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Paulo Costa was expected to bring the fight to Israel Adesanya at UFC 253.
Instead, the hulking Brazilian spent the majority of the middleweight championship bout either absorbing pinpoint strikes or taunting his opponent before falling via second-round technical knockout at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi this past Saturday night. All told, “Borrachinha” landed just 12 significant strikes before the contest was called at the 3:59 mark of Round 2.
It was a far cry from the blitzing middleweight whose aggressive style had resulted in 11 professional victories via knockout or technical knockout.
“So much for ‘Fight of the Year’ – it was ‘Domination of the Year,'” White said at the UFC 253 post-fight news conference. “It was weird because if you look at every other fight that Costa has had, he comes out and goes after people like they owe him money. I think he landed one jab in this fight. He didn’t try to clinch on the fence, didn’t try to put pressure, kept going back to the center of the Octagon. It was very weird.”
Costa released a series of statements, both in English and Portuguese, via social media on Monday where he promised to remain focused on capturing the UFC middleweight title in the future.
“I’m here to say thank you for all the support. I’m back already, stronger and smarter,” he said in a video posted on Instagram. “We had some mistakes and the next time I will be better and I will get my gold. I’m not here to [make excuses]. Something happened, but it doesn’t matter. I’m focused on my goal.
“I’m relaxed because I know what I can do here in this division,” Costa added on his Instagram story. “I will still [fight at] 185 to fight him again. I will fight him again sooner and he knows. I will bring back with all my weapons, OK?”
Costa earned a title shot with a hard-fought decision victory over Yoel Romero at UFC 241, an effort where he went toe-to-toe with one of the promotion’s most feared fighters. White expected a “Fight of the Year” contender at UFC 253 if that version of Costa arrived in the Octagon. Of course, the brilliance of Adesanya might have had something to do with making Costa look ordinary.
“If he fought the way he fights – I mean look at the way he fought Yoel Romero, one of the most dangerous guys ever, and then he stays on the outside, taking damage to that front leg,” White said. “Then when he does rush in and get him up against the cage, he backs out to the center of the cage again.
“[He] never tried to get in the clinch. I think he only landed one jab, didn’t really thrown any punches when [Adesanya] threw kicks. It was very weird. I just sat there going, ‘Holy s—t.’ Obviously Adesanya went to work, pieced him piece by piece, made it look really easy.”
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