UFC 259 Report: Aljamain Sterling wins UFC Bantamweight Championship by disqualification. Błachowicz and Nunes retain titles.
UFC 259 took place on Saturday night, from the UFC Apex Facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. This lengthy fifteen fight card was headlined by three title fights, and featured a number of prominent names throughout the rest of the event. The main event featured the UFC Middleweight Champion, Isreal Adesanya, moving up to the light heavyweight division to challenge Jan Błachowicz, in an attempt to achieve double champion status. Adesanya won the undisputed middleweight title by knocking out Robert Whittaker in October of 2019, and has defended the title twice since. Błachowicz won the vacated light heavyweight championship in September of 2020, when he stopped Dominick Reyes in the second round, and this would mark his first attempted title defence. Our second title fight featured the Woman’s Bantamweight and Featherweight Champion, Amanda Nunes, defending her 145lbs title against Megan Anderson. Nunes has been one of the most dominant champions of the past five years, and Anderson was naturally a sizeable underdog going into this fight. Finally, UFC Bantamweight Champion, Petr Yan, attempted to mount his first successful title defence against the division’s top contender, Aljamain Sterling.
The commentary team for this event consisted of Jon Anik, Joe Rogan, and Daniel Cormier. Performance bonuses were awarded to Uros Medic and Kai Kara-France. Fight of the Night bonuses went out to Kennedy Nzechukwu and Carlos Ulberg.
*Trevin Jones def. Mario Bautista by TKO at 0:40 of Round 2
*Uros Medic def. Aalon Cruz by TKO at 1:40 of Round 1
*Amanda Lemos def. Livinha Souza by TKO at 3:39 of Round 1
*Sean Brady def. Jake Matthews by arm triangle at 3:28 of Round 3
*Kennedy Nzechukwu def. Carlos Ulberg by TKO at 3:19 of Round 2
*Tim Elliott def. Jordan Espinosa by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-25)
*Kai Kara-France def. Rogério Bontorin by TKO at 4:55 of Round 1
*Askar Askarov def. Joseph Benavidez by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
*Kyler Phillips def. Yadong Song by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Dominick Cruz def. Casey Kenney by split decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)
*Aleksandar Rakić def. Thiago Santos by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
*Islam Makhachev def. Drew Dober by arm triangle at 1:37 of Round 3
*Aljamain Sterling def. Petr Yan by Disqualification at 4:29 of Round 4 to win the UFC Bantamweight Championship
*Amanda Nunes def. Megan Anderson by triangle armbar at 2:03 of Round 1 to retain the UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship
*Jan Błachowicz def. Israel Adesanya by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-45, 49-45) to retain the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship
MARIO BAUTISTA (8-1, 135.5) VS TREVIN JONES (12-6, 1 NC, 134.5) – BANTAMWEIGHT
A minute into the opening round, Bautista attempted to close the distance, and found himself with his back to the cage. He landed some solid kicks to the body after they separated, and he stuffed a takedown attempt from Jones. Bautista connected with a counter hook in the pocket, and he was looking very good on the feet early in this fight. Jones best offense throughout the first five minutes came from a large number of leg kicks, but I didn’t think they were enough for him to take the round. 10-9 Bautista.
The second round began, and Trevin Jones dropped Bautista hard with a lead right hand. Jones gave him no opportunity to recover, throwing down a number of hammerfists, and the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Trevin Jones by TKO at 0:40 of Round 2
I thought Bautista looked very good in the opening round, but Jones has legitimate power, and the shovel hook he used to end the fight was beautiful. Jones last fight was overturned to a no-contest, so this technically marks his first win in the promotion. He came off well in his post-fight interview, and Joe Rogan gave him permission to celebrate his win with some marijuana.
UROS MEDIC (6-0, 155) VS AALON CRUZ (8-3, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Medic was fighting aggressively to begin this fight, and Medic caught Cruz with a hard hook that wobbled him. Medic swarmed Cruz, chasing him down with a left hook and a flying knee. Cruz went down, and he was clearly done, but Mark Smith chose not to stop the fight immediately, and Medic just teed off on Cruz for an uncomfortable amount of time before the fight was finally stopped.
