It wasn’t perfect, but Israel Adesanya can’t complain too much about his performance at UFC 271.
While it was a vastly different fight from his first encounter, “The Last Stylebender” was still able to thwart Robert Whittaker, earning a unanimous decision after a five-round battle in their rematch on Saturday.
Notoriously hard on himself even after his most dominant wins, Adesanya seemed satisfied with the way everything played out on Saturday night after a second win against Whittaker.
“[I’d give it] 7 out of 10. Not bad,” he said. “Good night in the office, good chess match.”
After dominating and then finishing Whittaker in their initial meeting, Adesanya had to work a lot harder to retain his title as the former champion made a lot of necessary changes to change the result in the rematch.
Whittaker was ultimately able to win two rounds on a pair of scorecards, but it still wasn’t enough to pull off the upset. Adesanya was impressed with Whittaker’s performance, though he was more than confident in his victory after 25 minutes.
“It’s easier said than done,” he said. “Even if you’ve already been in there with me before. I don’t know people, I feel like they have goldfish memories, but when they’re in there with me, they realize ‘oh sh*t’ it’s not as easy as we thought.’ They just have to revert back to what they know.
“I wasn’t really looking past Robert. I took him very seriously. Right all the way to the last bell. I knew he was dangerous. He caught me slipping one time and I was like good one cause I was really aware of it on the clinch, when we’d break away from the clinch, he was going to hit me and he caught me one on this side and I was like good one. I acknowledged it. I had fun in there.”
Considering he’s fallen to Adesanya twice now, it’s going to be a lot harder for Whittaker to work his way back to the top of the contender’s list in order to somehow secure a third fight against him.
Trilogies are already a rarity in the sport, but it’s almost impossible for anybody to scratch and claw their way back to another fight after already losing twice previously. For his part, Adesanya isn’t totally against the idea, but he’s much more motivated to look ahead at new challenges after winning back-to-back rematches against Whittaker and Marvin Vettori.
“The division’s filled with killers, but I’m looking forward to fresh meat,” he said.
All signs are pointing toward Adesanya facing a new opponent in his next title defense after Jared Cannonier demolished Derek Brunson in a featured bout on the UFC 271 main card.
While he didn’t get to pay close attention to his win, Adesanya acknowledged Cannonier as the de facto No. 1 contender, and he’s already targeting June for a potential return to action.
“I just saw bits and pieces,” Adesanya said about Cannonier vs. Brunson. “I think [Cannonier] even got rocked. I saw he got taken down and then he elbowed Brunson. I didn’t really take stock. I’ll go back and watch the fights later on and just see what it is.
“But he made a statement, and I even told him after the weigh-ins — I said, ‘Look, please take this guy out so I can get some fresh meat.’ He said ‘I’m trying to work’ and I’m like, ‘Me, too.’ I’m a man of my word.”