ranking


This is the second bout for which Adesanya is defending the UFC Middleweight Championship. After becoming interim champion by defeating Kevin Gastelum at UFC 236, he then claimed the unified belt at the expense of Robert Whittaker at UFC 243, before retaining it by beating Yoel Romero at UFC 248.

This is the first UFC title bout between two undefeated fighters since 2009.

More impressively, the Nigerian is undefeated in 19 MMA fights, including eight UFC bouts. In particular, his UFC career has been adorned with constant success, producing four Performance of the Night awards, two Fight of the Night accolades and also the 2019 Fight of the Year award for his victory over Gastelum.

Similarly, Costa is completely unaccustomed to losing, having maintained a 100% win rate across 13 MMA fights and five UFC bouts. Since defeating Garreth McLellan on his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 106, he has quickly risen through the Middleweight rankings while deservedly crafting a reputation as a formidable puncher.

While the UFC Middleweight division sports a history of Brazilian champions courtesy of Murilo Bustamante and more notably Anderson Silva, this fight presents Costa with an opportunity to become the first Brazilian to claim the belt since December 2013.

Adesanya has utilised the build-up to the bout to criticise both Costa’s intelligence and fighting style, stating: “He’s dumb and he walks forward and he throws shots. I’m looking forward to this big, inflated ignoramus running up on me and trying to throw shots as I keep moving and sticking him.”

Meanwhile, Costa has downplayed Adesanya’s achievements and suggested he possesses a psychological advantage ahead of the fight, claiming: “He’s not a real champion, man. He’s acting like someone that’s been bothered, someone that’s uncomfortable. That’s the worst thing that can happen to a fighter – when their opponent gets in their head.”

Analysing the Adesanya vs. Costa odds

Adesanya has just under a 60% likelihood of emerging victorious according to the market at 1.617*, whereas Costa is priced at 2.400*, equating to an approximate 40% chance of winning. The Over/Under for rounds is set at 2.5, with both available at 1.925*.

Adesanya closed as favourite for each of his last five fights.

That means Adesanya has been priced slightly longer than the average closing odds for his last five bouts of 1.464. He closed as favourite on all five occasions, although he actually opened as underdog against Whittaker (2.24 to 1.71), before shortening to the narrow favourite (1.85 to 2.05) by fight night.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, that bout represented the most significant movement Adesanya’s odds have undergone between open and close during that time, and in fact the only occasion they moved by a margin of greater than 0.1. Adesanya’s odds tend to shorten more frequently than they lengthen, suggesting he may offer more accessible value if you place your bets sooner rather than later.

Costa has been priced at notably longer than his average closing odds of 1.875, although the market also implies that he possesses a more plausible chance of defeating Adesanya than four of his last five opponents (Whittaker being the exception). The Brazilian has also highlighted his ability to earn unexpected victories, and beat Romero in his last octagon outing despite closing at 2.43 to 1.61 for Romero.

Those considering betting on Costa should also note that Adesanya’s opponents have recently witnessed substantial movements in their odds, shifting by a margin of at least 0.25 for his last three bouts. It is thus worth bearing in mind that he could be feasibly priced at far from 2.400 in either direction by September 27.

Adesanya vs. Costa: Fighting styles analysed

Adesanya’s reputation as one of the most formidable strikers in UFC history offers a decent hint as to his style in the octagon. Indeed, he deploys a finely-tuned balance of attack and defence simply designed to outhit his opponent. This is a feat he has achieved in each of his eight UFC bouts to date, with Gastelum the only combatant during this time to land more than 50 strikes against him.

If Adesanya’s style can be considered aggressive yet calculated, then Costa’s is relentless.

However, while in his early MMA career this style lent itself to gradually weakening his opponents until they were vulnerable to a knockout attempt, in the UFC it has proved more efficient at carving out points victories over the distance. Of Adesanya’s eight UFC bouts, five have lasted the duration (compared to none whatsoever out of 13 pre-UFC), with only one being settled in the opening round.

Adesanya attempts to control fights by keeping proceedings upright, launching 88% of his attacks from a standing position, while also avoiding the floor with an impressive 87% takedown defence rate. His striking accuracy of 49% implies that he does not require many hits to cause significant damage, particularly when he is punching – eight of his 14 MMA knockout victories to date came courtesy of his fists.

While he is yet to attempt a single takedown in a UFC bout, Adesanya occasionally enjoys targeting his opponent’s legs (doing so with 28% of his attacks) if he senses an opportunity to knock them off balance and attempt an submission. While he is yet to earn a submission victory, his far superior reach (203cm to 183cm) means that Costa may find himself particularly focusing on keeping his balance.

If Adesanya’s style can be considered aggressive yet calculated, then Costa’s is relentless. Elements of defence in his approach are virtually non-existent, and he greatly exceeds Adesanya for both significant strikes landed (8.83 to 3.96) and absorbed (5.79 to 2.40) per minute. Costa’s five UFC appearances have brought four knockout victories, although each of his bouts in the league lasted longer than the previous.

Despite an unreserved inclination to pulverise his opponent, Costa can also notably boast a superior striking accuracy of 59% and respectable defence rate of 51%. Only Romero has outhit Costa during his UFC tenure, and did so with a far weaker striking accuracy (44% to 55%) on the night.

Similarly to Adesanya, Costa’s preference is to punch his opponents while staying on his feet. All but one of his 11 MMA knockout victories were earned with his fists, while 75% of his attacks are launched from a standing position. He switches between attempting to strike fighters on their head and injuring them with body shots, which collectively account for 97% of his attacks.

However, it is worth noting that these are stats largely recorded against opponents of a similar build. Adesanya is by far the tallest combatant with the greatest reach that Costa has faced in the UFC, and whether he feels the need to tinker with his approach to account for this remains to be seen.

Adesanya vs. Costa: Where is the value?

The outcome of this fight largely depends on how effectively Costa breaches Adesanya’s defence. The latter’s superior reach means he can afford to keep the fight at a distance and should assist his quality over quantity style, and his ability to target opponents’ legs offers a bonus and potentially vital tool in his arsenal on the night.

However, Costa enters this fight with an unbeaten MMA record for a reason. His unremitting attacking approach means that Adesanya will require a skilful defensive performance to avoid being overwhelmed, particularly as Costa will likely suspect that an early knockout is his most proficient route to victory.

With this in mind, an Adesanya win and the fight being settled by decision seem well-placed to go hand-in-hand, whereas under 2.5 rounds could prove a promising value bet for those considering betting on Costa. While the market seems justified in narrowly favouring the champion retaining his belt, a closely and fiercely contested fight is a firm possibility.

Looking forward to UFC 253? Make sure to check out Pinnacle's predictions for all the other bouts on the night.

Odds subject to change

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