Sean Strickland vs. Paulo Costa prediction, pick: Which middleweight contender gets back on track?

Sean Strickland vs. Paulo Costa prediction, pick: Which middleweight contender gets back on track?

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MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom goes in depth to break down the biggest fights in the UFC. Today, he takes a closer look at the UFC 302 co-main event between former middleweight champion Sean Strickland and Paulo Costa.

Sean Strickland UFC 302 preview

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – SEPTEMBER 08: Sean Strickland of United States poses during the ceremonial weigh in for UFC 293 at Qudos Bank Arena on September 08, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 33 Weight: 185 lbs. Reach: 76″
  • Last fight: Decision loss to Dricus Du Plessis (Jan. 20, 2024)
  • Camp: Xtreme Couture MMA (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:
+ Former UFC middleweight champion
+ King of the Cage middleweight title
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ 11 KO victories
+ 4 submission wins
+ 9 first-round finishes
+ 22-3 in the middleweight division
+ Consistent pace and pressure
+ Long and accurate jab
^ Coming forward or off the backfoot
+ Solid inside of the clinch
^ Strikes well off the breaks
+ Underrated wrestling ability
^ Defensively and offensively
+ Good transitional grappler
^ From top or bottom

Paulo Costa UFC 302 preview

Paulo Costa UFC 298 ceremonial weigh-ins

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 33 Weight: 185 lbs. Reach: 72″
  • Last fight: Decision loss to Robert Whittaker (February 17, 2024)
  • Camp: Team Borrachinha (Brazil)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ “TUF: Brazil 3” alum
+ Jungle Fight middleweight title
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ Multiple grappling accolades
+ 11 KO victories
+ 1 submission win
+ 9 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Imposing pressure
^ Feints, stalks, corrals
+ Accurate shot selection
^ Variates rhythm, looks and levels
+ Strong inside of the clinch
^ Shows wrestling fundamentals
+ Works well from topside
^ Rides, transitions, strikes

Sean Strickland vs. Paulo Costa point of interest: Middleweight mashup

Sep 9, 2023; Sydney, NSW, AUSTRALIA; Israel Adesanya (red gloves) fights Sean Strickland (blue gloves) during UFC 293 at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasmin Frank-USA TODAY Sports

The co-main event for UFC 302 features a pairing of middleweights who aren’t afraid to get messy on their feet.

Fighting to his frame, Stickland does a decent job of staying long with the occasional front teep and a series of stinging jabs. Whether he is circling with his jab off the counter or connecting it to crosses down the center line, the jab is a shot that Strickland has had a nice feel for since entering the organization.

When feeling in stride, Strickland isn’t afraid to shift stances mid-combination to better target fleeing foes. Opposite opponents like Krzysztof Jotko, Strickland was able to utilize said shifts to fuel a steady dose of low kicks that were quite effective.

Still, despite being a fighter who can do his share of countering, Strickland himself is not beyond being countered due to his upright posture and a propensity to sometimes move and follow in straight lines.

However, since teaming up with Xtreme Couture’s Eric Nicksick, Strickland has done a much better job of controlling the cage, which, in turn, helped him turn in one of the biggest upsets of 2023 when he took the title from Israel Adesanya.

Nevertheless, Strickland will still need to respect what Paulo Costa is throwing back at him.

An imposing competitor by nature, Costa traditionally likes to pressure his prey toward the fence.

Whether Costa is baiting opponents with feints into crushing hooks and body kicks, or crashing the distance to intercept his opposition with a devastating cross, the Brazilian seems to be genuinely comfortable inside of exchanges.

Even when caught clean, Costa will no-sell his opponent’s shots as he returns fire right back in their face, but with an adjusted and varied rhythm. For me, it is an impressive feat to see a young fighter who otherwise seems like a bully using subtle tactics like rhythm and level changes to avoid predictability with strikes.

Costa’s shot selection is also useful when it comes to corralling his opposition in between the cage and inner-black octagon lines – a place where his power comes to life. That said, Costa did display some solid jabbing tactics in his last outing opposite Robert Whittaker, as well as a deceptively accurate spin kick that could give Strickland flashbacks to his loss to Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos down at welterweight.

Sean Strickland vs. Paulo Costa breakdown: Potential grappling threats

Aug 20, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Paulo Costa (red gloves) fights Luke Rockhold (blue gloves) during UFC 278 at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Considering that “Borrachinha” initially came from a base in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, I will be curious to see if

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