Israel Adesanya has retained his UFC middleweight title after defeating Australian Robert Whittaker by unanimous decision in their re-match at UFC 271 on Saturday.
The Nigerian, who boasts an imposing 23-1 record, triumphed 48-47, 48-47, 49-46 to remain undefeated in the middleweight decision which he has dominated.
Adesanya had defeated Whittaker in a second-round knockout at UFC 243 in 2019 but the Australian put up a much better fight this time around with new tactics.
Whittaker took down Adesanya several times throughout the bout, also the champion found an edge by landing punches and kicks to his opponents' face, legs and ribs.
Adesanya started the better, before Whittaker took him down in the second round, landing several punches to the face, but the champion managed to escape his hold and respond with a few blows.
Whittaker again took down Adesanya in the fourth round, attempting to lock in a choke as he rode his back, but he managed to break free.
The Australian continued to try take down Adesanya whose ability to escape was critical to holding his victory, along with his attacking punches and kicks.
"I knew he was going to bring everything because last time I took everything away from him," Adesanya said after the bout. "I'm the big dog in this yard so he couldn’t take me down at all."
Whittaker felt like he had done enough to claim victory and admitted he was surprised by the judges' decision yet gracious in defeat.
"I was surprised with the decision," Whittaker said. "I started off rocky in that first round. I felt like I had it after that. It is what it is.
"I'm happy I fought my heart out. I'm gutted, I thought I did enough, I thought I took that."
Adesanya's next opponent may be third-ranked Jared Cannonier (15-5) who knocked out Derek Brunson in the second round of their middleweight bout earlier on Saturday. Cannonier said after the fight that he wants a chance against Adesanya.
Tuivasa knocks out KO king Lewis
In the co-main event, Tai Tuivasa claimed victory over Derrick Lewis with a second-round knockout in the heavyweight division.
Tuivasa extended his run of wins by knockout to five, responding after being taken down twice in the first round by landing a decisive elbow to Lewis' face.
“That’s the king of knockouts,” Tuivasa said afte the bout. “But like I said, I’m young... and I’m taking over now.”
The Australian moves into contention for a title shot against Francis Ngannou.