UFC 253 takes place Saturday night at Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. It features a middleweight title fight between champion Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa, as well as a vacant light heavyweight title bout between Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz.
Here are two of the best bets for the pay-per-view event.
On paper, this fight isn't a walk in the park for Adesanya. It'll never seem like an easy contest for any of Costa's opponents since he has tremendous power.
But this is still a fight Adesanya should win based on his skill set and how it matches up with Costa's. I feel better about siding with the champion to retain his title than simply hoping Costa can land a knockout punch, and I'm ultimately more comfortable taking "The Last Stylebender" anywhere below the -200 mark.
Adesanya is a tactician at heart. He's a master of precision and timing. He lands a variety of strikes from the outside and uses his footwork to attack from all sorts of angles. And unlike a lot of fighters who share a similar style, the 31-year-old has a lot of power to go with it, most recently proven by his second-round thumping of Robert Whittaker last October to capture the 185-pound belt.
Meanwhile, Costa is a bulldozer - he constantly moves forward and throws with all he has. Costa is willing to eat a shot to dish out two, as seen in his "Fight of the Year" candidate against Yoel Romero in 2019. He seems to have a solid chin, so that works well. And if "The Eraser" lands with the right, you're going to sleep.
Costa's aggressive style presents an interesting test for Adesanya, but the champion should be able to pass it with flying colors. Adesanya will use his movement to stay out of danger, and he'll be able to pick the challenger apart from the outside using his speed and eight-inch reach advantage. As Costa comes forward, Adesanya will pepper him with punches and kicks.
Costa's biggest moments - and the best chance of an upset - will come in the early rounds, but expect the Brazilian bruiser to tire out by the fourth. Costa has never gone past the third round in his MMA career, and he showed signs of fatigue in the third against Romero. That's when Adesanya, who's typically a smarter fighter than Costa, will take over after a measured approach in the first 15 minutes.
The challenger ultimately needs a knockout to win this fight, and it simply feels much safer to count on Adesanya outpointing him en route to a decision or a late finish.
I'm all-in on Eubanks after her upset of Julia Avila at UFC Fight Night on Sept. 12 in Las Vegas.
With Marion Reneau falling out of her matchup against Vieira, "Sarj" capitalized on the opportunity and is now set to make a two-week turnaround on Saturday's pay-per-view main card.
This feels like the kind of fight that could go either way, so the plus-money on Eubanks is worth a sprinkle.
Eubanks has drastically improved her overall game in the past year. Now riding a two-fight winning streak, she's a much different fighter than the person who lost to Bethe Correia and Aspen Ladd in 2019. Her wrestling game has become more dominant, and she's getting more comfortable on her feet.
Vieira is a skilled submission artist, but I suspect she'll struggle to find openings on the mat against a solid grappler. On the feet, this contest will be quite competitive, so I tend to believe Eubanks' path to victory is a bit stronger overall.
Additionally, Eubanks is riding a ton of momentum after beating top prospect Avila two weeks ago. The quick turnaround could cost her, but it could just as easily benefit her - look at what Khamzat Chimaev did in the span of 10 days, for instance. Eubanks knows that a win over Vieira would launch her into title contention in the women's bantamweight division, so there's no reason to think she won't be ready to go.
Vieira hasn't stepped into the Octagon since December, when she suffered a first-round knockout loss to Irene Aldana at UFC 245. The Brazilian contender was riding a lot of momentum a couple of years ago and seemed to be a future challenger for Amanda Nunes, but a long layoff combined with that stunning defeat has quieted those thoughts.
Ultimately, this is a competitive fight on paper, but I see Eubanks as being on the upswing - and her opponent perhaps going the other way. She'll grind out Vieira for a decision.
Here are the full odds from theScore Bet for UFC 253 on Sept. 26:
Early preliminary card