On Saturday, Oct. 23, the UFC will host an early afternoon fight card that showcases the two most recent middleweight title challengers, Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettori, at UFC Fight Night: Costa vs. Vettori, live from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nev.
The last time Costa entered the Octagon was just over a year ago at UFC 253 when he suffered the first loss of his professional career at the hands of middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. Since then, he has been scheduled to fight twice – once pulling out due to injury, and once due to a contract dispute. Vettori, on the other hand, has been much more active.
Vettori was on a five-fight winning streak, until it was snapped just four months ago at UFC 263, when he failed to get revenge on Israel Adesanya in a rematch from three years prior. These two top-five contenders will look to stay on the inside track for a title shot with an emphatic victory this weekend.
The co-main event pits two hard-nosed lightweights against each other. Grant Dawson has been a wrecking ball since joining the UFC, rattling off five straight wins to begin his tenure with the promotion. He faces former featherweight Rick Glenn this weekend. Glenn is 4-3 inside the UFC, and he picked up his most impressive win in his last outing when he stopped Joaquim Silva in 37 seconds. That win was good enough to earn him a brand new four-fight contract.
Also on the main card is a women’s bantamweight clash between Jessica-Rose Clark and Joselyne Edwards. Clark is coming off a win against Sarah Alpar, snapping a two-fight losing streak. Edwards lost her last bout, balancing her UFC record at 1-1. She will look to pick up her first finish inside the organization against Clark, who has never been stopped in her fighting career.
The event airs in its entirety live on ESPN+ with the preliminary card starting at 1 p.m. ET, followed by the main card at 4 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Andrew Sumian and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.
Both fighters in the main event are coming off of losses to current champion Israel Adesanya; which man rights the ship and picks up a win this weekend?
Sumian: It truly shows how badly the UFC middleweight division is in need of fresh blood when Vettori and Costa are top-five middleweights, but have yet to face the likes of Derek Brunson, Robert Whittaker or Jared Cannonier. The pair headlining Saturday’s card are indeed talented fighters, capable of putting on an entertaining show. However, it has become increasingly clear that neither man has the potential to claim the UFC middleweight championship as long as Adesanya and Whittaker continue to dominate the division.
This bout presents the opportunity for one top-ranked middleweight to hold onto his current ranking, while the other, more significant, middleweight bouts scheduled for early 2022 weed out who is left for that victor to meet next.
Despite an praiseworthy winning streak that was compiled between July 2019 and April 2021, Vettori failed to claim revenge over bitter rival Adesanya in their championship rematch. The number-five ranked middleweight contender now returns to the drawing board eager to return to his winning ways in an effort to yet again challenge for UFC gold.
Vettori’s common tactic in the Octagon is to continuously pressure his opponents by darting forward and throwing his signature jab-straight combination to set up either a clinch or a takedown attempt. If he does land, he tends to follow up his darting attack with a knee to his opponent’s body and several more jab-straight combos, forcing his opponent off balance and susceptible to a takedown. His success stems from being able to constantly keep his opponent backpedaling where they are unable to surmount any formidable offense, as he continues to get the fight to the ground where he holds an advantage over most of his opponents.
The Kings MMA standout has an aggressive and powerful jiu-jitsu offense, which allows him to continuously advance position while controlling his opponent’s movement. Thus far, he has been able to utilize his power and ground attack fairly well against the majority of his opponents, which has resulted in a 7-3-1 UFC record, including three main events. In an effort to return to the win column and continue his pursuit of a UFC title, he will have to take out one of the most powerful punchers in the division.
There has been a significant decrease in the excitement and hype for Paulo Costa, since his questionable performance in what was perhaps the most anticipated title fight of 2020. The number-two ranked middleweight contender strayed from hisusual game plan upon meeting Adesanya for the title in Sept. 2020. He instead took a surprisingly laid-back approach, which resulted in a second-round TKO loss, and many questions from fans and the UFC staff alike.
Since his last fight, Costa has been scheduled to return to the Octagon twice, against Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier, but was forced to withdraw on both occasions. Now, the former title challenger looks to return against an opponent who is equally aggressive in an effort to continue his pursuit of UFC gold.
Costa’s game plan consists of one thing and one thing only: to knock his opponent’s head clean off. The Brazilian powerhouse boasts one of the most powerful physiques in mixed martial arts today and carries thunderous power in both of his hands. In fact, Costa was on a 12-fight finishing streak prior to turning in a “Fight of the Night” split-decision victory over Yoel Romero back in Aug. 2019. If he is able to land even partially clean on Vettori, the bout could be seconds away from ending in favor. Costa will look to return to the good graces of the martial arts community by putting on a vintage “Borrachinha” performance come Saturday night.