WINNER: Uros Medic by TKO at 1:40 of Round 1
Medic looked spectacular here. He wasted no time in going on the attack, and he quickly overwhelmed Cruz, hurting him multiple times and ultimately picking up the first-round finish. I thought the stoppage was pretty late here, but referee Mark Smith’s logic behind not stopping the fight likely came from the fact that Cruz was still moving despite the amount of damage he was taking. Regardless, this was an impressive performance from Medic, and he may very well be a prospect to keep an eye on as he makes his way up the rankings.
LIVINHA SOUZA (14-2, 116) VS AMANDA LEMOS (8-1-1, 116) – STRAWWEIGHT
Lemos was walking Souza down, teeing off on her with 1-2’s and kicks. She quickly dropped her against the cage, and she landed a series of strong ground and pound strikes before Souza picked herself back up. Moments later, Lemos dropped her yet again, this time with a jab, and the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Amanda Lemos by TKO at 3:39 of Round 1
Lemos was able to do whatever she wanted to in there. The entire fight (for its short duration) was just Lemos teeing off on Souza, and this was the type of performance that will keep the name “Amanda Lemos” in people’s minds. Lemos is now 3-1 in the UFC, and this was her 7th first round finish.
SEAN BRADY (13-0, 170.5) VS JAKE MATTHEWS (17-4, 169.5) – WELTERWEIGHT
Matthews was landing some quick combinations early and Brady responded with a left hook. Matthews connected with some great shots to the body, and I thought he was getting the better of their early exchanges on the feet. Brady seemed to slip as he got hit with a straight right, and in the scramble, he worked his way on top and into side control. Brady spent the remainder of the round on top, finishing the opening five minutes strongly. I narrowly gave Brady the round.
Matthews connected with a strong right hand to begin the second round. Brady took the fight back to the ground, and he began to work from half guard. Brady seemed to be looking for a choke, but he couldn’t find it. Still, Matthews was unable to get back to his feet, and Brady was really smothering Matthews with his wrestling. 20-18 Brady.
Brady landed a left hook early in the third round that rocked Matthews badly. Brady allowed him to recover, and took Matthews back to the ground a minute later. Brady beat up on him with short strikes on the ground, and then transitioned to an arm-triangle. He locked it in tightly, and Matthews was forced to submit.
WINNER: Sean Brady by arm triangle at 3:28 of Round 3
After a close opening round, Sean Brady took over this fight. He had a clear advantage on the ground, and he hurt Matthews on the feet in the third round as well. This was Brady’s toughest test yet on paper, and the fight really couldn’t have gone much better for him. He is now 4-0 in the UFC, and it feels like ranked competition is probably next for him. In his post-fight interview, Brady called out Belal Muhammad.
KENNEDY NZECHUKWU (7-1, 205.5) VS CARLOS ULBERG (3-0, 205) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
Ulberg rocked Nzechukwu seconds into the fight with a head kick, and he swarmed him, trying to finish the fight. Nzechukwu recovered, but Ulberg was fighting at a very high pace, and it felt like Nzechukwu was very hesitant to commit to anything. Ulberg landed a series of leg kicks, and some strong counter strikes as Nzechukwu moved forward. About halfway through the round, the momentum of the fight shifted. Nzechukwu was the man landing the stronger shots and pressing forward, but he walked right into a hard counter right hand, and he ate a ton of unanswered follow up shots to the body. Herb Dean told him to move, and so Nzechukwu connected with a pair of hooks that backed Ulberg up. They traded wildly to end a very exciting round. 10-9 Ulberg.
Both men looked tired going into the second round, but Ulberg continued to work with an impressive pace. He spent the first ninety seconds landing at will, until Nzechukwu responded with a pair of hard hooks. They continued to fight wildly, as they did in the first, and it felt as though the momentum was changing after every exchange. Nzechukwu backed Ulberg into the cage late in the round, landed a massive right hook, and Ulberg crumpled. He threw some massive hooks at the downed Ulberg, and Herb Dean stopped the fight.
