After eight consecutive events at the Apex facility in Las Vegas, the UFC returns to “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi on Saturday for UFC 253.
In the main event, middleweight champion Israel Adesanya (19-0-0) is a -165 favorite over Paulo Costa (13-0-0).
MMA handicapper Lou Finocchiaro has two plays on the fight, both on Adesanya.
Adesanya (-165) over Costa
Adesanya by KO/TKO/DQ (+165)
“The fact that this fight is in Abu Dhabi in the 30-foot cage as opposed to the Apex center in a 25-foot cage is a substantial advantage to Adesanya,” said Finocchiaro (@GambLou), who noted that Adesanya has height and reach advantages. “Adesanya is the much more experienced fighter and the more athletic, fluid-moving man and more precision striker. He does his damage in accumulation, whereas Costa has one-strike power and is young, explosive and unbelievably powerful.
“This fight is all about Adesanya staying his distance and making the bull work and tire him out and taking him late. I do believe the bull fighter will slay the bull sometime in the fourth or fifth round.”
Along with his straight bet on Adesanya, Finocchiaro bet on the champ to win “inside the distance.” But if that’s not available, he recommends a wager on Adesanya to win by KO/TKO/DQ.
Royval (+190) over Kara-France
In a flyweight bout on the main card, Finocchiaro is backing underdog Brandon Royval over Kai Kara-France.
“Royval has a capable standup game, but he will want to take the fight to the floor,” he said. “If he can get it to the floor, he’s going to hold an advantage of being the longer, taller, heavier man. I believe his well-rounded game makes him a very live underdog here.”
Hughes (+250) over Espino
In a heavyweight match in the early prelims, Finocchiaro recommends a play on Jeff Hughes over Juan Espino.
“Espino has a world-class grappling and wrestling pedigree, but he’s very weak on the feet and striking and hasn’t been in the octagon since November 2018,” he said. “Hughes is more well-rounded than Espino and will have the advantage while standing up, though he’ll be totally overmatched on the mat.
“What I like best is that Hughes was 11-1 coming into the UFC, and he’s 0-2-1 since he arrived. He’s a desperate dog backed into a corner. At the end of the day, his desperation and takedown defense will allow him to keep the fight up and have the advantage.”
Tukhugov (-137) over Dawodu
Finocchiaro’s first four selections are full-unit plays, and he recommends a half-unit play on Zubaira Tukhugov over Hakeem Dawodu in a featherweight bout on the main card.
“Tukhugov was over the weight limit by 4 pounds (Friday), which is a tell that he’s going to use his wrestling against Dawodu, who’s primarily a standup striker,” Finocchiaro said. “I gave Tukhugov the edge if their weight was the same. But I consider his weight miss premeditated and believe that gives him a tremendous advantage with not having to cut weight over a striker.”