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06th Oct 2019

Israel Adesanya picks Robert Whittaker apart to become middleweight champion

Patrick McCarry

Israel Adesanya

Talking the talk and walking the walk. Reaping ‘The Reaper’.

Conor McGregor would surely approve of Israel Adesanya and his incredible rise in the UFC.

The Nigerian, who moved to New Zealand at the age of 13, took everything middleweight champion Robert Whittaker could throw and coolly picked him off at range before brutally finishing the Aussie in round two of the UFC 243 main event.

57,000 (nice, round number, that) fight fans filed into Marvel Stadium in Melbourne to watch the clash of the Antipodean giants. Whittaker was the local favourite but Adesanya had several vocal pockets of support in the stadium.

Both rounds were marked by Whittaker pressing and uncorking some big shots in the hopes of securing a knock-out. The champion, who was forced to watch on, injured, as Adesanya won the interim middleweight title earlier this year, had claimed before the fight that he would take his opponent into the deep waters and make it a five-round fight.

It certainly did not look as if that was Whittaker’s tactical approach in the opening round as he sought to put this one to bed. Still, Adesanya showed remarkable poise and head movement as many of the big shots intended for him flew wide of the mark.

At the end of the round, as the horn sounded, Adesanya connected with a right-hand uppercut that floored Whittaker. Saved by the bell, but the reprieve would be short.

The second round took on a familiar pattern as Whittaker rushed forward and swung for the fences while Adesanya weaved, checked back and landed some telling blows.

A head-kick had Whittaker reeling but, credit to him, he kept ploughing on. That gung-ho approach may well have proved his downfall as, with 90 seconds to go of the round, the Australian came in swinging and left himself open to a right-left combination that did for him and saw Adesanya become the undisputed middleweight champion.

It is quite a rise for the 30-year-old, who only made his UFC debut in February 2018. Post-fight, he spoke of how he went from being a paying member of the public at UFC 193, four years ago, to headlining and becoming the champion.

“I’m real petty. I remember everything like an elephant. Like I said, I was in the nose bleeds and now I made his nose bleed.”

Adesanya has won seven UFC fights in a row and his record has improved to 18-0. He becomes the second Nigerian to win UFC gold:

Adesanya is already eyeing 19-0 and his first defence of that undisputed title against No.1 contender Paulo Costa, whom he called out after starching Whittaker.

The Adesanya era is upon us.