Paulo Henrique Costa was seated cageside for Israel Adesanya’s victory over Robert Whittaker in the UFC 243 headliner on Saturday, setting the stage for a future championship showdown between two undefeated fighters.
Adesanya wasted little time calling out the hulking Brazilian following his victory.
“You know who’s next,” Adesanya said. “I have a heavy Ricky Martin wannabe next. ‘Borrachinha.’ This is my Octagon. I’m going to smash him. I want to rearrange his face.”
Costa has kicked off his professional career with 13 consecutive triumphs, including five within the Las Vegas-based promotion. The 28-year-old went the distance for the first time in his most recent outing at UFC 241, where he outpointed Yoel Romero to cement his status as the division’s No. 1 contender.
”Now we only have one fight to do,” Costa said on the ESPN+ post-fight show Saturday. “One fight to match up. It’s me against Israel. I want this fight with all my soul. I will take his head off of this cage. You [can’t] believe how much I want this fight.”
“Borrachinha” is renowned for his knockout power, which was on display in stoppages of Uriah Hall, Johny Hendricks, Oluwale Bamgbose and Garreth McLellan in his first four Octagon appearances.
“When I put my hands on his head, his body – he’s going to feel it a lot,” Costa said. “I fear he can die in the Octagon, for sure.”
Whittaker struggled to close the distance effectively in Melbourne, as he landed just 27 percent of his significant strikes against “The Last Stylebender.” His aggression also led to his demise. Whittaker was dropped at the end of Round 1, and a pair of counter hooks in the second stanza put him on the canvas again. Adesanya then clinched his victory with a few follow-up punches at the 3:33 mark of the period.
Costa believes he can disrupt Adesanya’s style with a pressure-heavy attack.
”I think Robert Whittaker started the fight very well,” Costa said. “He closed the distance, because everybody knows when you close the distance against Israel Adesanya, he loses. ”His distance, his timing – he cannot fight with guys who pressure him. Everybody watched that fight against [Kelvin] Gastelum. If Gastelum has my power, I think Gastelum knocks him out.”
Costa expects that when he lands against the champion, Adesanya will feel the effects far more than he has against recent competition.
”He cannot handle it from me,” Costa said. “He cannot handle it from me when I close the distance, and I can kill him.”