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UFC 243 recap: Israel Adesanya knocks out Robert Whittaker in second round

UFC 243
Israel Adesanya punches Robert Whittaker during UFC 243 at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia.
(Darrian Traynor / Getty Images)

Australian UFC Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker (21-4) takes on unbeaten New Zealander UFC Interim Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya (17-0) in the main event of UFC 243 on Saturday. The historic bout for Oceania will take place at massive Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, the first time UFC has run the event since UFC 193, where Holly Holm upset Ronda Rousey. Join us for fight-by-fight, round-by-round coverage. The co-main event will feature the colorful Al Iaquinta (14-5-1) taking on knockout artist Dan Hooker (19-8) in a lightweight fight.

Robert Whittaker vs. Israel Adesanya

With a unique and exciting style, the “Last Stylebender” Israel Adesanya has been considered a potential championship level fighter since early in his UFC career. Now, the unbeaten star has his opportunity to solidify his status as the #1 middleweight. In his way is Robert Whittaker, a quick and precise striker who has proved to be a more than capable champion. It’s a pivotal fight for both men and a massive fight in Oceania, where both men reside.

Round 1. Whittaker lunges in with punches a couple times early on. Neither man has been able to connect with much. It’s notable how often Whittaker is able to dive in as he might leave himself open to a counter. Adesanya throws a hard left head kick that Whittaker is able to block with his hand. Whittaker then retaliates with a similar head kick attempt. Adesanya drops Whittaker with a looping right hand at the end of the round. It connected fully and that might have been the end of the fight had not it been the very end of the round. 10-9 Adesanya.

Round 2. Whittaker charges in again to start the second. He knocks Adesanya back with a stiff jab. Adesanya catches Whittaker with a solid hook. Adesanya looks confident and he’s striding forward aggressively. Whittaker lands a left hook. He adds a left head kick. Adesanya lands a big left hook and a dizzied Whittaker staggers back awkwardly before falling down. Adesanya follows with strikes on the ground and it’s quickly called off. Adesanya celebrates enthusiastically his victory.

Winner: Israel Adesanya, TKO, round 2.

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Israel Adesanya has always shown the elements needed to be an elite superstar fighter. Now he has reached the top and he is in the position to become one of the stars of the sport from here.

Al Iaquinta vs. Dan Hooker

“Raging” Al Iaquinta is one of the sport’s biggest personalities and he’s an excellent fighter in a deep division as well. He is 6-2 in his last 8 but the 2 losses came in his last 3 fights. He takes on New Zealand native Dan Hooker. Hooker is a big time finisher and has clean knockouts in 3 of his last 4 fights.

Round 1. The fighters are cautious early on, showing respect for the other’s striking. Hooker lands a hard left hand on Iaquinta. Iaquinta catches a kick and looks for a takedown but Hooker responds by landing a series of heavy elbows. Iaquinta relinquishes top position and Hooker then takes his back and looks for a rear naked choke. Iaquinta escapes and returns to his feet. 10-9 Hooker.

Round 2. Iaquinta looks to establish his boxing early in the second, opening up with punches and getting inside Hooker’s range. Iaquinta looks for a takedown but doesn’t come close. Hooker is throwing plenty of leg kicks. Iaquinta catches one and again looks for the takedown but Hooker defends well. Hooker drops Iaquinta with a massive hook. Hooker goes to the ground trying to finish but Iaquinta recovers well. 10-9 Hooker.

Round 3. Iaquinta lands a nice body kick but Hooker responds immediately with a pair of hard punches. Iaquinta still hasn’t figured out Hooker’s reach advantage. Hooker is landing more and he’s landing harder. Iaquinta wades in with a hard straight right hand. Iaquinta is bleeding badly. Hooker knocks him down with a leg kick but Iaquinta quickly stands back up. The crowd lets out a cheer for Hooker as the fight comes to an end. 10-9 Hooker, 30-27 Hooker.

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Winner: Dan Hooker, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26).

That’s a big win for Dan Hooker. He has been looking great but often against lesser known competition. Tonight, he dominated a well known opponent and made it clear through his performance that he’s going to pose problems for the best fighters in the lightweight division.

