Sean O’Malley Has Proven How Special Of A Fighter He Is; But Is It Time For Him To Take On A Top Ten Ranked Fight?

Sean O'Malley

Over the last three years, the UFC has produced some phenomenal young talent, men and women alike. Living up to their potential at a very young age, these starlets have the ability to shape the UFC’s next generation of greatness and have already shown how dominant they can be. This has been demonstrated in the likes of Jimmy Crute, Miranda Maverick, Song Yadong, and Umar Nurmagomedov, to name a few. But looming largely at the forefront of this talented group of youngsters has been no one but the bright, rainbow-haired, striking wonder boy in Sean O’Malley.

Rising to fame through Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2017, O’Malley has been a sensation ever since he’s stepped foot in the octagon and has illustrated how deadly his striking can be (ESPN). After proving his knockout power and legitimacy against Eddie Wineland last June, O’Malley suffered a terrible foot drop injury against his opponent Marlon Vera later that summer, which resulted in his first UFC loss and sidelined him for several months (ESPN). Despite suffering such a crippling injury, O’Malley made his return to the octagon a little over six months later for UFC 260 on March 27th, emphatically reasserting his presence in the Bantamweight division by delivering a brutal TKO against Thomas Almeida (ESPN). Looking healthy and comfortable, O’Malley pressured and tormented Almeida with a flurry of big punches and leg kicks, showcasing once again just what kind of striking talent he brings to this stacked Bantamweight division.

But after turning 26 last fall and virtually dominating every fight he’s been in, O’Malley has proven just how gifted he is and needs to be granted his first real test at 135. Though Wineland, Vera, and Almeida all made for fair opponents, O’Malley’s actions in the octagon have spoken loud and clear, and it is time for him to match up with a Top Ten ranked opponent for his next fight.  Moreover, O’Malley is entering his prime, and as a young fighter, he still has so much to prove but won’t be able to do so if he keeps on getting matchups that won’t test his overall skill set as a mixed martial artist. And as a result, it’s time for Dana White to explore bigger fights for him to take on.

However, with that said, who makes for the best matchup against the Suga Show? Prior to fighting Vera several months ago, O’Malley already felt he deserved a Top Five fight (ESPN). Moreover, he recently reinforced this bold claim by taunting a potential challenge from the number one contender in the division, in Petr Yan (ESPN). Though he does have a fair point to shoot for the stars considering what he’s accomplished, O’Malley still has a handful of ranked fighters in front of him that not only have been waiting and working toward a title shot as well but as a whole, could also really give him a run for his money. And if there’s anything left for O’Malley to prove before he gets a title shot, it’s that whether he can stand with the best of them and take down at least one of the Top Ten fighters in his division. So without further ado, here are the top three opponents O’Malley should fight next:

3. Dominick Cruz: This matchup would be outstanding for a variety of different reasons and could potentially come to fruition this year. Though he hasn’t called out anyone since his victory against Casey Kenny, Cruz has stated that he is open to fighting O’Malley and is certainly looking to get in another fight by the end of this year, according to a recent interview he had on the Ariel Helwani Show (ESPN). But despite that, there’s a bunch of significant other reasons why this matchup is as good as it is. For starters, Cruz has an incredible set of credentials on his resume and has put together an impressive record of 23 wins with only 3 losses over his career (ESPN). Not only is Cruz a two-time Bantamweight Champion, taking out some of the best fighters we’ve seen in the division’s history. But on top of that, his style and approach toward mixed martial arts is very unorthodox with his constant, differentiating movements and feints, which would present O’Malley with an unfamiliar challenge and a new level of adversity he hasn’t been exposed to yet. In short, considering how special and unique of a fighter Cruz has been and still is at 135, O’Malley should relish the opportunity to take on this fight. And if O’Malley were to win, his goal of taking on a Top 5 fight would become guaranteed.

2. Pedro Munhoz: Though he might be fading out of his prime a bit, losing two of his last three fights against both Aljamain Sterling and Frankie Edgar, Munhoz actually makes for a very good matchup for O’Malley, and here’s why. First and foremost, one of the most impressive facts about Munhoz’s career in mixed martial arts is that all five of his losses have either been decided by split or unanimous decisions (ESPN). In other words, Munhoz is one of the toughest fighters in the division and has never been knocked out by anyone in his career, which in itself is a big challenge for O’Malley, who depends on his knockout power to win his fights. On top of that, Munhoz has proven how versatile he can be on the ground and could test O’Malley on his grappling skills as well, something we haven’t seen a whole lot of from O’Malley. When all is said and done, it’s important that O’Malley gets a chance to test his skills against one of the best in this division, someone who can not only can stand and go the distance with him but who can also challenge him in a variety of different ways. And after a big bounce-back victory against Jimmie Rivera earlier this year, Munhoz has shown that he still has what it takes to win in this competitive division. So if O’Malley really wants that Top 5 fight he’s been craving for, taking on Munhoz would certainly bring him one step closer.

