Paulo Costa arrived at the top of the middleweight division, getting the better of Yoel Romero at UFC 241 on Saturday in Anaheim, Calif.
The two had been on a collision course for the better part of the past two years, but didn’t finally make it to the cage until UFC 241, where they were battling to determine the next contender to the UFC middleweight title.
Current champion Robert Whittaker looks to unify his belt with the interim title of Israel Adesanya at UFC 243 in October.
Romero and Costa both came out headhunting. Throughout the first round, they exchanged numerous punch combinations, taking turns dropping each other within the first couple minutes of the round.
Costa edged ahead throughout the round, landing several hard shots to the body, and generally landing more combinations and dictating the pace. Romero, however, was never out of the action, but landing more one-off shots.
Romero looked sluggish to open the second round, as Costa kept pressing forward and landing combinations. About midway through the round, Costa’s pace slowed considerably, while Romero appeared to get his second wind.
Costa was still the busier fighter, but Romero pulled out a clutch takedown just before the second frame came to a close.
Costa started fast in the final frame, pressing forward and landing the better combinations, but about midway through the round, Romero stepped up his output.
The third round was Romero’s best frame by far. His output increased as the clock wound down, while Costa’s gas tank emptied.
Though there was considerable heat leading up to this fight, Costa and Romero hugged, seemingly squashing their beef.
“I did my best for this fight. Yoel Romero is a real beast,” Costa said after the fight.
“I just come in here to make one thing, take my belt. I will be waiting for (the winner of Adesanya vs.Whittaker) and I will prove I am the champion.”