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Luke Rockhold vs. Paulo Costa targeted for UFC 277 on July 30

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

A three-year layoff for ex-middleweight champion Luke Rockhold is expected to come to an end when he faces Paulo Costa at UFC 277.

The middleweight bout is targeted for July 30, per multiple people with knowledge of the promotion’s plans who confirmed the news to MMA Fighting on Saturday with verbal agreements in place from the athletes. Combate initially reported the matchup with ESPN later confirming the date.

Rockhold has endured a long and winding road back to the octagon after he suffered a broken jaw in his last appearance after making a brief stop at light heavyweight where he fell to future 205-pound champion Jan Blachowicz. That loss came one fight after Rockhold fell to Yoel Romero, who actually came in over weight before pulling off a stunning third-round knockout.

At his peak, Rockhold was the best middleweight in the sport after he rattled off five consecutive wins in the UFC including victories over Michael Bisping, Lyoto Machida and Chris Weidman. Now he’ll look to return to form when he competes in July against one of the toughest fighters in the entire division.

With knockout power in both hands and a concrete chin, Costa has consistently put on exciting fights since his arrival in the UFC back in 2017. Costa has dropped his past two fights in a row including a middleweight title bout with Israel Adesanya as well as falling by unanimous decision to Marvin Vettori.

Costa will seek to stave off a three-fight losing streak when he faces Rockhold in July with the middleweights joining the UFC 277 card, which is still without a location or a main event.

Steven Marrocco contributed to this report.

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