Originally published at UFC 271 Report: Isreal Adesanya defeats Robert Whittaker
UFC 271 Report: Isreal Adesanya defeats Robert Whittaker to retain the UFC Middleweight Championship
By: Eric Marcotte
UFC 271 took place on Saturday night, from Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. The event was headlined by a rematch for the UFC Middleweight Championship, between Isreal Adesanya and Robert Whittaker. Their first fight took place in October of 2019, where Whittaker entered as the UFC Middleweight Champion, and Adesanya entered the bout as the division’s interim champion following his win over Kelvin Gastelum. Adesanya knocked Whittaker out in the second round to unify the titles, in what was largely a dominant performance over Whittaker, who was undefeated at middleweight to that point. Since then, Adesanya has defended the UFC Middleweight Championship three times, and despite a loss to Jan Błachowicz at light heavyweight, Adesanya remains the top fighter at 185lbs, and one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. For Whittaker, a three-fight win streak since he lost his championship, against three of the top-ranked fighters in the division, has earned him another shot at UFC gold. Whittaker has looked fantastic throughout his last few bouts, and this was certainly a highly anticipated rematch going into this event. In the co-main event, hard-hitting heavyweights Derrick Lewis and Tai Tuivasa faced off, in a bout between two fan favorites that was almost certain to end by way of knockout.
The commentary team for this card consisted of Jon Anik, Michael Bisping, and Daniel Cormier. Performance bonuses were awarded to Jared Cannonier and Tai Tuivasa. Fight of the Night bonuses went out to Douglas Silva de Andrade and Sergey Morozov. The announced attendance for this event was 17,897, with a total gate of $4.3 million.
*Maxim Grishin def. William Knight by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Jeremiah Wells def. Blood Diamond by rear-naked choke at 4:38 of Round 1
*Douglas Silva de Andrade def. Sergey Morozov by rear-naked choke at 3:24 of Round 2
*Jacob Malkoun def. A.J. Dobson by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Ronnie Lawrence def. Mana Martinez by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-28)
*Carlos Ulberg def. Fabio Cherant by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Kyler Philips def. Marcelo Rojo by armbar at 1:48 of Round 3
*Casey O’Neill def. Roxanne Modafferi by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
*Andrei Arlovski def. Jared Vanderaa by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
*Bobby Green def. Nasrat Haqparast by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Renato Moicano def. Alexander Hernandez by rear-naked choke at 1:22 of Round 2
*Jared Cannonier def. Derek Brunson by TKO at 4:29 of Round 2
*Tai Tuivasa def. Derrick Lewis by KO at 1:40 of Round 2
*Isreal Adesanya def. Robert Whittaker by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46) to retain the UFC Middleweight Championship
WILLIAM KNIGHT (11-2, 218) VS MAXIM GRISHIN (31-9-2, 206) – HEAVYWEIGHT
This bout was originally scheduled to take place at light heavyweight, but after Knight missed weight by a drastic twelve pounds, it was announced that the fight would take place at heavyweight instead. Knight was fined 40% of his purse.
Grishin was active with his kicks to the legs and body to begin this fight, keeping Knight at range. He mixed in a head kick that caught Knight clean as well, which was the most significant strike of the early portion of this bout. Knight was extremely inactive throughout this round, as he was having a great deal of difficulty in dealing with Grishin’s reach advantage. 10-9 Grishin.
Grishin connected with a strong one-two about a minute into the second round, which he followed up with a hard calf kick. Grishin landed another right hand that stunned Knight, but Knight was able to wrap Grishin up in the clinch, and he proceeded to push him against the cage in search of a takedown. Knight was successful, but it was Grishin who ultimately took top position, where he began to throw down hard elbows from half guard. Knight escaped before time in the round expired, but this was another clear round for Grishin. 20-18 Grishin.
