The payoff was undoubtedly worth the pain for Marvin Vettori.
“The Italian Dream” put his brooding rivalry with Paulo Costa to bed—albeit outside the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight division—as he outhustled the hulking Brazilian to a unanimous decision in the UFC Fight Night 196 headliner on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. All three cageside judges scored it 48-46 for Vettori, who accepted the bout at 205 pounds due to the Brazilian’s inability or unwillingness to meet their originally contracted weight requirements.
Costa’s combination of narcissistic machismo and brutish power was not enough to throw his counterpart off the scent. Vettori utilized a high-output attack that saw him connect on a career-high 190 significant strikes across five entertaining rounds. To his credit, Costa almost managed to keep pace and fought past a second-round point deduction for an eye poke. He peaked in the fifth round, where he landed almost 70% of his attempted blows and zeroed in on Vettori’s body with savage persistence. Still, it was not enough to get him over the hump.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Costa vs. Vettori,” here are four matches that ought to be made:
Marvin Vettori vs. Sean Strickland: Vettori figures to find himself in something of a holding pattern at 185 pounds due to his two losses to reigning middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. Even so, his style and personality seem conducive to his remaining a main event attraction for the foreseeable future. Just 28 years of age, Vettori has rattled off six victories over his past seven appearance and perhaps most importantly has shown an ability to go five rounds without breaking stride. On a five-fight winning streak that has propelled him into the Top 10, Strickland saw a Nov. 6 showdown with former champion Luke Rockhold fall through and leave him with no clear direction moving forward.
Alex Caceres vs. Damon Jackson: Few competitors in UFC history have maximized their potential any better than Caceres. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 quarterfinalist posted his fifth straight win and did so in stirring fashion, as he submitted Seung Woo Choi with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their featherweight showcase. Choi bowed out 3:31 into Round 2. Caceres weathered his encounter with a devastating counter right hand from the South Korean in the first round and the aftershock of an illegal knee strike that followed, drawing upon the resourcefulness and guile that have now seen him compete inside the Octagon a total of 25 times. Jackson last appeared at UFC Fight Night 194, where he took a three-round unanimous decision from Charles Rosa on Oct. 9.
Nicolae Negumereanu vs. Danilo Marques-Jailton Almeida winner: Negumereanu improved to 11-1 with 10 finishes as a professional, as he buried former Fury Fighting Championship titleholder Isaac Villanueva with punches a little more than a minute into their light heavyweight feature. The Romanian drew the curtain 78 seconds into Round 1, authoring the third-fastest stoppage victory of his burgeoning 12-fight career. While Negumereanu does not set the world on fire with his physical tools, he does offer the promise of guaranteed fireworks at 205 pounds and should feel relatively secure with his place on the roster. Marques and Almeida will lock horns at UFC Fight Night 197 on Nov. 13.
Francisco Trinaldo vs. Danny Roberts: Father Time may be nipping at Trinaldo’s heels, but the 43-year-old Brazilian still finds a way to get the job done. “Massaranduba” rebounded from a June 5 defeat to Muslim Salikhov and nailed down his fourth win in five outings, as he eked out a split decision over Dwight Grant in their three-round welterweight confrontation. All three cageside judges scored it 29-27: Adalaide Byrd and Ron McCarthy for Trinaldo, Sal D’Amato for Grant. Trinaldo was the far more efficient fighter, racked up more than four minutes of control time and outlanded “The Body Snatcher” by narrow margins in both total strikes (61-41) and significant strikes (36-31). Roberts last competed on Oct. 16, when he was awarded a split verdict over two-time M-1 Global champion Ramazan Emeev at UFC Fight Night 195.