Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated’s newest look at MMA. Every week, this column will offer insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.
Paulo Costa on missing weight: ‘I’ll tell more after the fight’
Paulo Costa will still enter the Octagon on Saturday for his UFC Fight Night bout against Marvin Vettori, but it is no longer a middleweight bout. Just days before the fight, Costa revealed he was not going to make weight, forcing the bout to be changed to a 195-pound catchweight fight.
“We need to fight at catchweight,” Costa said on Wednesday. “I’ll tell more after the fight.”
But it did not end there. The bout has now been changed—again—to light heavyweight at 205 pounds, which was first reported by Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Iole. Costa is forfeiting 20% of his purse for his failure to make weight, and the whole process has led to a disaster of a fight week.
If this were not the main event of a broadcasted UFC event, it is unlikely it would even be taking place. Entering fight week 26 pounds overweight—with no specified reason to account for that—and calling his own weight class is a brazen move by Costa, one that has significantly frustrated UFC officials. There was even a possibility that the Nevada State Athletic Commission could have pulled Costa from the fight. Even though that did not happen, this is an incident that clearly devalues his stock.
A meeting of Costa (13–1) and Vettori (17-5-1) could have been an exciting matchup. Costa is ranked second in the middleweight division, while Vettori is currently fifth. Costa had run through his opponents until September 2020, when Israel Adesanya thoroughly outclassed him at UFC 253. That is the lone blemish on his record, as well as the last time he stepped into the Octagon. Vettori has tasted defeat to only one opponent in his last nine fights, which was also Adesanya.
Had Costa won this bout at middleweight—being that he is more well-rounded and has defeated higher-level opponents—that would have put him in position for a rematch against Adesanya. But now, following this week’s debacle, he is destined to plummet in the rankings, significantly hurting any prospect of another title shot against Adesanya.
“It’s inevitable I will fight Adesanya again,” Costa tells Sports Illustrated. “I know that.”
Costa is bilingual, and he addressed certain topics through a translator. This included his explanation for why he did not enter at full strength when fighting Adesanya at UFC 253.
“I was not feeling well; I was not 100%,” says Costa, who was defeated via a second-round TKO. “These things got in my way of performing that night.”
Win or lose tomorrow, Costa’s next bout will not be against Adesanya. Rare is the occasion when a post-fight explanation is more compelling than the actual fight, but that possibility is in play as the fight world impatiently awaits learning what prevented Costa from making weight. But he is a competitor, and he will seek to make the best of an uncomfortable situation by performing to the best of his ability in the cage Saturday.
“I’m going to try to kill him,” Costa says. “I know ‘kill’ is a strong word, but I want to put him down and finish him.”
Fedor Emelianenko returns to the cage
The great Fedor Emelianenko steps into the cage this Saturday, returning for Bellator 269 to square off against Tim Johnson.
Johnson (15–7) is the No. 2 heavyweight in Bellator, coming off a loss in June to interim champ Valentin Moldavsky. Prior to that, he had rattled off three straight wins, defeating Cheick Kongo, Matt Mitrione and Tyrell Fortune.
This will not be an easy opponent for the 45-year-old Emelianenko (39–6, 1 NC), who has won three of his last four, the only blemish coming at the hands of Ryan Bader in January 2019. Emelianenko last fought at the end of December that same year, months before the world changed due to the coronavirus, when he defeated Quinton Jackson by TKO.
Somewhat surprisingly, there has not been an electric build to Emelianenko’s return to the cage. Despite his being the greatest MMA fighter of all time, this bout is lacking energy and intrigue. A lot of that has to do with the opponent, as Johnson, even with all his strengths, is largely viewed as a journeyman. He has looked sharp in his past couple fights, and he is even the gambling favorite against Emelianenko, but don’t expect him to walk out of Moscow with a win.
Emelianenko has enough gas in the tank for this one, taking us back in time once more by closing out the card with a victory.
The Pick ‘Em Section
Here are my picks for this weekend’s fights:
Bellator heavyweight bout: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Tim Johnson
Pick: Fedor Emelianenko
UFC light heavyweight bout: Paulo Costa vs. Marvin Vettori
Pick: Marvin Vettori
UFC lightweight bout: Grant Dawson vs. Ricky Glenn
Pick: Grant Dawson
UFC women’s bantamweight bout: Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Joselyne Edwards
Pick: Jessica-Rose Clark
UFC featherweight bout: Alex Caceres vs. Seung Woo Choi
Pick: Seung Woo Choi
UFC welterweight bout: Dwight Grant vs. Francisco Trinaldo
Pick: Francisco Trinaldo
UFC light heavyweight bout: Nicolae Negumereanu vs. Ike Villanueva
Pick: Nicolae Negumereanu
Last week: 3–2
Current record: 33–19
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