Knight aggressively pursued a takedown, in search of a much-needed finish. Grishin was able to defend Knight’s attempts but ate a left hand as they broke apart. About halfway through the round, Grishin threw a kick to the body that was caught by Knight, and Knight tripped him to the ground, but Grishin was able to get right back to his feet. In the final minute of the round, both men found success on the feet, landing hard shots, but it was a late right hand from Grishin that knocked Knight off balance, and the fight ended with Grishin in full mount, possibly moments away from a finish. 30-27 Grishin
WINNER: Maxim Grishin by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
Knight was having a lot of difficulties in dealing with Grishin’s range, and Grishin did a fantastic job of utilizing that advantage by keeping Knight at range with his kicks. Knight took this fight on very short notice, which was why he missed weight by such a drastic amount, but it’s still not a great look to miss weight by 12 pounds, regardless of the circumstances. Regardless, this was a great way for Grishin to rebound after a drastic weight miss (and a loss) of his own in his last bout, and he improved to 2-2 in the UFC with this win.
JEREMIAH WELLS (9-2-1, 170.5) VS BLOOD DIAMOND (3-0, 170) – WELTERWEIGHT
Wells wasted little time in pursuing a takedown, and while Diamond’s defense held up well initially, Wells kept at it, and he was eventually successful in taking Diamond down, where Wells immediately took his back. Wells was eventually able to lock in a rear-naked choke, and he proceeded to choke Diamond unconscious.
WINNER: Jeremiah Wells by rear-naked choke at 4:38 of Round 1
After a very strange opening five seconds, where Wells sprinted along the side of the octagon before stumbling, this was a one-sided performance. Wells was committed to the takedown, and once he got the fight to the ground, Diamond did not have much for him. Wells is now 2-0 in the UFC, and he has picked up stoppage finishes in both of those bouts.
DOUGLAS SILVA DE ANDRADE (27-4, 1 NC, 136) VS SERGEY MOROZOV (17-5, 135) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Silva de Andrade attacked the lead leg of Morozov to begin the fight. Morozov proceeded to stun Silva de Andrade with a looping hook, and a lead uppercut dropped Silva de Andrade moments later. Morozov followed Silva de Andrade to the ground, where he began to work from his guard. Ground and pound blows from Morozov opened up a nasty cut on the right side of Silva de Andrade’s face, and when Silva de Andrade finally picked himself up along the cage, he ate a brutal knee to the head. Morozov was doing excellent work on the feet, but was eating some heavy shots from Silva de Andrade as well, who was still very much in this fight despite all the damage he had taken. Morozov ended the round with another big takedown. This was a clear 10-8 round for Morozov.
In the opening minute of round two, Silva de Andrade went on the attack and dropped Morozov against the cage with a beautiful combination to the head and body. Morozov recovered, but Silva de Andrade was looking like a different fighter here in the second. Silva de Andrade dropped Morozov one more time with the exact same combination, and while Morozov picked himself up once more, Silva de Andrade was rocking Morozov with everything he was landing. Eventually, a short elbow from Silva de Andrade sent Morozov to the ground for a third time, and this time Silva de Andrade followed him to the ground, where he locked in a rear-naked choke, and choked Morozov unconscious.
WINNER: Douglas Silva de Andrade by rear-naked choke at 3:24 of Round 2
This fight was insane. After the opening round, it felt as though it would not be long before Morozov secured the finish, but Silva de Andrade roared back in the second round, with constant forward pressure, and vicious combinations of punches. After nearly being finished in the first round, Silva de Andrade dropped Morozov three times in round two, and the finish ultimately came on the ground, where he was dominated for the majority of the first round. Silva de Andrade has now won two consecutive fights and is 6-4 in the UFC.
A.J. DOBSON (6-0, 1 NC, 185) VS JACOB MALKOUN (5-1, 186) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Dobson hurt Malkoun with an early right hand, which prompted Malkoun to shoot for a takedown. Dobson was able to defend Malkoun’s numerous attempts to get the fight to the ground, and he created some much-needed separation with three minutes remaining. Dobson appeared to be several steps ahead of Malkoun on the feet, lighting him up with quick one-twos down the middle. Malkoun was able to close the distance and land the occasional heavy right hand, but despite a late takedown from Malkoun, this was a clear round for Dobson. 10-9 Dobson.
Malkoun continued to hunt for takedowns in the second round, and this time he found success a bit quicker, getting Dobson down with just over three minutes remaining in the round. Malkoun was throwing down heavy ground and pound, forcing Dobson to cover him up, and rendering him unable to improve his position for a lengthy portion of this round. This was a dominant round for Malkoun. 19-19.
