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UFC 253 Main Card Picks: Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa Predictions, DraftKings Betting Odds

Timothy Finnegan breaks down the UFC 253 main event fight between Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa and provides a prediction along with bets to consider on DraftKings Sportsbook.

After a series of events at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, the UFC is shifting back to Fight Island in Abu Dhabi for UFC 253. The card features two title fights, including a light heavyweight title bout between Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz. The main event is a middleweight title fight between champion Israel Adesanya and challenger Paulo Costa. The main card gets underway at 10:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 26.

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DraftKings Sportsbook will also be featuring a multitude of bets that can be placed throughout the night for the duration of UFC 253. See all the available bets at the DraftKings Sportsbook UFC page or by downloading the DK Sportsbook app. Learn more about a 50% profit boost on UFC 253 bets at the DraftKings Sportsbook Promotions page.

Below, we will take a look at the main event title fight between Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa and examine some of the bets offered for the fight by DraftKings Sportsbook.

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DraftKings Sportsbook odds for Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa


  • Israel Adesanya (-175)
  • Paulo Costa (+140)

Total Rounds

  • Over 2.5 (-134)
  • Under 2.5 (+100)

To Go the Distance

  • No (-305)
  • Yes (+215)

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Israel Adesanya is a tall and lengthy middleweight with high-level kickboxing skill. Adesanya stands 6’4” with an 80-inch reach, which gives him a big edge in reach over Paulo Costa, who carries a 72-inch reach. Adesanya enters this fight with a perfect 19-0 MMA record, including 8-0 in the UFC, and also carries extensive professional kickboxing experience.

One of Adesanya’s best attributes is his striking defense, which is due in part to his long limbs, which allows him to position himself just outside of his opponent’s striking range. 65% of Adesanya’s opponent strikes have not landed, the second best rate among active middleweights and the fifth best rate in the history of the division. Adesanya uses his long arms to stiff-arm opponents and keep them from closing the distance, similar to the way lengthy light heavyweight Jon Jones operates. Adesanya is also very quick and elusive, which he combines with his length to avoid being hit cleanly. Adesanya does not protect his chin well with his hands or guard, as he often leaves his hands low, but he protects his chin well through his length, speed, distance management and movement. Adesanya also strategically leaves his hands low in order to bait his opponents to attack him, where he can launch counters and set traps, similar to what former middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva used to do.

Because Adesanya has strong striking defense, opponents have a difficult time logging significant strike volume. Adesanya has limited opponents to 40 significant strikes or less in five of his last six fights. Even when Adesanya does get hit, it’s often at the very end of the strike due to his distance management, so he does not get hit with the full power of the strike.

Adesanya’s excellent defense will be a major component of his fight against Costa. Costa has extremely active, powerful hands and showcases massive striking volume. Costa leads all qualified UFC fighters in strikes landed per minute, landing 8.43, more than double the output of Adesanya, who has landed about four per minute. Costa comes forward with pressure and hits the gas with attacks, which has led to him finishing four of his five UFC fights via TKO in under three rounds.

Costa is also very powerful and carries an impressive physique. Costa is averaging 1.65 knockdowns per 15 minutes, the second best rate in the history of the middleweight division and the 10th best among all active UFC fighters in any weight class. Costa has recorded one knockdown in each of his last three fights and four of his five total fights in the UFC.

While Costa has more active striking than Adesanya, his striking defense has not been nearly as good, and he takes way more shots. Costa has absorbed nearly seven significant strikes per minute, more than double the amount that Adesanya has absorbed. If Adesanya can use his length to keep Costa from landing clean and then land counters off Costa advances, he could rack up a lot of points on the judge’s scorecards. This is similar to how Adesanya beat Kelvin Gastelum, who has a similar reach to Costa at 71”.

It’s also noteworthy that this fight is highly likely to be a stand-up battle. Neither Adesanya nor Costa have recorded a successful takedown in a combined 13 UFC fights, and both have posted strong takedown defense, each stopping over 80% of opponent takedown attempts. Adesanya has not even attempted a takedown in any of his last five fights and has attempted just three total takedowns in eight UFC fights. While Costa does possess a black belt in BJJ, he also barely attempts to get the fight to the ground, logging just one total takedown attempt in five UFC fights. Costa has also not logged a single submission attempt in any of his five UFC fights. The lack of grappling activity makes a submission finish to this fight unlikely, although Costa’s black belt in BJJ does give him the skill to finish with a submission if presented with the opportunity.

The likely stand-up battle is reflected in the DraftKings Sportsbook betting odds. The two most likely outcomes of this fight are Adesanya by KO, TKO or DQ (+155) and Costa by KO, TKO or DQ (+215). Adesanya by Decision (+310) and Costa by Decision (+750) are the next two most likely outcomes on DraftKings Sportsbook. Adesanya by Submission (+1600) and Costa by Submission (+1800) are the two least likely outcomes of this fight, aside from it ending in a Tie (+5000). Adesanya did nearly secure a triangle choke on Gastelum in their fight, but he generally does not attempt submissions, averaging just 0.3 submission attempts per 15 minutes and recording only three total submission attempts in eight UFC fights. Bet on the winning method of this fight here at the DraftKings Sportsbook UFC 253 Winning Method page.

Another notable bet to take notice of on DraftKings Sportsbook is the total rounds of 2.5 (-134). Adesanya has recorded the longest average fight time of any fighter in the history of the UFC middleweight division, averaging 15:53 per fight. Part of that is because Adesanya frequently fights in five-round fights, which gives him more possible octagon time, but part of that is also because Adesanya is not a big finisher. While he came very close to finishing Kelvin Gastelum in the final seconds of their five-round title fight, time ultimately ran out, and five of Adesanya’s last seven UFC fights have been decision wins. Because Adesanya has gone to decision more often than not, taking the over of 2.5 rounds (-134) on DraftKings Sportsbook could be a fruitful bet, especially given Adesanya is the favorite.

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Costa’s big power and extreme pressure gives him a puncher’s chance to win by KO, TKO or DQ (+215), especially with tiny MMA gloves, and his heavy and frequent striking volume could help him deposit points on the judge’s scorecards in the event the fight goes the distance.

However, I think the way Adesanya uses his length to create excellent defense, which he combines with his outstanding kickboxing and speed, puts him in very good position to win this fight from the outside using his reach advantage, similar to the way he beat Kelvin Gastelum. Costa has yet to fight beyond the third round, which could give Adesanya the cardio advantage in the championship rounds, where Adesanya would be in position to tee off on a potentially tired Costa and either finish the fight there or secure big points on the scorecard.

I like Adesanya to outpoint Costa on the feet using his length, movement and speed, and since I think there’s a decent chance Adesanya wins this fight either in the later rounds or by decision, betting the over of 2.5 rounds (-134) along with betting the fight to go the distance (+215) are bets that can be considered on DraftKings Sportsbook. Given Costa has yet to fight past the third round and could be tired late in the fight, higher payout bets that can be considered are Israel Adesanya - To Win Fight in Round 4 (+1100) and Israel Adesanya - To Win Fight in Round 5 (+1600). Ultimately, I’ll go with Adesanya by decision, but I expect him to be best positioned to win the fight in Rounds 4 and 5 either by accumulating points on the scorecards in those late rounds to fuel a decision win or by finishing a tired Costa.

Prediction: Israel Adesanya by Decision

DraftKings Sportsbook odds for Israel Adesanya by Decision: (+310)

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Bets to consider on DraftKings Sportsbook

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All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.

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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is timfinn521) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.

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