UFC 302 Recap: Sean Strickland wins a dominant decision over Paulo Costa

MMA: UFC 293 - Adesanya vs Strickland
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In the co-main event of UFC 302, we saw a massive matchup in the middleweight division that was scheduled for five rounds. Former middleweight champion Sean Strickland (28-6) returned to the octagon as he took on former title challenger Paulo Costa (14-3).

This was Sean Strickland’s first fight since he lost his title back in January. After shocking the world and dominating Israel Adesanya last year to become middleweight champion, Strickland took on Dricus Du Plessis at UFC 297. The fight was incredible close and Strickland lost by split decision. He wants the belt back and his journey back to it started with tonight’s matchup.

Paulo Costa is just a few years removed from being 13-0 and being considered the future of the middleweight division. However, injuries and a 1-3 stretch has really hurt his career. Nevertheless, he’s still a very dangerous middleweight and he wanted to show the world at UFC 302 that he’s still amongst the elite at 185.

UFC 302 Recap

Round 1

The UFC 302 co-main event starts with an immediate big leg kick from Costa. Body shot from Costa and another big leg kick. Strickland starting to press forward now but those leg kicks were nasty. Jab to the body again from Costa and another leg kick. Another jab to the body from Costa as Strickland holds the center.

Strickland’s leg looks damaged already and he’s trying to get his offense going. Costa is doing a really good job of working in the body shots. Nothing up top for Costa yet but he’s doing some damage. Halfway through the round and Strickland has yet to land anything of significance.

Strickland is really upping the pressure now and Costa fires another leg kick. Front kick from Strickland and Costa is on his bike. Right hand from Strickland and a sharp jab counter from Costa. Right hand from Strickland and a body kick from Costa.

Strickland catches a body kick and lands a nice right hand. Another right from Strickland and Costa is circling out. Costa is having to use a lot of energy here moving away. Two front kicks from Strickland and the volume of Strickland is starting to add up. The first round ends and Sean Strickland likely took that one at UFC 302.

Round 2

Entering the second round and Costa looked a little fatigued in between rounds there. He opens with a body kick. Two more front kicks from Strickland. Strickland is right back on the pressure and he checks a leg kick from Costa. Costa tries a left over the top but Strickland rolls with it.

Combination from Costa just misses. Hard leg kick lands from Costa and that one might’ve hurt Strickland. Sharp leg kick and Strickland lands a jab. Another leg kick and Costa is going after those legs hard right now. Strickland still heavy on the pressure just about at the halfway point of the second round.

1-2 now from the former champion. Two more front kicks to the body and now a jab from Strickland. Costa tries firing back but he’s out of range. A jab now from Strickland. Big leg kick checked by Strickland and that one might’ve damaged Costa. Jab and a body shot from Strickland. Costa’s eye looks a little swollen.

Strickland really upping the pressure and lands a straight. Strong jab from Strickland and a big kick from Costa. Big jab from Strickland and Costa tries a wheel kick that’s blocked. Front kick to the body from Strickland. Combination from Strickland and Costa drops briefly. Costa breathing heavy here. The round ends and I have it 2-0 for the former UFC middleweight champ.

Round 3

Entering the third and Costa needs to catch a second wind here. They touch gloves and here we go. Jab to the body from Costa and a front kick from Strickland. Leg kick checked by Strickland. Costa land a body shot and Strickland comes over the top. Another nice shot to the body from Costa.

Strickland lands a nice combination and Costa looks to counter. Lots of pressure here from Strickland and Costa is breathing with his mouth open. Wheel kick again from Costa and it’s blocked. Jab from Strickland and then Strickland checks a leg kick from Costa.

Another leg kick gets checked and Strickland lands a counter. 1-2 from Strickland and Costa throws another wheel kick. Right hand over the top lands for Strickland. Front kick to the body and a combination from Strickland. Costa lands a shot to the body but Strickland lands a combination. Right hand over the top from Costa got Strickland’s attention.

Nasty combination from Strickland against the fence and Costa retreats. Left to the body from Costa. The round comes to a close and it’s another one for Sean Strickland. The former champ is likely up 30-27 after three at UFC 302.

Round 4

Fourth round is underway and Costa really needs to get it going. Body kick lands for Strickland and now a front kick. Left over the top from Costa and Strickland lands a nice front kick. Sharp counter from Strickland as Costa tries to come forward. Costa throws another kick and it’s checked. That leg is hurt now from Costa.

Costa is breathing heavy and he takes a bad step. Strickland really coming forward now with three minutes left in the round. Front kick from Strickland and now another. 1-2 over the top from Strickland and now he lands a jab. Costa is exhausted and Strickland isn’t even breathing heavy.

Sharp right hand lands down the middle for Strickland. Costa lands a nice right of his own. Two minutes left in the round and Costa goes high with a kick but it’s blocked. Jab from Strickland now. Nice combination from Strickland and Costa lands two straight kicks. Side kick now from Costa.

Jab and a right over the top from Strickland. Nasty body shot from Costa and another leg kick. Jab from Costa and Costa is landing the better shots here. Right over the top from Strickland lands. Jab from Costa now and Strickland unloads with a combination. The round ends with Strickland landing a big right. Close round.

Round 5

Entering the final round and personally, I think Costa needs a finish here at UFC 302. They touch gloves and Costa opens with a jab to the body. Costa is definitely fighting with urgency here. Jab from Strickland lands and Costa fires back with a right. Big leg kick from Costa and Strickland lands a 1-2.

Costa and Strickland both land in the center. Costa is throwing with a lot of heat. Strickland catches a kick and lands a right hand. Body kick for Costa who is definitely the more active fighter here in the third round. Three minutes left in the final round and Costa is running away with the fifth thus far.

Jab from Strickland lands and now another one. Front kick from Strickland and Costa lands two body shots. Body kick from Costa and Strickland lands a jab. Big jab lands for Strickland. Front kick from Strickland and Costa lands a jab. 90 seconds left and Strickland is fighting way too conservatively if you ask me.

Right hand from Strickland but Costa lands a clean shot. Big jab from Costa and now a left. Jab to the body from Costa and Strickland just isn’t throwing right now. Two jabs from Strickland. Costa is having a great round but now they just start throwing. Head kick from Strickland drops Costa. Big combination from Strickland and the fight comes to an end. Because of that, I give the round to Strickland and the fight 49-46 but who knows with the judges at UFC 302.

Sean Strickland def. Paulo Costa by Split Decision (50-45, 49-46, 46-49)

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