WINNER: Kennedy Nzechukwu by TKO at 3:19 of Round 2
This was a spectacular fight. Early on, it looked as though Nzechukwu was completely overwhelmed, but this fight turned into a brutal war quickly. Ulberg was gassed by the second round, and Nzechukwu capitalized, pressing forward and picking up a highlight reel knockout, in what was a strong fight of the night candidate. Nzechukwu is now 2-1 in the UFC.
TIM ELLIOTT (16-11-1, 125.5) VS JORDAN ESPINOSA (15-8, 1 NC, 126) – FLYWEIGHT
A minute and a half into the opening round, Espinosa caught Elliott with a counter left hook, and Elliot went for a takedown in response. Espinosa defended it, and almost decapitated Elliott with a head kick, but Elliott narrowly avoided it, and succeeded in taking Espinosa down near the cage. Elliot rode out the remainder of the round in top position. 10-9 Elliot.
Much like the first round, Espinosa went for a head kick, Elliot ducked it, and he took Espinosa down. Espinosa made it back to his feet, but was immediately taken back down. Elliot attempted to transition from half guard, ultimately working his way to Espinosa’s back. He didn’t find the choke, but this round was all Elliot. Near the end of the round, Elliot called Espinosa a woman beater, which the mics picked up. 20-17 Elliott.
Once again, Elliot wasted no time in dragging Espinosa down to the ground. Espinosa elbowed Elliot from the bottom, and cut him open badly. Elliott positioned himself to make sure that his cut leaked right into Espinosa’s face, and he continued to dominate the fight with his wrestling. He ended the fight with strong ground and pound strikes. 30-26 Elliott.
WINNER: Tim Elliott by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-25)
Going into this one, I expected a competitive fight, but this one was all Elliott from the moment it hit the ground. This was a dominant performance, and I went as far as giving him a 10-8 in the second round. In his post fight interview, Elliott didn’t seem ecstatic about his win, but he made sure to stress his appreciation towards his coaches. Elliot has gone 2-2 since his loss to Deiveson Figueiredo in 2019.
ROGERIO BONTORIN (16-2, 1 NC, 126) VS KAI KARA-FRANCE (21-9, 1 NC, 125.5) – FLYWEIGHT
Bontorin was all pressure from the first minute of this fight. He took Kara-France down near the cage, and immediately took his back with a body triangle locked in. Bontorin began to search for the rear naked choke, but Kara-France was doing an excellent job of defending the attempt. At one point Kara-France made his way to his feet (with Bontorin still on his back), and it looked like Bontorin had the choke locked in, but he kept fighting the hands, and created some separation with seconds remaining in the round. Kara-France tagged him with an uppercut and a follow up right hand, and Bontorin face planted. Kara-France walked off, and he picked up a spectacular comeback knockout here.
WINNER: Kai Kara-France by TKO at 4:55 of Round 1
The ending of this fight was strange. It appeared as though Kara-France was confused on whether the fight was stopped or not, and almost rushed back (after walking off) to hit Bontorin with a follow up shot until Herb Dean clarified that the fight was over. Kara-France was five seconds away from being on the wrong end of a 10-8 round, and instead he picked up a first-round knockout. Kara-France is one of the most consistently entertaining fighters out there, and this one did not disappoint. Kara-France is now 5-2 in the UFC.
JOSEPH BENAVIDEZ (28-7, 125.5) VS ASKAR ASKAROV (13-0-1, 127) – FLYWEIGHT
Askarov missed the flyweight weight limit by one pound.
They exchanged kicks to begin the fight. Askarov tagged him with a straight right hand as Benavidez went in for a low kick. Askarov was throwing this strong front kick to the body of Benavidez that continuously found its home. Askarov caught Benavidez with another right hand that Benavidez reacted to, as well as a straight left. Benavidez landed some decent shots of his own throughout the round, but by and large, it was Askarov who was landing more, and harder. He took Benavidez down to end the round. 10-9 Askarov.
