Preview: UFC Fight Night 196 ‘Costa vs. Vettori’

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The fourth consecutive Ultimate Fighting Championship event outside of UFC Apex on Saturday in Las Vegas offers at least the best main event in the group, as Paulo Costa meets former title challenger Marvin Vettori in a compelling headliner average weights. Their fight does the heavy lifting for UFC Fight Night 196, but there are pieces to love throughout the main map. Rising lightweight prospect Grant Dawson gets a tough veteran test in the co-feature against Ricky Glenn, and a female bantamweight showcase between Jessica-Rose Clark and Joselyne Edwards is well-matched and important to both contestants. Add in an observation of Alex Caceres and light, heavy violence in Game 1, and it ranks above some of the UFC’s less desirable offerings in recent memory.

Now for the UFC Fight Night “Costa vs. Vettori” main map preview:

Light heavyweights

# 5 MW | Marvin Vettori (17-5-1, 7-3-1 UFC) against # 2 MW | Paulo Costa (13-1, 5-1 UFC)

CHANCES: Vettori (-150), Costa (+130)

With his title shot against Israel Adesanya now firmly in the rearview mirror, there are as many questions as ever on Costa. He burst onto the UFC scene in 2017, looking unrecognizable since his stint on “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil” a few years earlier, after inflating to a muscular Adonis who was now too willing to intimidate his opponents. It quickly became clear that the UFC achieved what it had in “The Eraser,” giving him pay-per-view wins for the rest of the year before pushing him up the ranks for good. Costa impressed every step of the way. First, he had few problems against a strong performance from Uriah Hall, eating up Hall’s offense and ending up scoring the finish with pressure. Then came Costa’s victory over Yoel Romero, who seemed to answer all questions about the Brazilian in the affirmative. Faced with someone else who could match him in strength and power, Costa rose to the challenge head-on, tackling Romero and taking his licks in the process; he managed to face one of the division’s most dangerous fighters and came out on top. After answering questions on his heart and chin, Costa looked like both the next challenge and the most difficult for Adesanya. After a year of building that could best be described as psychosexual, Costa finally got his chance at Adesanya and quickly put on the worst performance of his career. Costa seemed hesitant to start – something that only got worse when Adesanya started pulling him apart, especially with kicks in the legs. Costa simply never shifted into second gear, with Adesanya eventually finishing the fight completely and finishing it late in the second round. This led to what was essentially a wasted year for Costa, who did nothing but pull out of the fights and blame the performance against Adesanya for a hangover. While the vibes aren’t exactly great for Costa at the moment, he’s still an obvious talent who has a great chance of securing a victory over Vettori, a man who just happens to be Adesanya’s last challenger.

For as many questions as there are on Costa, Vettori has been consistent with a foul. “The Italian Dream” arrived at the UFC in 2016 as a shapeless but obviously talented fighter, and over time he ended up settling into a relatively straightforward pressure attack that worked thanks to durability. and the perseverance of Vettori. Vettori’s first fight against Adesanya in 2018 was the first real sign he was turning a corner, as it brought the current champion to a split decision; by the time Vettori reappeared over a year later, he looked like a much more complete and efficient fighter. The pandemic era of the UFC saw Vettori win the main event against Jack Hermansson and Kevin Holland for a rematch against Adesanya, where he hit his cap and mainly charged Adesanya’s offense for five rounds. Vettori is still only 28 years old and less than a decade into his professional career, so there is some hope that he can develop a little more in the future. Any sort of diversity in his attacking numbers will help him greatly, given that the lack of surprise in his game seems to be the main thing that keeps him from becoming a reliable finisher. Either way, Vettori’s campaign for the middleweight title begins here, and a win would be a big step forward to keep him ahead of another former title challenger.

At first glance, this seems like an easy choice for Costa. Both men are at their best at moving forward and intimidating their opponents, and Costa has the advantage of being both the toughest hitter and deepest technical fighter when it comes to hitting. However, there are obviously a lot of questions around Costa, some of which won’t be answered until this fight begins. One of the main reasons Costa was such an interesting challenge for Adesanya was that the Brazilian seemed unwavering in his confidence, which made him a complete shock when he already looked broken once the fight started. Was it just a hit against an opponent who managed to get into their heads, or did it bode well for the future, possibly made worse by the outcome of the fight? Either way, the assumption should probably be that Costa is getting closer to his old self. At the very least, Vettori’s fundamental but underpowered pressure approach is exactly the type of style that can force Costa to strike back and eventually find some rhythm. Even against the best version of Costa, Vettori presents an interesting challenge. Vettori has fouled at times, which includes the ability to keep charging despite a ridiculous amount of damage. So even though Costa is the most powerful and efficient fighter to start with, can the Brazilian keep that pace for five rounds if he’s unable to score a knockout? Costa’s victory over Romero marks the only time he has come out of the second round of his professional career, and although he managed to keep his pace, he was clearly exhausted after 15 minutes with a fighter who is not as trying to fight like Vettori. Add 10 more minutes, and it becomes easy to see Vettori picking up this fight again as the scorecards are read, with his wrestling play likely proving to be an effective change over time. That makes for a ridiculously close fight that should tip in Vettori’s favor at some point, although it might feel like a Costa blowout until it does. Things being relatively even, questions about Costa’s exact position mentally are enough to have more confidence in the Italian. The choice is Vettori by decision.

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