UFC 271: Israel Adesanya Fends Off Whittaker Takedowns, Retains Title in Rematch

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Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker, UFC 271
Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker, UFC 271 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Dave Noseworthy/Cageside Press

The rematch between Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker may have been over two years in the making, but it certainly didn’t feel that way come Saturday night.

UFC 271’s main event saw the middleweight pair run it back, Adesanya having won the title from “The Repear” back in their 2019 meeting. Neither man appeared to have lost a step since then, the question was, who had evolved more?

And did Adesanya even have to? After all, he’d solved the puzzle of Whittaker in their first fight. The pressure appeared to be on Whittaker to make the adjustments.

Early on, Whittaker was mobile, firing a couple of low kicks and staying on the outside. Adesanya, however, landed an inside calf kick of his own that was far more significant. Whittaker answered back; Adesanya jabbed the body. “Stylebender” then went upstairs with a kick that was blocked. The pair continued to trade low kicks; when Whittaker closed the distance, Adesanya backed off — but landed another hard calf kick when they reset.

Adesanya would make a statement with over a minute left in the round, sitting Whittaker down with a punch. That early knockdown led to Whittaker shooting for a takedown, which was easily stuffed. Adesanya’s low kicks were starting to make an impact. Another Whittaker takedown fell short. Another Adesanya kick followed; this one Whittaker checked.

Round two opened up with Whittaker closing the distance, coming over the top with a punch. Whittaker was taking big swings, but many of them were wild. A jab would back Adesanya up as the pair settled in; Whittaker came close with a hard right, moments later, a left hand connected for him. Whittaker fanned a high kick, and Adesanya connected with a hard calf kick. But when Whittaker closed the distance, shooting for a takedown, he landed it — only for Izzy to get right back up. Back on the attack, Adesanya fired back-to-back left kicks to the body with lightning speed.

The second was a more successful round for Whittaker, but heading to the third, he still had a number of adjustments to make. Adesanya’s leg kicks continued to be a problem, and his takedown defense looked as good as ever.

In the third, Whittaker would catch the champ with a jab on the way in. Adesanya reset, and continued to press forward. A left hand from Whittaker landed, but Adesanya’s counter did as well. A Whittaker takedown was stuffed, and Adesanya landed a knee coming out of it. Whittaker would catch a kick and dump Adesanya, but the champ was up in a flash, even with Robert Whittaker clinging to him. They’d trade on the feet to finish out the round.

There was some question near the end of the third as to whether Adesanya had hurt his right hand. His did seem to be favoring it, but continued to attack. In the fourth, however, Whittaker got the champ down, then climbed Adesanya’s back as he got up. Adesanya fought the hands, and shook Whittaker off. From there, Adesanya continued to work over Whittaker’s lead leg; Whittaker landed an uppercut in close. But even against a seemingly injured Adesanya, Whittaker couldn’t seem to solve the puzzle the champ posed. And he was soon left with just one final round in which to find the answer.

Round five actually found both men hesitant early. Whittaker caught Adesanya about 90 seconds in, but didn’t follow up. Adesanya fired an inside kick; Whittaker changed levels for a single leg, but had to bail on it. With a little over two minutes remaining, Whittaker changed levels and drove into a takedown. Adesanya went down, but as he had every single time, he got up almost immediately. Off the break, however, Whittaker landed a hard left. Another takedown followed at the one minute mark, or at least Whittaker attempted it, but couldn’t complete.

They’d go the distance, Whittaker tying things up along the fence and landing some stomps prior to the final buzzer. There was little surprise as to the winner: Israel Adesanya retained. After the fight, he’d hint at a June date with Jared Cannonier, who was victorious earlier in the night.

Official Result: Israel Adesanya def. Robert Whittaker by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46)

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