UFC 271 Takeaways: Cannonier has earned a shot at Adesanya
A middleweight conqueror finished his plate, wild knockouts birthed new contenders, and standouts both old and new made their mark. Here’s what we learned from UFC 271.
Adesanya is still the man at middleweight
Israel Adesanya once again showed why he’s unbeatable at middleweight by turning away the spirited challenge of Robert Whittaker in the main event. Adesanya was sharp in his strikes and on the ground, just doing a bit more every round to win a clear decision in a competitive bout.
While it wasn’t the two-round blowout we saw back at UFC 243, this win was all the more impressive as Whittaker came in better prepared and gave the champ a good run. Had it not been Adesanya, the version of Whittaker we saw last weekend would have beaten any other middleweight on the planet. Like his welterweight counterpart Kamaru Usman, Adesanya once again conquered his most formidable opponent and is now waiting - as we all are - to find out who he will face next.
Tai Tuivasa is for real
A few years ago, it didn’t look like Tuivasa had much going for him as a three-fight skid all but marked him as mid-card filler, but that all changed after stopping Derrick Lewis in the second round of an absolute slug fest.
After taking two takedowns and some serious shots from Lewis in the first round, Tuivasa had to weather another storm early in the second until firing back and pinning Lewis against the cage. A huge elbow put Lewis out, and Tuivasa picked up the biggest win of his career.
With the win, and a massive fan base behind him, Tuivasa is now a legitimate top heavyweight and should see a big fight materialize in the next few months. What is yet to be seen is if Tuivasa can surpass Lewis and make a meaningful run at the title, or if he will simply assume his identity as an elite gatekeeper for years to come.
Jared Cannonier has earned a shot at Adesanya
The most devastating win on the entire card was Cannonier blasting out the hopes of the surging Derek Brunson with an elbow that stunned social media. From a technical standpoint, Cannonier may not be the best fighter available, but Adesanya has beaten everyone else and Cannonier is someone he hasn’t fought yet.
With Cannonier ranked as the No. 3 middleweight going into his bout with Brunson, it seemed inevitable that their bout was a de facto eliminator to face the winner, unless Whittaker pulled off the upset. Adesanya/Cannonier is an interesting fight since both men had failed campaigns at light heavyweight in recent years, but Cannonier will be a decided underdog should the bout materialize.
An Iron Man remains as an Iron Woman falls
Andrei Arlovski may not see another major fight in his legendary career, but the 43-year-old former heavyweight champion showed that he still has plenty left in the tank after a split decision win over Jared Vanderaa on the prelims, his third in a row.
Roxanne Modafferi did not fare as well, losing her third straight fight in a spirited effort against Casey O’Neal. Modafferi had announced prior to her bout that regardless of the outcome, she intended on closing out her 19-year career.
"Blood Diamond" fails to shine in his UFC debut
It was supposed to be a routine UFC debut for Blood Diamond, which is not a moniker by the way, but it was anything but as Diamond fell to late substitute Jeremiah Wells in the early prelims.
Diamond, formerly known as Mike Mathetha, has been Israel Adesanya’s training partner for some time and there was a lot of interest in his debut. Unfortunately for Diamond, Wells had more tools than he was ready for, and he failed to fight his way out of a takedown and spent far too long on the mat. Eventually, Wells was able to secure a rear naked choke to score the submission win at the tail end of round one. Goofy name aside, there weren’t a lot of redeeming qualities in Diamond’s misfire of a debut.