Israel Adesanya accomplished his second UFC middleweight title defense on Saturday, knocking out the previously undefeated Paulo Costa in the second round of what was a completely one-sided fight. The champ, now 20-0, put on a masterful performance, only to follow it up with predictably cringey behavior.
The run-up to this fight has been going on for almost a year, since Adesanya called out Costa and started talking shit while still in the octagon after first winning the belt last October. Hours after winning the belt, Adesanya said he wanted to “make him my bitch,” which Costa took in stride and used to deliver the matchup’s only clever banter. Despite how strained and focused on steroids the shit-talking was, the matchup itself was enticing. Both men earned undefeated records with completely divergent styles: the hilariously muscular Costa blitzing and pressuring everyone into submission, and the experienced kickboxer Adesanya showing off the best technical acumen of any UFC fighter north of 170 pounds. Hammer, meet anvil.
The fight itself was anticlimactic, but Adesanya’s performance was sublime. In March he defused a similarly athletic fighter in Yoel Romero, though where Romero relies on spectacular bursts of violence among periods of inactivity, Costa is one of the most relentless pressure fighters working. Costa tried to invade the pocket and get in his shots, but Adesanya started by kicking out his legs whenever he approached, then mixed up his kicks to keep Costa off balance. When Costa did get into range or back up Adesanya on the fence, the taller fighter locked him up and Costa paid for it by taking damage. Costa’s aggression was completely stymied and Adesanya racked up attrition strikes while downloading his opponent’s timing. The shots got harder until Adesanya finished Costa with a casual-looking hook. This video breakdown was excellent:
After formally ending the fight with ground strikes, Adesanya stuck around just long enough to mimic humping Costa and breakdance feet away from where his opponent received medical attention.
Adesanya also ran over to Costa’s corner and performed a mock ejaculation while promising, “I’m gonna come all over you!”
Costa was modest in the cage post-fight—he did just get knocked out—but once he had a chance to watch the finish, he was pissed. In a pair of Instagram videos, Costa called Adesanya “human trash,” vowed to kick his ass at some future date, and called the humping “unacceptable” and “disgusting.” To be mad that a guy who knocked you out clowned on you afterwards is not surprising, but Costa’s manager Wallid Ismail claimed that the fighter’s camp felt so disrespected by Adesanya that Costa’s supposedly planned move to light heavyweight is going to be delayed until he can exact revenge. Via MMA Fighting:
“Adesanya is his focus,” Ismail said. “He was thinking about moving up in weight but won’t anymore because he wants to get Adesanya, and the UFC owes him that. He will stay [at 185] only to get Adesanya because he’s really upset, outraged with Adesanya’s post-fight attitude. He’s a bum. Warriors fight and when it’s over, it’s over. But doing that after the fight? He’s a bum, and he can expect a nightmare coming at him.”
Adesanya doesn’t seem to care because, well, he doesn’t have to. He already won. Costa has to win at least two more fights before he can get another shot, and with the division’s best athlete out of the way, Adesanya is most likely looking at a few more comfortable title defenses. The humping controversy will be treating as is standard for the UFC, because any match with impressive technique will always come second to the dumbest meathead behavior afterward. Dana White will allow anything to become promotional heat if it’ll build hype for the next fight.