Dominated by Israel Adesanya at their 2019 meeting, Robert Whitaker entered UFC 271 Saturday night realizing he had a very difficult puzzle to solve if he wanted to reclaim the middleweight championship. Very much up for the challenge, Whitaker came short as Adesanya retained the title via unanimous decision in a very competitive battle.
Adesanya started playing red hot, buzzing Whitaker with stinging shots and scoring a knockout in the first round. The opening frame left Whitaker looking shaky in his corner chair before the second round. With the fight looking like it would quickly spiral out of control for Whitaker and possibly end with a TKO restart in the second round of the UFC 243 pair match, Whitaker was able to regain his confidence in the second round, landing punches and scoring a penalty kick to capture his first truly positive moments in his rivalry with the champion .
Whitaker would continue to attempt to mix in wrestling for the remainder of the fight, occasionally picking moments to engage in wrestling, although he was not able to hold Adesanya with any measurable success. The closest grappling attack came to prove fruitful in the fourth round, with Whitaker briefly retaking Adesanya as the champ scrambled to his feet after another brief Whitaker elimination. Adesanya managed to avoid any danger of submission or blows into the dangerous situation for a while, however, quickly returned to his preferred striking distance.
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Adesanya’s ability to keep distance was key to his victory. Using his large reach advantage, Adesanya picked Whittaker with lightning fast kicks to the legs and body, as well as long and strait punches that forced Whittaker to try to find ways to enter and unload the blows.
Although Whitaker made most of the rounds competitive after his disastrous opening frame, Adesanya clearly did enough to deserve the decision win, which he secured with official results 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46.
“I knew he would bring everything because last time I took everything from him,” Adesanya said after the win. “He had nothing to lose. But, as I said, I’m the hero, you have to come and understand him.”
The win over Whitaker was Adesanya’s fourth defense in the middleweight championship since he won the belt in his first encounter with Whitaker.
For Whitaker, who had interrupted his winning streak in three fights, the loss was a hard pill to swallow.
“Yes, I did [think I won the fight]Whitaker said. I know I had a rocky start in the first round but I felt like I took every single one after that. it is what it is. As they say, don’t leave it up to the judges. I am very frustrated. I am very frustrated. I thought I did enough.”
For his next championship defense, Adesanya stated he had a date and opponent in mind, singled out Jared Cannonier, who scored a massive knockout win over Derek Anderson on the bottom card of the event.
“I know June doesn’t have a pay-per-view system yet,” Adesanya said. “But, like I said, I’m the new dog in the yard and I’m the big dog in the yard. I know the other dog, Jared Kannonier, did some work tonight. Yeah, I’m peeing in that cage in June. Watch me.”
Elsewhere on the card, Tai Tuivasa proved he might have the potential to stay in the heavyweight division with his stunning finish to former title contender Derek Lewis. Tuivasa lunged with a first-round knockout to knock down the Houston native with a vicious elbow and left him in a pile in the second round. The Australian is now locked in a five-way winning streak with all those who come through the stops and have plenty of options to consider when it comes to his next opponent.
CBS Sports was with you all the way on Saturday bringing you all the results and highlights from UFC 271 below.
UFC 271 Card and Results
- Israel Adesanya (c) def. Robert Whitaker by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46)
- Tai Tuivasa def. Derek Lewis via TKO 2nd round (punches)
- Jared Cannonier def. Derek Bronson via TKO 2nd round (punches)
- Renato Moikano defeated. Alexander Hernandez via second round submission (naked rear throttle)
- Bobby Green def. Nusrat Haqbarrest by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Andrei Arlovsky defeated. Jared Vandera via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Casey O’Neill def. Roxanne Modaveri via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Keeler Phillips def. Marcelo Rojo via third round submission (arm bar)
- Carlos Ulberg def. Fabio Chirante by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Ronnie Lawrence Def. Mana Martinez by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-28)
- Jacob Malcoln defeated. A.J. Dobson by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- He defeated Douglas Silva de Andrade. Sergey Morozov via second round submission (naked rear throttle)
- Countryman Jeremiah Wells. Mike Diamond via first round submission (naked rear throttle)
- Maxim Grishin def. William Knight by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
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