After a relatively quiet few weeks by the UFC’s impressively high standards, a huge middleweight clash fires the starting gun on a series of massive fights in the next few weeks.

But whilst eyes might already be on UFC 267, Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettori have a chance to steal the early headlines and stake a claim for another shot at middleweight king Israel Adesanya.

Tight tussle expected

This is a dangerous match-up for both men. They both arrive off the back of a loss to Adesanya and both could do with a statement victory to maintain their status in the upper echelons of the division. That combined with what is a very intriguing stylistic match-up makes this one a real must see for fight fans.

Brazilian Paulo Costa perhaps suffered a more embarrassing loss to Adesanya than his Italian rival. The “Borrachinha” we had become accustomed to seeing, walking down his opponents and overwhelming them with pressure and a high volume of strikes, wasn’t quite there on the night. Adesanya, who is perhaps the most well-rounded striker in the game, was able to pick him apart from range, using low leg-kicks to slow Costa down, before getting the finish in round two.

Vettori’s loss may have been via decision, but it was no less emphatic than Costa’s. In the striking he was simply outclassed and looked unable to process the feints and movement offered by the champion. Although he did manage to land four takedowns, including in the opening round, he failed to really progress the position or do any real damage on the ground either. He had his moments in the fight, coming close to locking in a rear-naked choke in round three, but ultimately deserved to come out the wrong side of a unanimous 50-45 decision.

In truth, on the feet will be where the Brazilian should have the advantage in this one. He out-strikes Vettori by more than three significant strikes a minute and lands at a 57% success rate, compared to 43% for his opponent. The leg kicks may form a significant part of Vettori’s game plan on the feet though. Adesanya landed 20 leg-kicks in the first 7 minutes of the bout with Costa and it had a significant impact on his ability to rush in with a flurry of strikes. If Vettori allows Costa to pressure him in the early rounds, it could prove very dangerous, with 85% of Costa’s wins coming via KO/TKO and that would seem to be the Brazilian’s most likely method of victory in this one at 9/4.

Another strand of Vettori’s tactics will surely be his offensive wrestling. It’s something that he’s begun to lean on more in recent fights, landing 15 takedowns in his last two UFC appearances, compared to 11 in his first nine appearances. He is more of a ground and pounder than a submission artist, with just two submission victories in the UFC, but utilised this to great effect against Kevin Holland in April to pick up a unanimous victory. 81% of Vettori’s UFC bouts have gone the distance, clocking in an average fight time of more than 15 minutes. The longer this one goes the more it favours the Italian, with a decision his most likely method of victory at 7/4.

Costa is by no-means an easy man to take down though, as Yoel Romero found out in their three round war back in August 2019. He’s as strong as they come and boasts an 80% takedown defensive record in the UFC, something which you’d expect him to have to lean on significantly in this one. If he is able to keep it standing for the majority of the fight, as Adesanya was, expect his high-volume striking offence to cause Vettori some problems.

It’s set to be a fascinating match up, with Vettori currently edging favouritism at 4/6 and Costa available at 6/5.

Check out all the latest UFC betting odds at William Hill