Benavidez began the second round with a leg kick, and Askarov responded with that front kick to the body. Benavidez swarmed Askarov, and landed some wild strikes in his combination, but Askarov backed him off with a pair of strong right hands, cutting Benavidez open, and then taking him down. Benavidez continuously worked his way back to his feet, but was taken back down every time. The grappling was something to behold here, because Benavidez is the one of the best fighters in the history of the sport in the scramble, and Askarov managed to retain dominant position every time. Askarov caught Benavidez with a strong right hand before time expired. I thought this was a 10-8 round, and had the fight scored 20-17 Askarov going into the third.
Askarov hit Benavidez with a question mark kick, moments into the third round. Benavidez was throwing hard shots, knowing that he needed a finish, but Askarov was able to avoid most of them, and counter Benavidez repeatedly. Benavidez did land a strong right hand towards the end of the round, but Askarov was unphased, and while this was the closest round of the fight, I still scored it for Askarov. 30-26 Askarov.
WINNER: Askar Askarov by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Joseph Benavidez has more or less been the top ranked contender in the UFC flyweight division since its inception. Going into this fight, he had only lost one non-title fight in the promotion, and not only did Askar Askarov beat Benavidez here, but he made it look easy. He landed the better shots on the feet, and had a huge advantage in the wrestling department, an area in which it is normally not advisable to engage Benavidez. Askarov did miss weight for this fight, so I can’t say this was a perfect night out for him, but it was pretty close. Askarov is now 3-0-1 in the UFC.
YADONG SONG (16-4-1, 1 NC, 135.5) VS KYLER PHILLIPS (8-1, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Phillips began the fight strongly, with a ton of body kicks. He landed a flush head kick, and Yadong remarkably just ate it and continued moving forward. Phillips connected with a right hook, and proceeded to take Yadong down. Yadong quickly got back to his feet, and he caught Phillips with an uppercut, as well as a follow up right hand. 10-9 Phillips, after a solid opening round.
Both men connected with hard hooks in the pocket, as they traded wildly against the cage. Phillips continued to land a wide variety of kicks, and went for another takedown that Yadong popped back up from. As Yadong was working his way in, Phillips threw out a jab that knocked Yadong off balance. He took Yadong down one more time, and while he was able to hold Yadong down longer then then his previous attempts, Yadong still worked his way back to his feet before the end of the round. 20-18 Phillips.
Yadong’s corner let him know that he needed a finish to win this fight. Yadong stuffed Phillips first takedown of the round, and he landed a left hook shortly after. Yadong connected with a straight right hand, and he continued to walk Phillips down, landing in combination. Phillips took Yadong down, but it was Yadong who found his way on top. Unfortunately, he didn’t really have time to work, and was unable to work his way back to his feet either. I gave Yadong the round, but scored the fight 29-28 for Phillips.
WINNER: Kyler Phillips by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
This was a good fight between two men who were fighting at a high level in there. Yadong ate some shots that would have knocked most fighters out in the first round, but he continued to march forward, and he rebounded in the third. Still, this was Phillip’s fight, and while he picked up a finish in his last bout, I thought this was the best performance of his UFC run thus far. He is now 3-0 in the promotion.
DOMINICK CRUZ (22-3, 136) VS CASEY KENNEY (16-2-1, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Kenney stuffed Cruz’s first takedown attempt of the fight. They exchanged leg kicks, and Cruz followed up with a clean head kick. Cruz connected with a right hand, and Kenney simultaneously countered with a hook. Cruz found a home for his step in right hand multiple times, and he seemed to be out landing Kenney. Kenney did connect with a large number of low kicks however, a strategy that has been used against Cruz and his unique movement before. 10-9 Cruz.
