After falling short at UFC 302, what’s next for Paulo Costa?

MMA: UFC 302-Strickland vs Costa
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

This past Saturday night in the co-main event of UFC 302, we saw a five-round battle in the middleweight division. Former champion Sean Strickland (29-6) returned to take on former title challenger Paulo Costa (14-4). ‘

A few years ago, Paulo Costa was unbeaten and was considered by many to be a future champion. However, he lost his swagger in his title loss to Israel Adesanya and then he’s dealt with a number of injuries. Starting with his title shot, he was just 1-3 in his last four entering Saturday night.

I expected Costa to fight with a ton of forward pressure against Strickland to make him feel uncomfortable. When the fight started, he was blasting Strickland with leg kicks. It was a great strategy to start, but he never coupled that with moving forward with power shots.

He just stalled out and let Strickland control the center and the pace. With that, Strickland began taking over and Costa started to get tired. For all five rounds, Strickland controlled the fight and won a decision. Now, the decision was a little odd because one judge at UFC 302 gave the fight to Costa, but the other two got it right giving a decision to Strickland.

What’s next after UFC 302?

With this loss, Paulo Costa is now just 1-4 in his last five fights. At 33, I still feel like he has a lot to give in the UFC and I don’t think he’s washed up. I just think he needs a statement win to gain some of his swagger back and I think the promotion needs to really consider his next potential opponents.

In looking at the division, there are a couple of matchups I like for Costa. I like fights with Roman Dolidze and Jack Hermansson. Both guys are just below Costa in the rankings but both guys are winnable fights for Costa. He would have a massive striking advantage against both guys and if he could keep the fight standing, he could really light things up.

I also wouldn’t mind him facing fellow Brazilian Caio Borralho who is on a real dominant stretch. That would be a great test for Borralho inside the UFC and it would give Costa an opponent who is willing to go to war with him. There are plenty of options and I still expect good things from Paulo Costa.

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