It’s an understatement to say that Paulo Costa (12-0) has quickly risen up the ranks of the UFC’s middleweight division.
The undefeated Brazilian striker is 4-0 inside the Octagon, with every win coming by first- or second-round knockout, and he’s set himself up for a huge showdown with Cuban powerhouse Yoel Romero at UFC 230 in November. His best win to date is the then #9-ranked Uriah Hall, so getting matched up with the #1 contender even caught Costa off-guard.
“I was surprised, because the UFC put Chris Weidman to fight against Luke Rockhold and (gave) me the best of the division – the No. 1,” Costa said to reporters at a Dana White’s Contender Series: Brazil taping in Las Vegas. (via MMAjunkie)
Romero (13-3) is coming off a split decision loss to current champion Robert Whittaker at UFC 225, a fight in which Romero missed weight and thus wouldn’t have won the title anyway. Only Whittaker has bested him at middleweight, and the only person to knock him out was Rafael Cavalcante back in Strikeforce. It’s a tall order to try and put Romero away, but Costa believes he’ll get the job done.
“This is the biggest challenge of my career,” Costa said. “But every fight is the biggest challenge, so I’m very confident. I will (knock him out).”
If Costa wins and does so in impressive fashion, a title shot is almost certain. In the meantime, Whittaker is sidelined for the rest of the year as he heals his broken right hand, but when he does come back, he’ll be facing off against Kelvin Gastelum in early 2019.
Amazingly, Costa doesn’t really rate the champ all that highly.
“He’s a regular fight, for me,” Costa said. “He’s not so good in the standup, or wrestling, or jiu-jitsu. He’s a regular fight, you know?”
UFC 230 takes place at Madison Square Garden on November 3rd. No main event has been announced, although lightweights Dustin Poirier and Nate Diaz are confirmed as the co-main event.