What happened to Paulo Costa at UFC 253?

Prior to UFC 253, Paulo Costa was known as the most terrifying force in the middleweight division. Undefeated and looked to be chiseled out of rock, Costa would push forward against all opponents with a pace and pressure that most couldn’t withstand.

The UFC‘s top middleweight contender was thought to be the one middleweight who could give Israel Adesanya some problems. The thought was that Costa’s style and pressure could disrupt the brilliant distance controlled striking from the champion Adesanya.

UFC President Dana White was building up this fight all summer, and he was calling it a fight of the year candidate. It was supposed to be a true bull versus matador matchup at UFC 253. However, the actual result was anything but what the build up said it would be.

Everyone expected Costa to push forward like he always does, but he appeared to be frozen in time. On the outside mocking Adesanya, but getting lit up in the process. The lack of aggression and playing into Adesanya’s hands led to him getting knocked out in the second round.

I will be the first to admit that I bought into the Paulo Costa UFC hype. Costa looked to be a monster, and I thought his pressure and ability to mix up his shots would give Adesanya problems. Myself and many others were dead wrong. So what happened?

What went wrong at UFC 253

As mentioned, Costa has a style that relies on breaking his opponents with his pressure. As fighters try to get away from the hurricane force he brings, he normally catches his opponents. That’s how he earned a perfect record prior to UFC 253.

Something was wrong as soon as the fight started on Saturday night. Costa came out extremely relaxed with virtually no sense of urgency. This wasn’t the Paulo Costa that UFC fans have come to know over the last few years. It was puzzling watching it unfold live.

Adesanya started working vicious leg kicks early and Costa did nothing. Costa threw a few good kicks throughout, but it was all Adesanya. Costa was finished with a flurry and suffered the first lost of his professional and UFC career.

I think the five round factor really freaked Costa out. Costa almost lost his last fight against Yoel Romero because he gassed out after his quick start. Costa was beating Romero up, but as the fight went on, Costa began to really fade.

I think there was a serious worry that if he faded badly at UFC 253 he would get finished. I think Costa didn’t believe that Adesanya could finish him with strikes while he wasn’t tired. This assumption proved to cost Costa dearly.

Now, Costa will have to go back to the drawing board. I suggested a potential fight with Derek Brunson next to try to get him back on track. Costa will be back, and he’s way too talented to not get another shot one day. However, on Saturday night, it was proven that Costa was not in the same league as Israel Adesanya.