1. Marlon Moraes: Since his bout with the former Bantamweight champ Henry Cejudo nearly two years ago, Moraes has really struggled with regaining the menacing and elite fighter status he used to have (ESPN). Losing back-to-back fights against both Cory Sandhagen and Rob Font last year, Moraes has progressively slipped his way down the rankings, and another loss could perpetuate his downfall even further (ESPN). So why does he deserve a fight with O’Malley? Well, there are a few reasons to factor in here. To begin with, both losses Moraes sustained were against the number two and number three ranked fighters in the division in Sandhagen and Font, two fighters that are debatably in their respective primes and have been steadily climbing up the rankings (ESPN). In addition, Moraes will not want to suffer a third loss in a row, and as a result, he’s going to do everything he can to ensure he gets a victory in his next bout. For O’Malley, this makes for a top fight because he not only gets to test his skill against a very well-versed and technically gifted mixed martial artist, but he also would be going up against Moraes’s best work. Though he might appear to be the easiest challenger on this list, it’s important to keep in mind that Moraes did knockout both Rivera and Sterling prior to coming for the belt against Cejudo, demonstrating he can stand with some of the best (ESPN). So if anything, a matchup with Moraes would be perfect for O’Malley and would grant him the opportunity to prove why he deserves a Top 5 fight.

Paige VanZant open to fight Bec Rawlings in BKFC on one condition

Will a Paige VanZant-Bec Rawlings rematch happen in BKFC?

Back in December, Rawlings floated her interest to fight VanZant in BKFC.

“With Bare-Knuckle signing Paige, it’s definitely garnered a lot of interest in people wondering if I’m going to fight her,” Rawlings told “I would love that fight. [I’m] sure we could probably try to work something out with Bellator and Bare Knuckle, doing a cross-promotion thing. I don’t know, I’d be down for that. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

But when asked for her reaction, VanZant isn’t as excited as Rawlings about the prospect of a rematch.

“Of course, she wants to fight me again. I knocked her out with a head kick the last time we fought. [I’m] really interested in fighting people who I haven’t fight yet or haven’t beaten. So if she wants to come back to BKFC, that’s totally fine, and if the matchup makes sense, but I’m in Bare Knuckle Boxing working my way in the division for a title. And I just don’t want to fight people because they want to call me out,” VanZant told Empire Sports Media in an exclusive interview last Tuesday ahead of her BKFC debut against Britain Hart.

Aching for Payback

VanZant will headline BKFC’s Knucklemania tonight, and if she emerges victorious, a Rawlings rematch could be in the pipeline.

Rawlings has a perfect 3-0 record in BKFC, including a split decision against Hart, before she returned to MMA via Bellator.

The Australian brawler wants to exact revenge for her 2016 loss to VanZant in UFC. VanZant won the fight via a second-round TKO with a stunning switch kick.

The loss to VanZant started the fall of Rawlings in the UFC. She never recovered as she also lost her next three fights and was subsequently released.

Rawlings revamped her career with BKFC.

Crossover Star

But unlike Rawlings, VanZant left UFC on her terms. While she lost her last UFC fight against Amanda Ribas, VanZant left the MMA octagon with a solid 8-5 record. She successfully became a crossover star and one of the most recognizable MMA fighters after reaching the finals of the Dancing With Stars in 2016.

While VanZant maintained her focus is on BKFC for now, she’s keeping her options open. She revealed that her BKFC contract has a clause that will allow her to fight in the octagon again.

“The fortunate thing about Bare Knuckle, I could take an MMA fight, boxing fight during my contract with them. I definitely haven’t closed the door on MMA at all or straight boxing. I think I’m just excited about this opportunity. I think it opens up the doors for me to continue to compete and be a more well-rounded martial artist,” VanZant said.

But first things first, the 26-year old VanZant needs to take care of business tonight against Hart.

She’s confident that she’ll shock the world after her six-month training with American Top Team.

How to watch VanZant-Hart fight:

The VanZant-Hart fight will be available Live on Pay-Per-View including DISH, DIRECTV, IN DEMAND, ROGERS, SASKTEL, SHAW, and VUBIQUITY, and via the digital app FITE, as well as the BKFC website

KnuckleMania starts on PPV at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PM and will be distributed by Multi Vision Media.

