UFC 244: Whittaker vs. Adesanya Full Preview

It’s been a while since UFC fans saw the Middleweight Championship up for grabs. The last time was when Robert Whittaker triumphantly overcame Yoel Romero in a rematch just under 16 months ago. Injury, including a hernia which sidelined the champion from a February fight with Kelvin Gastelum has kept the Aussie on the bench. In that time a lot has changed. Gastelum is no longer the next in line, but instead Israel Adesanya, who has had a meteoric rise since the start of his brief UFC career. 

With a main event of an Australian versus a Nigerian born New Zealander, the fight was the perfect one for bringing the UFC to the Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. As expected, the show is set to feature many more Oceanic fighters throughout. The evening is set to begin with two bouts on UFC Fight Pass at 7PM EST (9AM AEST).

Bout 1: Khalid Taha (13-2) vs. Bruno Silva (11-3-1) (Bantamweight)

The evening, or if you’re there live, the morning kicks off in the bantamweight division with Khalid Taha and Bruno Silva. Taha has a 1-1 UFC record, recently getting a quick KO victory over Boston Salmon. Silva will be making his promotional debut, being 3-1-1 in his last five MMA bouts before entering the octagon. Khalid Taha missed the bantamweight limit by one pound, giving up 20% of his fight purse due to it.

Bout 2: Nadia Kassem (5-1) vs. Ji Yeon Kim (8-2-2) (Flyweight)

The final Fight Pass bout sees two flyweights coming off of losses collide. Kassem recently took a loss to Montana de La Rosa via armbar. Ji Yeon Kim fell to Antonina Shevchenko via decision. Kim is one of the only Korean fighters in the UFC that doesn’t come from Team MAD, who is the biggest gym in the country. When the weigh-ins were livestreamed, Kim weighed in at 128 lbs, two pounds above the flyweight limit.

Bout 3: Megan Anderson (8-4) vs. Zarah Fairn Dos Santos (6-2) (Featherweight)

After an hour of the early prelims, the broadcast will flip to ESPN 2 (TSN 5 in Canada) as Megan Anderson will face Zarah Fairn dos Santos. Anderson is one of the more prominent fighters in the very thin division. She will try to spoil Dos Santos’ entrance into the UFC. Anderson lost to Felicia Spencer in her last outing, being bettered by a rear naked choke in under four minutes.

Bout 4: Brad Riddell (6-1) vs. Jamie Mullarkey (12-2) (Lightweight)

The fourth fight sees the first New Zealander on the card in Brad Riddell appear against Australia’s Jamie Mullarkey. Neither fighter has been in the UFC before. Riddell trains at Adesanya’s gym “City Kickboxing,” with appearances at Tiger Muay Thai in Thailand as well.

Bout 5: Callan Potter (17-8) vs. Maki Pitolo (12-4) (Welterweight)

Three months ago, Maki Pitolo literally fought his way to a contract, defeating Justin Sumter in just over 90 seconds on “Dana White’s Contender Series” to get signed to the UFC. Pitolo’s first fight on the “big stage” will also be quite literally on a big stage, as Marvel Stadium seats 56,000. He will face Australia’s Callan Porter, who is attempting to come back from his debut loss to Jalin Turner this year.

Bout 6: Jake Matthews (14-4) vs. Rostem Akman (6-1) (Welterweight)

The preliminary portion of the card will wrap up with Jake Matthews and Rostem Akman. Both coming off a loss, Matthews is the favoured fighter in the exchange due to more experience, especially within the UFC. Matthews lost to Anthony Rocco Martin recently, ending his three fight winning streak from before. Akman’s last loss was his first one as a pro, as Sergey Khandozhko ruined his debut.

Bout 7: Yorgan de Castro (5-0) vs. Justin Tafa (3-0) (Heavyweight)

UFC will go live on pay-per-view at 10PM EST (Noon AEST), beginning with Yorgan de Castro versus Justin Tafa. Neither heavyweight has fought in the UFC before. De Castro earned his spot through the Contender Series, defeating Alton Meeks in one round to convince UFC’s scouts to sign him. Tafa has been undefeated in his three fights, competing in the Australia-based MMA promotion Xtreme Fight Championships.

Bout 8: Luke Jumeau (13-4) vs. Dhiego Lima (14-7) (Welterweight)

After a year-and-a-half absence from the octagon, New Zealand’s Luke Jumeau will face Dhiego Lima, who has been active and successful during that same time period. Jumeau’s last win was in early 2018, breaking the undefeated record at the time of Daichi Abe. Lima broke his two-fight losing streak with a win over Chad Laprise earlier this year. He most recently defeated Court McGee via decision.

