Undefeated middleweight Israel Adesanya took full advantage of his first UFC headlining spot by closing “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 27 Finale in style at the Palms, winning a decision over Las Vegan Brad Tavares on Friday night.
It was a star-making turn for Adesanya, a kickboxing specialist who improved to 14-0 overall in mixed martial arts and 3-0 in the UFC.
He picked apart Tavares for five full rounds with precise foot and hand strikes along with brutal knees and elbows.
“All the experts asked, ‘Is it too soon (for a top-10 opponent)? He’s only got two fights in the UFC,’ ” Adesanya said. “My first main event in only my third fight. I’m just getting started.”
Tavares had a brief glimmer of hope in the fourth round after securing a takedown, but he couldn’t lock up a choke, and Adesanya continued his assault once he got back to his feet.
It was a night of mixed results for the two other Las Vegans on the main card as Roxanne Modafferi scored a knockout victory while Julian Marquez was on the wrong side of a controversial split decision.
Modafferi avenged a 2011 defeat on the regional circuit by scoring her first UFC win as she stopped veteran Barb Honchak with a series of vicious elbows on the ground in a women’s flyweight bout.
“I have been preparing for this fight for a very long time,” she said. “I knew she was aggressive, so I wanted to challenge myself and take her down.”
Marquez was not as successful, although she landed several big shots in a back-and-forth slugfest against middleweight Alessio Di Chirico.
While Marquez won all three rounds on one scorecard, Di Chirico took the first and third on one card and the first and second on another to capture a split decision.
Two season champions for “The Ultimate Fighter” were also determined.
Brad Katona, a gym mate of Conor McGregor, won the featherweight title with a unanimous decision win over Jay Cucciniello.
The lightweight title went to Mike Trizano, who won a split decision when Joe Giannetti appeared to try to coast in the third round under the assumption he was ahead on the scorecards.
Also on the main card, veteran featherweight Alex Caceres outlasted Martin Bravo to take a split decision in a wild affair.
“I guess the fighter in me did get sucked into that brawl, but I wanted to show my range,” Caceres said.
Luis Pena, dubbed “Violent Bob Ross” for his similar look to the late television painter, highlighted the preliminary card with a first-round submission of lightweight Richie Smullen.
Montana de la Rosa and Gerald Meerschaert also won by submission.
John Gunther, Bryce Mitchell and Steven Peterson each won by decision.