HOUSTON — Israel Adesanya wore a gold chain around his neck Thursday at the UFC 271 news conference. Hanging from the chain was a medallion with a digital screen showing an NFT video of Adesanya’s knockout of Robert Whittaker on a loop. A day earlier, Adesanya admitted he changed his hair to a higher fade, like the cut he had for that UFC 243 fight with Whittaker.
Adesanya is clearly hoping for a repeat performance Saturday against Whittaker in the main event of UFC 271 at the Toyota Center. Adesanya will defend his UFC middleweight title against the man he beat for the belt in October 2019. It’s a battle of two of the best middleweights in the world — and two of the top fighters in the world. ESPN ranks Adesanya No. 2, and Whittaker ranked No. 9 in its MMA pound-for-pound rankings. At middleweight, Adesanya is No. 1 and Whittaker is No. 2.
Adesanya (21-1) stopped Whittaker via second-round knockout at UFC 243 nearly three years ago. The Nigerian-born New Zealander is undefeated at middleweight but dropped a unanimous decision to then-light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz at UFC 259 last March. Adesanya, 32, is looking for his fourth successful middleweight title defense.
UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya defends his title in a rematch against Robert Whittaker, and heavyweight contenders Derrick Lewis and Tai Tuivasa face off in the co-main event.
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UFC 271: Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2
• Saturday, Toyota Center, Houston
• Main card: 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV
• Prelims: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN+
• Early prelims: 6 p.m. ET on ESPN+
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Whittaker (23-5) has won three straight since dropping the title to Adesanya, knocking off contenders Darren Till, Kelvin Gastelum and Jared Cannonier. The New Zealand-born Australian has won 12 of his past 13 fights overall. Whittaker, 31, held either the interim or undisputed UFC middleweight titles from 2017 to 2019. “The Reaper,” a former Ultimate Fighter winner, was the UFC’s first-ever Australian champion.
In the co-main event, Derrick Lewis takes on Tai Tuivasa in what should be an action heavyweight fight. Lewis (26-8, 1 NC), who calls Houston his adopted hometown, has won five of his past six and will try to redeem himself after a loss to Ciryl Gane at UFC 265 last August in Houston. Tuivasa (13-3), known for drinking beer out of a shoe after victories, has won four in a row, all by KO/TKO.
Also on the card, Cannonier will take on Derek Brunson in what could be a middleweight title eliminator, Bobby Green and Nasrat Haqparast meet in a lightweight bout and women’s MMA pioneer Roxanne Modafferi makes her final walk to the Octagon against the up-and-coming Casey O’Neill at flyweight.
Follow along as Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim recap every fight or watch the card on ESPN+ PPV.
Fight in progress: Middleweight: AJ Dobson (6-0, 0-0 UFC, -110) vs. Jacob Malkoun (5-1, 1-1 UFC, -110)
Men’s bantamweight: Douglas Silva de Andrade (28-4, 6-4 UFC) def. Sergey Morozov (17-5, 1-2 UFC) by second-round submission
Douglas Silva de Andrade was dominated in Round 1, but found a submission finish in Round 2 to defeat Sergey Morozov. Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
Morozov, whose past success had come on the strength of his high-level wrestling, scored an early knockdown with a slick uppercut and seemed to fall in love with his hands. It cost him.
Silva de Andrade survived the knockdown and a nasty cut next to his right eye to make it to the end of the round. And with the fighters exchanging on their feet in Round 2, Silva de Andrade hurt his opponent with a punch and staggered him with a knee to the head. When the fight went to the mat again, this time Silva de Andrade was on top. He secured a rear-naked choke and got the finish at 3:34 of the round.
WOW!!! What a comeback!!! #UFC271
— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) February 12, 2022
Silva de Andrade, a 36-year-old from Brazil, has won three of his last four fights. Morozov, who is 32 and from Kazakhstan, has lost two of his last three fights after running off a five-fight winning streak.