Malkoun took Dobson right back down to begin the final round. Malkoun worked his way into half guard, where he threw down short hammerfists for the majority of the round. The fighters were having a conversation on the ground, which Daniel Cormier was not a fan of on commentary. Dobson had no answers for Malkoun by this point in the fight, and Malkoun controlled Dobson until the round concluded. 29-28 Malkoun.
WINNER: Jacob Malkoun by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
Dobson’s takedown defense looked phenomenal in the opening round, but Malkoun did not tire at all as the fight progressed, and his constant activity eventually wore Malkoun down. Once Malkoun was able to get the fight into his comfort zone, he dominated, and by the third round, Dobson really did not have much left to offer him. Malkoun improved to 2-1 in the UFC with this win.
MANA MARTINEZ (9-2, 136) VS RONNIE LAWRENCE (7-1, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Lawrence changed levels roughly a minute into the bout, taking Martinez to the ground. Martinez worked his way back to his feet with half the round remaining, but a big right hand from Lawrence knocked Martinez back to the ground. Lawrence followed him down and maintained top position for the remainder of the round. 10-9 Lawrence.
Early in the second round, Lawrence followed a body shot up with a left hook that knocked Martinez back down. Once again, Lawrence engaged Martinez on the ground, where he began to work from the guard of Martinez. This time, Martinez was able to get back to his feet, but he was immediately knocked down yet again by a right hook. Lawrence controlled the rest of this round and was up big time on the scorecards heading into round three. 20-17 Lawrence.
Martinez was finding a bit more success on the feet in the third round. Lawrence was not taking many risks, likely with the knowledge that he was up big on the scorecards, but his lack of engagement was making it difficult for Martinez to create opportunities. Just when it seemed as though time was running out on Martinez, he dropped Lawrence with a spinning backfist, and rocked Lawrence on his way back up with a hook. Lawrence looked as though he was out on his feet, but he had it in him to secure one last takedown that bought him time to recover. Martinez nearly caught him in an armbar, but Lawrence escaped, and the fight went the distance. 29-27 Lawrence.
WINNER: Ronnie Lawrence by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-28)
This was another wild fight. Lawrence dominated the vast majority of the contest, dropping Martinez nearly every time that he landed cleanly throughout the first two rounds, but Martinez nearly secured the comeback in round three, dropping Lawrence twice himself. Martinez certainly showcased a great deal of heart in this bout, and so did Lawrence, who revealed that he was ill going into this one. Lawrence is now 2-0 in the UFC following this win.
CARLOS ULBERG (3-1, 204) VS FABIO CHERANT (7-3, 206) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
There was not a ton of activity from either man to begin this fight. Ulberg caught Cherant with a kick that landed low, bringing a momentary pause to the action. When the fight resumed, Cherant landed a huge left hand, before shooting for a takedown that Ulberg defended. It was Ulberg who was ultimately successful in taking his opponent down, although they quickly returned to their feet. A leg kick from Ulberg knocked Cherant off of his feet, and he threw a spinning head kick after Cherant stood back up. In the final seconds of the round, Cherant landed a left hook that knocked Ulberg off balance. 10-9 Cherant.
A left hook from Ulberg cut Cherant open, early in the second round. Ulberg was countering strongly whenever Cherant went on the attack and was constantly moving forward, giving himself plenty of room to retreat if necessary. Cherant really did not find much success throughout this round, and this was an easy one to score for Ulberg. 19-19.
Cherant’s lack of activity continued to hinder him in the third round. Ulberg was not throwing a ton either, but by comparison, Ulberg was practically Max Holloway in terms of activity. Cherant’s corner were losing their minds, but he just couldn’t get going, and when he finally did commit to throwing something in the final minute, Ulberg took him down and won this round. 29-28 Ulberg.
WINNER: Carlos Ulberg by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
As you may have summarized by my recap of the bout, this was a dreadful fight. I don’t think you can fault Ulberg much, as he was the clear victor, but Cherant was in desperate need of a win coming into this fight, and that desperation just never materialized. He landed roughly fifteen strikes through the entirety of this bout, and really just never got going. To Ulberg’s credit, he paced himself far better than he did in his UFC debut, although a bit more activity would have been encouraging. Ulberg improved to 1-1 in the UFC following this win.
