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Israel Adesanya retains middleweight title at UFC 271

Updated February 14, 2022 - 5:32 am

HOUSTON — Israel Adesanya defeated Robert Whittaker by unanimous decision to retain his title and maintain control of the middleweight division at UFC 271 on Saturday night.

Adesanya (23-1) won his 11th straight middleweight fight in the UFC and remained undefeated. The judges scored it 48-47, 48-47, 49-46 in favor of Adesanya, who has won all four of his title defenses — three by unanimous decision and one by knockout.

The fight, a rematch of Adesanya’s title win over Whittaker (23-6) by second-round knockout at UFC 243 in 2019, was even throughout, with Whittaker taking the champion down several times. But Adesanya also landed punches to Whittaker’s face and kicks to his ribs.

After Adesanya controlled most of the first round, Whittaker rebounded in the second to take the champion down against the cage midway through the round and land two punches to the face. But Adesanya got out of Whittaker’s hold and landed two punches.

After a fairly even third round, Whittaker took down Adesanya 1½ minutes into the fourth round and got on the champion’s back to try to lock in a choke, but Adesanya again broke free of the hold.

In the final round, Whittaker tried twice to take Adesanya down, but the champion got up both times. The two locked up several times against the cage, with Adesanya able to break from of Whittaker’s grasp each time and landing punches to Whittaker’s face.

The next contender for the UFC middleweight title might be Jared Cannonier (15-5), who knocked out Derek Brunson (23-8) in the second round.

After being taken down three times in the first round, Cannonier, the third-ranked middleweight, fought back in the second round, elbowing the fourth-ranked Brunson and dazing him before taking him down to the mat and knocking out Brunson with punches to the head.

Cannonier said he wanted the next shot at the middleweight champion, demanding UFC president Dana White give him the opportunity.

In the co-main event, Tai Tuivasa (14-3) knocked out Houston native and third-ranked heavyweight Derrick Lewis (26-7) in the second round. Tuivasa, who has won five straight fights by knockout, recovered from a first round in which he was taken to the mat twice.

Tuivasa came out in the second round landing punches on Lewis and backing him up to the cage before landing a right elbow to the left side of his face, knocking out Lewis, who fell face-first onto the mat.

Lewis has lost two of his past three fights, with both losses coming in Houston.

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