UFC Fight Night Report: Marvin Vettori defeats Paulo Costa in a five-round war
By: Eric Marcotte
On Saturday afternoon the UFC held their final Fight Night event of the month from the Apex Facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main event saw Paulo Costa face Marvin Vettori, in a bout that had no shortage of drama leading up to it. The fight was originally scheduled to take place at middleweight (185lbs), but Costa informed the UFC that he would be unable to make the weight, and the bout was rescheduled to take place at 195lbs. From there, the weight was changed yet again, and Costa and Vettori ultimately fought at light heavyweight (205lbs). Costa was fined 20% of his purse, but he officially made weight, albeit twenty pounds heavier than what was expected of him a week ago. Regardless of the fight week drama, this was a big fight for both Costa and Vettori, who both came into this fight following losses to the division’s champion, Israel Adesanya. Despite taking place at light heavyweight, the result of this fight was very important for the middleweight division’s title picture, especially if Robert Whittaker defeats Israel Adesanya for the championship. While both men have lost to the current champion, neither has faced Whittaker, and both could make compelling cases for a shot at him with a win here. The co-main event featured a lightweight bout between Grant Dawson and Rick Glenn.
Brendan Fitzgerald provided commentary for this card alongside Paul Felder and Michael Bisping. Performance of the Night bonuses were awarded to Alex Caceres and Marvin Vettori. Fight of the Night bonuses went out to Gregory Rodrigues and Jun Yong Park.
*Jonathan Martinez def. Zviad Lazishvili by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
*Randa Markos def. Livinha Souza by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
*Jeff Molina def. Daniel Da Silva by TKO at 0:46 of Round 2
*Jai Herbert def. Khama Worthy by TKO at 2:47 of Round 1
*Jamie Pickett def. Laureano Staropoli by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
*Tabatha Ricci def. Maria de Oliveira Neta by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Mason Jones def. David Onama by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Gregory Rodrigues def. Jun Yong Park by KO at 3:13 of Round 2
*Nicolae Negumereanu def. Ike Villanueva by TKO at 1:18 of Round 1
*Francisco Trinaldo def. Dwight Grant by split decision (29-27, 29-27, 27-29)
*Alex Caceres def. Seung Woo Choi by rear-naked choke at 3:31 of Round 2
*Jessica-Rose Clark def. Joselyne Edwards by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
*Grant Dawson vs. Rick Glenn resulted in a majority decision (28-28, 28-28, 29-28)
*Marvin Vettori def. Paulo Costa by unanimous decision (48-46 all)
JONATHAN MARTINEZ (13-4, 135) VS ZVIAD LAZISHVILI (8-0, 135) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Lazishvili closed the distance and started hunting for a takedown early. Martinez defended that takedown, as well as the next three that Lazishvili attempted. Martinez ate a hook from Lazishvili on the break that sat him down, but he popped right back up. The strike count throughout the round was fairly even, with a slight advantage in favor of Martinez. I thought Martinez had a bit more behind his shots as well, but it was a very close opening round, and the biggest moment belonged to Lazishvili. 10-9 Lazishvili on my scorecard.
Martinez was landing some hard leg kicks in the second round. They exchanged heavy right hands, with Lazishvili seemingly landing the harder one. Lazishvili seemed to have largely abandoned the earlier wrestling-based gameplan and seemed comfortable trading with Martinez on the feet. Martinez connected with some heavy counter lefts towards the end of the round, and I scored the round in his favor. 19-19.
That left hand continued to find its home for Jonathan Martinez in round three. He sprawled on a takedown attempt from Lazishvili, before lighting him up with his jab, as well as a number of teep kicks to the body. Martinez looked very sharp throughout this final round, taking the third on my scorecard. 29-28 Martinez.
WINNER: Jonathan Martinez by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Despite taking this fight on very short notice, I thought Lazishvili gave a good account of himself here, even after it became clear he would not be able to wrestle with Martinez. Martinez has really impressed throughout his last few fights, and this was a good way to bounce back from a knockout loss in his last bout to Davey Grant. Martinez is now 5-3 in the UFC.
