As it stands at the moment, the UFCs Middleweight division is as stacked as its ever been. With middleweight match ups lined up to happen throughout the summer, fans still await the announcement of current UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya defending against number 2 ranked Middleweight Paulo Costa.
Matchups which have currently been announced at 185 throughout the summer include:
- #1 Robert Whittaker vs #5 Darren Till to headline UFC Fight Night in Abu Dhabi on July 25th.
- #6 Jack Hermansson vs #7 Kelvin Gastelum to Co-Main event UFC Fight Night in Abu Dhabi on July 18th.
- #4 Yoel Romero vs #10 Uriah Hall in the works to take place on August 22nd.
It’s easy to say that the winner of Adesanya vs Costa will not run out of challengers anytime soon.
Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa have both had relatively quick climbs to the title with both middleweights currently holding undefeated records, Adesanya standing at 19-0, 8-0 in the UFC with 14 knockouts on his Pro Record. Paulo Costa holding a 13-0 profession record, 5-0 in the UFC with 11 wins by knockout.
Israel Adesanya originally started out training and competing in Boxing and Kickboxing racking up a Kickboxing record of 75-5 and a Professional Boxing record of 5-1, in this time he picked up notable achievements including:
- Glory Middleweight Contender Tournament Winner.
- Two-Time King in the Ring Cruiserweight & Heavyweight champion.
After a great run as a kickboxer and as a boxer, Adesanya turned over to Mixed Martial Arts where he picked up AFC (Australian Fighting Championship) Middleweight Title & Hex Fighting Series Middleweight titles before signing with the UFC. The Last Stylebender made his debut at UFC 221 against Rob Wilkinson where he finished Wilkinson convincingly by second round TKO. Almost 2 months later, Adesanya competed again against Marvin Vettori in his toughest match up at that point and claimed the Split decision win over Vettori. Adesanya continued to stay extremely active by convincingly beating Brad Tavares as the Main Event of The Ultimate Fighter: Undefeated Finale by Unanimous Decision on July 6th, 2018. This put Israel into the top 10 rankings after only three bouts with the UFC and a spot on the main card at UFC 230 against Derek Brunson where Adesanya TKO’d Brunson in the first round with a masterful striking performance. Anderson Silva was matched up as Adesanyas next opponent for the Co-Main event of UFC 234 which was scheduled to be headlined by then Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker defending against Kelvin Gastelum but due to a last minute injury, Whittaker was forced to pull out of his Main Event slot leaving Adesanya and Silva to take the main stage. Although the bout remained a 3 round fight, it had a great energy to it with a variety of strikes being thrown from both fighters, Adesanya remained undefeated after beating The Spider by Unanimous Decision. As the Post-Fight interview was taking place, Kelvin Gastelum was seen on the big screen walking around ringside with a UFC belt which led to Adesanya calling him out for a bout which was quickly scheduled for UFC 236 for the Interim UFC Middleweight Title. The bout between Gastelum and Adesanya was a fan favourite bout, claiming Fight of the Night awards and Fight of the Year awards. Both fighters showing heart and determination right through the fight which resulted in the fifth round of the title bout being the deciding bout as to who was going to become the Interim Champion. Adesanya picked up the pace in the fifth round by dropping Gastelum three times convincingly to take the fifth round and win the Interim title by Unanimous decision in what is his hardest fought fight to date. Adesanya sat out waiting for Robert Whittaker to return and was then scheduled for UFC 243 in Australia in front of approximately 55,000 UFC fans in attendance. Adesanya made easy work of Whittaker after dropping him at the buzzer at the end of round one before dropping him for the second time and finishing him in round 2. This set up the Adesanya to jump onto the fence and give Paulo Costa, who was in attendance front row, the double middle fingers before calling him out to be his first defense.
The number 2 ranked Middleweight Paulo Costa has had a similarly fast run to the title where although he does not have an extremely dee background in Martial Arts before turning Professional, he has finished 12 out of his 13 opponents and has continued to look better with every bout. Before signing with the UFC, Costa went on a 6 TKO Streak taking his record to 6-0 before winning the vacant Jungle Fight Middleweight Championship by Rear Naked Choke which still remains his only submission finish on his record to date. Costa then went on to defend his title once before joining with the UFC where he went into The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 and went 1-1 with his only TUF win coming via Guillotine choke and his only loss coming by Split Decision. Although Costa lost this bout it did not affect his Pro record as they were deemed Exhibition bouts. Costa still signed with the UFC and made his UFC debut against Garreth McLellan at UFC Fight Night: Gastelum vs Belfort in March of 2017 where he won this bout by TKO in round 1. Costa returned 3 months later to compete against Oluwale Bamgbose at UFC 212 where he won this bout by TKO in round 2. Paulo Costas first challenge on paper came from Former UFC Welterweight Champion Johnny Hendricks, who had recently made the move up to Middleweight after a streak of missing the Welterweight limit. Costa made easy work of Hendricks and finished the former champion by TKO in round 2 at UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden in New York. 8 months later, Costa returned to face Uriah Hall at UFC 226 and although Uriah Hall had some potential to give Costa some threats, Costas forward pressure showed to be too much for Hall which resulted in Costa beating Hall by TKO in round 2. Just over a year later at UFC 241, Paulo Costa was scheduled to compete against the UFC long time contender Yoel Romero who was also returning after just over a year off after his close loss to them Champion Robert Whittaker. This bout was set up to be the next challenger for the Middleweight title after Whittaker and Adesanya were scheduled to fight 2 months after. After a hard fought battle, Costa picked up the win over Romero by Unanimous Decision which leaves Romero being the only man on Costas record to not get finished.
Due to Costas back and forth battle with Romero, Costa sustained a shoulder injury which required surgery leaving the bout with Adesanya which was in the works, to fall through. This left Adesanya to defend his Middleweight title for the first time against Yoel Romero who was coming off two back to back losses but due to how close these bouts were and the back and forth call outs between Adesanya and Romero, this brought a lot of attention from fans for the bout to happen which led to it being made for UFC 248. Also on this card was the Fight of the Year candidate for 2020, Weili Zhang vs Joanna Jędrzejczyk which made it hard for the Middleweight bout to follow up with another fan favourite fight but the fight for most fans was declared boring due to Romero’s inactivity throughout the fight and Adesanya fighting a strategic fight against Romero, when the judges announcement was made, the fans in the arena booed while Adesanya claimed the victory over Romero by Unanimous Decision.
With Joe Rogan recently exposing that Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa would be the team coaches for the returning Ultimate Fighter, the assumption can be made that the two will fight as the main event of the Ultimate Fighter Finale card. This will also bring in a lot more attention to the bad blood between the two middleweights and create a lot more interest to occur for fans to watch the bout. On paper this fight is a Fight of the Year candidate and with the styles that both fighters possess it is more than likely going to turn out to be a Fight of the Year candidate. It’ll be interesting to see where the UFC Middleweight Division stands a few years from now and who will come through as the next long time Middleweight Champion.