The UFC’s latest superstar received his coronation in Melbourne at UFC 243, as Israel Adesanya took the undisputed middleweight crown in devastating fashion.
The Last Stylebender defeated champion Robert Whittaker via second round KO to deliver on the hype of what has been a meteoric rise in the space of just two years.
The Nigerian moved to 18-0, 7-0 in the UFC, with a clinic of counter striking to dispatch the returning Australian who had been out of the Octagon for more than 15 months through illness and injury.
Whittaker looked to take the fight to his much rangier opponent, swinging hard from the outset. This approach had served him well for the bulk of the opening round, without ever truly troubling Adesanya, but the fight turned with seconds of the opening stanza remaining.
An attempted overhand right from the champion was countered by a vicious right hook that dropped and seemingly stiffened the Australian in front of his home crowd. Only the buzzer for the end of the round saved him.
There was no such fortune in the later stages of the second round.
Whittaker had actually landed well with a straight left, but then overshot on another overhand right, leaving him wide open for a right-left counter with the second hook dropping him for the second time in the contest. On this occasion, time was on Adesanya’s side as he was able to follow-up with punches on the ground and force a swift stoppage.
It was the fireworks his dramatic entrance had been the precursor to and cemented his position at the top of the 185lbs division.
Sitting Octagon-side throughout was Brazil’s Paulo Costa – and Adesanya was quick to start the verbals between the pair. As for Whittaker, he assured the crowd this was not the last we will see of him.
In the co-main event New Zealand’s Dan Hooker made a mockery of the rankings as he defeated number six ranked Al Iaquinta in a one-sided three-round decision.
Going into the bout, the Hangman was ranked 15 in the lightweight division, but now has six wins in his last seven, including this career-best outing.
It was only last year that Iaquinta was challenging current 155lbs champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, but against Hooker he was left powerless both on his feet and the ground.
Snapping kicks to the lead leg forced Iaquinta to switch stances and he was rarely able to offer any substantial offence.
Hooker used his range well, picking off his shorter opponent, choosing his shots well and eventually cruising to a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26).
Post-fight he set his sights firmly on the upper echelons of the division, speaking only to call out the most recent challenger for the lightweight crown, Dustin Poirier.
I'm fighting the Irishman next. You're close but not yet buddy keep punching @danthehangman— The Diamond (@DustinPoirier) October 6, 2019
The Diamond swiftly responded on Twitter, setting his sights firmly on Conor McGregor, and suggesting while Hooker was close, a fight with Donald Cerrone would perhaps suit him more at this juncture.
Elsewhere on the UFC 243 main card, Sergey Pivak upset Tai Tuisava with a beautiful arm triangle choke, Dhiego Lima picked up his third win on the spin and Yogan de Castro won the battle of the big men, knocking out Justin Tafa in the first round of their heavyweight contest.
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