KYLER PHILLIPS (9-2, 136) VS MARCELO ROJO (16-7, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Phillips looked strong in the opening minutes of this fight, tagging Rojo repeatedly with a wide variety of creative strikes. Phillips took Rojo down following a heavy right hand, and he was quickly able to transition into mount. Despite the rough position, Rojo scrambled back to his feet, where Phillips went back on the attack. Rojo did his best to pressure forward, but he was getting caught by some brutal counters whenever he committed to his attack. Phillips ended the round with a big takedown. 10-9 Phillips.
They traded leg kicks early in round two. I thought Rojo was doing better work offensively in this round, but Phillips still seemed a step ahead by the halfway point of the bout. That being said, Phillips seemed to be slowing down by the end of the round, possibly due to Rojo’s constant pressure. As noted by the commentary team, Rojo’s lead leg was looking beyond beat up by the end of this round, but remarkably, it did not appear to be affecting his movement much. 20-18 Phillips.
Phillips secured a takedown about a minute into the third round, where he began to work from full mount. Phillips was able to lock Rojo in a triangle choke and eventually switched to the armbar, forcing Rojo to submit.
WINNER: Kyler Philips by armbar at 1:48 of Round 3
Phillips looked fantastic throughout this fight, despite Marcelo Rojo is a very game opponent. The broadcast identified the finish as only the eighth triangle armbar in UFC history, which seems crazy to me, but in reality, triangle chokes themselves are not as common as one may imagine, especially in recent years. I thought this was one of Phillips’ strongest performances in the UFC thus far, and he certainly has a ton of potential at just 26 years of age. Phillips is now 4-1 in the UFC.
ROXANNE MODAFFERI (25-19, 126) VS CASEY O’NEILL (8-0, 125.5) – FLYWEIGHT
O’Neill refused to touch gloves, much to the crowd’s displeasure. The fighters exchanged right hands early, with O’Neill landing with a bit more power. Modafferi did land some heavier shots of her own as the fight progressed, but was falling behind on the scorecards in terms of activity, and it was that activity that was ultimately the difference-maker in the round. 10-9 O’Neill.
The fight continued to play out on the feet in round two. O’Neill was wearing the effects of Modafferi’s right hand around her left eye but seemed to be pulling ahead of Modafferi with her jab, as well as these right hooks that she was loading up. O’Neill began to play to the crowd with some dramatic shouts in the final minute of the round, but it was Modafferi who ended the round with a successful takedown. 20-19 O’Neill.
The broadcast pointed out that O’Neill had thrown over three hundred strikes by the eleven-minute mark of this fight, which was quite the statistic. Modafferi was still finding moments of success, but O’Neill continued to operate at a level above Modafferi with her power and activity. Modafferi’s face had swollen badly by the final moment of the fight, and she was looking tired, but she continued to trade punches and took O’Neill down one more time with a minute remaining in the bout. The fight ultimately went the distance, and I scored it 30-27 in favor of O’Neill.
WINNER: Casey O’Neill by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
The scorecard in favor of Modafferi was beyond insane. The broadcast identified the judge who turned in that particular scorecard as Robert Alexander, who has apparently only scored four fights throughout the last two years. O’Neill looked very good throughout this bout, fighting at a very impressive pace for fifteen minutes, setting a new divisional record for strikes landed in a three-round fight. She was booed soundly by the crowd, but after playing up the role of the villain all week, that wasn’t particularly surprising. Modafferi was naturally beloved by the crowd here, as she announced that this would be her retirement bout going into this fight. She laid her gloves down in the middle of the cage after the decision was announced, and received a well deserved ovation from the crowd. If this is indeed Modafferi’s final bout, the former UFC title challenger will retire with a professional record of 25-20.