This main event bout should prove extremely entertaining if both men choose to enact their signature styles. Both combatants like to move forward and throw heavy punches, despite Vettori wanting to get the fight to the ground. For Costa, the game plan remains simple: stay on his feet and blast Vettori with powerful punches. Vettori will likely be unable to trade with Costa for five straight rounds without avoiding some powerful shots. He will need to ensure he can get this fight to the ground where he can utilize his grappling.
Despite a bizarre performance back in 2020, and a lengthy layoff, Costa will return to his winning ways on Saturday night when he becomes the first man to stop Marvin Vettori – probably by TKO at some point in the second round. Costa will come out guns blazing, as he usually does, and look to make Vettori as uncomfortable as possible by viciously attacking the legs and body. Despite Vettori’s toughness, he will eventually fall to the power of Costa, as the Brazilian regains the aura he once carried prior to his only loss.
Petela: This matchup is all about who will be able to implement their game plan. Costa will look to turn this into a slugfest, where he can use his power to turn out the lights on Vettori. Vettori will try early and often to close the distance and secure a takedown where he can nullify the devastating power of Costa. Expect Vettori to be able to get takedowns almost at-will, but he won’t be able to keep Costa flat on his back for long, at first. The explosiveness of Costa will be enough for him to get back up to his feet early in the fight, but that won’t be the case as the fight drags on into the later rounds.
Vettori will likely have to take a few heavy punches along the way, but, by the midway point of the fight, the lactic acid will build up in the muscular Costa. He will slow down noticeably, and, once Vettori secures a takedown in the third or fourth round, Costa won’t have the power to get up by sheer strength. And, he lacks the technical ability to get out from under a skilled grappler like Vettori.
A late stoppage via ground-and-pound for Vettori will expose Costa as a one-trick pony, who needs to evolve his mixed martial arts game. He has been able to climb the ranks, relying heavily on his power to cover up any technical deficiencies, but now that he will be squaring off against the division’s elite, he is going to need to develop a more well-rounded game. Unfortunately for him, he has gotten by without that game for the majority of his career, and he will face an uphill battle to evolve his game this late into his career.
Grant Dawson has yet to lose since joining the UFC; does he extend his winning streak with a victory over Rick Glenn?
Petela: Not only has Grant Dawson not lost inside the UFC, he has won eight straight contests dating back to 2016. The lone hiccup in his resume is a weight miss prior to his featherweight fight with Darrick Minner. He has since moved back up to lightweight, and those issues with the scale should be behind him. This fight with Rick Glenn will say a lot about how high the ceiling is for Dawson. Glenn is a durable opponent who has shared the cage with some very talented fighters, even picking up a split-decision win over Dennis Bermudez. He looked impressive the last time he fought, knocking out Joaquim Silva in under a minute.
This fight will steal the show on Saturday, and both men’s stock will rise after this contest. Ultimately, it will be Grant Dawson who comes out with a win after a back-and-forth fight. Dawson will announce himself as an emerging contender in the hyper-competitive lightweight division, and Glenn will prove once again that he has both the talent and grit to compete at the highest levels. He certainly shouldn’t wear the tag of gatekeeper in a negative light.
Sumian: As my partner has accurately portrayed, this bout is a fantastic co-main event that will bring much attention to both of these lightweights. Glenn has compiled a .500 record since joining the UFC, and he earned his first promotional finish upon returning to lightweight in June 2021. He knocked out Joqauim Silva in the first round. The Iowa native is an established finisher who plans to continue to climb the lightweight ladder.
Dawson is truly one of the UFC’s top up-and-comers, even though he has already compiled a 5-0 record in the promotion. He is coming off an epic third-round knockout of Leonard Santos back in March 2021, and he will look to extend his winning streak to nine come Saturday.
This is certainly a fight of the night favorite that will showcase the skills and toughness of both competitors. I agree with my partner that Dawson will ultimately emerge victorious in this bout, but both men will leave the cage winners after putting on a memorable performance.
Maria Oliveira and Daniel Lacerda — do we need to know these names?
Sumian: Maria Oliveira makes her UFC debut after compiling a 12-4 record. She was riding an impressive nine-fight winning streak, before suffering two back-to-back losses to Kanna Asakura and surging strawweight contender Marina Rodriguez. Since then, she has only competed twice, turning in two victories against opponents whose combined record was 0-3. She will need a fairly impressive victory on Saturday night to truly be considered a potential UFC strawweight standout.
