It doesn't get better for Toronto, Canada as Francis Carmont takes center stage to remind Canadian fans that no matter how many inexplicable the decisions of Maple Leafs general manager, Dave Nonis, nothing can compare to the inexplicable decision in a Francis Carmont fight.
When we last left our heroes...Costa has led an enigmatic career. He didn't even get a chance to engage in drunken, fratboy antics for The Ultimate Fighter, having lost to Joseph Henle in a bout to get on the show. And yet, despite a tough debut against Nick Catone, he's gone on to win every fight in the UFC since then. It's impressive enough to note his bout with Catone as late notice as probably more than just a minor caveat.
As for Carmont, his career is anything but an enigma. His last two bouts against Tom Lawlor and Lorenz Larkin have made him persona non grata in the MMA world; to many, he's a large hadron collider of inertia and inaction.
That's a bit harsh for a guy who is on a ten fight winning streak, and has actually only gone to a decision five times in victory, but hey...you won't find me defending his last two bouts anytime soon.
What both men can do: Costa's main weapon is his boxing. He's an enormous, stocky Middleweight and uses his size to bully opponents with his boxing. I didn't expect him to beat Tim Boetsch, but that fight ended being definitive for Costa (see the X-Factor for the asterisk). He has a very heavy right hand, and a particularly solid uppercut. The other element of Costa's game that has kept him relevant is his improved takedown defense. I don't expect it to be a factor against Carmont, but if it does, he should be fine keeping it standing.
Which brings us to Carmont. He's a physical specimen. Being a tall, rangy MW allows him to use his range, which, when he's not fighting Lawlor or Larkin, he's more than capable of doing. With a solid right kick to the body, quick transitions into the takedown, and a good right hand, it's difficult for opponents to successfully get inside where they need to be against a rangy striker who maintains distance well. With that said...
What both men can't do: There's a difference between establishing distance, and merely staying at range. Carmont thinks that establishing distance is sticking your left arm out and backpedaling when you're no longer able to do your Stretch Armstrong impression.
It was frustrating to watch because in another universe, Carmont probably loses that fight to Lawlor. I think part of this comes from the fact that fighters either don't learn how to jab, or consider the jab too much of a low-impact strike. After all, when you wear gloves small enough to wrap around Jerry Jones' sense of inclusiveness, you're bound to focus on the one shot that will put down your opponent.
Carmont's defensive awareness relies less on timing, and awareness, and more on trickery and gimmick. It's how, despite all odds, Lawlor could lunge in and land uppercuts to get inside.
Costa has less obvious flaws, but he's the shorter of the two. And he doesn't really have many weapons that allow him to get inside organically. He doesn't throw many leg kicks, and so if Carmont anticipates Costa is just gonna stalk him all night, and use the cage to cut him off, he'll probably be content to retreat for 15 rounds and look for takedowns.
I know it's painful to consider, but this has all the makings of Larkin/Carmont II. Carmont has no reason to stand around and exchange with Costa and won't.
X-Factor: CJ Ross is no longer judging right? Ok cool. Wait. Three judges not named CJ Ross agreed that Carmont was the unanimous winner against Lorenz Larkin? As John Hammond would say...Damn!
Although I think the more significant x-factor is not the judges, but both fighter's fingers. Carmont likes to leave his left arm extended, his fingers open like he wouldn't mind using his opponent's head like a bowling ball. Philippou is not immune to this either. In fact, you could make the argument that Costa didn't really gain an advantage in his fight with Boetsch until Tim got poked in the eye in the 2nd round.
It's nonsense to think this isn't even a x-factor, but downright probability in the sport. Either punish these guys for eye pokes (forcing them to keep their fingers away from their opponents' eyes), or let the doctors do their job whenever a fighter is clearly unable to see. You know what happens when people suffer a corneal abrasion? They see a doctor to prevent potential blindness in case bacteria infiltrates the wound. It's insane to think we're asking fighters to just "take five minutes" and pretend getting poked in the eye is anything like getting kicked in the nards.
Anyway, ranting aside, I like Costa in this one. I think his ability to close the distance will keep him looking like the aggressor, even when it's just both guys locked up in the clinch. A late third round takedown, and being threatened by a kimura won't save the man they call "Limitless" in this one.
Prediction: Costa Philippou by very ugly Unanimous Decision.