Incredible win for the Kiwi-Nigerian, who defends his belt for the second time. Thanks for joining us! Check out the links below for full wraps of all the Kiwis who were in action today.
Main event - Israel Adesanya v Paulo Costa - Adesanya wins via second-round knockout
Round two - Costa walks out and eats a couple more leg kicks, the leg assault continues for Izzy. Huge red welts on Costa's lead leg. Izzy fighting well at distance, using his reach advantage. Costa has to try and close the distance here, Adesanya landing regularly from the outside. Costa lunges with a kick, Izzy evades and lands a heavy right hand. Huge head kick partially lands and opens a cut on Costa's eye. Costa's leg looks like it just had acupuncture. Huge left hand lands! Costa drops, Izzy moves in and unleashes and the referee moves in. This is over! Unbelievable performance.
Round one - No touching of gloves, let's go! Strong leg kick from Izzy to start. Doubles that up. Izzy circles, finding his range. Attacks Costa's knee again. Costa comes forward with a body kick that lands. Throws another one that lands with a huge thud. Adesanya now to the knee, digs in with his shin. Adesanya switch kick, just misses. Costa begins the taunting, beckoning Izzy forward. Adesanya stops and points to Costa and says 'Romero'. Classic. Adesanya doing work on Costa's lead leg. Costa will need to start checking those. Costa not offering a lot of offence early. Heavy body kick lands from Adesanya. Costa tries to clinch, gets picked off for his troubles. Solid first round for the Kiwi-Nigerian, great patience.
5:29pm - Buffer launches into the intros. Adesanya with some subtle crumps, soaks it all in.
5:24pm - A much more lowkey entrance for Adesanya this time out. The champ makes a composed stroll to the Octagon.
5:20pm - Costa makes his way to the Octagon first. Can you believe this fight is finally going to actually happen?
5:10pm - The moment you've all been waiting for is up next, Adesanya v Costa will be upon us momentarily.
Co-main event - Dominick Reyes v Jan Blachowicz - Blachowicz wins via second-round KO
Round two - Blachowicz lands a monster left hand! Reyes sinks to his back and the Polski swoops in to unleash and force the referee stoppage, and we have a new light heavyweight world champion!
Round one - Jan with the early leg kick attack. Quiet and measured and opener, but the Polski landed the most consistently. That's his round.
4:45pm - The co-main event between Jan Blachowicz and Dominick Reyes for the vacant light heavyweight title is up next. After that, it's Adesanya o'clock.
Kai Kara-France v Brandon Royval - Royval wins via second-round submission
Round two - Kai coming over the top with the right but Royval is relenteless with the knee. Royval jumps the guillotine! It's standing, brings it to the mat, Kai fighting but he can't escape, Royval adjusts his body lock and the tap comes. Huge win for Royval. This kid is legit, another flyweight prospect emerges.
Round one - We're underway! Royval comes out firing with a high kick, Kai replies with a low kick that almost trips him. Huge right hand from Kai! Royval looks wobbled, but fires a spinning elbow that looks to have shaken Kai. The Kiwi shoots, and Royval attacks for an omoplata. That was almost a simultaneous knock down. Royval works his way to top position, the submission specialist will be happy to keep the fight here. Moving to the back of Kara-France. Kai doing well to explode out of the choke attempt and back to his feet. Royval charging forward, throwing the knee effectively. Rocks Kara-France! Kai drops and Royval swoops looking for the guillotine. Kai manages to free his head and get back to his feet. Royval putting some great combos together, Kai counters with a big right. Breathless stuff in round one! You'd have to give the edge to Royval in that one.
4:25pm - Kara-France makes his way to the middle, NZ flag in tow, to the strains of Patea Maori Club's anthem 'Poi E'. Predictably, a slightly more muted repsonse to the one he received at Spark Arena back in February.
4:24pm - Royval makes his entrance to ODB's 'Shimmy Shimmy Ya', can't be mad at that.