Tai Tuivasa vs. Serghei Spivac

Tai Tuivasa is a crowd pleasing Australian fighter but his strategy has been suspect in a pair of recent losses. Serghei Spivac is from Moldova and he suffered his first MMA loss in his UFC debut last time out.

Round 1. Tuivasa knocks Spivac down with a leg kick early. Spivac catches a kick and gets a takedown. Tuivasa quickly works his way to the cage and stands back up. Spivac attempts a takedown again but Tuivasa blocks it. Spivac tries again and this time gets the takedown. Spivac is in half guard but quickly gains side control. Spivac grabs a headlock but Tuivasa just stands back up from there. Spivac uses another headlock to take Tuivasa down. He just holds Tuivasa in the headlock, which is not that easy to maintain and Tuivasa again gets up. Spivac responds by taking him back down. 10-9 Spivac.

Round 2. Spivac throws a few jabs and then scores another takedown on Tuivasa. Tuivasa gets up quickly from this one. Spivac again works for a takedown and this time Tuivasa prevents him from getting close. They separate and Spivac again goes for the takedown. He gets it easily and then secures full mount. Spivac drops down a few elbows and punches. Tuivasa is cut and eating punches. Spivac grabs an arm triangle and chokes Tuivasa out.

Winner: Serghei Spivac, submission, round 2.

Another upset came through there, as Spivac exploited the weaknesses in Tuivasa’s game and got the decisive win. Tai Tuivasa’s standup is entertaining to watch but he lacks a lot of traits you want in a high level UFC fighter.

Luke Jumeau vs. Dhiego Lima

Luke Jumeau is 2-1 thus far in the UFC with all those fights going to decision. Dhiego Lima is the brother of Bellator star Douglas Lima and he is riding a two fight winning streak after struggling early in his UFC career.

Round 1. Neither fighter is throwing much in the way of combinations, relying primarily on one punch or kick at a time. Lima is having success with his leg kicks. Lima connects with a nice looping left hand. 10-9 Lima.

Round 2. Lima lands another of those big leg kicks early. He then secures a takedown. The fighters quickly return to their feet. The standup action continues to be tentative, with Lima’s kicks being the most successful weapon. Jumeau catches Lima with a punch that appears to have Lima stunned but as Jumeau charges in looking to capitalize, Lima fires back and catches Jumeau with a counter that forces Jumeau to slow back down. Lima gets a takedown in the final minute and lands a few punches late. 10-9 Lima.

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Round 3. The pace may be even slower in the third than it was in the first and second. Lima looks for a takedown at the midpoint of the round but Jumeau defends well. There’s little in the way of successful offense towards the end. 10-10, 30-28 Lima.

Winner: Dhiego Lima, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).

That wasn’t the sort of fight that will do a lot for either fighter. The split decision was a surprise but Lima wasn’t active enough to take much issue with a close decision.

Justin Tafa vs. Yorgan De Castro

The pay-per-view portion of UFC 243 begins with a fight one would expect to see in the prelims, as 3-0 Justin Tafa takes on 5-0 Yorgan De Castro in a battle of lightly regarded and inexperienced competitors.

Round 1. The fighters come out swinging, before ending up in a clinch up against the cage. After a break, Tafa charges in and gets knocked out cold with one punch from De Castro. De Castro recognizes immediately that right hand finished things and walks off triumphantly.

Winner: Yorgan De Castro, KO, round 1.

You have to be careful against a fighter with that sort of power, and De Castro made Tafa pay for his aggression. It was a beautiful knockout finish.

Jake Matthews vs. Rostem Akman

Jake Matthews debuted in the UFC at just 19 and now 25 he is 7-4 in the UFC. The Australian fighter has mainly fought at home and he does so again here. Rostem Akman is a 6-1 Swedish fighter who lost his UFC debut.

Round 1. The action is extremely slow early on. Akman largely advances but neither fighter is throwing much. Akman lands a couple good punches with a minute left. Matthews finally shows some aggression late with a couple of overhand punches. 10-9 Akman.

