UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya posted a YouTube video last weekend in which he broke down Saturday’s main fight between his “kids” Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettori.
At first glance, Costa vs Vettori is an outstanding main event featuring two of the UFC’s top middleweights. Costa and Vettori are ranked 2 and 5 respectively by the UFC. They are # 3 and # 6 in the ESPN rankings.
As good as this game is, however, Adesanya’s presence should be highlighted. Costa (13-1) and Vettori (17-4-1) just lost to the champion – and frankly, neither seemed to handle the loss particularly well. What each of them will look like in that first backward appearance is a major question.
In the aftermath of his TKO loss to Adesanya in September 2020, Costa, 30, essentially said he was hungover during the fight, after drinking an entire bottle of wine the night before. He asked Adesanya to accept an immediate rematch, despite being knocked out altogether by 55-12. Costa has since withdrawn from two scheduled bouts citing illness and contract issues. This week, he alerted the UFC that he would not hit the 186-pound middleweight limit for an untitled fight, and Vettori agreed to adjust the fight, first to a 195 catch weight. pounds, then to the light heavyweight limit of 205 pounds.
Vettori, 28, suffered a unanimous decision loss to Adesanya at UFC 263 in June. At the end of the five-round fight, Vettori felt he had done enough to win the fight – although it was clear to virtually all observers that he had failed. The judges scored the championship fight with a clean sweep of 50-45 for Adesanya.
To what extent does either scenario mean moving forward? Most likely, they both have very little importance. No one doubts Costa or Vettori’s place at 185 pounds.
However, their individual reactions to these losses are part of the narrative before this main event. As long as Adesanya is the middleweight target – he is set to defend his title next against Robert Whittaker in Q1 2022 – he will likely be seen as having a mental advantage over Costa and Vettori.
The winner of Saturday’s high-profile, fan-friendly contest may choke that narrative a bit, however, as this game is truly considered two of the absolute best clashes.
Saturday’s fights are on ESPN +, with the main card starting at 4 p.m. ET and prelims at 1 p.m.
Comparison of numbers: 11 to 0
11: Costa knockouts in his 13 career fights, including four KO / TKO victories since 2017, tied for most in the UFC middleweight division during that span. Adding in his only submission win, Costa has a 92% finish rate. Nine of his wins came in the first round.
0: Fights that Vettori was finished in during his 23-fight career.
Sources: ESPN statistics and information and UFC statistics
Why this is not a middleweight fight
Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettori discuss the weight they plan to fight during Saturday’s UFC Fight Night main event.
And the winner is …
“Israel Adesanya had good experiences with both guys. He fought Vettori twice,” said James Krause, UFC welterweight and Glory MMA coach. “He said Costa was going to beat Vettori. I don’t know if there are any emotions to that, but he thought Costa was going to stop the teardowns. Who else knows these two better? with Izzy on this one. “
Find out how Krause and other experts break down the main event and predict a winner.
Saturday fight card
ESPN +, 4 p.m. ET
Lightweight: Paulo Costa vs. Marvin Vettori
Lightweight: Grant Dawson vs. Ricky Glenn
Female bantamweight: Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Joselyne Edwards
Men’s featherweight: Alex Caceres vs. Seungwoo Choi
Welterweight: Dwight Grant vs. Francisco Trinaldo
Lightweight: Nicolae Negumereanu vs. Ike Villanueva
ESPN +, 1 p.m. ET
Middleweight: Junyong Park vs. Gregory Rodrigues
Lightweight: Alan Patrick vs. Mason Jones
Strawweight: Tabatha Ricci vs. Maria Oliveira
Middleweight: Jamie Pickett vs. Laureano Staropoli
Lightweight: Khama Worthy vs. Jai Herbert
Flyweight men: Jeff Molina against Daniel Lacerda
Straw weight: Livinha Souza against Randa Markos
Men’s bantamweight: Aaron Phillips vs. Jonathan Martinez
The best bet to make is ….
Marvin Vettori (-150) against Paulo Costa (+125)
After a one-year layoff since his TKO loss to Israel Adesanya, Costa returns to the cage, seeking to prove to the world that he still belongs at the top of the division. To win, Costa will have to do something that no opponent could do to Vettori: knock him out. Costa has a ton of power and can end the fight at any time. However, I don’t see the fight going that way. Vettori was never finished, and I don’t believe it’s starting now.
Wait for Vettori to come forward and dictate the pace. Vettori’s cardio and power will be his biggest advantages, as Costa tends to slow down and throw with power one shot at a time. Vettori will also have the advantage in the area of wrestling, which he can fall back on if he decides to put Costa on his back, taking away his power completely. If Vettori keeps up the pace over five laps, I don’t see Costa being able to keep up.
To take: Vettori wins at -150.
– Ian Parker
For more advice from Parker on the best bets on this fight card, head here..
How to watch the fights
Watch all the fights on ESPN +. Download the ESPN app
Don’t have ESPN +? Get it here.
There is also FightCenter, which offers live updates for every UFC card.
Four more things to know (from ESPN Stats & Information)
1. Grant Dawson will look to maintain an unbeaten streak in the UFC when he takes on lightweight Ricky Glenn in the co-main event. Dawson, a season 1 alumnus of Dana White’s Contender series, is 5-0 since making his 2019 debut.
2. Francisco Trinaldo, who fights welterweight Dwight Grant, has won 16 fights since making his UFC debut in 2012, tied for sixth among all fighters in that span. Grant has won three of his last four games.
3. Alex Caceres and Seungwoo Choi are both scoring winning streaks in their featherweight bout. Caceres won four consecutive fights and Choi three.
4. Jeff Molina made an explosive UFC debut in April, winning a decision over Aori Qileng on strength to log on 189 important strikes, the most in a flyweight fight in UFC history and the most by a fighter making his UFC debut in any weight class. Molina faces Daniel Lacerda in the preliminaries.
ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim also contributed to this bout preview.