Two Free Preliminary Fights will be broadcast on the BKFC YouTube Channel and Facebook pages starting at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Inside PFL’s rise as no.2 global market leader in MMA

While the UFC continues to reign over the landscape of mixed martial arts worldwide, the Professional Fighters League (PFL) has exploded into the scene and now finds itself right behind the industry leader after just three years.

In an interview with, PFL founder Donn Davis said that the league had established itself as the number-two MMA company globally on multiple factors, including fighter roster, worldwide audience, distribution, and growth.

“So I think what you’re seeing now, by all metrics, is the PFL is the number-two MMA company worldwide. In terms of fighter roster, PFL is number two. For a worldwide audience, PFL is number two. In terms of worldwide distribution, PFL is number two, and in terms of growth, PFL is number two,” Davis said.

Top MMA Promotions - PFL

Season format

But what pushed the PFL out into the front of the pack, alongside the UFC?

Founded in 2017, the league has already been able to put on two massively-successful seasons. Now, they are gearing up for the third season, which kicks off in April.

Notice how the PFL’s year is called a season?

That’s because the league follows a tournament-style format, which is unique in the world of MMA.

The league uses a regular season, playoffs, and finals format, which means the fighters will need to win to advance. At the end of the season, a world champion will be crowned for each weight division, and the winners are awarded one million dollars.

Stacked roster

Making that tournament format all the more exciting for the fans to watch is the stacked roster of fighters that the PFL boasts.

Each of the league’s six weight divisions features veterans and up-and-coming talent from across the globe. The PFL is home to many of the MMA world’s top stars, including PFL Women’s Lightweight Champion Kayla Harrison, two-time PFL Featherweight Champion Lance Palmer, two-time PFL Lightweight Champion Natan Schulte, and many others.

In 2021, the league will have an influx of world championship talent led by Fabricio Werdum, Anthony Pettis, Rory MacDonald, and three-division boxing world champion Claressa Shields, who will be making her mixed martial arts debut.

Top-notch management

While the PFL indeed features an all-star roster of fighters, they also have the number one executive team in sports.

Founder Donn Davis, who was also behind Revolution LLC, has brought together some of the top minds in media, sports, and digital to lead the league to the top.

Leading the charge is PFL CEO Peter Murray, who helped sign some of the biggest names in sports during his time with Under Armour. Executive Producer George Greenberg has over 40 years of experience and is coming off as an Executive Vice President for Fox Sports. President Ray Sefo was the founder of the World Series of Fighting and is a combat sports legend.

Those big names are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the PFL’s executive management roster.

Overwhelming support

The PFL is also backed by a world-class team of investors, including Swan & Legend Venture Partners and Matterhorn Private Equity, and Ted Leonsis, David Blitzer, Mark Lerner, Kevin Hart, Mark Burnett, and Tony Robbins. The league has also managed to secure sponsorships with AB InBev,, The Marines, and many others.

The PFL can be seen in the United States via ESPN and in an additional 160 more countries worldwide via various platforms and sports networks.

With all these considered, it’s no surprise that the PFL is already at the top of the MMA mountain, alongside the UFC. With another big year in store in 2021, there’s no telling the heights that the fastest growing sports league in the world can reach.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

UFC: Kevin Holland vs Jack Hermansson preview

Kevin Holland

On December 5th, UFC fans will be in for a treat when Kevin Holland takes on Jack Hermansson. For Holland, 2020 has been a storybook year, and he looks to cap it off in emphatic fashion. Coming off a dominant win over Charlie Ontiveros — in which the fight was ended via verbal submission — Holland looks to make it 5-0 in 2020 with a win over Hermansson. In my previous UFC article on Holland, I believed his last fight would earn him a spot in the T15. While he is still unranked for this matchup with ‘The Joker,’ this is the type of fight I was expecting he would be given. It is clear that Holland is currently the front runner for “fighter of the year,” along with UFC star-boy Khamzat Chimaev.

This fight is going to be a good one for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, Hermansson is one of the best middleweights in the division, and the little #5 next to his name isn’t just for show. Despite a tough loss to Cannonier back at UFC Fight Night 160, he’s one of the most feared and well-rounded fighters in the division. Coming off a win via submission (Heel hook) over Kevin Gastellum in his most recent fight back in July, Hermansson looks to keep the momentum rolling. Aside from his defeat to Cannonier, his previous five fights have all been victories. He is able to spread out his attacks and fight a very technical and poised fight.

