Two of the best middleweights on the planet are set to clash in a long-awaited bout later this spring, and I’ll give my initial thoughts on the matchup in today’s MMA odds and ends.
Yoel Romero vs. Paulo Costa, UFC on ESPN 3
Top-ranked middleweights Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa will clash in the main event of UFC on ESPN 3, which is set for April 27 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. The bout was first reported by Combate. It will be a five-round fight, it’s likely the winner of this bout could be next in line for a crack at the UFC middleweight title currently held by Robert Whittaker, who fights Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 234 in early February. (Although we do need to keep Israel Adesanya in that conversation as well).
Romero (13-3) is 41-years old, but you wouldn’t know it. He’s in incredible physical condition and is fighting at an extremely high level. The Cuban wrestling senstation is 9-2 overall in the UFC, with wins over the likes of Luke Rockhold, Chris Weidman, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Lyoto Machida, Brad Tavares and Derek Brunson. Seven of his UFC victories have come by knockout, and 11 overall of his wins have come by knockout. He’s only been stopped once in his entire career, by Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante back in Strikeforce, and in the UFC he has only lost twice, both razor-thin decisions to Whittaker. In many ways it’s fair to consider Romero the second-best middleweight in the world behind only the Australian champion. But with two losses to Whittaker, Romero is in the same spot as someone like Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson at welterweight. With other contenders in the mix, Romero needs to keep busy and keep winning fights in order to maybe get a third title fight against the Whittaker vs. Gastelum winner.
Costa (12-0) is a perfect 4-0 in the UFC and all of his career victories have come by knockout or submission, including brutal knockouts over Johny Hendricks and Uriah Hall in his last two bouts. The Brazilian has been labeled the next big thing by many fans and media, but so far he’s still very unproven against the upper echelon of the UFC middleweight division. At only 27, he’s right in his prime and continues to show an improved skill-set every time we see him inside the Octagon. No doubt he’s looked great against lesser opposition, and if he looks great against Romero and gets the win he’ll be in an enviable position when it comes to the middleweight title shot pecking order.
This is a great fight, and the fact it’s set for five rounds makes it even better. As far as who I favor, I think you have to label Romero as the favorite just based on everything he’s accomplished so far in the Octagon. Not to mention the fact that when this fight was originally booked for UFC 230, Romero was originally pegged as the betting favorite before the line was taken down. Costa has definitely looked great lately, though, and he’s got a 14-year age advantage in this fight, but until we see him actually beat a top guy it’s hard to say he should be favored over any of them. Regardless of who wins the fight, this should be an entertaining matchup and it’s the perfect main event for the Hispanic crowd in Miami.