4:20pm - Stick around people, 'Dont Blink' is up next!
Sijara Eubanks v Ketlen Vieira - Vieira wins via unanimous decision
Round three - Starting to open up here, Eubanks laying it on the line, as she needs to. Great action to finish, this should go Vieira's way.
Round one - Vieira doing work now, on the feet and the ground. Eubanks needs a third-round finish to win this.
Round one - Vieira shakes off her rust to earn the opnening round, clinches it with a late takedown.
3:40pm - After this women's bantamweight bout we'll have our third and penultimate Kiwi of the day, Kai Kara-France.
Hakeem Dawodu v Zubaira Tukhogov - Dawodu wins via unanimous decision
Round three - This could be the decisive round. Tukhogov started to wear some damage. Dawodu really coming home strong here, should get his hand raised.
Round two - Another really close round, Dawodu may have edged it.
Round one - First fight of the main card is underway. There'll be one more bout after this, then Kai Kara-France will be in action. Close opening round.
3pm - That will do us for the prelims, as we move into the main card, pay-per-view portion of proceedings.
Brad Riddell v Alex da Silva - Riddell wins via unanimous decision
2:58pm - The judges compiling their scorecards now...all three judges score it 2-1 to Riddell, and NZ is on the board in Abu Dhabi.
Round three - This round will decide the winner. Buckle up. Riddell pressing, lands a pretty three-shot combo against the fence. Follows with a right. Da Silva eats a left, the Kiwi looks the fresher fighter. Mixing his strikes up, low and high. Riddell moving well, footwork opening up angles for him to exploit. Da Silva gets the clinch now but he doesn't have the strength to hold on. Oh wow, Da Silva gets clipped by a pretty left hook then stops claiming an eye poke. Bareman is furious, screaming at the referee. Ref restarts the fight, Riddell wins a quick takedown, then back to the feet and unloads. Riddell attacking the eye of Da Silva, quickfire combos and Da Silva is hurting. Riddell shoots to close, and that will do us. Riddell should have his hand raised here.
Round two - Riddell starts with a leg kick. Da Silva immediately in with another clinch, really making the Kiwi feel his pressure. This is one area of the fight where he has an advantage. Da Silva continuing to control, Riddell manages to spin free and they're back to striking. Leg kicks traded, nice counter hook from Riddell. Comes over the top, Da Silva feels it. Riddell uppercut lands. The Kiwi finding some rhythm now. Short left lands for Riddell, uppercut with a straight right follows. Da Silva looks for a flying knee and Riddell catches it and wins a brief takedown. Riddell really ramping up the output now. Da Silva shoots, brilliant sprawl Riddell to repel that attempt. Left-right counter Riddell to close. That's Riddell's round.
Round one - Da Silva gets off first, Riddell replies. Da Silva clips Riddell with the left hook. Riddell blasts him with a calf kick. Da Silva shoots and gets the takedown, moves into half guard. Riddell defending well, Da Silva unable to advance his position so far. Back into full guard, and Riddell is up to his feet, though still in Da Silva's grasp. Riddell upand fighting Da Silva's hands. Big knees to Riddell's legs, Riddell reverses and presses Da Silva to the fence, nicely done. Now they're back to the centre. Riddell strikes and shoots and Da Silva cinches in a guilltine choke. Manages to work his body out of danger but he's still locked up as the hooter sounds. First blood to the Brazilian.
2:37pm - Riddell makes his walk to Dave Dobbyn's 'Slice of Heaven'. Let's get this started.
2:28pm - Second Kiwi fighter is about to make his entrance, Christchurch's Brad Riddell ready to do battle against Brazil's Alex da Silva.
Jake Matthews v Diego Sanchez - Matthews wins via unanimous decision
Third round - Matthews with a savage right that sends Sanchez to the mat! Matthews swoops in, claims mount, and Sanchez is bleeding profusely. Sanchez, as he always does, battles through the onslaught. Throws up a desperation armbar late after eating some hefty hammer fists. Matthews escapes back into full guard. Matthews unloads as the round closes to seal a one-sided unanimous decision.
