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UFC Vegas 66 - New Blood: ‘Nono’ answers last-minute call back

Dana White’s Contender Series: Costa v Luna Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Flyweight remains one of the deepest divisions in mixed martial arts (MMA) in terms of talent, and that depth extends far beyond the Octagon. On 2022’s final edition of “New Blood,” the series that’s probably eaten more of my life than anything else on this website, we look at a promising Brazilian finisher getting a second chance at UFC Vegas 66 this weekend (Sat., Dec. 17, 2022) after an underwhelming Contender Series win.

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 68 On ESPN+

TOP-RANKED HEAVYWEIGHT HEADLINERS! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., Feb. 4, 2023, headlined by a hard-hitting main event between No. 7-ranked Heavyweight contender, Derrick Lewis, finally locking horns with No. 12-seeded Serghei Spivac. In UFC Vegas 68’s co-main event, Light Heavyweight hopefuls Da-Un Jung and Devin Clark hook ‘em up on ESPN+. Please note: UFC Vegas 68 start time for the main card is scheduled for 1 a.m. ET.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

Alessandro “Nono” Costa

Weight Class: Flyweight
Age: 26
Record: 12-2 (3 KO, 6 SUB)
Notable Victories: Andres Luna Martinetti, Kike Gonzalez

Two successful defenses of his Lux Fight League title carried Costa to Contender Series, where he beat Andres Luna Martinetti via split decision, but failed to secure a contract. He made his return to LFL 2.5 months later, flattening Carlos Gomez in just 12 seconds.

He steps in for Brandon Royval on little more than three weeks’ notice.

Though a decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who previously competed at the Eddie Bravo Invitational, Costa has comfortably settled into the role of power-puncher. From a high, tight boxing guard, he uses a mix of deceptively gnarly low kicks and a huge, dramatic right hand to steadily break opponents into submission. That’s not to say his offense is one-note, of course. On the contrary, he’s shown off a fondness for flying knees and heavy roundhouse kicks to the head and body, and he doesn’t neglect the body when he throws hands, either. The two knockouts that preceded his Contender Series bid came via liver destruction, one via left hook and the other via kick.

His power really is something to behold and he’s got a mean streak a mile long, but there’s definitely some tightening left to do. He just doesn’t seem to deal with distance all that well. For example, Martinetti ran circles around him for a good chunk of the first two rounds, and when Costa does step in to throw leather, he does so so violently that he can neglect to protect his face with whichever hand isn’t trying to take his opponent’s head off. On top of that, he can telegraph the big swings by hopping into punching range before letting go, which gives more observant strikers time to get out of the way.

He’s shown off a decent jab, and leaning on that more would go a long way toward correcting this issue. He’s scary as hell in the pocket and needs a means to get in there safely. Outside of that 12-second wipeout, he also seems prone to slow starts, and he didn’t like the leg kicks Martinetti sent his way ... at all.

Still, it’s a style that’s served him well so far and the pop in his hands covers a multitude of sins.

What little he’s shown of his grappling is extremely promising. He’s ultra-slick with his transitions, as seen when took down Kike Gonzalez with a blast double, moved from half guard to mount, and wrapped up an armbar in the span of about 10 seconds. He also does a great job of slithering right into a dominant position after hurting/dropping his man and dishing out heavy ground-and-pound. Martinetti did manage to sweep him fairly easily, though, so it’s worth keeping an eye on how well that top pressure works against higher-level opposition.

Wrestling-wise, he showed that double-leg and easily shut down Martinetti any time the latter attempted to change levels.

Costa’s got his flaws, but once he gets in gear, he’s lethal and plenty fun to watch. I’m glad to see him getting a second chance.

Opponent: He jumps right into the deep end against Amir Albazi. “The Prince” is a top-tier wrestler and submission artist who should more than hold his own on the ground, and he’s ostensibly capable enough on the feet to avoid getting chinned in an exchange. Unless he can land an absolutely perfect right hand, Costa’s going to find himself steadily overwhelmed in the grappling. That puncher’s chance is better than the odds suggest, though.

Tape: His LFL fights are on Fight Pass.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 66 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 66: “Cannonier vs. Strickland” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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