UFC fans, rejoice. Watchable UFC cards have made their return for our viewing pleasure. We are coming off back-to-back absolute snoozers. Dern vs. Rodriguez and Ladd vs. Dumont, which headlined the last two weekends, respectively, were unbearable for even the most diehard UFC fan. I would even go as far as to call four of the last five UFC cards, the exception being UFC 266, extremely dissatisfying to view.
There is a somewhat rewarding reason as to why the last few cards have been pretty terrible. The UFC is backloading the pay-per-view cards to end the year. UFC 267 on Oct. 30 is headlined by a light heavyweight championship bout between Jan Blachowicz (28-8) and Glover Teixeira (32-7). It also features a bantamweight interim title bout between former champ Petr Yan (15-2) and Cory Sandhagen (14-3). Also, Makhachev vs. Hooker and the return of Khamzat Chimaev (9-0).
UFC 268 reflects the same, as the Madison Square Garden card on Nov. 6 has two title fights of its own. Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman (19-1) is rematching Colby Covington (16-2), and strawweight queen Rose Namajunas (10-4) will rematch former champ Weili Zhang (21-2). Justin Gaethje (22-3) and Michael Chandler (22-6) are also set to do battle in a potential Fight of the Night.
On Dec. 11, two more title fights, Dustin Poirier (28-6) challenges Charles Oliveira (31-8) for the lightweight belt, and Amanda Nunes (21-4) takes on Julianna Peña (10-4) for the women’s bantamweight title. The card also features Masvidal vs. Edwards, Cody Garbrandt’s (12-4) debut at flyweight, and a scrap for fan-favorite Sean O’Malley (14-1)
With UFC 267, 268, 269 and whispers of Ngannou vs. Gane for the heavyweight strap and Moreno vs. Figueiredo 3 for the men’s flyweight title at UFC 270 in January, the future is bright for fight fans.
The UFC has backloaded the cards, putting major starpower into the final few promotions of the year. As a result, the Fight Night cards that are free every Saturday have suffered. The multiple bangers on the PPV card have barely made the last few weeks of forgettable fights and D-tier UFC names any less unbearable. However, this weekend’s card is finally something worth tuning in for.
No. 2 middleweight contender Paulo Costa (13-1) is set to do battle with No. 5 Marvin Vettori (17-5-1) this Saturday at the UFC Apex. This headliner spells a really good fight for UFC fans — both middleweights are coming directly from a dance with middleweight champion Israel Adesanya (21-1).
Costa was embarrassingly knocked out by Adesanya in his shot at the title in September 2020. Costa entered the fight undefeated and was simply outclassed by “Stylebender.” In the last year, Costa has pulled out of fights with No. 1 contender Robert Whittaker (23-5) and No. 3 Jared Cannonier (14-5). Although he is set to fight by week’s end, I am not all the way confident he’ll make it to the Octagon door.
Vettori built up two strong wins over Jack Hermansson (22-6) and Kevin Holland (21-7) before getting dominated by Adesanya en route to a unanimous decision. All the same, he fared better than Costa and was defeated at the hands of the judges, not at the hands of Adesanya.
How Costa can win: Costa is primarily a striker. He has an insane physique that allows him to land just north of seven significant strikes per minute. He has been in fire fights with Yoel Romero (13-5) and Uriah Hall (18-10) and will likely blitz forward, bringing the fight to Vettori.
On the mat, Costa is a black belt. Leading up to his fight with Adesanya, he actually threw a white belt at Izzy, prompting a pre-fight tossing of punches and kicks, none of which landed. The legitimacy of Costa’s black belt is a little questionable within the UFC community, and should be the clear edge Costa has over Vettori. IF he’s a legit grappler, Costa will use it.
How Vettori can win: Vettori and Costa have a common opponent: The champ Adesanya. In their respective bouts, Vettori fared better, forcing the verdict to the judges. The southpaw should have a cardio advantage, seeing how he has proven he can last a full five rounds.
Beyond cardio, Vettori has objectively better wrestling. Vettori can coast to a win here if he survives Costa’s initial first-round blitz and gets Costa to empty the gas tank. Vettori can rely on takedowns and selective, technical striking. Costa will try and put “the Italian Dream” out early, so if Vettori’s chin holds up, he could easily take rounds three through five.
Charlie’s Prediction: Vettori via Decision
Peter’s Prediction: Costa via R2 KO/TKO
The remainder of this card is pretty on-par with the last few weeks of fights: Borderline unwatchable. All the same, the main event is a must-see.