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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Farah Hannoun

Israel Adesanya advises Luke Rockhold to ‘start wrestling straight away’ against Paulo Costa at UFC 278

UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya thinks Luke Rockhold needs to mix things up from the get-go against Paulo Costa.

Rockhold (16-5 MMA, 6-4 UFC) meets Costa (13-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) in the UFC 278 co-main event Saturday at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ABC/ESPN and early prelims on ESPN+.

Adesanya handed Costa his first loss when he stopped him by TKO in September 2020 to retain his title. But with Rockhold returning from a more-than-three-year layoff, Adesanya thinks he should incorporate his grappling early to make Costa hesitant.

“Luke should take him down,” Adesanya said on his YouTube channel. “Luke, start wrestling straight away. Costa, though, early on (is dangerous). His hips – I remember when Yoel, same thing. Yoel tried to take down Costa, and Costa had the overhook and just whizzered him and then got back up, and they smiled at each other.

“But Luke, if he can wrestle him and get him tired, wear those muscles out. Luke, try to wrestle him straight away. Do what I did: Teep his legs, establish leg kicks a little bit, but start wrestling straight away and make him tired, make him second guess. Make him know he can be taken down or there’s a threat of being taken down.”

As for Costa, Adesanya says he needs to walk down his opponent like he always does, which has resulted in 11-career knockouts.

“Costa, just do what he does,” Adesanya said. “Just barrage him, clip him. If he clips him, he’s probably going to drop Luke.”

All five of Rockhold’s losses have come by knockout and although he’s facing a power puncher in Costa, Adesanya thinks more than three years without fighting should have a positive impact on the former middleweight champ.

“With the time off, hopefully his brain has recovered as much as it can,” Adesanya said. “My brain goes Luke, so I’m gonna put Luke.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 278.

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