Written by Jack Zampillo (@Jack_Zampillo15) — September 23rd, 2020
October 5th, 2019. Marvel Stadium. Australia. Israel Adesanya claims the undisputed UFC Middleweight championship by folding Robert Whittaker like a chair. He would then jump atop the cage and flip two middle fingers into the face of his most dangerous challenger. A rivalry is born.
To the surprise of nobody, the animosity both men have for each other has grown, and the score is only days from being settled. On September 26th, after all the anticipation, UFC Fight Island is BACK in business as UFC 253 features a must-see main event when Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya takes on the terrifying #2 ranked contender Paulo Costa. Can Adesanya neutralize another ferocious competitor, or will Costa’s overwhelming pressure prove to be his kryptonite?
Israel Adesanya ©
What makes Israel Adesanya so damn good? Is it the creative array of strikes? The pinpoint accuracy and impressive takedown defense? Sure, those things never hurt, but the answer lies in the picture above. That round thing Israel has his finger on? That’s what makes “Stylebender” one of the most well-rounded champions we’ve seen in recent years. I believe a fighter is only as good as his/her mindset. To be a champion, you must act a champion. Israel Adesanya is a champion
Holding an undefeated professional record of 19 wins and 0 losses, City Kickboxing’s brightest star combines an unmatched will to win with unbreakable confidence, making him one of the greatest Middleweights we have ever seen.
To shed some light on the depths Adesanya is willing to go to leave a lasting legacy, let’s look at the Romero fight. Israel Adesanya did not have to fight Yoel Romero. Paulo Costa was in the midst of recovering from surgery, and a fight between the two would’ve been signed for the summer had the champion waited. Adesanya is too hungry to wait. He went to the UFC, told them he wanted Romero, and got the fight. How many fighters have WILLINGLY called the UFC and said “please let me fight Yoel Romero”?
UFC Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya is a different breed, a unique athlete who could very well go down as one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time.
If you’re an outsider looking in, you’d look at this picture and think to yourself: “Damn, this guy definitely beats people up.” You’d be correct. Holding a record of 13–0 with 12 finishes, the Brazilian bomber utilizes high volume along with biceps bigger than legs to inflict damage and overwhelm opponents. However, large muscles and damaging punches don’t tell the story of Paulo “The Eraser” Costa.
Costa hasn’t established himself as the scariest middleweight in the world solely based on his ability to pick heavy things up and put them back down; he’s not merely a weight lifter. There is a technical prowess to Costa’s game. He’s immensely durable. The Brazilian’s combination of technicality and brute force is something we haven’t seen at 185 pounds since Vitor Belfort.
Costa’s last fight against the aforementioned Yoel Romero proves how effective the Eraser’s style of fighting can be. From the moment Jason Herzog said “fight,” Costa was pushing forward, luring Romero into his nuclear right hand. But it isn’t just the right hand that makes him dangerous. Costa bombarded Romero with heavy kicks, snapping body shots, and swift counters on his way to a decision victory at UFC 241. Paulo Costa packs a lot of talent into that body-building frame.
Remember the old saying, “Timing beats speed, precision beats power”? I’m just not sure we have seen a matchup that fits this quote as perfectly as Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa.
When I’m breaking down a fight as big as this, something I like to factor into my prediction is any questions about each fighter’s ability to push through adversity (being hurt, gassing out, losing rounds, etc). So, let’s look at these questions: How well do they recover from being hurt? Kelvin Gastellum had a couple great rounds against Adesanya, hurting him on multiple occasions. Israel survived and adjusted. With the exception of getting knocked down for a brief moment by Romero, when have we seen Costa hurt to the point where he’s needed a minute to clear the cobwebs?
Israel Adesanya has gone the full 25 minutes in the UFC 3 times thus far, emerging from all 3 victorious. Costa, on the other hand, has never been to a 4th round in the UFC, and if you remember correctly, he was gasping for air at the end of the Romero fight.
If you haven’t already picked up on it, I’m predicting Israel Adesanya to leave Abu Dhabi still the king of the Middleweights. While Paulo Costa is one of the fiercest strikers we have ever seen, he is unproven. His best win to date is over Yoel Romero, a fight that one judge thought he lost. Romero also played right into Costa’s hands in that fight. While Costa has fought opponents with decent name equity, he has never fought a guy who moves and strikes as fluidly as Adesanya. The Last Stylebender has won 94 career fights combining his days as a professional kickboxer and mixed martial artist. That experience, combined with Adesanya’s “whatever it takes” mindset, will lead him to victory.
Here’s the bottom line: Paulo Costa is going to try and take Israel’s head off. He’s going to push forward and as Dana White said, “Israel Adesanya is going to have to fight him.” How can that forward pressure be neutralized? With leg kicks, a strike that Adesanya implements into his game better than anyone in the middleweight division. If you need proof, take a look at Romero’s leg after Adesanya beat him at UFC 248. Israel Adesanya will be able to run circles around Costa, using feints and dragging the fight into the latter rounds to wear the Brazilian down. Israel Adesanya by decision.Who’s next?