Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa Odds, Pick and Prediction: Back ‘The Last Stylebender’ in UFC 253 Main Event (Saturday, Sept. 26)

Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa Odds, Pick and Prediction: Back ‘The Last Stylebender’ in UFC 253 Main Event (Saturday, Sept. 26) article feature image
Credit:

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: Israel Adesanya of Nigeria.

  • UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and challenger Paulo Costa headline UFC 253 action at Fight Island.
  • Sean Zerillo is finding value on a side and the over/under for Saturday’s main event.
  • Read his full breakdown that includes picks and updated odds below.

Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa Odds

Adesanya odds -195 [BET NOW]
Costa odds +155 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 2.5 (-159/+120) [BET NOW]
Venue Yas Island, Abu Dhabi
Time Saturday at 11:55 p.m. ET
Channel ESPN PPV

Odds as of Friday at 10 p.m. ET and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.


The UFC returns to Fight Island on Saturday with an incredible main event, as Paulo Costa and Israel Adesanya battle for the Middleweight title.

It is just the third title fight between an undefeated champion and undefeated challenger in UFC history, and the first occurrence in nearly five years:

  • Lyoto Machida def. Rashad Evans (UFC 98, May 23, 2009)
  • Holly Holm def. Ronda Rousey (UFC 193, Nov. 15, 2015)

Adesanya will hope to avoid suffering the same fate as both Evans and Rousey — they each lost their titles in those bouts, and by way of KO/TKO.

But the UFC’s No. 4 pound-for-pound fighter is a veteran of more than 100 professional fights, and he has only suffered one knockout defeat (in a 2017 kickboxing match). He has won 99 of those 105 pro fights across boxing, kickboxing, and MMA, after a 32-0 amateur kickboxing career — there’s a reason why “The Last Stylebender” is one of the most popular combat sports athletes in the world.

But, where can you find a betting edge on the most anticipated Middleweight title fight in UFC history?

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Israel Adesanya Odds History

Date & Opponent Opening & Closing Odds Results
3/7/20, Yoel Romero -185, -309 W
10/5/19, Robert Whittaker +160, -140 W
4/13/19, Kelvin Gastelum -220, -210 W
2/9/19, Anderson Silva -400, -588 W
11/3/18, Derek Brunson -260, -315 W

Adesanya opened as a -140 favorite (implied 58.3%) against Costa, and he has become a more significant favorite during fight week, moving roughly six percentage points to around -180 (implied 64.3%) in the betting market.

Except for his interim title fight against Kelvin Gastelum, which proved to be the 2019 fight of the year, the market has moved at least 10 cents towards Adesanya, after open, before all of his UFC bouts.

Paulo Costa Odds History

Date & Opponent Opening & Closing Odds Results
8/17/19, Yoel Romero +165, +110 W
7/7/18, Uriah Hall -290, -360 W
11/4/17, Johnny Hendricks -135, -375 W
6/3/17, Oluwale Bamgbose -215, -303 W
3/11/17, Garreth McLellan -210, -365 W

Costa has been a relatively popular pick amongst bettors and analysts this week, but the betting line continues to move against the Brazilian for the first time in his career — indicating that the bigger bets are coming in on the champion.

Tale of the Tape

Israel Adesanya Paulo Costa
Record 19-0 13-0
Avg. Fight Time 15:53 7:17
Height 6’4″ 6’1″
Weight (pounds) 185 lbs. 185 lbs.
Reach (inches) 80″ 72″
Stance Switch Orthodox
Date of birth 7/22/89 4/21/91
Sig Strikes Per Min 3.96 8.43
SS Accuracy 48% 57%
SS Absorbed Per Min 2.40 6.84
SS Defense 65% 53%
Take Down Avg 0.00 0.00
TD Acc 0% 0%
TD Def 86% 80%
Submission Avg 0.3 0.0

Adesanya has a significant height (+3 inches) and reach (+8 inches) advantage in this fight, but Costa is the much more powerful man and should be setting the tempo as the UFC’s active leader in significant strikes landed per minute.

Costa is a pressure fighter who continues to come forward, even through exhaustion, relying on his kickboxing technique to damage his opponent at all three levels (head, body, legs) and durability to sustain damage of his own despite subpar striking defense.

The narrative is that Costa pushed an insane pace against Yoel Romero before gassing out midway through the second round (and it looked that way), but he actually landed more significant strikes (44) and landed at a higher percentage (60%) in the third round of that fight than he did in either of the first two rounds.

Romero merely doubled his own first-round output in that third round (124-to-69 strikes attempted) as Costa fell tired and his defense severely waned, but he continued to push through his exhaustion, offensively.

As a result, I don’t think that Costa is KO or bust in this spot; he does have a path to winning on the scorecards, but he needs to win the first two rounds of this fight and catch a second wind from there.

He also needs to fight at a more intelligent pace in order to sustain that volume over 25 minutes. Adesanya isn’t a high volume striker himself, but it’s also not Costa’s style to let off the gas pedal early, either.

Costa’s decision victory against Romero was slightly controversial. I personally scored the first two rounds for Costa, but half of the media members and 42% of the public scored the bout for the Cuban.

Romero was taking over later in the fight, and the UFC rewarded him with the title shot against Adesanya. The two men played chicken for 25 minutes, as Romero refused to engage the potent counter-striker. Costa will force the issue more, but he’s also vowed not to chase the champion around the octagon.

This should be a full striker vs. striker battle – neither man has attempted a takedown from distance in the UFC – and unlike the Gastelum fight, Adesanya doesn’t have to worry about Costa as a grappling threat, which should only increase his confidence and free up his defensive movement.

Adesanya vs. Costa  Betting Pick

In a 25-foot-cage at UFC Apex, I would give more credence to Costa’s pressure game plan, but “The Last Stylebender” should have plenty of room to dance around a 30-foot octagon on Fight Island, while evading, exhausting, and frustrating Costa with sidestep counters until he sees his raised.

Adesanya has said it himself: this is a matchup between power and precision. Offensively, he is an incredibly smooth striker, and he will look to constantly set traps and frustrate Costa with his feints and footwork in order to tire out the Brazilian with his defense.

Costa’s style should be more visually appealing to the judges early in the fight if he is landing, but he did get a couple of breathers in against Romero (due to an eye poke and a low blow), and perhaps his gas tank would have emptied more quickly but for those brief stoppages.

I do expect Costa to win at least one of the first two rounds, however, and I would suspect that you might find a better live price on Adesanya than you see pre-fight, particularly after the first round.

As of now, I don’t see any value on either side of the moneyline for this bout, and the odds for the fight to finish inside the distance are also accurate. I could see Adesanya stopping a tiring Costa late, for instance, and Costa seemingly carries his power late into fights, even as his defense wanes.

I bet Over 2.5 rounds, which I would play up to -160. Costa is incredibly durable, and to reiterate, Adesanya has only been knocked out once in more than 100 professional fights. The larger octagon only helps your chances of a slower pace, too.

Furthermore, Adesanya’s odds to win by decision (+300) offers a small edge (implied 25%) relative to the crowd projection at +247 (implied 28.8%), so I allocated a small bet on that winning method.

Lastly, I’ll be looking to make a live play on “The Last Stylebender”, if he is plus-money or better after Round 1.

The Bet:

  • Over 2.5 Rounds (-142, 0.5 units)
  • Adesanya to win by Decision (+300, 0.5 units)

Live Betting Notes

  • Live bet Adesanya after Round 1 at plus-money

[Bet Adesanya at DraftKings and get a $1,000 bonus, including a $500 risk-free bet]

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