As for Holland, there is no debating his drive in his chase for greatness. Having fought four times this year already, he’s clearly one of the most in-form fighters right now. Following his victory in his last fight, Holland had some choice words for Israel Adesanya. It appears as if him calling out Izzy paid off for him. While he didn’t get that fight, his activity and mentality to fight anyone and everyone got him this fight. Darren Till’s injury is unfortunate for UFC fans, as there will be no raw dogging in this one, but it opened the door for Kevin Holland. Assuming Holland can pull off this upset, and Khamzat beats Leon Edwards, that could set up a very enticing matchup between The Wolf and The Trailblazer.

The middleweight division is one that is as murky as any. With Adesanya and Blachowicz being more and more likely as the days go on, the middleweight belt could be up for the taking in the foreseeable future. While Whittaker is the favorite, and Costa still wants blood, December is an exciting month for potential challengers to make themselves heard. Kevin Holland has had little hesitation in taking fights on short notice or stepping in when needed, but he’s never had a test like Hermansson. Even someone as tough as Darren Till would likely have been the underdog had they fought, and that should speak bounds about Jack Hermansson’s abilities.

Kevin Holland is one of the rising stars in the UFC right now, and if you didn’t know, now you do. If Holland is to win this upcoming fight, there’s no telling what his future holds. To me, in that exciting land of hypotheticals, assuming Khamzat wins, there shouldn’t be any hesitation in setting up that fight. Think about it, Khamzat v Holland in February… ah, the possibilities.

UFC: Kevin Holland to jump into T15?

Kevin Holland

This upcoming Saturday on a UFC Fight Night Halloween treat, us fans are fortunate enough to watch Anderson Silva’s final fight — potentially. The middleweight bout with Uriah Hall is everyone’s “if only a few years ago” dream match, but for Hall, this is master versus apprentice and one step closer in his pursuit of the belt. However, another showdown that everyone should be looking out for is that between Kevin Holland (19-5) and Charlie Ontiveros (11-6). Initially scheduled to fight Makhmud Muradov, Holland prepares to fight Ontiveros in his UFC debut.

Kevin “Trailblazer” Holland is one that everyone should already have their eye on by now. Having already won three fights this year, and proven himself worthy of a ranked opponent, Holland is quietly putting together a very solid case. With barking contests between himself and UFC poster child, Khamzat Chimaev, Kevin Holland has made sure that Dana White knows he is always wanting a fight. As of a few weeks ago, Holland wasn’t entirely sure what his next move was going to be. Essentially trying to fight everyone and anyone, a few names tossed around were the previously mentioned Chimaev, Drucis Du Plessis, and Holland himself challenging T10 fighters.

There should already be a strong following behind Holland, as he has gained even more recognition over the past few weeks. Joaquin Buckley’s likely KO of the year on Impa Kasanganay at UFC Fight Island 5 went viral within moments, and shocked everyone watching. Buckley’s knockout got everyone searching his name, and everyone came to find out that none other than Kevin Holland knocked him out back in August with a straight right. The scary thing about Holland is that when he fights, there is no real sense of fear or being overmatched. With him, its all about the element of control and making sure he is the aggressor — and is able to make the first move, and dictate the fight.

While in Holland’s last fight against Darren Stewart, he got the win via decision, he didn’t feel good about it. In his post fight interview, he said he’d be happy to run it back with him and that the win didn’t feel convincing. The possibility of a Stewart fight could be on the table going forward, especially if Holland ends up taking care of business Saturday. With that, there’s also a very real chance Holland will finally get bumped into the T15 rankings assuming he comes out on top. Having already notched three wins in 2020 — KO over Hernandez (05/16), KO over Buckley (08/08), DEC over Stewart (09/19), he looks to extend it to an impressive four wins this year. IF he is to fight again, the chances at having FIVE wins in a calendar year may sound too sweet to pass up for Holland.

Look for Holland to make a statement and throw his name in the running for a top fight next, after his bout with Ontiveros.

UFC: Nate Diaz tears into McGregor and Poirier on Twitter

It’s looking more and more like Dustin Poirier vs Conor McGregor 2 might be one of the biggest UFC fights of the year – if it does end up happening in 2020. However, not all the fighters in the league are big fans of that idea. The Diaz brothers are pretty well known around the sport for their outspokenness and Nate Diaz took to Twitter to trash talk both fighters and give his take on the likely matchup.

A second bout between Poirier and McGregor is one that fans have wanted to see for a long time. After all, the two fought in the past but both have improved significantly since then. McGregor is a former champion in two divisions and Poirier was the interim champion at lightweight. There’s been a lot of calls for these two to fight again and see if the result is different this time.

