The reigning UFC Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya is set to put his title belt on the line against challenger Paulo Costa in a highly anticipated battle of the undefeated on September 26th at UFC 253. The fight marks only the second time in UFC history that two unbeaten male fighters square off.
Adesanya, who has given himself the nickname “The Last Stylebender”, has quickly become a rising star in UFC after knocking out Robert Whittaker en route to becoming the undisputed Middleweight champion.
He followed up that performance with his first successful title defense against Yoel Romero. Adesanya won the bout by unanimous decision, although it was a decidedly dull affair that resulted in the crowd booing both men throughout the fight. Adesanya was admittedly disappointed in the performance as well, stating, “It’s not the fight I wanted to have.” He will get the chance to quickly erase any doubts if he performs better against Costa.
Adesanya is UFC’s fourth-ranked men’s pound-for-pound athlete with a record of 19-0. Nevertheless, he faces stiff competition from Costa, who is the number two middleweight contender with a record of 13-0.
Costa has been making a name for himself since his debut on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil. He was awarded Performance of the Night twice after wins against Garreth McLellan and Uriah Hall. Be that as it may, it has not been all smooth sailing for Costa. He ran into some controversy when it was announced he had been suspended by the USADA for six months due to prohibited use of intravenous fluids.
Costa managed to bounce back after the news broke and his last fight was coincidentally also against Yoel Romero, a bout in which Costa won by unanimous decision. This match was a thrilling showcase that earned Costa Fight of the Night honors, much unlike Adesanya’s fight against Romero.
The two fighters represent a sharp contrast in aesthetics as Adesanya is known for being thin and wiry while Costa boasts a powerful frame, often swinging between 185 to 215 pounds between weigh-ins.
There has been no shortage of bad blood between the two fighters ahead of the match. Both fighters have been trading barbs back-and-forth between each other. Costa went after Adesanya’s showboating, saying “he’s a kind of disrespectful guy,” and that Adesanya “is not a real champion.” Adesanya has accused Costa of “being juiced to the f****** gills,” and called him a “big, inflated ignoramus.”
Words will turn into action when these two meet in the octagon. Adesanya will look to control the match with his highly technical style of kickboxing while Costa will try to get off to an aggressive start and overwhelm Adesanya. A win by either man can help springboard them into the next level of superstardom.