Robert Whittaker vs Paulo Costa: Technical Breakdown

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This weekend’s UFC 298 co-main event will see a middleweight clash that could determine the next challenger for Dricus du Plessis‘ middleweight strap. Former champion, Robert Whittaker looks to bounce back from his recent loss to the champion when he clashes with Paulo Costa. Both men bring name value to the octagon, as well as excitement, legitimate skills and fan-fare.

We take a look at how each man gets the better of their opponent in their upcoming UFC 298 clash.

Robert Whittaker’s Keys to Victory

Don’t get backed up to the fence

Robert Whittaker has to utilise the space of the octagon, stay active and utilise a lot of lateral movement throughout the fight. It’s important that he doesn’t allow Costa to back him up to the fence as this is an area in which Costa shines. Against Yoel Romero, the Brazilian was able to punish the body early and land his signature body kick, a weapon he clearly likes to revert to.

It was a similar situation when Costa faced off against Luke Rockhold last time out. Although fatigue was a large factor, Rockhold allowed himself to be backed up against the fence far too often and was punished for it. For Costa, it also allows him to have the freedom of the Octagon to back into should he need to avoid a counter-strike from Whittaker. It also limits Whittaker’s options for an ‘out’.

Jab Often and Jab Hard

One of Robert Whittaker’s best weapons is his jab. He uses it as not only a range finder and a weapon to set up further shots, but also throws it to sting his opponents. He must go back to this against Costa in order to not only keep the Brazilian at bay, but also to hurt him. We saw that Whittaker’s jab can be used to great effect to mask other attacks when he knocked out Jacare Souza back in 2017. He dummied the jab, following it up with a huge head kick which spelled the beginning of the end for Souza.

Whittaker has been able to dictate fights with his jab previously. Against Marvin Vettori, he mixed the speed of his jab, doubled it up and utilised it to set up further attacks. What he did well was jabbing and following it up with an overhand left, something that had a lot of success and was extremely close to landing on multiple occasions. Whittaker’s variations of the jab constantly keep his opponents guessing, a valuable aspect in the octagon.

Paulo Costa’s Keys to Victory

Jab with Whittaker

The difficulty for Costa is that he would benefit massively from jabbing with Whittaker, despite it being a strength of The Reaper. We have seen a slight weakness to Whittaker’s chin after suffering a knockout loss to Israel Adesanya in their first outing back in 2019 but more recently, in his last outing against the current champion, Dricus du Plessis. The South African jabbed Whittaker to find his range before leaping into range with a power jab, wobbling the Australian and consequently getting the finish victory.

Costa would benefit from timing Whittaker’s jab with his own, looking to land hard and make the former champion pay.


Costa also has to utilise the blitz attack against Whittaker. The #3 ranked middleweight is extremely quick on his feet and as we discussed earlier, needs to utilise his footwork to stay out of trouble. He stands in a karate style stance, with his hands very low, looking to move out of range and danger rather than taking shots on his guard. If Costa can blitz Whittaker, he’s more likely to catch him on the chin. Even if he doesn’t land on the Aussie, he’ll back him up to the fence and can then look to work his overwhelming game.

We’ve seen Costa blitz often in his career to great effect. Against Vettori, he utilised the blitz to get away from the fence. He landed a high kick on Vettori (which the Italian took extremely well), followed by two hooks as his opponent was backing up. When his opponent was backed up against the fence, he attempted a body kick and an overhand right. A good tactic to get off the fence and one that he could use against Whittaker.

Whittaker was vulnerable to the blitz when he faced Derek Brunson back in 2016. If Brunson had more power, actually punched with his feet underneath him, held his posture better and picked his shots more effectively, he may have come away with the victory. Costa is certainly more powerful than Brunson and tends to pick his shots better, something that would benefit him in the blitz during this one.

Overall, it appears that Robert Whittaker has the more well-rounded skill set to defeat Paulo Costa. Interestingly they share a number of the same techniques, a powerful jab and strong kicks. Whatever happens in this one, it’s certainly an interesting fight.

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Frazer Krohn has been with MMASucka for nearly 5 years. He is the host of the MMASucka podcast, which is released every Monday. He's the author of a series of six books about MMA, which were published in 2023.

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