There’s a new, undisputed tog dog at middleweight – and his name is Israel Adesanya. The Last Stylebender unified the 185-pound title tonight with a second-round KO stoppage of Robert Whittaker in the main event of UFC 243. And he did it with counters.
Following a long layoff, Whittaker seemed to fight with a style we’ve never seen from before – jumping in with wild hooks and trying his best to pressure the longer fighter with power shots. He didn’t wrestle. He didn’t even threaten to grapple. He just seemed to mirror what Kelvin Gastelum used to find success against Adesanya.
But Adesanya adjusted.
Whittaker did have his moments and landed some big shots. But Adesanya landed a short right counter right at the end of the first round that put Whittaker on his butt. In the second, he landed the counter again. And when it came time, he used a deft left-hand counter to put Whittaker down again. This time there was no horn to save him, and he got pounded out.
“I was in the nosebleeds. Now I made his nose bleed.” – Israel Adesanya, middleweight champion.
- For a supposed crowd that was 50,000+ deep, I thought it was tremendously quiet for much of the night, other than the main event.
- Dan Hooker fought a nearly perfect fight against Al Iaquinta. He completely made him fight at range for the first round, busting up his front leg to the point that Ragin’ Al was pretty ineffective. To his credit, Iaquinta adjusted his strategy in the second, closed the distance, and was having a pretty good round – until he got dropped by a pretty left. Iaquinta had to fight southpaw in the third, and Hooker just potshotted him for five more minutes to take the shutout W.
- After the fight, Hooker called out Dustin Poirier. I don’t see that happening, but it’s a good call out.
- Tai Tuivasa didn’t seem to take Sergey Spivak (Sergehi Spivac?) seriously. After spinning him around with an early kick, Bam Bam just waded in with single power shots and lazy kicks that saw him get put on the floor again and again. He was able to get up a lot, but it clearly wore on him because Spivak was able to just shoot in and take him down in the second. And beat him senseless. And choke him unconscious.
- Unfortunately for fans, Dhiego Lima and Luke Jumeau never really got going. Jumeau just didn’t pressure at all, and let himself get picked off at range. It was not a very fun fight at all, but a good win for Lima.
- Holy hell, did Yorgan De Castro ever put Justin Tafa to sleep. I haven’t seen that hard of a shot in a while. And he seems like a nice guy too!
- Jake Matthews and Rostem Akman was nothing like the two fights that preceeded it. It was a long sparring session with no passion or intensity. Easily the worst fight I’ve seen in a while, but Matthews did pitch a shutout.
- Callan Potter and Maki Potolo put on a great show, but come on Maki! How have you not learned to defend a left hook by now? Potter caught him with nearly every one that he threw, and showed off a good grappling game as well to pick up a nice decision victory.
- How great was Brad Riddell and Jamie Mullarkey? Riddell has excellent standup and he pieced up Mullarkey early, despite eating a steady stream of jabs. The second was more of the same. But WOW, how about that third round? These guys beat each other pillar to post in one of the stanzas of the year to date. The ending, with both on their knees and an exhausted Riddell cracking a bloody Mullarkey with a vicious left hook, was the stuff of legend. That was a spectacle, and I urge you to watch the whole thing if you missed the card.
- Megan Anderson dominated and defeated Zarah Fairn in her home country. After showing off her top game, she ended up locking up a triangle as Fairn tried to escape, getting the first round finish.
- Nadia Kassem has aggression, but seems to lack experience. And sportsmanship. She came out to touch gloves but threw a kick instead. So Ji Yeon Kim promptly dropped her with a left. And that set the tone for the fight. Kassem arguably won the first round with pressure and some good kicking work. The second round had a much slower pace though, and Kim took over. There was some brawling, which didn’t work out well for Kassem and Kim ended up with the second round TKO win.
- The referee didn’t affect the outcome of the Kassem/Kim fight, but he did make a big mistake at one point. While Kim was flurrying, she knocked Kassem’s mouthpiece out. Instead of letting Kim continue, he immediately stopped things and put Kassem’s guard back in and reset them in the middle. Kim was understandably pissed. I’m glad she still got the win despite that though.
- The opener was a classic battle between grapplers and strikers, at least through two. Round one was all Khalid Taha with his striking. In round two, Bruno Silva took Taha down and worked well there. But in round three, Taha flipped the script. After ome good striking, he deftly got Silva to the mat and submitted the black belt with a textbook arm-triangle choke. Taha looks like he’s going to be pretty good.
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