Israel Adesanya was the story all week. His new, lucrative contract with the UFC. His teammates from City Kickboxing fighting on the same card. His current future stardom.
It felt like no one here was talking about Robert Whittaker, the challenger and former champ who talks no trash and draws absolutely no undue attention to himself. It was almost like it was a foregone conclusion that Adesanya would walk away with his UFC middleweight title without much fuss.
That was very much not the case, though. Adesanya did defeat Whittaker via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46) in the main event of UFC 271 on Saturday night at Toyota Center. Adesanya did indeed leave the Octagon with his middleweight belt, using his length and reach to counter Whittaker’s boxing.
But the fight was incredibly close — so much so that the crowd booed the decision, thinking Whittaker was the rightful winner. At the start of the bout, the Houston fans were completely behind Adesanya, but that changed as the bout went on and they sensed a possible upset. Chants of “Bobby!” could be heard in the late rounds.
Round-by-round coverage of the main event:
Round 5: A back and forth final round. Adesanya started very well with strikes at a distance, but Whittaker secured a huge takedown. But once again, he just can’t keep Adesanya down. There was a lot of stalled grappling near the end of the round. I score it for Adesanya and have him winning 48-47.
Round 4: Another very, very close round. Whittaker took Adesanya’s back in a scramble early, but Adesanya was able to shake him off. Whittaker’s left hand was also landing consistently. There were several good moments of offense from Adesanya, too. I score it slightly for Whittaker and have it even going into the last round. 38-38
Round 3: Closest round of the fight for me. A few very hard leg kicks came from Adesanya, but just a handful of punches. Whittaker’s entries are much better than the last fight between them, he’s not staying in the pocket as long. Whittaker scored another takedown, but again not much from it. I score it for Whittaker. 29-28 Adesanya after three.
Round 2: Much better round for Whittaker, but I still score it for Adesanya. Whittaker’s timing was much better, and he caught Adesanya on several exchanges. Whittaker scored a takedown as well, but wasn’t able to do much with it. More kicks came from Adesanya and he’s looking to elevate some of them now. Adesanya 20-18.
Round 1: Israel Adesanya is just so good. Dominant first round for the champ. Dropped Whittaker with a left hand. Checked a kick, which seemed to bother Whittaker a lot. Attacked his legs with kicks. He is steps ahead of Whittaker so far. 10-9 Adesanya.