No. 4-ranked Middleweight contender, Paulo Costa, welcomed back former division champion, Luke Rockhold, in the pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event of UFC 278, which took place tonight (Sat., Aug. 20, 2022) inside Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Rockhold dropped his belt to Michael Bisping back in June 2016 and has only one win at 185 pounds since, a David Branch stoppage more than four years ago. Costa, meanwhile, is coming off a really weird loss to Marvin Vettori, which was contested at Light Heavyweight last-minute because of a biceps injury. This time around Costa looked the part, while Rockhold was weird all fight week.
Nevertheless, when the dust finally settled, it was Costa who was able to endure 15 minutes of back-and-forth action, battering Rockhold into a bloody pulp en route to a competitive unanimous decision.
Costa came out of his corner with a quickness, with Rockhold keeping him at bay with front kicks. He tried to close the distance with a takedown attempt, which Costa half-stuffed, and then proceeded to drill him with short shots until Rockhold was able to escape. On the restart, Costa went after Rockhold along the cage, with the former champion essentially pulling guard to avoid the heavy punches. Costa landed in half guard, with Rockhold pressing him to his chest to avoid the ground-and-pound. Costa eventually secured mount and started to land some hard shots, with Rockhold threatening with a guillotine to avoid the damage. With two minutes to go, Rockhold got back to his feet, using kicks to rack up the points. Rockhold appears to be dealing with a compromised nose, his mouth agape and bloodied. Nice right hand from Rockhold as the round came to a close, with both fighters looking seriously spent.
Rockhold with a huge overhand left to open the second stanza, followed by a hard kick to the ribs. He tried to turn it into a takedown, but Costa reversed out the back door. Body shot, then a huge left hook from Costa along the fence. Hard kick from Costa, with Rockhold winging a wounded left hand. He had enough energy for a 360-degree round house kick and a follow up shot that stung Costa. Big exchange along the cage, then Rockhold with some hard kicks as they made their way back to the middle. Brief referee stoppage for an accidental eye poke, with Costa chasing Rockhold on the restart. He landed a huge — absolutely huge — uppercut to Rockhold’s nuts. It was a blessing in disguise as an exhausted Rockhold is/was on the verge of collapse. After a short break, Costa was back on the hunt. Inside low kick from Rockhold, followed by a spinning back kick, with Costa responding with a hard inside leg kick of his own. Huge body kick from Costa in the waning seconds, with Rockhold running away as the seconds melted off the clock.
Rockhold appeared down on both judges scorecards and would need a miracle to turn the tide. And he hurt him with a nice knee early, following Costa to the canvas, but he got sloppy on the follow up and couldn’t control him on the ground. When they resumed on the feet, they traded huge shots, with Costa stalking him. But Rockhold was playing a little possum, drilling him with a huge shot that beat him back. He followed it moments later with a crescent kick, then dove for an ill-advised takedown, which stunted his momentum. Costa worked from side control, talking smack into Rockhold’s ear while pinning him to the mat. Rockhold gave up his back and Costa took it, going for a rear-naked choke. Rockhold fought the wrists and punched backward, looking to spin onto his belly. Rockhold was able to reverse with 30 seconds to go, wiping his blood all over Costa’s face, until the final buzzer blared.
Rockhold announced his retirement from mixed martial arts (MMA) after a very tough fight.
Final result: Costa def. Rockhold via unanimous decision
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 278 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ABC/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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