The UFC will return to Fight Island with arguably the most anticipated fight of 2020.
Undefeated Israel Adesanya will put his UFC middleweight championship on the line against undefeated Paulo Costa. Adesanya (19-0, MMA) won the interim title from Kelvin Gastelum last April and has since defended his belt. He’ll face his toughest test with Costa (13-0,MMA), who showed he can go the distance with a decision win over Yoel Romero.
Adesanya (19-0) has quickly become one of UFC’s top stars, showing a combination of flashiness and bravado. In last year’s title fight against Robert Whittaker, Adesanya entered the octagon with a choreographed dance routine that would make Chris Brown proud. He proceeded to win the title via second-round stoppage, making Whittaker look like an amateur.
Adesanya only wants to fight the best. He made good on his word by taking on Yoel Romero – and he wasted no time in calling out the similarly confident Costa. Adesanya didn’t have to look far though, because Costa was right there in the stands licking his chops.
Paulo Costa, whose impressive physique suggests he could easily compete at heavyweight, cut to 185 and now carries the most raw power the division has ever seen. Costa also won a unanimous decision in a wild bout against Yoel Romero that received Fight of the Year consideration, and immediately turned his attention to landing a title fight against Adesanya.
“Adesanya is a disrespectful fighter – everybody knows, and if you don’t know just Google his name and you will see him talk bad things about the American people” Costa told ESPN
From a purely competitive standpoint, this match-up is as good as it gets. Not only will the winner leave with the belt, but the loser will receive their first loss – a rarity in MMA, where it’s hard to rise to the top without experiencing a few setbacks. That’s what makes this fight so special.
There’s not going to be any love lost between Adesanya and Costa on fight night. Both men have said they have no intention to make peace after the fight, especially because this has the potential to become a multi-fight series. Title fights like this don’t come around often, and it’s the biggest reason why UFC 253 is a can’t miss event
Odds & Analysis
Before he was an MMA fighter, Adesanya was a world champion kick-boxer, and it’s obvious by the way he moves and reads his opponents in the cage. He has plenty of style, but all the substance to back it up. He has an outstanding fighter IQ, and reflexes that allow him to dissect his opponents with relative ease.
While Adesanya is calculated in the octagon, Paulo Costa is much more transparent with his strategy. He’s a menacing presence who has wasted very little time in his career finishing fighters. I expect Costa to try and pressure Adesanya early on, hoping his brute power wears down Adesanya.
Meanwhile, I expect Adesanya to use his elusiveness, experience, and fight IQ to drag Costa into the later rounds. Adesanya is far too smart to be baited in an all-out brawl with a Brazilian Mike Tyson.
As of this writing, Adesanya is a -170 favorite (risk $170 to win $100), while Costa is a +150 underdog in the latest odds from William Hill.
Look for Adesanya to keep his distance from the powerful Costa, and operate from the outside with precision. It’s going to be a fun fight, but if Adesanya is going to win, he’s not going to engage with Costa. That would be playing right into the Brazilian’s hands.
Prediction: Adesanya (-170), Will the fight go the distance? Yes (+205)