LIVINHA SOUZA (14-3, 115) VS RANDA MARKOS (10-11-1, 115) – STRAWWEIGHT
They wrestled against the cage for the first half of this round, where Markos landed a very hard elbow. It was Souza however who was ultimately successful in taking this fight to the ground, where she quickly took the back of Markos. She nearly sunk in a rear-naked choke, but Markos was able to escape the submission and scramble back to her feet, where she immediately began to swing wildly, before completing a takedown of her own. I scored the opening round 10-9 in Souza’s favor.
Souza was able to take Markos back down about a minute into the second round. She was unable to do much with the takedown, as Markos really locked her up from bottom position, and much like the first round, Markos escaped to her feet before recording a takedown of her own. Markos controlled Souza from half guard and rode out the majority of the round in this position. 19-19.
Souza looked absolutely exhausted between rounds. She tagged Markos with a hard overhand right, however, the shot just seemed to wake Markos up. Markos began to unload with strikes on Souza against the cage, and Souza looked to be in a bit of trouble, but she was able to take Markos down with a head and arm throw, getting the fight to the ground. Souza was unable to maintain that top control for long, however, as Markos quickly scrambled on top. Markos ended the round on top, securing the fight on the scorecards. 29-28 Markos.
WINNER: Randa Markos by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Outside of the opening round, Souza didn’t seem to have much to offer Markos here, especially on the feet. Markos was aggressive with her strikes, and I think if she decided to keep this fight on the feet, she may have very well finished Souza in the third. Markos was in desperate need of a win here after losing her last four fights, and she achieved that with this win. Markos is now 7-10-1 in the UFC.
JEFF MOLINA (9-2, 125) VS DANIEL DA SILVA (11-1, 125) – FLYWEIGHT
Da Silva began the fight very aggressively, throwing a high volume of kicks. Da Silva climbed the back of Molina and attempted to lock in a rear-naked choke, but Molina maneuvered out of it, dropped to the ground, and began to work from his guard. Da Silva was doing good work off of his back, throwing up submission attempts and hammerfists, however, Molina was able to maintain his position and throw down punishing ground and pound shots until the end of the round.
Seconds into round two, Molina dropped Da Silva hard with a counter right hand, and he followed him to the ground, throwing down countless strikes until the fight was ultimately stopped.
WINNER: Jeff Molina by TKO at 0:46 of Round 2
This was a fun fight while it lasted. Da Silva started off very aggressively, but Molina weathered the storm, took control of the fight, and got the finish in round two. The counter right hand that he dropped Da Silva with was beautiful, and it led to the exact type of finish that gets people excited about newcomers to the promotion like Molina. He improved to 2-0 in the UFC with this win.
KHAMA WORTHY (16-8, 1 NC, 155) VS JAI HERBERT (10-3, 155) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Herbert was picking Worthy apart in the opening minutes of this fight. He had the distance gauged well, moving in and landing his shots before moving out of Worthy’s range. Herbert landed a hard right hand that wobbled Worthy, and Herbert just started swarming him, landing numerous shots before finally dropping him against the cage. Herbert didn’t let up after Worthy went down, and the fight was quickly stopped.
WINNER: Jai Herbert by TKO at 2:47 of Round 1
While Worthy was rocked, he stopped defending himself and began to fire back, which was a mistake that led to him getting finished here. Herbert looked really sharp here and showed off solid instinct by really turning up the aggression after landing that right hand. He was dealt a pair of very tough opponents for his first two UFC bouts and was very much in need of a win here to get things back on track. He did just that, and I think it would be fair to say that this was far and away his best UFC outing to date. Hebert is now 1-2 in the UFC, and he expressed his interest in fighting again this year in his post-fight interview.
JAMIE PICKETT (11-6, 184.5) VS LAUREANO STAROPOLI (9-4, 185.5) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Pickett defended a takedown from Staropoli but found himself with his back to the cage. Staropoli did not give up on the attempt and spent the first three and half minutes of the fight wrestling against the cage. They were eventually separated, however, Staropoli immediately shot for another one and they went right back to the cage. An uneventful five minutes.