Kenney continued to attack the leg in the second round, and defended another takedown attempt. Cruz landed a left hand, and snuck another head kick in there. Cruz’s lead leg was very red by the mid-way point of the round. Both fighters found success with quick combinations, but Cruz seemed to be landing the better punches. The kicking game belonged to Kenney though, who was really beating up Cruz’s legs, and he landed a strong hook near the end of the round. This was a razor close round, but I gave it to Cruz.
Cruz was finally able to get Kenney to the ground in the opening minute of the third. Kenney threatened the guillotine, but didn’t have the positon to really finish it. Kenney picked himself up and they separated. Cruz landed another right hand, and Kenney responded with a strong right hand of his own. They traded against the cage, and Cruz landed a strong combination that backed Kenney up. Cruz stopped a takedown attempt, and landed a knee to the body. Cruz proceeded to take Kenney down near the cage, and he ended the round on top. I scored the fight 30-27 for Dominick Cruz.
WINNER: Dominick Cruz by split decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)
This was a close fight, but I think the right fighter ultimately got his hand raised here. It’s always great to see Dominick Cruz fight, and despite all the time off and all the injuries throughout the last decade, I thought Cruz looked true to form here against one of the top prospects at bantamweight. In one of the strangest post-fight interviews you’ll see, Cruz called for a charity fight against Hans Molenkamp from Monster Energy, stating that Molenkamp has holding fighters contracts hostage, while forcing them to do PR events for him. Joe Rogan apologized for things getting “political” and a puzzled Cruz responded that this is about Monster Energy. I have no idea what to make of any of this, but I imagine more will be revealed soon.
THIAGO SANTOS (21-8, 206) VS ALEKSANDAR RAKIC (13-2, 206) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
The opening two minutes were mostly a feeling out process, although both fighters landed a few significant leg kicks. Santos landed a hard body kick, and then moved in with a powerful left hand. Both fighters missed with some wild looping shots. This was a rather uneventful round, and thus it wasn’t easy to score. I gave it to Rakić based off of the leg kicks that he landed throughout the round.
The second round began at a similar pace. Rakić pressed Santos against the cage about two and half minutes into the round. Santos landed a hook when they broke apart, and they continued to exchange leg kicks. Rakić landed a counter left hand late in the round, while the commentary team discussed their disappointment with the fight thus far. 20-18 Rakić on my scorecard.
Santos shot for a takedown that Rakić shrugged off. Santos landed a heavy kick to the body, but was unable to follow up on it. Santos attacked the lead leg of Rakić, and mixed in the occasional body shot. Rakić shot for a takedown, but Santos defended it and landed a number of short strikes that forced Rakić to abandon the attempt. This one went the distance, and I did think that Santos took this final round. 29-28 Rakić.
WINNER: Aleksandar Rakić by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
I had very high expectations going into this fight, but unfortunately, it was a very dull fight. Obviously, both of these men are heavy hitters, but it left both fighters hesitant to engage. There is not much that can be broke down regarding this fight, but Rakić is now 6-1 in the UFC, and a win over the 2nd ranked Thiago Santos will certainly move him into title contention. I don’t believe his next fight will be for the title, but I think it’s fair to say that he is only a fight away at this point. After the fight, Rakić received his brown belt (as the commentators discussed the lack of jiu-jitsu in the fight).
DREW DOBER (23-9, 1 NC, 156) VS ISLAM MAKHACHEV (18-1, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Dober opened up with a pair of leg kicks, and a straight right hand. Makhachev got Dober down with a single leg and began to work from half guard. Makhachev made his way through Dober’s guard as he attempted to move into mount. Dober almost escaped at one point, but Makhachev was too slick with his grappling, and Makhachev almost caught him with an armbar. Dober avoided it however, and made it into the second round. 10-9 Makhachev.
Dober defended Makhachev’s first takedown attempt, but Makhachev stuck with it, and put him down near the cage. Dober attempted to pick himself up against the cage, but Makhachev wrapped up his legs and landed some left hands. Makhachev controlled the entire round, and he landed some strong elbows near the end of the round. There were no questions about who was ahead on the scorecards going into the final round.