But according to Nate Diaz, who has a 1-1 record against McGregor, this is just a case of two friends taking the easy route and fighting each other. He replied dismissively to Poirier claiming he could beat Diaz even in a new 165 lbs division.

With that being said, the fight between McGregor and Poirier looks like it’s going to happen, whether or not it draws criticism from the Diaz brothers. Both fighters are interested in making the fight happen and had previously agreed to a charity fight outside of the UFC. But with both of them under contract and the UFC being unwilling to release them from that for an outside fight, meeting in the Octagon is the next best thing.

The only thing left is for an official date to be decided on, but the UFC has an incentive to make it happen. After all, love him or hate him, a Conor McGregor fight always draws eyes. Especially against another elite opponent like Poirier rather than an aging boxing opponent.

UFC: Khamzat Chimaev has new opponent in ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira

It’s not always easy being a rising fighter in the UFC. Sure, it only takes a few big wins to capture the attention of the sport. Especially if those wins are bonus-worthy performances. But breaking into the standings and displacing the top fighters already there isn’t easy. Khamzat Chimaev is finding out just how hard it can be. After a quick rise that led to him being noticed by MMA fans around the world, Chimaev has now had several potential opponents turn down fights.

These opponents want him to get more experience first. If you want to look at it from a more cynical perspective, you could say they want to avoid losing to a rapidly surging fighter. Either way, it leaves Chimaev in a rough spot. The UFC has decided to push him more and give him a headline fight – but actually finding his opponent hasn’t been easy so far.

One name, though, has stepped up to the plate: Alex ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira. Oliveira isn’t the ranked fighter that the UFC was looking for, but he does have a substantial record behind his name. He’s also won both of his fights in 2020, against Max Griffin and Peter Sobotta.

Oliveira is “right here” and ready to fight

Oliveira’s interest in fighting Chimaev was revealed in an interview with MMA Junkie. He says that, if Chimaev wants to pick and choose an opponent, he should pick him rather than waiting around.

“I’ll take the fight no one else wants. Chimaev, I’m ready for a fight at welterweight right now. I see you picking and choosing opponents. I’m right here,” Oliveira told Mike Bohn. “I’m itching to fight Chimaev. If you want to pick and choose opponents, I’ll fight you.”

But it remains to be seen whether the UFC will go for this matchup or not. After all, the fight is supposed to be a headlining one and the league may not want to headline two fighters outside the top 15.

At the least, though, Chimaev has a potential opponent on the table. If there’s not another matchup in the top 15 that opens up, we may just see this opponent for one of the UFC’s rising stars. And with Oliveira having good experience in the UFC, it would be intriguing to see if Chimaev’s hot streak continues against him.

PFL CEO Peter Murray: ‘There’s room for another leader in MMA’

When the World Series of Fighting evolved into the Professional Fighters League back in 2017, it would have been easy for the organization to lose its momentum and fade into obscurity.

Instead, thanks to its game-changing league format and deep roster of talent, the PFL has exceeded just about every expectation put on them, and in just two short years, they have established themselves as the fastest-rising MMA promotion in the world and is right up there at the top, just behind the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Probably what makes the PFL stand out the most among other organizations is their game-changing league format, which features a regular season-style elimination round, playoffs, and finals, with the last man or woman standing at the end of each tournament being crowned that year’s PFL World Champion. Apart from some gold around the waist, the newly-crowned PFL champion also gets a US$ 1 million grand prize, another aspect that’s unique to the PFL.

PFL CEO Peter Murray believes that the regular season format is something that all sports fans can gravitate towards.

“We dialed in on what works in other sports, and we have the credibility and authenticity with MMA with great fighters and an incredible presentation and production value,” Murray explained in an interview with “But when you overlay a true sports season format, broader sports fans will understand how that works. It’s programmatic. There’s a beginning, middle, and end.”

As great as the PFL’s league format is, it would be nothing without top tier talent competing in it, that’s why the organization has also assembled a deep roster of some of the world’s most talented fighters featuring reigning champions like Kayla Harrison, Lance Palmer, Ray Cooper III, and Natan Schulte to veteran stars like Rory MacDonald, Olivier Aubin-Mercier, and Bubba Jenkins.

“We all want exciting fighters. I’m looking for a guy that’s well-rounded in the game of mixed martial arts,” PFL President Ray Sefo said in a 2019 interview with “I’m not looking for a [fighter] that just wants to take a guy down and be a wet blanket. I love wrestlers that can actually stand and bang, because they can take you down anytime, and then they can trade with you.”