It took mere seconds for them to return to the clinch battle against the fence. Pickett completed a takedown at one point, that Staropoli was able to pop up from. Around the halfway point of the round, they broke apart momentarily and Staropoli was able to crack Pickett a few times. Pickett fired back, but Staropoli was able to avoid most of his big swings.
They exchanged takedowns to begin the final round, however, neither man was able to do much with them. A low blow paused the fight temporarily, although it admittedly didn’t seem like much of a groin shot from the replay. They wrestled to a stalemate until the final seconds, where they began to trade shots. I scored the fight 29-28 for Pickett, but you could probably argue any scorecard for this one.
WINNER: Jamie Pickett by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Not the most entertaining fight. Staropoli seemed hesitant to engage Pickett on the feet, which led to about ninety percent of the bout taking place against the cage. To his credit, Pickett did a good job of keeping things on the feet and landing when he could, which gave him the edge on the scorecards. This marked Pickett’s first win in the promotion after dropping his last two fights. For Staropoli, this was his fourth consecutive loss, and after such a poor showing, I wouldn’t be shocked if this was his last appearance for the time being.
TABATHA RICCI (5-1, 1 NC, 115) VS MARIA DE OLIVEIRA NETA (12-4, 115) – STRAWWEIGHT
Ricci immediately went for an Imanari roll, to no success. Ricci landed a hard right hand that put Oliveira on the retreat, however, Oliveira was able to defend Ricci’s follow-up takedown attempt. Ricci was throwing some wild shots at times, and while not all of them landed, she was more active fighter, and she was eventually able to complete one of her takedown attempts towards the end of the round. 10-9 Ricci.
An eye poke to Oliveira brought a momentary halt to the fight, early in the second round. When the fight resumed, Ricci secured a takedown and instantly moved into top mount. Oliveira was in a ton of trouble here, but she kept calm and used the cage to escape the position, and return to her feet. Ricci took the fight back to the ground before the round ended, and this was another one in her favor. 20-18 Ricci.
Ricci took Oliveira down once again, working from her guard. She transitioned into half-guard with Oliveira pressed against the cage, where she landed some decent ground and pound before Oliveira climbed back to her feet. Oliveira was unable to stay there however and found herself with her back to the mat for the remainder of the fight. 30-27 Ricci.
WINNER: Tabatha Ricci by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
From the opening seconds of the fight, Ricci was the aggressor, and she never really let up. She controlled this fight on the feet as well as on the ground, leading to a fairly dominant victory here. Ricci’s UFC debut came on short notice, a weight class up, against an opponent with a massive size advantage, and we didn’t really get to see what Ricci had to offer there. This was (assumedly) a much better representation of Ricci’s abilities and a strong showing for her at strawweight.
MASON JONES (10-1, 1 NC, 156) VS DAVID ONAMA (8-0, 153.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT
This fight began at a hectic pace, with both fighters cracking each other with big shots until Jones landed a powerful jab that hurt Onama. Jones took Onama down, where he was able to work his way to the back of Onama. Onama was in a really rough position on the ground and seemed to be on the verge of defeat, but he popped back to his feet and went right back to swinging wildly, as he attempted to make up ground. This was a very fun opening round. 10-9 Jones.
The second round began where the first left off. This was a wild brawl in the early goings of round two, until Jones secured another takedown, where he began to work from the back of Onama once again. Onama escaped to his feet, and he just unloaded on Jones with a flurry of strikes, until he was wrapped up in the clinch, and illegally kneed in the head while his hands were on the ground. No points were deducted from Jones, and the fight resumed on the feet. Onama was really cracking Jones with his shots at this point in the bout, but Jones continued to press forward and drag Onama down whenever possible. I had this one tied at 19-19 heading into the third.
Onama seemed to have wobbled Jones early in the third, but he was still unable to stop Jones’s desperation takedown, and Jones was able to transition to the back of Onama yet again. While he was unable to finish the fight, Jones controlled the remainder of the round with his wrestling, taking the final five minutes on my scorecard. 29-28 Jones.
