Paulo Costa’s weight struggles were by far the most prominent storyline heading into Saturday’s UFC Vegas 41 card. But despite the apparent lack of professionalism ahead of the fight, there was still a very interesting match-up with Marvin Vettori to be had.
After a five-round battle on Saturday at the UFC Apex, Marvin Vettori took the win via unanimous decision (48-46, 48-46, 48-46)
Vettori, not exactly known for his laid back nature, had become heated at Friday’s final face-off, adding to the bad blood coursing through this particular fight. Double middle fingers and trash talk towards Costa and his manager set the stage for what most felt would be a war in the main event.
After a drama-filled week where agreed weight for the bout changed twice due to Costa’s inability to make the middleweight limit, they were set for a light heavyweight bout. Both men weighed-in under the 206-pound limit and prepared for a bitter fight on Saturday night.
What we got was a five-round war between bitter enemies in which both men landed heavy shots and made fans wonder what each man was made of. Costa’s attack was body kick heavy while Vettori was happy to land combinations all fight long. Nobody gassed out and nobody was badly hurt. An eye-poke foul did cost Costa a point in the fight but going off the judge’s scores it wouldn’t have mattered.
The play-by-play from the UFC Vegas 41 main event is below.
Round 1: Costa took the center of the octagon and threw kicks early. Vettori tried to stay light on his feet to get in and out. He attempted a high kick which missed but then ate a heavy leg kick. Costa continued to send heavy body kicks before landing one that tripped him to his back. Vettori swarmed but Costa was able to survive. Vettori became very aggressive getting in Costa’s face before giving him some room to land a body shot. Costa clinched with Vettori but ended up with his back to the cage. Vettori let him off the cage and went back to striking. Both men landed shots on the feet which would have dropped anybody else. Costa continued to spam body kicks with Vettori continuing to head hunt. Vettori did not block many of the body kicks and he wore them a bit.
Costa began to use the jab to keep Vettori away, but the “Italian Dream” was able to attack with a combination. Costa kept attacking with single shot attacks. Vettori swarmed Costa and Costa looked hurt. Costa, breathing heavy, urged Vettori forward which Marvin happily obliged. Vettori was definitely much quicker, but Costa’s shots caused damage. Vettori’s output seemed to be much higher than Costa’s and was accurate. Every time Vettori landed a heavy shot Costa would eat it and allow himself to bounce off the cage before coming back with a single attack. Costa attempted a high kick as the round ended.
Round 2: Costa’s coach asked him for more output as the second round began. Vettori used the jab to get close to Costa, but Costa continued his body kick attacks which looked to leave dents. Vettori got Costa on the cage and landed shots before eating a nasty Costa right hand which didn’t seem to cause much damage. A big head kick for Costa put Vettori on skates for a second, but he continued to move forward and land shots. Costa became very aggressive but when it was clear that Marvin wasn’t done, he slowed down.
Costa continued to land on Vettori hoping for another chance to rock him. Kick attacks were traded but it was clearly more Costa’s strategy to attack with the kicks. As they get close, Costa was happy to land whatever he could as Vettori ate it and returned fire. A left hand for Costa landed clean on Vettori before Marvin was able to clinch and drag Costa to the ground.
Vettori attacked the back for a second, but Costa got back to his feet and the two broke away. Two seconds later Jason Herzog calls a timeout due to an eye poke from Costa.
Jason Herzog took a point from Costa for the eye poke! Costa tried to argue, to no avail.
Time in. Costa continued to go high with the kicks and was landing some. Vettori just ate them and went forward landing jabs. Marvin landed on Costa and Costa covered up on the cage for a moment with Vettori landing to the body several times. Both men continued to trade with one another, landing shots that made one wonder how they were still standing. An exchange ended the round.
Round 3: Back to the center and these guys continued to trade. For fans who complain about ground wars this fight was a treat.
Vettori’s game plan stayed the same with Costa still landing heavy shots. He seemed like the more tired fighter but Costa pulled energy from somewhere.
The round continued and Herzog almost called another timeout for another eye poke from Costa, but Vettori waved him off. The heavy strikes continued from both men including a knee to the body from Vettori. Costa returned fire but his accuracy was starting to wear down. In a clinch Vettori landed a right elbow to the face. Costa had spent the entire round with his back to the cage, with Vettori landing on the Brazilian.
Vettori landed a combination that forced Costa to reset. Vettori then landed a knee as Costa shot and got Marvin to the ground. Costa postured up and landed some heavy ground and pound and then attacked with a guillotine which he jumped into, but Vettori was so sweaty he popped right out. Vettori ended up on top with Costa in full guard. Costa used over hooks to hold up the arms of Vettori and then began looking for attacks off his back.
Both men were too sweaty to grab much. Vettori finished the round on top of Costa.
Round 4: Costa’s team told him he won the third round. Puzzling.
Vettori was still light on his feet he showed up in shape. He continued to come after Costa even going through more heavy kicks from the Brazilian. Vettori clinched Costa on the cage and landed some combinations on Paulo. Now Vettori seemed to be landing some heavy shots on Costa and Costa was feeling them as he pushed Vettori off him. Vettori continued his attacks of combinations and Costa was just eating them. Vettori landed a nice left hand and Costa was soon covering up! Vettori went after him momentarily but Costa seemed to be ok.
Costa went back at Vettori with a massive right hand that barely missed. By the middle of round four both men looked a little tired. Vettori’s combinations had slowed and he seemed happy to throw single shots. Costa continued to land kicks to the body.
Vettori landed another left that forced Costa backwards. After another couple of exchanges followed, then Vettori shot on Costa but was stuffed and forced to clinch on the cage before they broke apart. The round ended with a Vettori body kick.
Round 5: More of the same but Costa was showing a bit more urgency. Vettori seemed to know he had this fight won on the cards but he was staying aggressive. Another nasty body kick landed for Costa making you wonder how compromised Vettori might be. Costa then found a second wind and was landing heavy on Vettori, with Vettori landing his own heavy shots. This fight has been nuts!
Vettori clincheed a tired Costa to the cage and looked for a single leg takedown, but Costa was able to stop it. As they separated Costa landed a nice left hook to the head. Vettori continued his attack but it was much milder. Costa landed on Vettori forcing the Italian to shoot the double leg. Vettori stayed on the takedown attack until Costa forced him backwards.
They traded leg kicks with 90 seconds left. Costa knew he needed a finish and was throwing kitchen sink, but Vettori had been eating those shots all fight. Vettori pushed forward with jabs and blocked body kicks.
Vettori clinched Costa with 20 seconds left in the fight, and the fight ended in the clinch.
Official Result: Marvin Vettori def. Paulo Costa by unanimous decision (48-46, 48-46, 48-46)