ANDREI ARLOVSKI (32-20, 2 NC, 246) VS JARED VANDERAA (12-6, 265) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Arlovski seemed to have a speed advantage over Vanderaa, easily getting in and out with his offense before Vanderaa could respond. Vanderaa attempted to slow Arlovski down by engaging him in the clinch against the cage, which seemed to be somewhat successful. Vanderaa was landing a bit more offense, but the better strikes in this round belonged to Andrei Arlovski. 10-9 Arlovski.
Vanderaa brought Arlovski back to the cage early in round two. Arlovski was able to create some separation, and he landed a few right hands that Vanderaa just ate. Arlovski was kicked low a couple of times but did not take long to recover before the fight resumed. Vanderaa continued to pursue a takedown, but he just couldn’t get Arlovski down, and I thought Arlovski took this round based on damage. 20-18 Arlovski.
Vanderaa did not deviate from his game plan in the third round, as he continued to pursue takedowns to no success. Arlovski was still landing the bigger shots, although as the commentary team pointed out, the strike count and control time were both in favor of Vanderaa. Despite a strong spinning back fist to end the round from Arlovski, this round was definitely Vanderaa’s. I scored the fight 29-28 Arlovski.
WINNER: Andrei Arlovski by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
Remarkably, at 43 years of age, Andrei Arlovski is currently riding a three-fight win streak (and has won six of his last eight bouts). Despite Vanderaa doing his best to deplete Arlovski’s gas tank, Arlovski was able to outland Vanderaa with heavy shots throughout the first two rounds, and still had enough energy left in him to continue circling the cage while avoiding takedowns in round three, keeping himself safe. Despite one of the lengthiest careers among active fighters in all of MMA, Arlovski isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, and he remains the perfect test for heavyweights looking to break into the top fifteen of the division.
BOBBY GREEN (28-12-1, 155.5) VS NASRAT HAQPARAST (13-4, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Green received a huge reaction from the Houston crowd. Green was talking to Haqparast with his hands down, as you would expect from him. He worked his jab early, but a nasty eye poke brought a brief pause to the bout. The fight resumed, but just moments later, Haqparast was poked in the eye, resulting in yet another pause, as both fighters were issued strict warnings. Haqparast found some success with looping hooks, but by and large, Green seemed to be a step ahead when they were fighting at range. 10-9 Green.
Green continued to do good work at range, attacking in combination to the head and body while Haqparast covered up. Haqparast was falling behind in terms of activity but was still finding occasional success with strong looping punches. As pointed out by the commentary team, however, Green was doing good of rolling with the punches, and Haqparast was spending a lot of time swinging at the air as well. The fighters traded heavy shots at the end of the round and stared each other down after the horn sounded. 20-18 Green.
The fight continued at a similar level of intensity in the third round, with Haqparast winging wild hooks at Green, while Green talked trash and slipped shots, countering strongly while continuing to find success from range. Haqparast was having a great deal of trouble finding his target, and this was turning into a more one-sided fight in favor of Green as the round progressed. This was another clear round for Bobby Green, and I score the fight 30-27 in his favor.
WINNER: Bobby Green by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
Green came off as a superstar in front of this Houston crowd. He fought a beautiful fight for fifteen minutes, and that has become a very common occurrence for Green throughout recent years. There was a time in which Green had only secured one win throughout a seven-fight span in the UFC, and many wrote him off. Well, Green has now won five of his last seven bouts, and he’s looked fantastic in the process. The commentary team suggested a main event slot for Bobby Green in his next bout, and if it’s the right opponent, I would not be opposed to that option as well, because Bobby Green is one of the most entertaining fighters in the division right now.
ALEXANDER HERNANDEZ (13-4, 156) VS RENATO MOICANO (15-4-1, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Hernandez and Moicano traded leg kicks to begin the fight. Hernandez slapped Moicano with a kick to the body, before shrugging off a takedown attempt. Moicano was not deterred and continued to pursue the takedown, which he was eventually successful with. Moicano began to work from half guard, but Hernandez scrambled up, and the fight resumed on the feet. Hernandez did good work on the feet for the remainder of round, out landing Moicano by a significant margin. 10-9 Hernandez.
Hernandez connected with a solid knee up the middle in the early goings of round two. Moicano responded with an uppercut and a left hook, and Moicano realized that Hernandez was hurt. He began to tee off on Hernandez, rocking him near the cage. Hernandez went down, and Moicano immediately locked in a rear-naked choke, forcing Hernandez to tap out.