It took less then thirty seconds for Makhachev to take Dober back to the ground. Dober searched for a kimura from his back, but Islam had no issues avoiding it, and moved into an inverted arm triangle choke. Dober tapped, and Islam Makhachev picked up the third-round submission
WINNER: Islam Makhachev by arm triangle at 1:37 of Round 3
This was a very dominant win for Islam Makhachev, who controlled every second of this fight against a strong opponent. It’s beyond wild that Islam hasn’t faced a top ten opponent yet, but I think its almost a certainty that his next one will be against a high ranked lightweight. Personally, I like the idea of Diego Ferreira, but I think it’s more likely that they will find a bigger name for him to headline a fight night against. Tony Ferguson, Paul Felder, Dan Hooker, RDA: I think we’ll probably see Makhachev in there with that caliber of fighter next. Makhachev is now 8-1 in the UFC.
PETR YAN (15-1, 135) VS ALJAMAIN STERLING (19-3, 134.5) – UFC BANTAMWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
They touched gloves to begin the fight. Sterling began the fight pressing forward while throwing body kicks. Sterling connected with a knee to the head, and Yan was on the retreat early. Yan landed a strong body kick of his own, and he took Sterling down in the middle of the cage, before allowing him to return to his feet. Sterling landed another knee to the head, but Yan defended the following takedown attempt. Sterling took Yan down near the cage, but Yan quickly worked his way up. Yan knocked Sterling down with a powerful right hand when they separated, but Sterling recovered quickly. Yan ended the round with another strong takedown, but Sterling worked his way up before the rounds end. 10-9 Yan.
Sterling slipped on a kick and Yan kicked him in the leg until they were stood up. Yan defended a pair of takedown attempts near the cage, and these were takedown attempts that Sterling was putting everything behind, so while Yan kept the fight on the feet, Sterling racked up the control time against the cage. The pace and pressure that Sterling was fighting with was very impressive. Yan took him down near the end of the round, but Sterling got right back to his feet. 19-19.
Yan began the third round strongly on the feet, and defended another takedown attempt from Sterling. Yan was really starting to land at will, and he landed some beautiful body kicks throughout the round. Yan threw Sterling to the ground and allowed him to get back to his feet. Sterling connected with a series of leg kicks near the end of the round, but Yan ended it with another takedown. 29-28 Yan.
Yan swept Sterling’s leg out from under him yet again to kick off the fourth round. They exchanged body shots, and Yan landed a solid hook, as well as a straight left hand. He continued to defend Sterling’s takedown attempts, and Yan’s kicks to the body were looking as though they were beginning to take their toll on Sterling. Sterling landed another left hand that looked like it hurt Sterling, and by this point in the fight, Yan was really pulling ahead. Just when things looked as though things were at their worst for Sterling, Yan landed a blatantly illegal knee to the head. The doctor was brought in, and the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Aljamain Sterling by Disqualification at 4:29 of Round 4 to win the UFC Bantamweight Championship.
Apparently, Yan asked his corner if he should throw the knee, and he was told “yes”, and so that’s exactly what he did. The knee was illegal as it gets, and the seconded it landed, it was rather clear that Yan was going to be disqualified given the circumstances. This will be looked back at as one of the poorest in-fight decisions made by a fighter in UFC history, especially because Yan was really starting to pull away with the fight. Sterling was understandably very emotional in his post-fight interview, and I suppose the rule about interviewing knocked out fighters doesn’t apply when they win the fight. Sterling expressed his disappointment with the way things ended here, and one has to imagine that this fight will be ran back soon (although names such as Cory Sandhagen and T.J. Dillashaw loom in the picture). This marked the first time a UFC Championship has changed hands by disqualification.
AMANDA NUNES (20-4, 145) VS MEGAN ANDERSON (11-4, 145.4) – UFC FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Nunes landed a hard right hand early, and Anderson was clearly hurt. Nunes backed her into the cage, and Anderson shot for a desperation takedown. Nunes easily defended it, and took Anderson’s back, locked in a triangle armbar, and Anderson was forced to tap.
