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The co-main of the event comes in the Middleweight division, as Paulo Costa takes on the former Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold. After back-to-back losses, and Dana White stating that Costa would never fight at Middleweight again due to weight cutting issues, somehow the former title challenger will be given yet another crack. With an opportunity to prove he can make the weight, Costa will also have a chance to knock off a former Champion and re-position himself at 185 pounds. Meanwhile, Rockhold returns to the octagon after a three-year hiatus. Having mulled retirement and battled injuries during this time away, Rockhold will look to shed the rust and re-emerge his presence in this division. At 37 years old and with back-to-back stoppage defeats, this may be Rockhold’s final dance.
A fight bound to end inside the distance. Costa is the smarter play. Boasting high output, power, pressure, durability and accuracy, there is little reason not to side with the Brazilian. However, I am. Obviously between Rockhold’s lengthy layoff and durability concerns, there are certainly red flags to be cautious about. Yet, I can’t help but to wonder how much Costa is draining himself to get down to Middleweight. I mean, a little over nine months ago, Costa couldn’t make the weight and the fight got changed to a Light Heavyweight bout. Not to say the Brazilian won’t make weight this time around, but at what cost.
Rockhold may have gone through a gauntlet of injuries over his career and while he’s clearly nearing an end road, I believe the former Middleweight Champion has a little left in the tank. Needing to keep range and effectively use his kicks, which could be a major weapon given Costa was nearly stopped by Marvin Vettori via a body kick, Rockhold could very well stun the Brazilian on the feet. However, the best part of Rockhold’s game is his grappling. Neglecting it often, perhaps the losing streak and being knocked out several times has Rockhold thinking otherwise. For prediction sake, I hope so. Knowing that he’s one of the most dangerous fighters on the planet in top control, give me Rockhold to fight to his strength and put a halt to this bout via TKO.