In the co-main event of UFC 278 this past weekend, we saw an absolute barn-burner. While the way the main event ended stole headlines, it was the fight between Paulo Costa (14-2) and Luke Rockhold (16-6) that took home Fight of the Night honors.
For Costa, he was looking to get back on track. After starting his career a perfect 13-0, he had lost two straight bouts. There was also a lot of drama behind the scenes. However, he looked like he was in the best shape of his career for this fight.
Luke Rockhold was making his return for the first time in three years. The former UFC middleweight champion took some time away to recover and reset. He said he was more focused than ever and wanted to make another run at the title.
One thing Rockhold didn’t take into consideration is the altitude in Utah. It was evident in the first round that Luke Rockhold gassed quickly. You would think that Costa would be able to take advantage given how tired Rockhold was. To a point, he did. He got the better of the exchanges and had much more volume.
However, a game Rockhold blasted Costa with big shots that buckled the Brazilian throughout the night. That being said, the forward pressure and attacks from Costa won over the judges and he got the decision victory.
What’s next after UFC 278?
This was a huge win for Costa to get back on track. Originally, he said that he thought this was the final fight on his UFC contract, but it turns out he has one more. Dana White has openly said that the promotion will try to re-sign Costa before he hits the open market.
So, who should Costa face next? Well, unfortunately for him, most of the division is booked up right now. In a couple of weeks, Robert Whittaker will take on Marvin Vettori in Paris. It’s possible that win or lose, Whittaker could be a good next opponent for Costa.
Jared Cannonier and Sean Strickland are fighting in October. Whoever wins that one could be another good matchup for Costa. Or they can go completely out in left field and book him against Darren Till who is the only guy in the top nine without a fight.
Regardless, there are option for Costa and the UFC. I would expect to see him fight by the end of the year or early next year. Perhaps they get him on the Brazil card in early 2023.