Vettori holds off Costa to win decision in UFC main event
Marvin Vettori faced a lot of distractions in the days leading up to his fight against Paulo Costa, but he didn't let the drama hinder his performance.
Vettori defeated Costa via unanimous decision (48-46, 48-46, 48-46) in the UFC Fight Night light heavyweight main event Saturday in Las Vegas.
"The Italian Dream" returned to the win column after challenging Israel Adesanya for the middleweight title in June and falling short in a lopsided decision.
He edged out Costa in what was a highly anticipated, striking-filled affair. The fight reeked of bad blood after Costa's weight issues forced the UFC to move up the previously scheduled middleweight contest to the light heavyweight division earlier this week.
Vettori got the better of Costa in Rounds 1, 3, and 4, using his pressure to land punches and control his opponent in the clinch. Costa, known for his absurd power, connected with overhand punches and heavy body kicks throughout the battle, but Vettori was the more consistent fighter over 25 minutes.
"I wanted to finish him, but f---, this guy punches hard," Vettori said in his postfight interview.
He added: "I know I have the biggest heart, I know I have the biggest will, and when it goes to the fourth, fifth rounds, there's no way nobody can keep up."
The combined 353 significant strikes landed between Vettori (190) and Costa (163) is the fourth-most in a UFC bout and the most in a fight not involving Max Holloway, according to the promotion. Their individual strike counts rank first and second in UFC light heavyweight history.
Costa would've won the second round on the judges' scorecards if he didn't poke Vettori in the eye, which resulted in a point deduction. The Brazilian faced some cardiovascular endurance issues around the halfway mark of the fight, but he came on strong in the fifth round, walking Vettori down and looking for the finish. Vettori hung on until the final horn, and Costa's efforts were ultimately too little, too late.
Vettori and Costa usually compete in the middleweight division, where they are both top-five contenders, but Costa said during fight week he would be unable to make the 185-pound limit in time for Friday's weigh-ins. The fight was moved to a 195-pound catchweight before the fighters eventually settled on 205 pounds. They both made weight and Vettori said Costa's actions were "very disrespectful."
Looking back on the dramatic week, Vettori is wondering whether it was all a ploy.
"A lot of people were saying how he's not going to be ready," Vettori said. "I feel a lot of it was a trick. He didn't want to cut weight, but he actually came pretty ready."
Vettori is now 6-1 in his past seven outings dating back to 2019. The 28-year-old, who's competed in the UFC since 2016, secured his position as a top contender with Saturday's victory.
Costa hadn't stepped into the Octagon since his own loss to Adesanya, which came via second-round TKO in September 2020. The 30-year-old is riding a two-fight skid after starting his UFC career in 2017 with five straight victories.