Round 2. Matthews sends Akman back with a straight right hand. Akman continues to move forward but Matthews is having more success countering him when he does. Matthews begins to move forward late, landing some leg kicks and then going to the head with punches. 10-9 Matthews.

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Round 3. Matthews again is more aggressive, attacking Akman at the start of the round before settling back into the pattern of circling away and throwing occasional counters. Matthews takes Akman’s back on the feet and looks for a takedown. Akman prevents that. Matthews tries again in the final minute and Akman attempts a guillotine choke at the close. 10-9 Matthews, 29-28 Matthews.

Winner: Jake Matthews, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).

It wasn’t the most scintillating fight but Matthews landed more to take the decision.

Callan Potter vs. Maki Pitolo

Callan Potter made his UFC debut at 34-years-old earlier this year and suffered a TKO loss in less than a minute. He’ll look to rebound here against Maki Pitolo, a Hawaiian fighter getting an opportunity after a win on Dana White’s Contender Series.

Round 1. Potter connects with a quality left hook around 40 seconds in. They trade punches back and forth from close range with each man landing major shots. They each have good chins because there were plenty of big punches landed in a short period of time. Pitolo gets a takedown and looks for a rear naked choke but can’t secure it. Pitolo gains top position but Pitolo stands up and starts throwing power punches immediately. Potter avoids them and counters well with a precise hook. Pitolo answers with a nice combination. 10-9 Pitolo.

Round 2. The pace continues to be pretty quick in the second, but both men are putting more focus on defense and thus neither is connecting at such a high rate. Potter clinches by the cage but isn’t able to advance there and the fighters are separated. Potter moves in and lands a series of punches from close range while largely avoiding Pitolo’s counters. Potter then clinches again. 10-9 Potter.

Round 3. Potter gets an early takedown. They are close to the cage, which doesn’t give Potter much room to advance position or do damage. Potter does land some punches from the top while Pitolo isn’t able to do much of anything on the bottom. 10-9 Potter, 29-28 Potter.

Winner: Callan Potter, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

That was a pretty straightforward fight. Pitolo had the early edge but Potter took over in the second and third for what has to be a satisfying upset win in his home country.

Jamie Mullarkey vs. Brad Riddell

This is an Oceania rivalry between two finishers, as these fighters have only 2 decisions in their collective 20 fights. The Australian Mullarkey is more experienced at 12-2 while the New Zealander Riddell is 5-1.

Round 1. The action is tentative early, with neither man throwing much. Riddell looks to have a lot of power behind his punches when he throws. Mullarkey attempts a takedown but it is blocked. They end up in a clinch stalemate before finally breaking. Worst round of the night thus far by a wide margin. 10-10.

Round 2. Mullarkey executes a swift takedown attempt but Riddell’s reflexes are strong and he defends well. Mullarkey has Riddell down briefly but Riddell is right back up. Mullarkey attempts another takedown and this time he gets it cleanly a minute and a half into the round. Riddell works his way up and into top position. Riddell has side control but then Mullarkey stands back up. Riddell lands a few solid punches back on the feet. Mullarkey goes for the takedown but it is blocked. Mullarkey tries again but Riddell takes top position and has full mount. Riddell lands a big elbow immediately. Mullarkey turns his back and Riddell looks for a rear naked choke from there. Mullarkey avoids that and gets top position at the close. 10-9 Riddell.

Round 3. Riddell gets a takedown a minute in. He then lets Mullarkey back up. Riddell connects with some heavy looping punches on the feet. Mullarkey fires back and connects with a massive hook of his own. Riddell goes down and Mullarkey looks to close with a rear naked choke. Mullarkey fights off the first attempt and then Mullarkey elects to give up the back and return to his feet. That proves to be a big mistake as Riddell opens up with more of those big hooks, rocking Mullarkey and knocking out the mouthpiece. Mullarkey goes down and Riddell looks to close. Mullarkey recovers but Riddell then opens up with more big punches. Mullarkey is in major trouble. Riddell drops down heavy punches on the ground. Riddell lets Mullarkey back up and looks to get the knockout on the feet. Riddell punishes the body and then rocks Mullarkey to the head. That was as exciting of a round as you’re ever going to see, just a remarkable display of heart by both men. 10-8 Riddell, 30-27 Riddell.