Second round - Matthews doing some impressive work on the feet, landing his short left regularly. Sanchez chasing and lunging with shot, but the Aussie is making him pay.
First round - Great start for Matthews, lands a few big shots early. Sanchez shoots for a late heel hook but eats some heavy shots as the round closes.
Shane Young v Ludovit Klein - Klein wins first-round KO
1:49pm - Classy in defeat, Young goes in with a hongi with Klein after the Slovak has his hand raised.
Round one - We're on! Young takes the centre early, orthodox v southpaw. Working that great jab of his early. Klein letting his left kick go early, Young defends well. Huge head kick Klein!! Young is staggered, Klein swoops in with an uppercut, then some follow up shots but the referee is quick to step in. This one is over quickly.
1:42pm - Young laid down the challenge at yesterday's square-off. Let's see how Klein responds.
1:35pm - Here we go, NZ fights fans. 'Sugar' Shane Young is about to make his return to the Octagon after a 20-month absence against Ludovit Klein.
Klein is Slovakia's first-ever UFC fighter, and will make his debut after Nate Landwehr was forced to withdraw, when he tested positive for COVID-19.
Klein has come in over weight, and fighters who have missed weight have a poor record this year. Let's see how we go.
William Knight v Aleksa Camur - Knight wins via unanimous decision
Round three - Again, it's Knight flipping the tables by taking the impetus in the grappling exchanges. Back to the feet they go, both men breathing heavily in the clinch, Knight forcing Camur to carry his weight. Knight moves to the back, half a body lock in. Starts raining some heavy shots. That's an emphatic win for the underdog Knight.
Round two - Camur gettng busy with his grappling now, takes Knight's back but the American does well to the fight the hands and turn into guard, then get back to his feet. Knight with the top position now, transitions into full mount as the clock ticks away. He's got a deep Kimura here, somehow Camur survives until the bell sounds. Another round for Knight.
Round one - We're off and running with a light heavyweight clash. Serbia's Camur is a lengthy favourite in this one, but it's Knight going to work early in the clinch. Knight with a big flurry to end, that should be his round.
1pm - Kia ora and welcome to fight-by-fight coverage, as Kiwis Israel Adesanya, Kai Kara-France, Brad Riddell and Shane Young try to get their hands raised at UFC 253 at Abu Dhabi's 'Fight Island'.
The preliminary fights are about to get underway, starting with William Knight v Aleksa Camur. Then we'll be into the first of the Kiwis, with Shane Young squaring off against Ludovit Klein.
What time are the Kiwis fighting at UFC 253?
Approximate estimations below (NZT):
Shane Young v Ludovit Klein - 1.30pm
Brad Riddell v Alex da Silva - 2.30pm
Kai Kara-France v Brandon Royval – 4pm
Israel Adesanya v Paulo Costa – 5pm
Shane Young - $1.90 Ludovit Klein $1.83
Brad Riddell - $1.28 Alex da Silva - $3.40
Kai Kara-France - $1.41 Brandon Royval - $2.75
Dominick Reyes - $1.36 Jan Blachowicz - $2.95
Israel Adesanya - $1.51 Paulo Costa - $2.40
I'm the best UFC lightweight striker - Brad Riddell
By Stephen Foote
Just three fights into his UFC tenure, Kiwi lightweight Brad Riddell has already set the tone for what opponents and fans can expect each time he steps into an Octagon - unmitigated warfare.
Three-round barnburners against Jame Mullarkey in Melbourne last October, then a show-stopping battle against Magomed Mustafaev in Auckland seven months ago have left a lasting early impression.
The Christchurch native expects that trend to continue against Alex Da Silva at UFC 253 on Abu Dhabi's 'Fight Island' on Sunday (NZ time).
