Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the pay-per-view (PPV) market later TONIGHT (Sat., Feb. 12, 2022) as UFC 271 is set to go down from inside Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. Headlining the ESPN+-streamed event will be a Middleweight championship rematch between current division king, Israel Adesanya, and ex-titleholder, Robert Whittaker. In the pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event, Derrick Lewis will once again compete in front of his hometown crowd when he takes on fellow Heavyweight contender Tai Tuivasa.
As a Middleweight, Adesanya is still undefeated (21-0). The lone blemish on his otherwise mint mixed martial arts (MMA) record is a loss to former Light Heavyweight champion, Jan Blachowicz. Adesanya attempted to become a UFC champ-champ at UFC 259, but ultimately came up short in his bid to dethrone the Polish bomber, who has since been taken out by Glover Teixeira. Still, in three years with UFC, “The Last Stylebender” — who is now one of the highest-paid fighters in the promotion — quickly became a threat and eventual champion by racking up wins left and right to the tune of 10 straight victories at 185 pounds. In just his sixth fight he tasted UFC gold by winning the interim strap in a memorable bout against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236 before becoming the undisputed champion thanks to a thunderous knockout win over Robert Whittaker at UFC 243 in 2019 (see it here). He has defended the title three times since then and now he is back to “The Reaper,” who is trying to reclaim the throne after a short stint as champion.
Speaking of Whittaker, he never got the chance to defend the title because his bout against Yoel Romero was a non-title fight because “Soldier of God” missed weight. But, aside from his knockout loss to Adesanya, Whittaker has been on a tear for the last eight years, winning 12 of 13 fights. Now, “Bobby Knuckles” has the chance at redemption against one of the sport's biggest stars. Since his crushing defeat to “Last Stylebender,” Whittaker has gone on to win three straight over Kelvin Gastelum, Darren Till and Jared Cannonier, so it goes to show that the Aussie hasn’t lost a step. But, his fight against Adesanya is a must-win because if he goes down 0-2 against him the chances of him getting another crack at the crown will be slim as long as Adesanya is king. Just like Cain Velasquez did with Junior dos Santos, Jon Jones with Daniel Cormier, and Dominick Cruz with Urijah Faber, Adesanya wants to prove that he has Whittaker’s number. But, unlike those three aforementioned rivalries, this one doesn’t feel bitter, at all. There really is no friction or heat between the two men, so it’s not like this fight has generated as much buzz as it should have. Then again, Whittaker has always managed to shy away from trash talk and while “Izzy” is one of the best to do it, he hasn’t really fired any verbal venom toward his foe. And in the rare times that he does, it doesn’t exactly sting.
As for the fight itself, now that Whittaker has first-hand experience of what Adesanya brings to the table it will be interesting to see what (if any) adjustments he makes to his gameplan. Adesanya out-struck him in the first fight, something we rarely see people do to the former champion. Whittaker has faced several great strikers in the past but what Adesanya has on most of them is a height and reach advantage, which he utilizes very well. We didn’t get to see much of a ground battle between them in the first fight so perhaps Whittaker might want to take it there. That’s not to say he’s afraid of a good old-fashioned fistfight, but Adesanya clearly has the advantage on the feet. If “The Last Stylebnder” manages to get another win over Whittaker, his stock will go through the roof and he could parlay that into perhaps another shot at the 205-pound title. Not that he doesn’t have plenty of contenders to deal with at 185 pounds, but I get the feeling “Izzy” might be a bit bored in the division.
There really isn’t much to complain about here. The rematch between Adesanya and Whittaker should be electric and the matchmakers surrounded the main event with a bevy of great fights. Even the undercard is loaded with great match ups.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
Mark Madsen and Vinc Pichel were set to collide at this event before it was moved to UFC 273 on April 9, 2022, for undisclosed reasons. Orion Cosce pulled out of his scheduled bout against Mike Mathetha and was replaced by Jeremiah Wells. Also, Ed Herman was in line to face Maxim Grishin in a light heavyweight fight before he, too, pulled out of the fight inexplicably. Stepping up to the fill the void on the “Prelims” is William Knight, who is currently enjoying a two-fight win streak. However, during the weigh-ins, Knight missed weight by a whopping 12 pounds, prompting UFC officials to move the bout to Heavyweight.
Also, a fight between Alex Perez and Matt Schnell was canceled the day before the event after Perez missed weight by two pounds. Schnell was given the opportunity to continue on with the fight at a Catchweight and accept a portion of Perez’s fight purse, but ultimately decided against it because he felt Perez would have a distinct weight advantage over him come fight night.
No injuries were reported for this event!
In what will be just his fourth professional MMA fight, Mathetha gets a chance on the big stage when he battles Jeremiah Wells. After making his professional debut in 2017 — which he won via technical knockout — Mathetha returned one year later to earn a submission win in his sophomore effort. He then took a two-year break to earn a unanimous decision win, and now he finds himself competing for UFC two years after his last fight.
A.J. Dobson will get his first official UFC fight after shining on Contender Series when he takes on Jacob Malkoun. Dobson is undefeated (6-0-1), while Malkoun came up short in his own UFC debut against Phil Hawes. He did bounce back, however, in his sophomore fight by picking up a win over Abdul Razak Alhassan.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
Despite being on a two-fight win streak, Andrei Arlovski still finds himself on the undercard of a major PPV event. He will attempt to make it three straight inside the Octagon in more than six years when he battles Jared Vanderaa in a battle of big men. Vanderaa is in search of a win after he was knocked out by Alexander Romonov just four months ago.
