UFC 243 went down last night (Sat., Oct. 5, 2019) live on ESPN+ PPV from inside Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia, featuring a Middleweight title unification match that saw Israel Adesnaya knockout Robert Whittaker in the second round to unify the titles and become the undisputed 185-pound champion (highlights). In the co-main event, Dan Hooker dominated Al Iaquinta from the opening bell to take home an impressive unanimous decision win, which is perhaps the biggest win for him to date (full recap here).
Biggest Winner: Israel Adesanya
Adesanya talked the talk and he walked the walk, as “The Last Stylebender” became the undisputed champion at 185 pounds after knocking out “Bobby Knuckles” in the headlining bout. Indeed, Adesanya showed great poise in the biggest fight of his career, using his size and reach advantage to perfection, out-striking “The Reaper” en route to clipping him in round two, and then proceeding to finish him off with ground-and-pound. But the writing was already on the wall, as Adesanya knocked down Whittaker at the end of round one, and if he had more time the fight would have likely ended there.
The win moves Adesanya to 18-0 in mixed martial arts (MMA), including winning all seven of his UFC fights. It’s a fast rise for the Nigerian-born combatant, as he made his UFC debut just 18 months ago. Now, he will have to live up to his promise of being an active champion. And if he does that, he could be well on his way to becoming UFC’s next big star, which means bigger paydays, as well. That said, the title-winning performance also put him one step closer to a future champion vs. champion showdown against Jon Jones. Yes, really.
Runner Up: Dan Hooker
Coming into the fight, many expected the showdown between Hooker and Al Iaquinta to be a back-and-forth war, with most predicting “Ragin’ Al” would likely earn the victory. “Hangman,” though, had other plans, turning in a dominant performance “Down Under.” Indeed, Hooker stayed calm, cool and collected during the pivotal 155-pound showdown, taking some of Iaquinta’s best hits without seemingly getting fazed.
When Hooker popped off his own offense, it was technical all the way around, attacking different points of Iaquinta’s body, seemingly nailing his team’s game-plan to perfection. When Hooker wanted to land, he did, especially later on in the bout as Iaquinta was fighting on one leg thanks to the damage his foe levied upon the other. That gave Hooker opportunities to land crisp shots at will on his way to a clear-cut victory. As far as his callout of Dustin Poirier, that is highly-unlikely to happen next because “The Diamond” is fresh off a championship fight against the best 155-pound fighter on the planet, while Hooker hasn’t cracked the Top 10 ... yet. Still, big things are coming for “Hangman” after this performance.
Biggest Loser: Robert Whittaker
Whittaker’s title reign came to a crashing halt last night after Adesanya knocked out the now-former champ in round two of the headlining bout. The loss is Whittaker's first in five years ... and his first at 185 pounds. While “Bobby Knuckles” did win the strap in 2017, he never actually defended it, as his last fight against Yoel Romero was a non-title contest due to “Soldier of God” coming in heavy. It’s a tough loss for Whittaker, as not only did it come in front of his hometown crowd, family included, but it also cost him the strap he worked so hard to get. But that’s the fight game, and while Whittaker is one of the good guys in MMA, that isn’t a repellent for high-profile defeats.
Biggest Loser (runner up) : Tai Tuivasa
I had to throw another man who lost big last night, and that is Tuivasa. When he came into UFC back in 2017, “Bam Bam” looked like he would be a legit force to be reckoned with in the Heavyweight division. Proving to have heavy hands, he won his first eight pro fights — including his first two UFC bouts — all via first-round knockout, and then taking a unanimous decision over Andrei Arlovski. Tuivasa showed all the traits of a potential title contender. But in the last 10 months, “Bam Bam” has now dropped three straight, including getting dominated Sergey Spivak last night in Melbourne.
Indeed, Spivak — who didn’t have a UFC win up until last night — battered Tuivasa before choking him out in round two. Where it all has gone wrong for Tuivasa is unclear, but dropping three straight won’t be good for his UFC future. Granted, I highly doubt he will get cut with the loss, but it will put major pressure on him for his next outing, as another loss could put his UFC career in limbo. That said, Tuivasa does have the ability to collect wins rather quickly, so he still has a chance to right his ship. His next fight in UFC — assuming he gets another crack — is indeed do-or-die.
For complete UFC 243 results and coverage click here.