Israel Adesanya’s first title defense against Yoel Romero last March was successful but it was a dud. Now the UFC’s middleweight champion is looking forward to his next title defense against Brazilian Paulo Costa, who was expected to be his first challenger before an injury forced Costa off the scene.
Adesanya and Costa have been going back and forth in social media ever since the Last Stylebender won the UFC middleweight title. With the pandemic delaying the UFC’s schedules, it appears that the two are headed for a showdown later this year.
The betting odds for this possible middleweight title fight have been released and let’s take a look at this match-up and see who wins it:
The Last Style Bender
Israel Adesanya is the reigning UFC middleweight champion. Known as the Last Stylebender, this former King in the Ring cruiserweight and lightweight champion is currently ranked 5th in the UFC pound for pound rankings.
This 30-year old Nigerian-born New Zealander stands 6-4 and has a massive reach of 84 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance. The former world champion owns an undefeated record of 19-0 with 14 knockouts. He is 8-0 inside the UFC octagon and has gone five rounds three times.
Adesanya won the interim UFC middleweight title by defeating Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236. He became undisputed champion in his next fight after knocking out then-champion Robert Whitaker inside two rounds at UFC 243. In his first title defense, he defeated Yoel Romero is a bizarrely boring match at UFC 248 last March 7, 2020.
Odds were taken from BetOnline as of 05/24/20
Paulo Costa was a contestant at The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 where he lost in the second round. Despite getting eliminated, he earned a UFC contract and made his debut at UFC Fight Night 106 where he earned Performance of the Night honors for knocking out Garreth McLellan in round one. His last three bouts have been victories over Uriah Hall, Johny Hendricks, and Yoel Romero.
The 29-year old Brazilian who is also known as Borrachinha is 6-1 tall with a reach of 72 inches and also fights out of the orthodox stance. This BJJ black belt has a record of 13-0 with 11 knockouts and one win via submission. Yoel Romero stands as the only fighter who has gone the distance with Costa.
Costa beat Romero and he was almost certainly getting a title shot but he injured his biceps and needed surgery. So despite having a 1-3 record since 2017, the title shot went to Romero. But now that Costa is all healed up, he will have his opportunity to take away Izzy’s belt.
Izzy as the Chalk
The undefeated champion is used to being the chalk. Izzy has been favored in seven out of his eight UFC bouts with his title fight against Robert Whitaker as the only exception. During that bout, Adesanya was a slight -105 favorite against Whitaker’s -115. However, Adesanya won that fight decisively, knocking out the Aussie inside of two rounds.
The current line of -150 marks the second-lowest odds that the Last Stylebender has been pegged at. During his third UFC bout against Brad Tavares at the TUF: Undefeated Finale, Adesanya entered the octagon as a -115 favorite. He won the fight via unanimous decision and won Performance of the Night honors.
On the other hand, this will be the second straight time that Costa is the underdog in his six-fight UFC career. Costa was favored in his first four Octagon appearances but was a +140 underdog during his most recent bout against Yoel Romero. Costa hacked out a unanimous decision win over the Cuban in the Fight of the Night winner at UFC 241.
Costa’s bout with Romero was the first time in his career that he went the distance. Before that, Costa had never gone past the 2:38 mark of round two and that was only the fourth time in his career that he went over one round.
How Will This Fight Unfold
Before he entered the world of MMA, Adesanya was a world-champion kickboxer and that is obvious with his fighting style inside the octagon. The Last Style Bender uses a kickboxing stance to keep his distance from his opponents. He has an excellent fight IQ that enables him to read his opponent’s move, find their weak spots, and capitalize on their vulnerabilities.
Adesanya is like a young Anderson Silva with his elusiveness and his ability to avoid absorbing heavy damage. He utilizes a lot of leg kicks and is accurate with his hand strikes. Adesanya is patient and calculated but once he has his opponent hurt, he is a terrific finisher.
While Adesanya relies on technique and finesse, Costa uses his brute strength to dominate his opponents. Borrachinha is a big body who likes to bang with his opponents. He uses his aggressive style to overwhelm his opponents and land his big power shots. Costa doesn’t need too many punches to put the lights out of his foes.
Much has been said about his conditioning because he is a well-chiseled middleweight who needs plenty of oxygen to carry his huge frame. We saw him slow down a bit against Romero and he will need to pace himself against a very active opponent like Adesanya.
Costa has never gone past three rounds before and he has been past round one four times in his MMA career. I don’t think he wants to stay too long against a cerebral fighter like Adesanya. Costa will most definitely come out with guns blazing and he will hope to land that big shot early when Adesanya has yet to take control of the fight.
That would be difficult to do though as Izzy owns a huge eight-inch advantage in reach. The champion should be able to keep the challenger at bay with his jabs and lead kicks. Against the bull-rush style of Costa, Adesanya will be like a matador inside the octagon. He will tame Costa by fighting at a distance, using his quickness and elusiveness to avoid getting hit.
I think Costa will slow down after two rounds and Adesanya will start to dictate the tempo. I can see Adesanya winning on points but given that Costa isn’t a difficult target to hit, I’m not counting out a third-round stoppage here.
Prediction: Israel Adesanya