Israel Adesanya will defend his UFC middleweight title against Paulo Costa at UFC 253 this weekend. Two unbeaten fighters will go at it with gold on the line and with Adesanya’s skill and Costa’s fearsome power, there’s arguments to be made for both men.
Somebody has to lose their pristine record and only one man can walk out with the belt, so who is it going to be?
Here, past and present fighters have their say, beginning with the man Israel Adesanya took the middleweight belt from…
“I think Adesanya has the skillset to beat Costa but has just got that X-factor. Same thing with Yoel [Romero]. Big, powerful, cardio, chin… hard to say.
“I’d probably lean towards Costa but if I was a betting man I’d probably go with Adesanya, but I think Costa would make some good money too.”
“I like it, because they are both giving it back to each other. I’m enjoying the trash talk. I like the fight a lot.
“From a competitive standpoint it’s great because they’re both unbeaten and Costa had the one really close fight with Romero – well, I guess they both had a close fight with Romero.
“I think Adesanya is going to win. That’s just my feeling. He’s going to out strike him, he’s going to move a little better, that’s my feeling. But, I wouldn’t be shocked if I got it wrong.”
“I think Izzy. I think Izzy gets it done.
“Costa is good for like two rounds, he’s dangerous for two or three rounds but after that he gasses out and slows right down.
“It’ll be a good fight, an entertaining fight. But, I think Izzy will be too sharp for him and he’ll walk him on to something and Izzy will get the victory.”
“I don’t consider Paulo Costa a technical striker at all. He’s a brawler. You see him do it time and time again, he breaks people.
“For some reason, for a guy that shredded and that big, he’s got cardio for days. When he beat Uriah Hall, he broke him mentally. He gave up out there.
“Of course, you’re not going to break Yoel Romero and those guys fought pretty much the same. They just came forward and swung for the fences. But someone like Izzy Adesanya? He’s got the potential to finish this guy in the second or third round.
“Izzy is a counter-striker. He waits for guys to make the mistakes and he takes advantage of it. I think this falls right into his game plan.
“Costa is aggressive and he swings. He’s got a lot of movement and big loops in his strikes which is perfect for a guy like Izzy who did the same to Robert Whittaker, who I think is faster than Costa.
“The only thing about Costa is, he’s durable. Very durable. He’s very tough to finish.
“So if Izzy can wear him down in the first round or two, I feel he can pick him off with the counter strikes. I got Izzy winning that fight.”
“Costa used to be in my camp. He’s a very strong guy, a tough guy. He’s very durable.
“You have a guy in Adesanya who is very crafty and very awkward and different. But I think Israel doesn’t have great hands. He has a mix of the hands and feet, but he’s not a good boxer.
“Costa has very good hands. He learned a lot of stuff with me. He’s a great boxer. I think he has a chance but if the fight gets past the third round I think it goes to Israel.
“That’s what people like – two strikers and we know to not expect the fight on the ground and that’s what sells.
“Remember, it’s not MMA, it’s a combat sport, so both guys are combat athletes. They like to strike and that’s what sells.”
“I have Izzy winning.
“He has a massive reach advantage and he knows how to use his reach and he also has extremely good footwork.
“Paulo is kind of a plodding, straight-board kind of fighter and Izzy moves well and early. So you all know what happens when you get a straight forward fighter against a well-moving fighter.”
“Israel, easiest fight of the night. I think he’s just gonna bash Costa. I think it’s gonna be a one-sided ass whooping. He’s a big muscle-bound slow striker. If I was designing a character to do poorly against Israel, that would be it.
“A big, strong, limited striker who is going to walk forward and eat shots.
“If I could design a character to get his ass whooped by Israel, that’s pretty close. I just don’t think his skill set belongs in that realm of Rob Whittaker and Israel Adesanya.”