Just recently, the PFL announced eight more roster acquisitions from countries like Brazil, Germany, Norway, South Korea, and the United States, headlined by UFC veteran Cezar Ferreira, multiple-time champion Joilton Lutterbach, and up-and-coming Asian star Sung Bin Jo.

These new signings along with the already deep talent pool are sure to make the PFL’s 2021 season something to watch out for.

While the fighters and the format are helping carry the PFL on the surface level, people behind the scenes like the management team as well as the league’s partners are also making a huge impact.

All of these factors are helping bring the PFL to the pinnacle of the sport, alongside industry leaders such as the UFC.

“There’s room for another leader in this next evolution of the sport,” Murray shared on an episode of David Meltzer’s ‘The Playbook’. “I have amazing partners, we have titans in our ownership group from media, sports, entertainment, and technology.”

UFC: Three Reasons why Paulo Costa’s night didn’t go the way he expected

Heading into UFC 253, there have been few fights — let alone sporting events — with as much hype and build-up behind them as there was for Costa vs. Adesanya. The millions of people that were chopping at the bit over the past months were finally gifted the long-awaited fight this past Saturday at UFC’s Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. With the bad blood between the two, the social media presence and coverage around it, and of course, the skillsets both fighters hold, there was no doubt that this would be one of the most profitable and entertaining fights in UFC history.

This last weekend held a title fight that caused some fans to bury their heads in their hands, while others simply gave a Jordan shrug and scoffed, saying “onto the next.” Costa fans watching went silent, Izzy fans roared, the classic smackdown after a smack-talking of the ages proved once more that there are very few — if any middleweight fighters — that can go toe-to-toe with The Last Stylebender. As always, with a win comes another flamboyant celebration from Adesanya, and this time he may have set off a ticking time bomb. Adesanya’s gesture of pelvic thrusting Costa twice after knocking him out didn’t sit well with Paulo, certainly guaranteeing a future matchup at least once more between the two. However, that is down the road, and as for now, Izzy made a definite statement on Saturday.

For one fighter, Paulo Costa, the fight was a massive wake-up call. For the other, Israel Adesanya, it was another notch on an already Hall of Fame resume. However, as one should always do when faced with defeat, I wanted to look at the takeaways for Costa from the loss. I figured this would be a great time to talk about a few things I observed from watching the fight Saturday that ultimately hurt Costa, but are adjustable to where he can improve and get better in the future.

1: Paulo Costa’s corner did little to help

When watching the fight, it was easy to see within the first three or so minutes of the first round that Costa wasn’t fighting this fight like any of his ones prior. While ‘El Borrachinha’ is criticized by many for his technique — or lack thereof, for him to be standing as flatfooted and open as he was, was a problem from the get-go. Not only was his stance just easy-pickings for Adesanya’s brutal and various leg kicks to his lead left leg, but it was also limiting his own offensive abilities as well. I’ll touch more on that later in another portion, but prior to getting into how Costa’s corner left him for dead, first here’s a comparison of how the night went for both fighters from a statistical perspective (info via Forbes):

COSTA 12 46% 2 7 3 0
ADESANYA 55 65% 24 5 26 2

The stats tell the story if the eye test wasn’t enough. For one of the most feared and brutal strikers across all divisions of the UFC to get out-shot by 43 significant strikes — the second-largest gap from all fights Saturday night — is inexcusable. What makes Costa such an intimidating fighter in the ring is that he is always applying “unrelenting pressure,” as Joe Rogan put it best. With this fight against Adesanya, there was little-to-no pressure from him whatsoever, and he was solely fighting defensively. Obviously, when fighting against Israel Adesanya, there are very few mistakes to capitalize on, so for Costa to be fighting in a defensive or counter-attacking style is interesting. However, as strong of an argument could be made about how difficult it is to press Izzy and get up close enough to do tons of damage — which is what Costa’s calling is.

Now, after the first round, it was apparent that the leg kicks were going to start becoming problematic for Costa, but when listening to his corner, there was no sense of urgency or change of approach being suggested. His corner encouraged him to work his combos and told him that when he’s got Izzy up against the cage that he should push off him and separate. My main problem with that advice is that advising Costa, who already had a 3in height disadvantage to go with an 8in reach disadvantage, to make this a fight from distance in the center of the octagon doesn’t make sense. For his corner to suggest the idea of “throwing his combos” implies that Costa would need to be on the offensive and pushing in more. Once more, however, as the second round got underway, his shots were not landing. I myself don’t speak Portuguese, so I’m not entirely positive as to what was being shouted out by his team throughout the fight, but for an in-between round talk to be so contradictory of oneself was interesting.

