|Esther Lin – MMA Fighting
Paulo Costa faces the biggest obstacle in his mixed-martial-arts career to date.
Brazilian powerhouse Paulo Costa presents one of the most imposing and striking scenes at middleweight today. A slick but punishing boxing base has so far helped Costa dispatch both former champion Johny Hendricks, flashy kicker Uriah Hall, Oluwale Bamgbose and in a hasty fashion, Gareth McLellan. Prohibited intravenous infusions have somewhat haltered Costa’s activity in the Octagon over the last year but his rank as the seventh-best 185 pound-er in the promotion remains. Ahead of this weekend’s ‘third time’ lucky pairing with the similarly formidable Yoel Romero, I breakdown and analyze the quick rise of ‘Borrachinha’.
The Ultimate Fighter:
Costa’s rise to the Ultimate Fighting Championship summit is quite incredible. Just seven years ago, the Belo Horizonte native made his professional bow in mixed-martial arts. Beginning his brief rise in the regional scene of Brazil, just three fights into his career, Costa was offered a slot on the third installment of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil. Led by former PRIDE FC great Wanderlei Silva, Costa advanced past first opponent José Roberto via a guillotine, before his premier career loss. In the quarter-final bracket, Costa dropped a split decision defeat to compatriot Márcio Alexandre Jr.
Despite his unsuccessful stint on TUF, Costa’s UFC dream was still a possibility.
A year later, Costa had realized his first professional world championship. Competing in the Brazilian promotion, Face to Face, a first-round barrage was enough to stop Wagner Silva Gomes.
A three-fight stint in the well-known Brazilian organization Jungle Fight resulted in Costa’s second call from Dana White and the UFC, this time offering him a spot on the main roster. Making his Octagon bow as the Jungle Fight middleweight champion in 2017, Costa made short work of the well rounded Gareth McLellan, in the South African’s most recent fight to date. Making an aggressive start as well as setting a blistering pace, Costa, then under the moniker ‘Borrachinha’, landed sweeping hooks and body kicks before a barrage against the fence eventually forced McLellan to curl up. Referee Osiris Maia was quick to step in, thus handing Costa his premier Octagon win just over a minute into the contest. A similar ground and pound barrage was also enough to dispatch Oluwale Bamgbose, once more on home soil.
Next for Costa was former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks, who was forced to move to 185 pounds after multiple botched weight cut attempts. Despite making it to the second round like Bamgbose, Costa once again scored a knockout victory, landing a somewhat pattened right body kick as well as overhand hooks throughout. A potential tricky clash with Uriah Hall followed at UFC 226, avoiding the majority of the karate strikers most dangerous kicks through pushing the pace to prevent time for a spin setup. A crushing right uppercut eventually folded Hall in the second round exchanges, with ‘Primetime’ eating the majority of Costa’s heavy strikes.
If you had to describe the fighting style of Paulo Costa, there are three certain aspects of his game you must consider. The Brazilian boasts the pressure fighting style of both Nick and Nate Diaz in terms of significant output, evident in his quick starts and constant forward momentum. Costa’s swarming ability is also reminiscent of compatriot and former light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort. Vitor had an uncanny ability in his prime to finish a fighter at the slightest inkling of a chink in their armor, Costa, in my opinion, has a similar killer instinct. On the power side of the equation, Costa possesses similar stopping power to UFC 241 opponent Yoel Romero, but that’s all both men share style wish. Romero often lulls an opponent to sleep with measured movement before exploding with a blitz, knee or takedown while Costa’s pressure and movement is more consistent over the course of a contest.