Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold returns to the Octagon for the first time in over three years when he faces off against Paulo Costa on Saturday in the co-main event at UFC 278.
Currently pegged as the No. 6 contender on the UFC middleweight rankings, Paulo Costa leads the way as a lofty -360 favourite to win Saturday night’s matchup at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City. Luke Rockhold has earned just one victory in his past four outings, and gets set for his long awaited comeback as a distant +285 underdog on the MMA odds.
Paulo Costa UFC 278 Odds
Costa aims to kick start his bid for a shot at the UFC middleweight crown after falling to defeat ion each of his past two outings. “The Eraser” came up short in light heavyweight debut, falling by unanimous decision in a five-round clash with Marvin Vettori last time out at UFC Vegas 41. That defeat came on the heels of a failed bid for UFC middleweight strap almost two years ago at UFC 253, where he lasted less than two rounds before falling to Israel Adesnaya by TKO.
Despite his recent struggles, Costa remains among the top contenders in the 185-pound division, and could take a huge leap towards another bid for the belt with a decisive performance on Saturday night. Indeed, his two recent losses mark the only defeats in his decade-long pro MMA career, which Costa kicked off with nine straight first-round finishes.
Overall, Costa has seen 11 of his 13 career victories come by KO or TKO. And with an average of 7.03 significant strikes landed per minute, he is also one of the most efficient strikers in the UFC middleweight division. However, the 31-year-old Brazilian has little experience in fights that have gone the distance, going 1-1-0 over his career in contests decided by the judges.
Luke Rockhold UFC 278 Odds
The days leading up to UFC 278 have been unofficially christened as “Luke Rockhold Fight Week” by many of his fans on social media. The former champion has made his presence felt in the lead up to his return, both in the gym and with the press, who have gotten an earful from the form Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion on an array of topics.
However, maintaining that swagger in the Octagon represents a huge challenge for the popular 37-year-old, who has earned just one victory in four fights since claiming the UFC middleweight strap with a stunning fourth-round TKO win over Chris Weidman. Rockhold has suffered devastating knockout defeats in each of his three most recent losses, capped by a second-round KO at the hands of Jan Blachowicz in his light heavyweight debut at UFC 239.
Standing six-foot, three-inches in height, and sporting an impressive 77-inch reach, Rockhold has long been a threat, both with his hands and feet. However, he has struggled to withstand the fury of power punchers in recent outings, suffering four knockdowns over his past four fights after getting knocked down just once in his previous 15 outings.
UFC 278 Prediction: Costa vs. Rockhold
Three years is a long time to be away from the Octagon, and now at 37 years of age, Rockhold has a mountain to climb to re-establish himself as a championship contender. The long layoff, combined with his growing inability to absorb strikes means that the former champion will likely have to finish Costa early to ensure a successful comeback.
Prediction: Paulo Costa by KO, TKO, or DQ (-180)