While Leon Edwards’ stunning come-from-behind knockout of Kamaru Usman may steal all the headlines, there’s no doubt the fight of the night from UFC 278 was a gutsy war between Luke Rockhold and Paulo Costa that saw both men pushed to the edge of exhaustion and beyond (watch the highlights here).
Salt Late City is 4000 feet above sea level, and the elevation did no favors to the 37-year-old Rockhold as he struggled to keep up with the younger and more aggressive Costa. He put every ounce of his being into the fight, though, and while he came up short on the scorecards (all three had the fight 30-27 Costa), there’s no denying the dog in Luke.
In the dying moments of the third round, an exhausted Rockhold managed to pull off a reversal on the ground to get on top of Costa. Too tired to actually land any ground-and-pound, a salty Rockhold instead decided to purposefully grind his broken nose into Costa’s face, covering his opponent in blood.
At the post-fight press conference, “Borrachinha” addressed the memorable incident.
‘’Man, I didn’t see it in the moment of the fight,” he said. “I just felt something on my face. But I was also worried about blocking his arms, and not getting hit with an elbow or punch. But now when I saw, it was very disgusting. It’s a very weird moment.’’
‘’I don’t know why he did that,” Costa continued. “Maybe he was so frustrated and angry because he was losing the fight. I took a very long shower after the fight.”
Rockhold didn’t end up speaking to the press following the loss. The former UFC and Strikeforce middleweight champion emotionally retired in the cage following the defeat.
“I’ve been through so much the last years,” he said, his face twisted in agony. “Thank you fighting, thank you UFC, thank you Joe. I can’t f—king do this any more. I gave it my all and it just didn’t ... I’m f—king old.”
Post-fight interviewer Joe Rogan put it perfectly.
“Well, Luke, I’ll tell you what you have: you have heart and courage like no one else,” he said. “That was an amazing display of perseverance and guts and courage and the will to win. And it was awesome to watch. And if this is the last fight you have inside the Octagon, thank you very much for an incredible career.”
Rockhold ends his career at 16-6. Paulo Costa advances to 14-2 and re-establishes himself as a threat at the top of the middleweight division.
For more results and fallout from UFC 278 click here.