What I mean by that is that encouraging Costa to work the combos and let them come to him, but also discouraging him to get in the clinch or up close enough to do that patented damage he’s so well known for, contradicts completely. There was seemingly no anger or aggression that Costa was fighting with, and one can contribute some of his corner’s lack of plausible advice as one of the reasons. Costa was not going to win this fight by going five rounds, and there were little who expected him to outduel Izzy from the center of the octagon. Simply put, the strategy put in place by Costa and his team was completely shattered within a few minutes of the fight.

2: Costa’s stance and nonchalant demeanor cost him greatly

While many love the heavy punches and seamless combinations executed, there’s an undeniable art to the wear-and-tear style of fighting. For Adesanya to have come out and executed the various leg kicks that he did, most to the outside of the knee and oblique, and various to the calves and thighs, shows that he truly does possess the precision he daunts. After a few moments, Costa’s knee began to swell, and by Round 2, it was already bleeding, along with the inside of his thigh. Praising Adesanya is easy after that showing, and of course, it is easy to rag on Costa’s rather pitiful performance, but the one glaring thing Costa neglected to do anything about were those kicks. He very infrequently even attempted to check them and didn’t once switch up his stance or try to switch up the octagon position.

The 26 Significant Strikes Landed to the leg by Adesanya were the most strikes landed between the two across the entire body. Yet, when the fight’s candle slowly was nearing the burnout, it were the early leg kicks that were Costa’s main downfall. To some, leg kicks are ineffective and, when not properly executed or located, can do minimal damage. However, with as accurate as Izzy was, and as little care as Costa seemed to show toward it, it played a crucial part in his loss.

For Paulo, he’s always been a confident fighter and one that enjoys showboating in the ring, but to do it against Adesanya while not actively doing anything himself, was not what I wanted to see out of the potential future middleweight champion. I’m all for having fun in the ring and giving your opponent nothing to feel good about or smile about, but to not push offensively in between doesn’t make sense. Costa’s demeanor is never going to change, and nor should it. His confidence and ego play into his ambition and work ethic, and there are very few who work as hard as he does. Yet, to see him repeatedly slap his knee as if it wasn’t a mere slap from Adesanya while neglecting to check it or counter it was worrisome.

When Costa fought Yoel Romero at UFC 241 last year, there are glaring differences in the way he approached both bouts. With Romero, Paulo was constantly on the offensive, keeping his body straight and aligned with Romero, his shoulders square. He had his classic guard up — with both hands up below his chin, left hand lower and dangling for the majority of the fight. That allowed him to throw those lead left jabs and hooks and hit him with the brutal right uppercuts or hooks when the body is turned. Add to that, Costa constantly pushed Romero and tried to get in the clinch. When up against the fence, he’d throw knees and vicious body shots, even if it meant he’d take some hits as well. Ultimately that combination led to a few knockdowns for Costa, some hard punches, and win via unanimous decision.

The Adesanya fight was a completely different story. Very rarely was Paulo ever seemingly fighting off his front foot, and he was often caught in an open stance where Izzy was able to land repeated kicks and a few headshots throughout the fight. What Makes Israel Adesanya such an incredible fighter is his ability to switch stances on the fly, thus adjusting and adapt to whatever is going on in the moment and read fighters’ moves, seemingly telegraphing them before they happen. For Costa, there was no stance switching or applying pressure when his opponent was caught on his back foot. There were no combinations thrown or kicks mixed with jabs that could’ve dazed Izzy. Instead, it was as if Adesanya knew everything that Costa was going to throw. The constant feints and ducks, while being light on his feet and repositioning himself accordingly, ended up being too much for Paulo to keep up with.

3: Costa needs to greatly improve his adjustability and agility

Paulo Costa could eat the Jan Blachowicz diet of Polish sausages and beets & potatoes, as well as nothing but straight butter and not lose his figure. There is no doubt that his strength and striking ability are amongst the best of the best in the world, but if he wants to be a titleholder, he is going to need to expand his range. Costa teased the media by saying he could take Adesanya to the ground in a matter of seconds, but there was not one takedown attempt attempted by Costa. There were few impactful kicks that he landed, aside from a few decent shots to the body and one that clipped Adesanya’s head. To put it simply, Costa’s game, when he was unable to push in and throw his punches, was severely limited. If he truly wants a shot at the belt, he needs to work on his endurance and agility along with his craft — specifically his kicking.