WINNER: Renato Moicano by rear-naked choke at 1:22 of Round 2
It was a competitive fight while it lasted, but the moment the opportunity for a finish presented itself, Moicano jumped on it. The combination of strikes that he threw to rock Hernandez was vicious and placed perfectly, and the rear-naked choke has practically been his signature move throughout his career. His post-fight interview was very entertaining, as he just gave Cormier no opportunity to talk, practically interviewing himself, before cutting a promo on the UFC, asking for more money, and expressing his hatred of taxes. Moicano is now 3-1 since moving up to lightweight.
JARED CANNONIER (14-5, 185) VS DEREK BRUNSON (23-7, 185.5) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Cannonier pressured forward to begin the fight, putting Brunson on the backfoot. Brunson shot for a takedown, and while he ate some elbows in the process, he was ultimately successful in taking Cannonier down. It did not take Cannonier long to return to his feet, however, and he was able to defend Brunson’s next attempts at taking him down. Cannonier was clearly trying to time an uppercut as Brunson was shooting, but Brunson was able to avoid the heavy shots, and he was able to get Cannonier back to the ground with just under ninety seconds remaining in the round. Cannonier returned to his feet yet again but was dropped hard by a right hand from Brunson. Brunson followed him down and attempted to secure a rear-naked choke, but Cannonier was saved by the bell.
Brunson took Cannonier back down just seconds into the next round. Once again, Cannonier worked his way back up, and he landed a hard right hook. Brunson was looking a bit slow following that shot from Cannonier, and the commentators speculated that he may be hurt. Cannonier cracked Brunson with another hook, as well as a straight right hand that knocked Brunson’s head back. As the round progressed, the momentum had swung completely in Cannonier’s favor, and he landed a right elbow as they broke from the clinch that hurt Brunson bad, and he followed that up with a pair of brutal right hands. Brunson was rocked badly, and Cannonier just walked him down, landing heavy shot after shot, and eventually, Brunson went down. Cannonier took top position, and landed a series of elbows, knocking Brunson unconscious.
WINNER: Jared Cannonier by TKO at 4:29 of Round 2
Brunson nearly had Cannonier finished at the end of the first round, but round two was disastrous for him, with Cannonier completely taking over the bout. The finishing sequence was brutal, and the commentary team stated that Brunson’s corner threw in the towel as the fight went to the ground. Brunson was on an impressive streak of wins coming into this bout, largely utilizing his wrestling ability to defeat his opponents, but Cannoniers takedown defense here was very impressive, and whenever Brunson was successful in getting him down, Cannonier was able to pop right back up. During his post-fight interview, Cannonier demanded a title shot from Dana White, and with a 5-1 record since moving to middleweight (all against strong competition), it’s likely that he will get what he asked for in the near future.
DERRICK LEWIS (26-8, 1 NC, 266) VS TAI TUIVASA (13-3, 265) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Tuivasa walked out to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper. Lewis received a huge reaction from the crowd as he was introduced.
Tuivasa began the bout with a low kick, before wrapping Lewis up in the clinch against the cage, where they were eventually separated due to inactivity. Lewis connected with a haymaker as Tuivasa landed a leg kick, and proceeded to press him against the cage in pursuit of a takedown of his own. Tuivasa defended successfully and landed a pair of solid elbows before Lewis tripped him to the ground. Lewis started to unload with massive ground and pound shots, but Tuivasa’s chin somehow held up, and they started trading massive hooks back on the feet. Lewis took Tuivasa back down, but this time Tuivasa was able to get back to his feet without taking too much damage.
Lewis peppered Tuivasa with uppercuts in the opening minute of round two, seemingly rocking him. Lewis went on the attack with the intention of finishing the fight, but Tuivasa began to back, and an elbow rocked Lewis badly. They began to trade wildly once more, but it was clear that Lewis was on the verge of being finished, and eventually, Tuivasa landed one more vicious elbow that sent Lewis face-first into the canvas, unconscious.
