UFC 253 Recap: Back to title Fight Island

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Saturday night’s pay-per-view card delivered plenty of thrills and surprises. In the third fight of the evening, a fighter from Hartford, Connecticut made his UFC debut. William Knight has fought on the New England regional scene for the past five years and earned his UFC contract after his second win on UFC’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. Knight was considered a slight underdog for this fight, but he overpowered his opponent throughout the contest and showed strong takedown technique en route to a unanimous decision victory. In addition, he was very well spoken in his post-fight interview and got fans looking forward to seeing him again. 

On the main card, Ketlen Vieira looked to get back in the win column against Sijara Eubanks. Last December, Vieira was in striking distance of a title shot, when she suffered her first career setback against Irene Aldana — who fights Holly Holm in next week’s main event. Vieira’s movement made the difference, and in the first two rounds she was able to consistently land while slipping Eubanks’ punches. In the third round, Eubanks began to turn the tide, but it was too little too late and she lost on the scorecards. Vieira will likely be back in the title conversation soon. 

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Insane pace from second one! #UFC253

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Before the title fights began, Kai Kara-France took on Brandon Royval in the flyweight division. The fight was non-stop action and though it only lasted six minutes, the fighters were rewarded with fight of the night bonuses. Kara-France knocked down Royval early, and on his first attempt to stand Royval, stumbled back to the canvas. On his second attempt, he immediately launched into a spinning elbow, which found its target and floored Kara-France. This proved to be a decisive shift in momentum, and after one of the more entertaining rounds of the year, Royval put Kai Kara-France to sleep with a tight guillotine choke at the beginning of the second. 

In the first title fight, the vacant light-heavyweight title was on the line. Dominick Reyes was listed by oddsmakers as a significant favorite. Across the cage, Jan Blachowicz was looking to realize the storybook ending to his improbable title run. When the fight began, both fighters were tentative to engage with the other. Reyes was the first to land, and briefly wobbled Blachowicz. After recovering, Blachowicz began to find success with body kicks, and by the end of the first round, Reyes’ side was a dark red. Blachowicz’s precision and power was too much for Reyes, and after dominating the entire second round, he was able to put Reyes out with a left to the temple. After the fight, an elated Blachowicz let the victory sink in and called for a fight with Jon Jones. 

In the night’s main event, Paulo Costa challenged Israel Adesanya for the middleweight title. There have only been a handful of times that two undefeated fighters have fought in a title bout, so expectations were high. Unfortunately, the fight disappointed as one of the dance partners did not bring their A-game. To show fans that his boring performance against Romero was a fluke, Adesanya brought the fight to Costa from the beginning. Adesanya put on a masterful kickboxing display, with kicks landing to Costa’s legs, body and head. Across the cage, Costa seemingly had a gameplan of doing nothing. I was amazed by Costa’s ability to point to where Adesanya had hit him, stick out his tongue and then just wait for the next shot to land. Thankfully, Adesanya put an end to the nonsense late in round two and sent Costa packing with a TKO stoppage. Adesanya continued his dominance over the middleweight division and stated after the fight that Jared Cannonier is the next man on his radar. 

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