Winner: Brad Riddell, unanimous decision (29-27, 30-26, 30-26).

That fight was a little slow to get going but once it got going it was an absolute war. Riddell was the better and more heavy handed striker and that was the difference down the stretch.

Megan Anderson vs. Zarah Fairn

Megan Anderson was brought into the UFC with the thought that she would be the biggest test for Cris “Cyborg” Justino at 145 pounds. Unfortunately for Anderson, her UFC career has been a massive disappointment with a 1-2 record. She gets the chance here to fight at home and is the heavy favorite against UFC newcomer Zarah Fairn.

Round 1. Fairn attacks right at the start and forces Anderson to clinch. Anderson gets a takedown less than a minute in. Anderson lands some punches and elbows from the top and opens a cut. Anderson has full mount and continues to land elbows. Fairn powers out into top position but in the process Anderson grabs a triangle choke and gets the submission.

Winner: Megan Anderson, submission, round 1.

Anderson lets out an exhilarated scream of joy, clearly satisfied after an important win. She looked like a higher caliber of fighter there and overcame Fairn with superior technique.

Nadia Kassem vs. Ji Yeon Kim

Nadia Kassem is an Australian fighter with a 5-1 record but is coming off the first defeat of her career. The South Korean Ji Yeon Kim is 2-2 thus far in the UFC.

Round 1. Kassem charges across the cage and eats a clean left hand that drops her to the mat. She gets up and clinches. Kassem then gets a takedown. Kim gets up quickly. Kim lands a hard right hand in an exchange. Kassem has the bigger body but Kim has good power for her size. Kim catches Kassem with another left hand counter when Kassem moves in aggressively. Kassem’s corner clearly has the strategy of loudly shouting about how she is winning the fight whenever she lands anything to try to influence the judges. 10-9 Kim.

Round 2. The fighters stand and trade in the early portion of the second round. Both are connecting a solid amount in the exchanges. Kassem is attacking more to the body while Kim is landing more to the head. Kim knocks out the mouthpiece of Kassem. Kassem is in trouble but the referee steps in to get the mouthpiece, giving Kassem a chance to recover against the rightfully exasperated Kim. Kim is pouring it on with punches late and has Kassem backed up against the cage. Kassem is struggling to fight back. Kassem drops from a body punch and that is it.

Winner: Ji Yeon Kim, TKO, round 2.

Ji Yeon Kim is a portrait in composure. She seems so unaffected in the way that she fights and she just kept coming with precise technical striking until she got the finish.

Khalid Taha vs. Bruno Silva

Khalid Taha is a German fighter with a 1-1 record thus far in the UFC. Bruno Silva is a Brazilian competitor who makes his UFC debut after a successful run in Russia.

Round 1. After a brief feeling out period, Taha drops Silva with a two punch combination. Despite landing hard, Silva recovers well in a clinch. With Taha throwing such heavy punches, Silva relies more on kicks and connects with a nice one to the body. Silva lands an unintentional low blow and then another moments later. 10-9 Taha.

Round 2. Taha comes out strong with a big punch and follows with more power shots behind it. Silva responds by securing a takedown a minute in. Taha accepts bottom position and locks in a closed full guard. Silva lands some punches from the top and passes guard into side control. He then ends up back in half guard. Silva continues to do damage from the top, while Taha occasionally throws upkicks from the bottom. 10-9 Silva.

Round 3. Silva clinches and quickly gets another takedown. However, Taha works his way right back up. Silva maintains a clinch and looks to get Taha back down, while Taha responds with elbows as he defends. Taha lands some hard ones and follows with punches. Silva turns his back and Taha keeps landing shots. Taha looks for a rear naked choke and then transitions to an arm triangle choke and gets the tap from the jiu jitsu black belt.

Winner: Khalid Taha, submission, round 3.

That was a quality win for Taha to start the show. He was clearly the better and more powerful striker. Silva threatened with his ground ability but Taha poured it on at the end and got the submission when the result was looking like it might be up in the air.


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