UFC 271: Israel Adesanya Scrapes by Robert Whittaker, Tai Tuivasa Knocks Out Derrick Lewis

Israel Adesanya remains one of the UFC’s most dynamic champions, but his latest victory came after an intense battle that went to the judges’ scorecards.

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Israel Adesanya (22-1) returned to the cage in UFC 271’s main event on Saturday night in Houston, where he took on Australia’s Robert Whittaker (23-6). It was the Nigerian-born Kiwi’s second meeting with the Aussie, after he knocked him out to win the middleweight title in 2019. 

The second time around, Whittaker put up a much better fight. He was dropped by the champion in round one, but regained his footing in round two. Whittaker was able to score with takedowns and punches as the fight continued, finding particular success in the fifth and final round. Unfortunately for him, it still wasn’t enough, as all three cage-side judges scored the fight in Adesanya’s favor. 

Whittaker, who is known as one of the classiest fighters in the sport, briefly protested the loss at the UFC 271 post-fight press conference, noting that he thought he “did enough” to win the title.

But Adesanya wasn’t having it.

“He did not win that fight and he knows it,” the champion told the media post-fight. “You don’t do enough to win the title. You take the belt.”

“[Beating me is] easier said than done, even if you’ve already been in there with me before,” he added. 

“People, I feel like they have goldfish memories, then when they’re in there with me they’re like ‘Oh shit, it’s not as easy as we thought.'”

Adesanya, who previously achieved great success in the professional kickboxing ring, has now defended the undisputed middleweight strap four times. 

His next move isn’t official, but all signs now point to a title defense opposite Jared Cannonier (15-5).

The hulking Alaskan middleweight contender was also back in action at UFC 271, taking on Derek Brunson on the main card. Cannonier nearly hit the deck in round one, but surged back for a decisive win in round two, pummeling his foe with a storm of fight-ending elbows on the ground. 

In his post-fight interview with commentator Daniel Cormier, Cannonier demanded a title shot from UFC president Dana White — and the UFC boss doesn’t seem keen to argue with him.

“I was excited to see that fight, to see how it was going to play out,” White told the media after the event. “It was an awesome fight and yeah, I’m not going to say no to Cannonier.”

Cannonier and Adesanya’s big wins at middleweight were interspersed with some rousing heavyweight action in the evening’s co-main event, as Australia’s Tai Tuivasa ventured into enemy terrain to take on Houston’s own Derrick Lewis. 

Lewis holds the record for most knockouts in UFC history, but on Saturday night, got a taste of his own medicine, careening face-down onto the canvas after absorbing a massive second-round elbow. 

The victory was the shooey-drinking Tuivasa’s fifth in a row. Heading into the fight, the Aussie was ranked No. 11 in the UFC heavyweight rankings. After beating the No. 3-ranked Lewis, he’s bound to land in the top 5, where fights with apex predators like Francis Ngannou, Stipe Miocic and Jon Jones could conceivably await.

The champion Ngannou is currently locked in a heated contract dispute with the UFC, which makes the title situation in the division somewhat nebulous, but White is confident clarity is coming.

“He should be top three, top five,” White said of Tuivasa. “Wherever he shakes out in the rankings, he’ll be mixing it up with those guys.” 

“We’ll see pretty sure how this all plays out. Jones, Stipe, Francis, and Tai now too.”

Other highlights of the UFC 271 broadcast included memorable main card wins from Bobby Green (29-12) and Renato Moicano (16-4), who defeated Nasrat Haqparast and Alexander Hernandez on the main card, as well as a pair of undercard wins from Andrei Arlovski (33-20) and Casey O’Neill (9-0).

Arlovski, who made his UFC debut way back in 2000, turned back the clock with a decision win over Jared Vanderaa, while the unbeaten O’Neill punched her ticket to the flyweight top 10 with a decision win over the retiring Roxanne Modafferi.