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Recapping UFC 243 and where Israel Adesanya can go from here

Ben Knape

UFC 243 was undoubtedly one of the most action-packed and anticipated cards of 2019. With Robert Whittaker making his return to the octagon after over a year matched up against one of the most dynamic and exciting strikers the UFC has ever seen, in Israel Adesanya. The event took place in Melbourne, Australia, and featured many of the best fighters in the Oceania region. A whopping 57,127 fans were in attendance, setting a new UFC record.

Kicking off the main card was a heavyweight bout between New Zealand native Justin Tafa, and Yorgan ‘The Mad Titan’ De Castro. The two came out throwing bombs, but it was De Castro who caught Tafa with a massive right hook in the second minute of round one. The Mad Titan’s impressive UFC debut earned him a performance of the night bonus of $50,000.

The second fight of the main card was a welterweight bout, which ended in a decision win for Dhiego Lima. Lima got the best of Luke Jumeau after three rounds in a relatively unexciting match.

Next up was a heavyweight matchup between Australian fighter, Tai Tuivasa, and Sergey ‘Polar Bear’ Spivak. Tuivasa dished out a barrage of haymakers in the first round, but was easily out wrestled by Spivak. The fight ended in the second round with Spivak submitting Tuivasa via an arm-triangle choke.

Moving on, we have the co-main event. An unusual matchup between number 6 lightweight contender, ‘Raging’ Al Iaquinta, and number 15 lightweight contender, Dan Hooker. Hooker propelled himself into the top 15 after an impressive first round knockout win against James Vick during UFC on ESPN 4. He continued to impress during UFC 243 as he dominated Iaquinta; throwing nearly three times the amount of strikes and securing himself a possible top 10 ranking in the 155lb division. The fight went to the judges scorecards after three rounds, giving Hooker the win by unanimous decision.

Finally we arrive at our main event, the UFC middleweight title fight between Australian native and defending champion, Robert Whittaker, and the undefeated interim champion Israel Adesanya. Whittaker’s return to the octagon was highly anticipated as he had been battling with injuries for over a year, and this would be his first official title defense. Adesanya, on the other hand, had been on an absolute war path the year leading up to this fight. During that time he TKO’d Derek Brunson, got the best of UFC legend Anderson Silva, and beat Kelvin Gastelum in a five round interim championship fight. All of that lead him to Robert Whittaker.

Round one started out with the two exchanging blows, and ended with a massive knockdown for Adesanya which left Whittaker visibly hurt. During the second round, an exchange of punches between the two led to Adesanya landing a powerful counter left uppercut that dropped Whittaker. Adesanya’s follow up punches proved to be too much for Whittaker, and the fight ended with Adesanya adding another knockout to his perfect record. Adesanya received a $50,000 performance of the night bonus for his impressive KO.

Adesanya’s rise to the top of the division is unlike anything the UFC has ever seen. For reference, it took Conor McGregor 2 and a half years to get his first UFC title, Adesanya did it in just a year and a half. Additionally, Israel is a phenomenal entertainer outside of just fighting, with no shortage of quotable one-liners or dance moves. It’s becoming undeniable that the new king of the middleweights is making his mark as one of the most marketable and exciting fighters in mixed martial arts.

What’s next for Israel Adesanya?:

After his incredible second round knockout of former middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker, Israel Adesanya has blasted off into UFC stardom. Speculation as to what Adesanya’s next move could be has been buzzing throughout the mma twittersphere.

UFC heavyweight Francis Ngannou shared his thoughts on Sunday via Twitter saying, “I think Adesanya is moving up to light heavyweight just to fight Jones lol.”

And while that’s undoubtedly a fight fans would love to see; Jones didn’t seem to think Israel is up for the task, responding to Ngannou’s tweet with, “By the time this kid gets his confidence together I’ll probably already be in the heavyweight division.”

Adesanya did not take kindly to Jones’ remark, speaking with Ariel Helwani on Monday he responded:

“My confidence? Get my f*cking nuts out of your mouth, bruh. . . This guy obviously is trying to force my hand. He’s trying to force my hand and I’m not stupid. It’s not about I’m not confident. Trust me, I will f*ck this motherf*cker up when I fight him. I just have to do what I have to do. I have to defend my belt. I just defended my belt and I am the new unified king. There’s three more killers, four more killers I have to f*ck up at middleweight first. And then, then I will move up in weight, then I’ll jump up and f*ck this guy [up].”

So while a fight between the light heavyweight champion Jon ‘Bones’ Jones, and new middleweight champion appears inevitable; we’ll likely see Adesanya defend his middleweight belt first.

That brings us to Paulo Costa. Costa is one of the scariest middleweights in the division right now, with wins over the likes of UFC legends Urijah Hall, and Yoel Romero. Costa is currently the number two ranked middleweight contender thanks to his win against Yoel Romero at UFC 241, a fight many believe to be a fight of the year contender.

Costa sat front row at UFC 243 on Saturday and exchanged profanities with Adesanya following the title fight. Sources recently reported to that Costa and Adesanya’s teams were in negotiations following his win Saturday and have an agreed upon date of March 2020. If all goes to plan and the two square off in March, it would be the first middleweight title fight between two undefeated contenders.

Israel Adesanya’s popularity has exploded during 2019, and his first title defense is surely one of the most anticipated fights of 2020. Paulo Costa will no doubt have to bring his A game if he’s to take on ‘The Last Stylebender’ because it doesn’t appear Israel is going to go out easy.

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