"All that matters is that you win, you perform and you entertain," Ridell tells Newshub. "All of those things need to be conquered and that's my goal.
"I'm excited to stand in front of Alex and stare at him, because I feel like his energy is competitive and I feel like he is there to have a go at me.
"I'm looking forward to staring into his eyes and seeing his soul, because I always know I'm there to go at them."
Don't be fooled by Riddell's youthful 8-1 mixed martial arts record. He may be fresh to the UFC, but he has more than a decade worth of kickboxing and Muay Thai experience to his name, years of bouts on both regional cards and in far-flung lands that have crafted a highly technical and cerebral striking savant.
That's why - despite his young UFC career - Riddell has the confidence to claim he's already the division's most dangerous and pure striker.
"I think I am. I'm sure other people have their other opinions, but in my mind, absolutely."
He believes his counterparts still don't fully realise the level of stand-up he possesses, although they're beginning to learn - the hard way.
"Look at the last fight. He was very strong and had a really good body lock, but he held onto that body lock for dear life, because he knew what was going to happen if he let go.
"He didn't even really want to let go with one hand to punch me, because he knew I'd get out and we'd be back facing each other standing."
During his kickboxing years, Riddell always had one eye on a full-time transition to mixed martial arts.
But rather than leap at the first opportunities that came his way, he opted to take the patient approach - albeit with some encouragement from his City Kickboxing coaches - to ensure he had the well-rounded game required to compete at the sport's highest echelon.
That meant wholeheartedly embracing grappling, putting striking to the side, and adopting a staple diet of wrestling and jiu-jitsu - and plenty of it.
"I had to put time and hours - heaps of hours - to level up to these guys who've grappled for 10 years like I've done striking for 10 years and that's all I've done," he says.
"My ears have gone, because I've spent hours and hours on the ground, with these Russians and Chechens in Thailand, and with my friends, the Hickman brothers.
"I've definitely taken to grappling like a duck to water and I really do enjoy it. I like the competitive nature of wrestling, how it's just go, go, go and you have to win."
As far as a blueprint for a successful crossover from kickboxing to MMA, Riddell only needs to look across the mat to teammate Israel Adesanya.
An established star on premiere kickboxing promotion Glory, Adesanya took the time to establish a full MMA skillset before leaping into the cage and the rest is history.
"I used to be very gung ho and I'd fight all the time - a couple of times a month, if i could. Then [coach] Eugene Bareman slowed me down and I watched Israel - that was a good example.
"I watched how patient he was with his MMA approach and look where he is now. The sky is nowhere near the limit for him.
"Look what happened in just a year. From the day that he signed until a year later, that was just patience.
"It really is a virtue, especially in this sport."
Sunday offers Riddell the opportunity to register his third straight UFC victory (sixth straight overall) against Da Silva, fighting alongside CKB teammates Kai Kara-France, Shane Young and headliner Adesanya.
The 24-year-old Brazilian is experienced beyond his years, boasting a 21-2 professional record that he's accumulated with an equal share of submission and TKO.
His most recent victory came against Rodrigo Vargas in August 2019, the only win decided by the judges.
Da Silva promises to be an ideal foil for Riddell's high-paced style and 'Quake' believes another on-brand performance should propel him up the divisional rankings.
"I feel like Alex is going to bring the best out of me in my MMA career so far," he says. "A win puts me dangerously close to the top five or top 10.
"Everyone that is higher than me or before me was just in the UFC earlier than me, that's the only difference.
"If I was in the UFC earlier, I'd be higher up already, It's going to put me in a very good position."
The former welterweight insists he's now adjusted to the demands of the extra weight cut and is now primed to perform at his peak.
"This is only my third time at lightweight, so I'm only getting my toes wet," Riddell notes. "First time getting down there was a bit sticky, second time was much more comfortable and this time was easy.
"My body knows what's going on now. I'm just going to get fitter, stronger and more comfortable in this division, and really be able to fully exert myself."