WINNER: Mason Jones by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
Despite taking this fight on very short notice, a weight class up, David Onama really gave an amazing account of himself here against a very tough opponent. I think everyone who watched this fight is going to be looking forward to his next bout, where we’ll presumably get to see him at his best. As for Jones, this wasn’t the dominant performance that was expected out of him here, but he showcased some serious toughness, as well as an ability to continuously push forward despite being gassed. This marked Jones’s first UFC win.
JUN YONG PARK (13-4, 1 NC, 185.5) VS GREGORY RODRIGUES (10-3, 185.5) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Rodrigues worked his jab to the body early. He mixed it up to the head as well, giving Park a lot of problems on the feet. Rodrigues proceeded to take the fight to the ground, where he quickly took the back of Park. Rodrigues trapped Park with a body triangle, which allowed him to maintain the position and throw down some strong ground and pound towards the end of a dominant round. 10-9 Rodrigues.
Park wobbled Rodrigues with a left-hand seconds into round two, and these two guys just started swinging at each other until Rodrigues shot for a takedown. Park stuffed the attempt, and just continued to swarm Rodrigues on the feet. In desperate need of a change to this fight, Rodrigues threw Park to the ground with a judo throw, reliving the pressure momentarily. Once again, Park was able to escape and immediately went back on the attack. It looked like Rodrigues was done, but he landed a right hand that rocked Park, and he just kept throwing it, walking Park down to the other side of the cage, where he continued to throw until the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Gregory Rodrigues by KO at 3:13 of Round 2
The second round of this fight was tremendous. Rodrigues looked as though he was on the verge of being finished, but Park was just a bit too reckless, and Rodrigues found a home for that powerful right hand that led to the finish. Rodrigues’s UFC debut came on short notice, and despite fighting just two weeks prior, he pulled off the unanimous decision win. While he was certainly in a lot more trouble here, the finish showcased his power in a way his debut fight did not, and this was another strong showing for him against a tough opponent.
NICOLAE NEGUMEREANU (10-1, 1 NC, 204.5) VS ISAAC VILLANUEVA (18-12, 205) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
Negumereanu went for a wild spinning elbow that Villanueva sidestepped. Moments later, Negumereanu flurried forward, and he landed this right hand behind the ear that sent Villanueva down. He followed this up with a number of standing hammerfists, before the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Nicolae Negumereanu by TKO at 1:18 of Round 1
Villanueva immediately protested the stoppage, stating that there were numerous shots that landed behind the head. The replay seemed to confirm this, although I doubt the commission will actually change the result of the fight because of this. The back of head rule is an interesting one to discuss because it seems to be so rarely enforced, especially during fight-ending ground and pound sequences, but it will be interesting to see the ruling on this one. Either way, this was a quick and impressive win for Negumereanu here, who is now 2-1 in the UFC.
FRANCISCO TRINALDO (26-8, 1 NC, 169.5) VS DWIGHT GRANT (11-3, 170) – WELTERWEIGHT
Grant found his range early, landing these looping lead hands to the side of Trinaldo’s head. Trinaldo was having difficulties dealing with Grant’s reach advantage, leading to very little offense from him throughout the opening minutes of this fight. With just over a minute left in the round, Trinaldo connected with a clean counter left hand and landed another one before time expired. Trinaldo’s activity in the final minute made this a close round, but I still gave it to Grant. 10-9 Grant.
Trinaldo started fighting a bit more aggressively in the second round and walked right into a big right hand over the top from Grant, who took Trinaldo down for a brief moment after the shot. Trinaldo slowed the pace down and attempted a takedown of his own to no success. It was a bit of a slow-paced round, and once again I gave the round to Grant, based largely on that aforementioned right hand. 20-18 Grant.
An eye poke to Grant paused the fight, and as the action resumed, he was immediately poked again and crumpled to the ground holding his eye. A point was deducted from Trinaldo following this second eye poke, but the fight continued. At this point, Trinaldo knew he needed a finish. He threw a looping right hand and followed it up with a takedown attempt, where he began to work from half guard. Grant did a good job of keeping Trinaldo from getting the finish, and the fight went the distance. 29-27 Grant.
