The UFC middleweight division will be on the move in April, with two huge fights made to headline separate cards.
With Israel Adesanya set to challenge Jan Blachowicz on March 6th at UFC 259 for the light heavyweight championship, the 185lbs weight class is likely to be on hold for the first half of 2021.
Robert Whittaker defeated Darren Till and Jared Cannonier in the latter half of 2020 which many believed was enough to earn him a rematch with Adesanya, who took the title from him in a stunning knockout at UFC 243 in Australia.
However, with Adesanya’s decision to go up in weight Whittaker has made the decision not to wait around and instead stay active. So on April 17th, he will fight Paulo Costa in the main event of a UFC Vegas card according to ESPN.
Costa failed in his own title fight against Adesanya at UFC 253, being knocked out in style in the second round to lose his undefeated record in a grudge match.
He made excuses after the fight about injuries and illness and called for an immediate rematch, all of which were ignored. He will now look to get right back on the horse against Whittaker, who has lost just one fight since moving to middleweight and only to Adesanya since 2014.
A win for Whittaker will cement his spot as the number one contender for the belt whether it be against Adesanya or for the vacant strap, while a win for Costa will raise interest in a potential rematch for himself also.
If Costa wins though, he is more likely to face the winner of another fight that has been made for April when Darren Till takes on Marvin Vettori the week before on April 10th.
Till was due to fight against Jack Hermansson in December, but injuries sustained in his previously mentioned defeat to Whittaker hadn’t quite healed yet and he was forced to withdraw. Vettori stepped in on short-notice in that bout and won via dominant decision to enter the top five conversation.
A win for either would likely set up a bout in a title eliminator situation, with Till 1-1 in the division since moving up from welterweight while Vettori has won his last four in a row with his last defeat coming in a split decision to Adesanya before he was champion.
The first quarter of 2021 continues to produce hugely important main event bouts and the middleweight division will finally be on the move once again after these two fights are completed.