WINNER: Amanda Nunes by triangle armbar at 2:03 of Round 1 to retain the UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship
Nunes was a massive favourite for a good reason. She hurt Anderson a minute into the fight, and had no issues finishing things on the ground. She has one of the greatest resumes in the history of the sport, and she added to it here with her third successful featherweight title defence (she has four title defences at bantamweight as well). Nunes has won her last twelve fights, and it’s hard to imagine a fighter knocking her off of her throne right now. Nunes celebrated with her wife and child in the cage following the fight, sent her condolences to all the victims of COVID-19 in Brazil, and acknowledged the lack of strong competition for her, which is of course, not her fault in the slightest. I assume her next fight will be back at bantamweight, as there are literally no fights left for her at featherweight, and her bantamweight title was last defended back in 2019.
JAN BLACHOWICZ (27-8, 205) VS ISRAEL ADESANYA (20-0, 200.5) – UFC LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Adesanya avoided an early combination from Błachowicz. Błachowicz went for a high kick that Adesanya got his hands up for. They exchanged leg kicks. Adesanya landed a front kick to the body. Adesanya was feinting a great deal throughout the round, and while there was not a ton of activity on either side, a lot of groundwork was laid out for the rest of the fight.
Błachowicz checked a leg kick to begin the second round. Adesanya landed a hook, and Błachowicz responded with a hard combination that ended with a body kick. Błachowicz had a solid moment of success in the clinch where he threw Adesanya aside and landed a few times before they separated completely. They exchanged kicks to the body. Adesanya threw a kick that landed low, and the action was paused momentarily. Joe Rogan was convinced that Błachowicz was getting picked apart, but in reality, this was another close round, and I had it tied up going into round 3.
Adesanya hurt Błachowicz with a left hand about a minute into the third round, but Błachowicz created some separation, and after he recovered, he wrapped Adesanya up in the clinch against the cage. Adesanya broke away and they exchanged strong jabs. Adesanya continued to chip away on the lead leg of Błachowicz, and they exchanged jabs yet again. Błachowicz brought Adesanya back up against the fence near the end of the round, but he couldn’t keep him there for long. 29-28 Adesanya.
Błachowicz began the fourth round with a takedown attempt that Adesanya defended, and Błachowicz landed a solid shot after they broke apart. Another kick to the body connected for Błachowicz, and he took Adesanya down in the middle of the cage. He spent a significant amount of time on top, but Adesanya did a good job of keeping him from advancing. With a minute remaining in the round however, Błachowicz was able to move into side control, and he ended the round on top. I had the fight 38-38 going into the final round.
Błachowicz landed a hard leg kick and a right hand to begin the fifth round. Another strong jab for Błachowicz, and Adesanya responded with a right hand. They exchanged shots pretty evenly throughout the round, and Adesanya landed a spinning back kick to the body. Błachowicz took Adesanya down one more time, and began to work from Adesanya’s guard. Błachowicz moved into half guard, and smothered Adesanya as he racked up the control time late in the round. Błachowicz ended the round with strong ground and pound, and I scored the fight 48-47 in his favour.
WINNER: Jan Błachowicz by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-45, 49-45) to retain the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship
The first three rounds of this fight were razor close, but Błachowicz pulled ahead with his wrestling in the championship rounds. This wasn’t a high pace fight, but it was still very engaging, and the adjustments that were made by both fighters throughout the fight showcased why they are both UFC Champions. Błachowicz has really turned into an elite fighter, and this win over Israel Adesanya cemented his status as the world champion, after stopping Dominick Reyes for the vacant championship last year. In his post-fight interview, Błachowicz confirmed that he will face Glover Teixeira next, and that is certainly the logical fight to make at 205lbs. As for Israel Adesanya, he gave a good account of himself despite ultimately failing in his quest to become a two-division champion, and stated that he will return to middleweight (but plans to return to light heavyweight in the future). I assume if Robert Whittaker defeats Paulo Costa, that’s the fight that will get ran back, but there remains plenty of options for Israel Adesanya.