Paulo Costa and Uriah Hall have scored some impressive knockouts so far in their mixed martial arts careers, but “Borrachinha” expects Hall to fear his punches and kicks when they meet in the Octagon at UFC 226.
The middleweights were initially booked to fight at UFC Atlantic City in April, but a biceps injury forced Costa to stay sidelined for five weeks. Hall decided to wait until the Brazilian recovered, and they will finally compete against each other Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Costa, unbeaten in 11 professional fights, stopped Garreth McLellan, Oluwale Bamgbose and Johnny Hendricks in his three appearances under the UFC banner in 2017, and agrees that Hall is the biggest opponent so far in his career.
”That’s true, Hall is better ranked than everyone else I fought so far,” Costa told MMA Fighting, “But my next fight is always the toughest because I’m moving up the ladder. It’s normal. I’m used to that, but people might think it will be different. It doesn’t change a bit for me. It will be tough just like they all were, but it’s always a different challenge. I don’t think it will be harder.”
It’s not that “Borrachinha” expects Hall to be an easy match, but he’s confident that he will be able to handle everything he does in the cage.
”It will be as tough as the others, but I will know how to deal with them and make it easier,” Costa said. “Every fight I had was tough, but I can make them easier and get the victory and it makes my opponents look bad [laughs]. That’s what happens.”
The unbeaten Brazilian middleweight, who has focused on developing his wrestling skills so he doesn’t become “a one-dimensional fighter that pays the price sooner or later,” believes he will stop Hall at UFC 226.
”I think I’m the most powerful and dangerous striker in my division,” Costa said. “I think that my physique and power scares my opponents a lot. My opponents get scared because they might get knocked out at any moment, so they don’t have the same performance.”
”When Hall fights me, he won’t fight the same way he would fight someone who doesn’t have the same punching power,” he continued. “That means his technique won’t matter. He’ll stay cornered, he will be afraid. I won’t judge if I am or am not more technical, but I know I can land my strikes in a way that someone will go down. That’s what matters. I don’t care if it’s not flashy or beautiful. I think about connecting and knocking someone out.”
Despite the fact that Costa is 3-0 so far in the UFC with a trio of knockouts, the rising middleweight hears criticism that he hasn’t faced tough competition yet. The biggest name in his record is Hendricks, a former UFC welterweight champion who couldn’t quite get things going at middleweight — and eventually retiring from the sport after losing to “Borrachinha”.
Will that change with a win over Hall?
”That happens, for example, with Conor McGregor,” Costa said. “McGregor beat Max Holloway, Dustin Poirier, Dennis Siver, Chad Mendes, and then (Jose) Aldo, and people kept talking. After all those fights, they kept saying he was lucky, that he had no tough fights. People will always talk and try to diminish your victory no matter who you’re fighting.
”McGregor knocked out Aldo in 13 seconds and people said it was luck. It will be the same thing with me. They are saying Hall is my toughest opponent. When I beat him, they will say Hall is not that tough. Next time I’ll fight a top five, and after I beat him they will say I wasn’t tested yet.”
Expecting to be 12-0 in MMA after Saturday’s stacked event, Costa thinks it’s just a matter of time until he captures the 185-pound belt.
”I think it will come in 2019,” Costa said. “I will be ready for the belt in 2019. I truly believe that.”
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