Does Costa Against Usman Make Any Sense?!

February 28, 2024
3 months

The UFC can arrange some fantastic fights. After all, it is the most followed MMA promotion on the planet. However, this potential fight between Paulo Costa and Kamaru Usman bucks the trend and makes no little sense as to why it should happen.

Usman Shouldn’t Be Used as Paper Middleweight

The Nigerian Nightmare, Kamaru Usman, is a well-established fighter, having held the UFC welterweight championship and defended it five times during his prime years. His 15 consecutive wins in the division defined success and left UFC fans with some fantastic memories, like his last-gasp KO victory against Colby Covington at UFC 245. He’s now 36 and might never reach the pinnacle of the sport again, but he shouldn’t be utilized as a makeshift middleweight.

Usman amicably stepped in for a fight at middleweight against Khamzat Chimaev to preserve the heavily disputed UFC 294 card. Dana White could be seen actively thanking Usman at the end of the battle for taking it late. That was a favor for the company, and frankly, Usman deserves more than this.

The Nigerian fighter has fought at welterweight in all his fights, barring the last one. Does he want to advance to middleweight at his advanced age and career? Can his body indeed cope with the additional weight? His strength is at welterweight, as he is still ranked as the No.1 contender to Leon Edwards’ championship. If he genuinely wants this, then it is a questionable decision. Even if he beats Costa, that doesn’t mean that Dricus Du Plessis will welcome him to fight for the middleweight title.

Costa Needs Triumph Over Middleweight Competition

Paulo Costa has won just a singular fight since August 2019. He’s lost three in the same duration, putting him down the UFC middleweight standings. He is currently ranked as the No.7 contender, but many MMA news sites and fans believe he should be rated much lower than that.

How does he re-ascend the rankings? Fighting and defeating another middleweight would be an ample start. Therefore, having him fight the makeshift middleweight, Kamaru Usman begs more questions than answers. If Costa wins, Usman isn’t even ranked in the middleweight division. Sure, it’s a decent name to tick off, but it accomplishes very little for him long term. It’s a dangerous fight for him because if he loses, it puts Costa’s credentials firmly under the microscope as a non-traditional middleweight could defeat him at his own game. He is truly making for a lose-lose situation.

Usman Needs to Earn Third Fight with Edwards

In Kamaru Usman’s heart of hearts, he wants that trilogy fight with Leon Edwards. He might have lost the first two meetings, but they were closely contested. On the right day, he could defeat him. Unfortunately for Usman, Edwards will make the Nigerian work for a third match, as he’s defeated Colby Covington since knocking off Usman twice.

To earn it, Usman must show the British fighter and the wider MMA community something new. He needs to cement his place as the top contender for the strap. There might not be a better way of doing that than fighting Shavkat Rakhmonov. The Kazakh fighter is 18-0, having finished all his UFC fights with seemingly no issue. If Kamaru derails this hype train, he returns to the big time. If he loses, perhaps it’s time to accept his place as a lower-card talent or call it a day.

It’s worth remembering that Usman won gold medals in NCAA wrestling competitions in his youth. Given that the UFC is now owned by the TKO corporation, which also manages the WWE, could the Nigerian transition his fight skills to the professional wrestling circuit? Given the global deal that TKO has secured for the wrestling product, he would undoubtedly be a draw for African audiences.

Everyone Wants Chimaev Against Costa

Does Dana White listen to the fans? You can make your assessment of that. However, the general vibe amongst MMA news websites and the general online community is that Chimaev and Costa should settle their differences in the cage. The Brazilian has been very vocal about Chimaev’s resume, saying that he: ‘has no balls’ and only wants ‘easy fights’—outrageous claims from a man who is 1-3 in the last five years.

Chimaev said he should be fit and healthy to fight again in late April, giving Costa ample time to prepare for this fight. Realistically, Costa needs this. Chimaev is the fastest-rising middleweight in the UFC and is 13-0 in his overall record. He stopped Li Jingliang in his UFC PPV debut and made Kevin Holland tap out before going all five rounds with Usman. There’s no doubt that Chimaev will get a title shot in 2024 or 2025 at the latest. It’s down to him on how he wants to keep busy before that opportunity arises.

Costa might be ranked higher than Chimaev – who is currently No.11 in the division rankings, but the South American would be the underdog on form. It’s a fight that Costa probably needs more as he has zero momentum, and the Russian-born fighter has all of it. This could explain why Costa is baiting Chimaev so much, trying to lure him into a fight.

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By Dean McHugh.