WINNER: Francisco Trinaldo by split decision (29-27, 29-27, 27-29)
It was a close, slow-paced fight, and with the point deduction taken into account, I think any scorecard (within reason) would have been fair here, including a draw. Trinaldo was constantly moving forward, but just didn’t have a ton of activity, and the same could be said of Grant on the backfoot. Trinaldo is now 43 years of age, but is still a very solid fighter, with wins in four of his last five bouts.
ALEX CACERES (18-12, 1 NC, 146) VS SEUNG WOO CHOI (10-3, 145.5) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Caceres was landing some solid counter shots in the opening minutes of this fight as Choi pressed forward. Eventually, Choi caught him with a lightning-fast right hand, however, and it floored Caceres. Choi followed him to the ground as he attempted to finish the fight, but threw an illegal knee to the head of the grounded Caceres, and the fight was paused. A point was deducted from Choi, and the fight resumed. Caceres seemed to have recovered fully and was doing some good work, repeatedly tagging Choi on the break from clinch exchanges. Choi connected with a sharp right hand in the final minute, causing Caceres to stumble slightly. 9-9, with the point deduction taken into account.
Caceres incorporated his grappling into his gameplan in round two, searching for takedowns against the cage. Choi was able to keep it on the feet and continued to walk forward as he tried to find an opening for that heavy right hand of his. While Caceres was having difficulties getting the fight to the ground, he was able to climb the back of Choi, and from there he locked in a rear-naked choke, forcing Choi to submit.
WINNER: Alex Caceres by rear-naked choke at 3:31 of Round 2
Caceres was in a lot of trouble in round one, but stayed composed (despite the foul), took his time to recover, and adjusted his gameplan accordingly to get the second-round finish. I was very impressed by Caceres here, which has been a theme among his most recent string of performances. Caceres has now won five consecutive fights, the longest win streak of his career, and he very much seems to be at his peak as a martial artist. I don’t think he’s far from facing ranked competition again, but he may still need another win or two before he gets there.
JESSICA-ROSE CLARK (10-6, 1 NC, 135.5) VS JOSELYNE EDWARDS (10-3, 134.5) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Clark quickly secured a takedown, where she began to work from the guard of Edwards. After about three minutes, they were stood up due to inactivity. Not much happened for the next two minutes either, but Clark did complete another takedown before time expired. 10-9 Clark.
It was Edwards who pursued the takedown in round two, but she was unsuccessful, and once again it was Clark who completed the first takedown of the round. She transitioned to top mount, where she rode out the remainder of the round in top control. Once again, she was very inactive from top position, but Edwards was unable to escape, and Clark took this round. 20-18 Clark.
It was very clear that Edwards was unable to defend Clark’s takedown attempts, and Clark quickly secured another one to begin the third. Michael Bisping was very critical of Clark on commentary, but she was easily winning this fight, and they’re really wasn’t any reason to deviate from the game plan. Bisping also used this fight to take a shot at Tim Kennedy for the way he fought Bisping in 2014, which was amusing. 30-27 Clark.
WINNER: Jessica-Rose Clark by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Clark had a very clear, wrestling-heavy, gameplan here, and it was very effective. Edwards was completely unable to defend Clark’s attempts and equally unable to escape Clark once grounded. This was not an entertaining fight in the slightest, but I never fault a fighter when they are clearly winning the bout, which Clark was here. Her UFC record is now 2-1 at bantamweight.
GRANT DAWSON (17-1, 156) VS RICKY GLENN (22-6-1, 155.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Dawson secured a takedown about a minute into the bout. He was working from side control, before eventually taking the back of Glenn, where he locked in a body triangle. They spent the remainder of the round in this position, with Glenn fending off rear-naked choke attempts. 10-9 Dawson.
Dawson began round two with another takedown, but this time Glenn was able to pick himself back up. Unfortunately, that luck didn’t hold for long, and Dawson kept him down with his next one. Dawson received quite a few warnings due to inactivity but did just enough to keep the fighters from being stood up. 20-18 Dawson.
