Israel Adesanya will defend his UFC middleweight title against Paulo Costa at UFC 253 this weekend.
Two undefeated fighters will tackle it with gold on the line and with Adesanya’s skill and Costa’s formidable power, there are arguments to be made for both men.
Someone has to lose their record and only one man can get out with the belt, so who is he going to be?
Here, fighters past and present have their say, starting with the man Adesanya took the middleweight belt at…
“I think Adesanya has the skills to beat Costa, but just got that X factor. Same with Yoel [Romero]. Big, powerful, cardio, chin… hard to say.
“I would probably lean towards Costa, but if I was a punter I would probably go with Adesanya, but I think Costa would make a lot of money as well.
“I like it because they both give it to each other. I appreciate the trash talk. I really like the fight.
“Competitively it’s great because they’re both unbeaten and Costa had the only really close fight with Romero – well, I guess they both fought closely with Romero.
“I think Adesanya will win. It’s just my feeling. It will hit it, it will move a little better, that’s my feeling. But I wouldn’t be shocked if I was wrong.
“I think Izzy. I think Izzy does it.
“Costa is good for two laps, he’s dangerous for two or three laps, but after that he gasps and slows down right away.
“It will be a good fight, an entertaining fight. But I think Izzy will be too sharp for him and lead him to something and Izzy will take the win.
“I don’t consider Paulo Costa a technical striker at all. He’s a brawler. You see him do that over and over again, he breaks people.
“For some reason, for a guy who’s shredded and so fat he has cardio for days. When he beat Uriah Hall, he mentally broke him. He gave up there.
“Of course you’re not going to break Yoel Romero and these guys fought pretty much the same. They just stepped forward and swung towards the fences. But someone like Izzy Adesanya? He has the potential to finish this guy in the second or third round.
“Izzy is a counter attacker. He waits for guys to make mistakes and he takes advantage of it. I think that’s part of his game plan.
“Costa is aggressive and he swings. He has a lot of movement and big curls in his strikes, which is perfect for a guy like Izzy who did the same to Robert Whittaker, who I think is faster than Costa.
“The only thing about Costa is that he’s durable. Very resistant. It is very difficult to complete.
“So if Izzy can wear him out in the first or two rounds, I feel like he can push it back with the kickbacks. I won this fight for Izzy.
“Costa was in my camp. He’s a very strong guy, a tough guy. It is very resistant.
“You have a guy in Adesanya who is very cunning and very awkward and different. But I think Israel doesn’t have good hands. He’s got a mix of hands and feet, but he’s not a good boxer.
“Costa has very good hands. He learned a lot from me. He’s a great boxer. I think he has a chance, but if the fight goes beyond the third round, I think he goes to Israel.
“That’s what people love – two forwards and we know you shouldn’t expect combat on the pitch and that’s what sells.
“Remember, it’s not MMA, it’s a combat sport, so both guys are combat athletes. They love to hit and that’s what sells. “
“I have Izzy winning.
“He has a huge reach advantage and he knows how to use his reach and he also has great footwork.
“Paulo is sort of a tough, straightforward fighter and Izzy moves well and early. So you all know what happens when you get a simple fighter against a good fighter on the move.
“Israel, the easiest fight of the night. I think he’s just going to hit Costa. I think it’s going to be one-sided whooping cough. He’s a big muscular slow forward. If I designed a character to hurt Israel, that would be it.
“A big, strong and limited attacker who will move forward and eat punches.
“If I could design a character to get fucked in the ass by Israel, that’s pretty close. I just don’t think his skills belong to Rob Whittaker and Israel Adesanya.