Daniel Lacerda has compiled an impressive 11-1 record outside the UFC, with all wins by way of knockout or submission. His only hiccup is a TKO via arm injury back in March 2019, and has, since then, compiled a three-fight winning streak as he enters the biggest stage. He joins the lightning-fast flyweight division, which has made a significant comeback after the epic rivalry between Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo. He faces fellow flyweight Jeff Molina in his UFC debut. Expect Lacerda to make a big bang on Saturday, when he finishes Molina via submission. He will immediately enter the conversation of top flyweight prospects to take note of going into 2022.
Petela: Of these two debuting fighters the one that has piqued my interest is Lacerda. The UFC is always in need of finishers at flyweight, and Lacerda is absolutely a finisher. His five knockouts and six submissions will be a welcome addition to the division. I agree with my colleague that Lacerda will make his presence known in a big way with yet another stoppage victory over Molina.
What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?
Petela: Isaac Villanueva. He has just one win in his four fights since being added to the UFC roster, and all three of those losses have come by knockout. That is certainly not a good look, and adding another loss will all but guarantee that he finds himself on the chopping block. He has a tough matchup this weekend against Nicolae Negumereanu, who only has one loss. Villanueva will come up short and likely get stopped this weekend, which will be his final bout inside the promotion.
Sumian: Without a doubt Randa Markos. The longtime UFC veteran has generally been a .500 fighter consistently trading wins and losses. Recently, she has compiled a 0-4 record in her last four UFC appearances and she will likely suffer a fifth against Livia Renata Souza. Expect this to be the last time we see Markos in the UFC’s Octagon after this loss results in 10-12 professional record.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Sumian: The featherweight bout between Alex Caceres and Seung Woo Choi is definitely the pick for “Fight of the Night.” Both of these combatants have the ability to finish a fight while producing an award-worthy bout. There will be non-stop action once the bell rings as both featherweights look to extend their notable winning streaks and continue their featherweight climb toward the top 15.
Petela: Khama Worthy vs. Jai Herbert. These lightweights are both in need of a win to prove to the UFC matchmakers, and themselves, that they belong in the organization. They both also happen to be heavy-handed strikers who prefer to get their finishes by knockout. Those two components set this fight up to be a classic battle of two guys with their backs against the wall, and both will be ready to make an emphatic statement.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?
Petela: Mason Jones. He’s facing late replacement David Onama, after a camp preparing for a grudge match with Alan Patrick, because their first fight ended in a controversial no-contest. Expect Jones to come out guns blazing and make short work of Onama on his way to his first official victory inside the UFC.
Sumian: Daniel Lacerda. The flyweight newcomer will prove he is ready for the UFC flyweights of the world after he taps Jeff Molina and earns himself his first UFC highlight finish. Expect big things from the Brazil native as he begins his UFC journey.
Pair this card with…
Sumian: The notorious Drowning Pool hit song, Let the Bodies Hit the Floor. This card is going to produce quite a few finishes, and it will provide some very memorable highlights for those tuning in for the afternoon. In addition, we will see several fighters take the next step in becoming potential contenders in their respective divisions, including the likes of Grant Dawson and Daniel Lacerda.
Petela: This fight card takes place right in the middle of the day, and you’re going to need something to cleanse your palate between lunch and your afternoon snack. The perfect pairing for this card is a chilled shot of Limoncello to celebrate “The Italian Dream” Marvin Vettori’s victory over Paulo Costa in the main event. Just be sure not to throw back more than a couple, or you’ll end up with one heck of a stomach ache – a lesson I’ve learned the hard way a time or two.
Main Card (ESPN+, 4 p.m. ET)
MW: Paulo Costa vs. Marvin Vettori
LW: Grant Dawson vs. Rick Glenn
Women’s BW: Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Joselyne Edwards
FW: Alex Caceres vs. Seungwoo Choi
WW: Francisco Trinaldo vs. Dwight Grant
LHW: Nicolae Negumereanu vs. Isaac Villanueva
Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 1 p.m. ET)
MW: Junyong Park vs. Gregory Rodrigues
LW: Mason Jones vs. David Onama
SW: Tabatha Ricci vs. Maria Oliveira
MW: Jamie Pickett vs. Laureano Staropoli
LW: Khama Worthy vs. Jai Herbert
FlyW: Jeffrey Molina vs. Daniel Lacerda
SW: Livinha Souza vs. Randa Markos
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