It was Ricky Glenn who took top position on the ground in round three, and Dawson was looking a bit tired by this point. Glenn attempted a triangle choke at one point, but Dawson avoided the submission. Glenn postured up and began to throw down ground and pound in the final minute, before switching to a D’Arce choke attempt. Glenn sunk it in, but could not finish the fight before time expired. 29-28 Dawson.
RESULT: Majority decision (28-28, 28-28, 29-28)
Glenn was adamant that Dawson passed out at the end of the round, but there seemed to be more than enough evidence that he was conscious. Regardless, the 10-8’s for round three were completely fair, and Glenn undoubtedly did significantly more with his five minutes of control time than Dawson did for the ten minutes leading up it. Dawson was a pretty heavy favorite going into this one, so the result has to be a disappointment for him, but for Glenn, I think this has to go down as a strong showing despite losing the first two rounds. I would not be shocked if they ran this fight back at some point
PAULO COSTA (13-1, 204.5) VS MARVIN VETTORI (17-5-1, 204) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
Costa and Vettori had a heated staredown before the fight began. They did not touch gloves.
Costa was throwing heavy leg kicks in the opening minute but stumbled after throwing a kick to the body. This allowed Vettori to begin pressing forward, however, he was unable to keep Costa wrapped up in the clinch. Costa continuously attacked the body throughout the round, while Vettori seemed comfortable using his boxing to overwhelm Costa with activity. It was a competitive round, but I gave the edge to Vettori. 10-9 Vettori.
A minute into round two, Costa landed a huge head kick and started to swarm Vettori. Costa was throwing bombs, but Vettori was able to recover and began firing back. Costa continued to dig into the body, and it was remarkable how Vettori was just taking some of these shots and moving forward. With two minutes to go in the round, Vettori took Costa down, however, Costa escaped to his feet, and accidentally poked Vettori in the eye, pausing the fight. A point was deducted from Costa, and the bout continued. This was another entertaining round. 19-18 Vettori on my scorecard.
Vettori was really turning on the pressure by round three, marching forward with constant activity. Costa missed on a spinning wheel kick attempt, and they exchanged right hands. Costa took Vettori down, landing some heavy right hands before attempting a guillotine. The submission attempt didn’t pay off, as Vettori slipped out and took position, working from Costa’s guard. 29-27 Vettori.
Costa landed another hard body kick to begin round four. There were some very heavy exchanges in this opening minute, with both fighters just eating huge shots. Vettori continued to have the edge in activity, but Costa was still throwing with heat, and his body shots were brutal. Vettori connected with a number of straight left hands, backing Costa off a bit, but Costa did not seem hurt and defended a late takedown attempt from Vettori. 39-36 Vettori on my scorecard, but these last couple rounds were close.
Despite being twenty minutes into this fight, these guys were still going like it was round one. Costa’s body shots had really added up by this point, and Vettori began to really hunt for a takedown to relieve the pressure from Costa. Costa landed a huge right hand, but yet again, Vettori just ate it and pressed forward. Vettori attempted another takedown to no success, and the fight went the distance. I scored the fight 48-46 for Vettori.
WINNER: Marvin Vettori by unanimous decision (48-46 all)
This was a tremendous fight. Costa’s body work was fantastic throughout all five rounds, and every time he swung high, he was trying to decapitate Vettori, but Vettori has an insane level of resiliency, and his constant activity is what won him this fight in the end. The entire lead-up to this fight was ridiculous with all the weight changes, but when it was time for these two to fight, they absolutely delivered. There was talk from some about the UFC cutting Costa due to his unprofessionalism this week, but I don’t think there is a chance of that happening, especially after a fight like this. For Vettori, this was a strong way to bounce back from his last fight against Adesanya, and he won over a lot of fans with his willingness to compete despite the late weight class changes from Costa. It’s tough to say what is next for Vettori, but I could see him facing the loser of the upcoming Derek Brunson/Jared Cannonier fight in his next bout, or perhaps Robert Whittaker, regardless of the outcome of his upcoming fight against Adesanya.