WINNER: Tai Tuivasa by KO at 1:40 of Round 2
Often, when two heavy-hitting knockout artists are matched up against each other, the results are disappointing. This was not one of those times. Lewis had Tuivasa hurt a couple of times throughout this fight, but his willingness to trade shots eventually cost him, as Tuivasa fired back and finished the fight. Naturally, Tuivasa celebrated with multiple shoey’s, much to the crowd’s delight. This win is going to skyrocket Tuivasa to contendership status, and it is entirely possible that he is a win away from a shot at UFC gold. There will not be any easy fights for him from this point forward, but Tuivasa has now won five consecutive fights, all by knockout, and he has established himself as one of the most dangerous fighters in the division.
ISRAEL ADESANYA (21-1, 184) VS ROBERT WHITTAKER (23-5, 184) – UFC MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Adesanya and Whittaker last fought in October of 2019, a fight that Adesanya won by second-round knockout to claim the UFC Middleweight Championship.
The fighters touched gloves to begin the main event. Both men were throwing leg kicks early while testing the range. Whittaker picked up the aggression as the round progressed, as Adesanya looked to counter on Whittaker’s way in, as he did in their first bout. Adesanya eventually knocked Whittaker down with a straight left hand, and while Whittaker recovered quickly, it was a bad sign for the former champion. Adesanya defended a takedown attempt and began to pressure forwards, as he continued to hit Whittaker with kicks to the head and lead leg.
The commentary team stated that Whittaker told his corner between rounds that the damage done to his lead leg was significant. Whittaker was fighting aggressively in the second round, but Adesanya stayed calm and countered, despite some strong lands from Whittaker. Whittaker was successful with his next takedown attempt, but Adesanya did an excellent job of avoiding damage and returning to his feet. Adesanya continued to beat up Whittaker’s lead leg, and the damage was apparent as we neared the end of round two. This was a tougher round to score than the first. 20-18 Adesanya.
Whittaker caught Adesanya with a hard jab on the champion’s way in but ate a head kick in response. Another jab from Whittaker caught Adesanya hard, and Adesanya responded with one of his own. Adesanya defended a pair of takedown attempts, but Whittaker was able to rack up some control time before they separated. Whittaker was caught by a low kick late in the round that clearly affected him, but he continued to fight through it. Another close round. 30-27 Adesanya.
Whittaker cracked Adesanya with a looping lead hook to begin the third round. Adesanya was aware of the damage to Whittaker’s leg and continued to beat it up with numerous leg kicks. Whittaker changed levels and took Adesanya’s back at one point, where he was nearly able to lock in a choke as Adesanya returned to his feet. Adesanya escaped, however, and the fight resumed on the feet. Adesanya caught Whittaker with a hard hook following another leg kick. Whittaker landed a straight right hand to end round four. 39-37 Adesanya.
Adesanya attacked the body with a number of lightning quick kicks. Whittaker’s jab continued to find its home, but he was having difficulties following it up with anything. Adesanya defended another takedown, before eating a hard right hand. Whittaker was able to get Adesanya down momentarily, but could not keep the champion down. Whittaker landed a left hand on the break from the clinch, which Adesanya acknowledged. Adesanya defended Whittaker’s final attempt of the round, and the fight went the distance. The fighters hugged after the final bell. 48-47 Adesanya on my scorecard.
WINNER: Isreal Adesanya by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46) to retain the UFC Middleweight Championship
This was a far more competitive fight than their first matchup. Whittaker got off to a slow start, but he improved as the fight progressed, despite all of the damage done to his lead leg. Whittaker fought with a very different game plan in comparison to his first fight against Adesanya, incorporating wrestling into his gameplan, and not rushing forward with flurries as he did in their previous bout. Adesanya’s takedown defense was impressive throughout this bout, and his kicks (to the legs and body) were ultimately the difference-maker in terms of damage done. Now with two wins over Whittaker, Adesanya has distanced himself as the top middleweight in the world, and this marked the fourth successful defense of his undisputed UFC Middleweight Championship. In all likelihood, Adesanya will face Jared Cannonier next, with Sean Strickland approaching contendership status as well. Adesanya named June as the ideal time for his next bout, and I imagine he will face one of those two fighters next.