Welterweight: Jeremiah Wells (10-2-1, 2-0 UFC) def. Mike Mathetha (3-1, 0-1 UFC) by first-round submission
Jeremiah Wells spoils the debut of Mike Mathetha with a rear-naked choke in Round 1.
Wells almost committed an all-time Octagon gaffe, slipping and nearly falling as he tried to charge in at the opening bell for an attack. Luckily for him, he didn’t just recover quickly. He got an early finish.
Wells beat Mike “Blood Diamond” Mathetha with a rear-naked choke submission at 4:38 of the first round, avoiding being part of the MMA blooper reel for the foreseeable future. Wells took Mathetha down pretty quickly after the initial slip, landed some ground and pound, took the back and then cinched in the choke.
“I ended up tripping, so I had to keep my composure and get back in here,” Wells said in his postfight interview.
Wells grinded that one out and got the first round sub 🔥🔥 #UFC271
— Terrance McKinney (@twrecks155) February 12, 2022
Wells, 35, is 2-0 in the UFC, both victories coming by finish. The Philadelphia native has won four straight and is a former Cage Fury FC welterweight champion.
Mathetha, a 33-year-old accomplished kickboxer, is a teammate of UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya at City Kickboxing in New Zealand. Adesanya, who fights in the UFC 271 main event, came to Toyota Center early Saturday to watch the fight.
Heavyweight: Maxim Grishin (32-9-2, 2-2 UFC) def. William Knight (11-3, 3-2 UFC) by unanimous decision
Maxim Grishin punches William Knight in the opening bout of UFC 271. Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
Maxim Grishin managed to pick up his second UFC win in a very forgettable three-round decision over Knight. The bout got off to a poor start on Friday, when Knight missed weight by a UFC record 12 pounds for what was supposed to be a 205-pound contest. He forfeited 40 percent of his purse for the miss, but the fight continued at heavyweight.
Knight, who has been known during his UFC career for his knockout power, was very inactive throughout, and Grishin took advantage with unanimous 30-27 scores. Knight’s only good moments came behind his wrestling, as he did take Grishin down a couple times. But the Russian quickly reversed position or worked his way back up. He hurt Knight with punches in the final moments of the fight.
Grishin, of Russia, is now 2-2 in the UFC.
Still to come:
Middleweight championship: Israel Adesanya (c) (21-1,10-1 UFC, -280) vs. Robert Whittaker (24-5, 14-3 UFC, +230)
Heavyweight: Derrick Lewis (26-8 1 NC, 17-6 UFC, -190) vs. Tai Tuivasa (14-3, 7-3 UFC, +160)
Middleweight: Jared Cannonier (14-5, 7-5 UFC, -160) vs. Derek Brunson (23-7, 14-5 UFC, +135)
Lightweight: Alexander Hernandez (13-4, 5-3 UFC, +145) vs. Renato Moicano (15-4-1, 7-4 UFC, -170)
Lightweight: Bobby Green (28-12-1, 9-7-1 UFC, -150) vs. Nasrat Haqparast (13-4, 5-3 UFC, +125)
Heavyweight: Andrei Arlovski (32-20 2NC, 21-14 1 NC UFC, -150) vs. Jared Vanderaa (12-6, 1-2 UFC, +125)
Women’s flyweight: Roxanne Modafferi (25-20, 4-8 UFC, +310) vs. Casey O’Neill (8-0, 3-0 UFC, -400)
Men’s bantamweight: Kyler Phillips (9-2, 3-1 UFC, -420) vs. Marcelo Rojo (16-8, 0-1 UFC, +330)
Light heavyweight: Carlos Ulberg (5-1, 0-1 UFC, -260) vs. Fabio Cherant (7-3, 0-2 UFC, +210)
Men’s bantamweight: Mana Martinez (9-2, 1-0 UFC, +240) vs. Ronnie Lawrence (7-1, 1-0 UFC, -300)