I am not implying that Costa is out of shape or is unable to handle the grueling endurance battles that can take place in the UFC, but it was quickly apparent that he wasn’t remotely as quick or technically smart as Adesanya. Costa has never fought a five-round bout before in the UFC, either, and the longest fight he’s fought was that UFC 241 FOTY candidate between he and Romero that went to the judges after three. The more important thing I am touching on with his agility and endurance is that his horizontal movement and ability to adjust when having to fight off his back foot are lacking. When he is able to be the aggressor and throw his punches, thus dictating the fight, there is no one that can stop him. If that fails to materialize in the early stages of the fight, when going up against poised and technical fighters like Adesanya, Costa has to have a fallback option.

Similar to how in baseball, what separates an elite pitcher from a good pitcher is their out-pitch and their complementary stuff. For guys like Clayton Kershaw, it is his changeup and curveball, for Josh Hader, it is his slider and fastball. In the UFC, world-class fighters who are considered the best of the best have well-rounded games, and outs that they can look to in case they encounter a roadblock in their own game plan. Adesanya is able to move quickly and combine his precision and lethal strikes with light footwork and rapid pace, allowing him to adjust on the fly and pickup his opponent’s moves before they happen. For Khabib Nurmagomedov, it’s his ability to throw quick punches and then drop levels and take you to the ground within a blink of an eye, before executing near flawless grappling techniques. Whereas for Costa, if he’s not able to use that gorilla-like strength and pressure, there is no true other option for him yet. His biggest strength is his ability to fight in the clinch and up-close. When Costa is pressed against the opposing fighter and able to throw vicious body shots mixed with headshots, opposition can only stay standing for so long. He didn’t land a single shot when in the clinch versus Izzy and was quick to break it and revert back to the middle.

That inability to adapt and either A) push Adesanya against the fence and initiate the clinch more, or B) match him with exchanges and shots at a distance, was his downfall. On Saturday night, everyone saw that Costa could be labeled a “one-trick pony” and that there are flaws in his game for sure. Taking away the lack of grappling, for his stand-up game to truly reach elite levels and to be considered the best of the best, he is going to need to diversify and expand.

Paulo Costa is certainly not down and out in the UFC. There should be little-to-no-doubt about him returning with an emphatic statement in his next fight and doing whatever it takes to claw his way back to that Adesanya matchup. He already told Dana to book the rematch, proving that this rivalry is nowhere near close to over.

UFC: Why Conor McGregor’s charity fight is a big deal for the league

Conor McGregor, UFC

It’s debatable whether or not the UFC will allow Conor McGregor to fight Dustin Poirier in a charity match. Both of the fighters are under contract with the UFC, and the charity bout would take place under outside promotion.

The UFC might take some heat from fans for turning it down – after all, the fight would raise a lot of money for charity. But at the end of the day, that may be the likeliest scenario because the UFC has something to lose if they let it happen.

The reason why the fight matters

This fight is intriguing, but not just because of the two talents that would be involved. Sure, the fight itself would be exciting, but from a business perspective there’s more implications. A fight arranged by McGregor and his managers is a far cry from the usual MMA fight, which is organized by a promotion. Even if it is just a charity one-off, it’s a rare boxing style bout in a sport dominated by centralized organizations.

The UFC has competition from other promotions. Bellator, ONE Championship, and others offer fans alternative options to watch. We’ve even seen big name fighters move from the UFC to these organizations for whatever reason. But at the end of the day, they’re still organizations. They act as centralized leagues, with one body deciding who fights who and setting the rankings.

Boxing, on the other hand? It’s a lot more like the wild west. Certain organizations can try to push through certain matchups, but at the end of the day the individual fighters and their managers have a lot more power. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. We’ve still never seen some highly talked about boxing fights, like Anthony Joshua vs Deontay Wilder. In an organization like the UFC, that fight likely would have been pushed through by the league itself.

But on the other hand, boxing is known for more of the profits ending up in the pockets of the fighters. A big boxing fight does more for its stars than a big UFC fight, and it’s been said that Conor McGregor’s fight with Mayweather was motivated by the larger cut of profits from boxing.

Pay disputes with the UFC have been in the news fairly often in 2020. McGregor organizing his own MMA fight, boxing promoter style, is interesting because it opens the door for others to do the same thing. For now, the idea is for a charity fight.

But in the future, the idea of fighters agreeing to MMA fights outside of an organization like the UFC could see other uses. And because of that, expect the league to approach this fight with caution – after all, the UFC would have the most to lose if these boxing style matchups became more regular.