Paulo Costa wants to be the next Brazilian legend in mixed martial arts and the unbeaten middleweight added to his legacy on Saturday by finishing former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks on the UFC 217 main card.
Costa appeared on the third season of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil and won his first two UFC fights by TKO heading into Saturday’s event at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He added another TKO finish to his resume when he battered Hendricks into a referee stoppage.
Costa took the fight to Hendricks with forward pressure. He walked Hendricks down and picked the former champion apart. Midway through the opening round Hendricks began firing back. You could sense a momentum change happening as the round ended.
Early in the second frame Costa accidentally poked Hendricks the eye. The fight was briefly interrupted to check Hendrick’s vision. “I don’t want him to rest,” said Hendricks to referee “Big” John McCarthy. The fight was quickly resumed and Costa put a beating on Hendricks.
He landed a right hand that forced Hendricks backwards. Costa followed up with a high kick and a left hand that knocked Hendricks to the canvas. Hendricks bounced back to his feet but was badly hurt. He tried to fire back but Costa kept the pressure on. After wobbling Hendricks and landing back-to-back uppercuts that left Hendricks on his knees, the referee stepped in to stop the fight.
“I came here to show to the world who I am,” said Costa after the win. “In Brazil, we have many legends of this sport but now is a new time. I represent a new generation for Brazil and I will be the next legend from Brazil in the UFC.”
For Hendricks, his fall from the top of the sport has been sudden. He’s lost five of his last six outings including his last two fights as a middleweight. He’s been finished back-to-back times and has struggled to find his place in the sport since losing the 170-pound title in December 2014.