After a combat career spanning nearly two decades that has seen her compete all over the world and in various organizations, Roxanne Modafferi will compete in her final MMA fight in “H-Town.” Indeed, “The Happy Warrior” announced that she would be retiring from MMA win, lose, or draw against Casey O'Neill. Modafferi is currently on a two-fight skid so she would love nothing more than to go out with a win. It’s going to be a tall task, to say the least, because O’Neill is currently undefeated at 8-0, which includes three straight finishes under the UFC banner.
In the Bantamweight division, Ronnie Lawrence will go for his fifth straight win when he battles Mana Martinez, who is on a three-fight win streak and coming off a nice UFC debut win against Guido Cannetti. Also, a “pissed off” Alexander Hernandez — who at one time was considered a legit contender at 155 pounds — will look to build some momentum following his win over Mike Breeden in Oct. 2021. Over the last three years, Hernandez has yet to win back-to-back fights inside the Octagon. His opponent, Renato Moicano, has also been rather inconsistent with the wins, collecting a 2-3 record over his last five fights under the UFC banner.
After falling flat in his UFC debut against Umar Nurmagomedov, Sergey Morozov returned to pick up a nice win against Khalid Taha. Up next for the Kazakhstan native is a showdown against Douglas Silva de Andrade, who is in search of his first consecutive win streak in nearly six years. With a record of 5-4 under the UFC banner, Andrade has faced some of the very best the 135-pound class has to offer including scoring big wins over Marlon Vera and Renan Barao. Along the way, he also suffered losses to current interim champion, Petr Yan, and top contender, Rob Font.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
The only man who is possibly on the chopping block coming into the event is Fabio Cherant, who is winless in his first two attempts inside the Octagon. In his UFC debut, Cherant came up short against Alonzo Menifield after he was choked out in the very first round. Five months later, he was knocked out by William Knight in the first round, too. Should he come up short in his third attempt, this time against Carlos Ulberg on the undercard, he could find himself out of the promotion.
Interest Level: 8.5/10
In the co-main event, Derrick Lewis will once again compete in front of his family and friends who also call Houston home. In his previous bout in the Toyota Center, “Black Beast” failed to win the interim title after he was knocked out by Ciryl Gane at UFC 265. He managed to bounce back by picking up a win over Chris Daukaus in Dec. 2021, which allowed him to hang around the Top 5. In the 265-pound division, it doesn’t take a lot to earn a crack at the title again, so if Lewis can earn one of his traditional violent knockout wins, and then one or two more after that, he could find himself in a championship fight again sooner, rather than later. Especially if Francis Ngannou opts to walk away from the promotion.
Lewis’ fight against Tuivasa — who is on a four-fight win streak — promises to be a barn-burner because both men love to stand and bang and have power for days. This is as exciting as a heavyweight matchup that we’ve had in a while and it’s a safe bet that one of them will be on his back seeing stars. Just don’t count on them doing a shoey together afterward.
Brunson is currently in the midst of his second five-fight win streak under the UFC banner and on the verge of a title shot. Brunson found himself in this same position six years ago but his championship dreams were dashed by Whittaker, who knocked him out in Nov. 2016. Fast forward to the present day and Brunson has the chance to make a big move into the Top 3 to force his way to a title shot if he can defeat Jared Cannonier.
Speaking of which, “Killa Gorilla” is currently sitting at No. 3 and is coming off a big win over Kelvin Gastelum. He, too, is eying a shot at the title and a win over Brunson could get him there. At the very least, it could set him up for a title eliminator fight.
Marcelo Rojo’s UFC debut didn’t go as well as he would have liked, suffering a third-round technical knockout loss at the hands of Charles Jourdain in March 2021. Almost one year later, “Pitbull” returns for his second UFC fight against Kyler Phillips, who is coming off a tough loss to Raulian Paiva. Prior to that, Phillips was on a four-fight win streak. This is a great match up between two Bantamweight prospects looking to make a move in the highly-crowded 135-pound weight class.
Opening up the main card will be a Lightweight battle between two tough 155 pounders in Bobby Green and Nasrat Haqparast. Green recently snapped his two-fight losing streak by defeating Al Iaquinta via first-round stoppage at UFC 268, giving him some much-needed breathing room. As for Haqparast, he is coming off a loss to Dan Hooker at UFC 266, which snapped his two-fight skid.
Enjoy the fights!
UFC 271 PPV Main Event on ESPN+:
185 lbs.: UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker
UFC 271 PPV Main Card on ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
265 lbs.: Derek Lewis vs. Tai Tuivasa
185 lbs.: Derek Brunson vs. Jared Cannonier
155 lbs.: Alexander Hernandez vs. Renato Moicano
155 lbs.: Bobby Green vs. Nasrat Haqparast
UFC 271 ‘Prelims’ Card on ESPN/ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):
265 lbs.: Andrei Arlovski vs. Jared Vanderaa
125 lbs.: Roxanne Modafferi vs. Casey O’Neill
135 lbs.: Kyler Phillips vs. Marcelo Rojo
205 lbs.: Fabio Cherant vs. Carlos Ulberg
UFC 271 Early ‘Prelims’ Card on ESPN+ (6 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: Ronnie Lawrence vs. Mana Martinez
185 lbs.: AJ Dobson vs. Jacob Malkoun
135 lbs.: Douglas Silva de Andrade vs. Sergey Morozov
170 lbs.: Mike Mathetha vs. Jeremiah Wells
265 lbs.: Maxim Grishin vs. William Knight
*Fight card, bout order and number of fights remain subject to change due to COVID-19.*
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 271 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
For more news and notes on UFC 271 be sure to visit our comprehensive event archive right here. For the updated, revised, and finalized “Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2” fight card and ESPN+lineup click here.