MMA Ratings Podcast

August 21, 2019

UFC 241: Paulo Costa Poised To Join Nunes and Andrade As New Faces of Brazilian MMA

By Raphael Garcia

Paulo Costa took a major step for Brazilian mixed martial arts Saturday night when he narrowly defeated longtime middleweight contender Yoel Romero on the UFC 241 main card. With this win, he has emerged as one of the faces of the newest generation of Brazilian stars in the UFC, and it will be interesting to see where the momentum from this victory takes him next.

There was a time when Brazilian names adorned top ten lists across the sport. Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort, Paulo Filho, Wanderlei Silva, Jose Aldo, and others were frequently mentioned in discussions about the greatest MMA fighters of all time. But things have changed, as these men, along with greats like Fabricio Werdum and the Nogueira brothers, have been bounced from those discussions through violent means. Brazil is still a major market for mixed martial arts, but the stars that attracted those fans have nearly all been supplanted in one way or another, particularly in the UFC.

That doesn’t mean that Brazilian talent has been completely overrun, though. The kind of championship excellence that has traditionally been associated with male Brazilian fighters now resides with the women, as Amanda Nunes and Jessica Andrade are currently holding UFC gold. And Costa is now on a path towards joining his countrywomen as torch bearers, carrying on the tradition of the Brazilian legends who preceded them.

Costa has everything that the UFC looks for in a main event caliber fighter. The 28-year-old competitor stands 6’1 and looks like a character ripped straight from your favorite group of onscreen heroes. Not only does he have dashing good looks; he’s also as violent as any fighter you'd see competing in the Octagon. He lands nearly nine significant shots per minute, keeping the pressure on every opponent that stands in front of him. And although grappling is a major part of MMA, Costa doesn’t have any interest in that aspect at this point, as he’s scored zero takedowns to date. (He clearly doesn’t need to, as thus far his fists have blasted his opponents into orbit.)

The UFC middleweight division has largely been in a place of stagnation recently, and much of that is due to Robert Whittaker and Romero’s places in the division. The UFC Middleweight Champion's frequent battles with injuries have kept him on the shelf for the majority of his reign, as he's only fought once since capturing gold in July 2017. Romero, on the other hand, has been fairly active within the title mix, and until Saturday night, he has only been unable to defeat two opponents at 185: Whittaker and the weigh-in scale. Whittaker is scheduled to face interim champion Israel Adesanya this October at UFC 243 (assuming he doesn't get injured again). But beyond that bout, the undefeated Costa is now positioned as a fighter who can shake everything up.

The main questions for Costa now are: 1) when he will get a title opportunity, and 2) whether he can make the most of it. Title fights are never a guarantee in the UFC until both fighters are standing across the cage from one another. Costa may have done all he can to be considered the next contender in line, but there’s no telling what can occur, especially when there’s a champion who continues to pull out of fights due to injury. The UFC should keep him on deck as the man to step in if either Adesanya or Whittaker go down to injury before UFC 243. Although Costa has pooh-poohed the idea in recent interviews, it’s in his best interest to be prepared to fight, because we’ve seen similar situations play out in favor if others in the past.

Paulo Costa could be the next big Brazilian star in the UFC. With Amanda Nunes and Jessica Andrade already standing tall atop their respective divisions, Costa represents the best chance for Brazil to add a male name to the ranks of its country's UFC titleholders. That can only help the UFC build excitement for its next foray into that territory.

UFC 241
Paulo Costa vs. Yoel Romero: Paulo Costa def. Yoel Romero via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

UFC 241: Cormier vs. Miocic 2 took place August 17, 2019 at Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

Click HERE for more UFC 241 Post-Fight Analysis

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