Bout 9: Tai Tuivasa (10-2) vs. Sergey Spivak (9-1) (Heavyweight)

Back at UFC 226 in mid-2018, Tai Tuivasa won tons of fans with a dominant main card performance over Andrei Arlovski, as well as doing a “shooey” after the fight. Sadly, Tuivasa hasn’t found success since then, losing to Junior dos Santos and Blagoy Ivanov. He will have another chance to return to the win column when facing Sergey Spivak. The Ukranian fighter was undefeated before his UFC debut, getting TKO’d by Walt Harris. Both fighters have yet to win after a loss in their professional career, and one might be able to change that on Saturday.

Bout 10: Al Iaquinta (14-5-1) vs. Dan Hooker (18-8) (Lightweight)

The co-main event of the show features lightweight gatekeeper Al Iaquinta versus teammate of Israel Adesanya, Dan Hooker. Iaquinta is coming off a loss to Donald Cerrone, main eventing a Fight Night in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Hooker is a real up-and-coming lightweight, having a UFC run with only one blemish thus far, that being a painful loss to Edson Barboza. His last fight was against James Hook, making quick work of him, finishing the fight just halfway through the first. No doubt Hooker has had some big tests in the UFC already, but another one, maybe his biggest, is on Saturday.

Bout 11: Robert Whittaker (20-4) vs. Israel Adesanya (17-0) (UFC Middleweight Championship)

The main event of the show sees UFC Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker fight in a unification bout against the Interim Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya. Whittaker’s last fight was a war, going the distance against Yoel Romero, despite a hand injury early on. He has since been on the bench. While he has rested and trained, Adesanya established himself within the division. Already 3-0 in the UFC, “The Last Stylebender” put his name on the map with a one round victory over Derek Brunson at Madison Square Garden last fall. He faced UFC legend Anderson Silva three months later, defeating him in the main event of UFC 234 (which Whittaker would have headlined if not for an injury). His most recent win was against Kelvin Gastelum, which cemented him as the next challenger. The fight, which arguably could be the best 2019 has seen gave Adesanya his interim championship.

Israel Adesanya is often billed as an up-and-comer despite his age contradicting that. His short run in the UFC only tells part of the story. Adesanya has a 75-5 kickboxing record, including appearances in high level promotions like GLORY and Kunlun Fight League. He also has a 5-1 boxing record, all being three-to-four round fights. While 17-0 in MMA isn’t a little, it’s not telling the full story to not mention everything else.

Many questions are brought up heading into this weekend: Can Robert Whittaker return after the absence? Will he be the same? Is it too soon for Israel Adesanya? Is he getting ahead of himself? But, thankfully, these questions will only be asked for a little more time. When the PPV goes down on Saturday night, people will (hopefully) be left with a conclusive answer to all of those questions.

UFC returns with a fight night next week from the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, USA. The card is headlined by ranked strawweights Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Michelle Waterson. The promotion’s next pay-per-view event after this is UFC 244. The stacked show will take place from Madison Square Garden. Headlining the show will be Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal, fighting for the BMF Belt.

Recommended further reading: MMAFighting/Mike Chiappetta – Israel Adesanya is coming for everything

UFC on ESPN+ 9: Iaquinta vs. Cowboy Full Report

On Saturday, UFC headed to Ottawa for a card crammed full of Canadians. Besides the home country fighters competing, the show also featured a ranked Lightweight clash between “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone and “Ragin’” Al Iaquinta. Let’s look through the whole evening of fights.

Preliminary Card

Bout 1: Mitch Gagnon (12-4) vs. Cole Smith (6-0) (Bantamweight)

Ottawa’s evening of fights started with Mitch Gagnon facing Cole Smith in a Canadian versus Canadian matchup. Early in the first round, Gagnon found himself threatened by a standing kimura attempt. Smith landed a takedown after they were against the cage for a couple of minutes. They got back up moments later and went back against the cage. When they returned to striking, Smith was trying for kicks frequently. Smith was able to bring the fight to the ground in the second and try for a rear naked choke. Gagnon stayed defensive for the rest of the round but didn’t get finished by submission. Gagnon opened the third round very aggressively, advancing on Smith quite a bit. Smith was dropped by some strikes, giving Gagnon an opening. Gagnon tried for an armbar but it didn’t work. They stood back up and then went back down when Gagnon put in a guillotine. Smith got out of the move and took back mount. Smith put in a rear naked choke in the final minute. Gagnon’s mouthpiece also came out during this. The fight went the distance, relying on the judges to choose the fate of the fighters. The judges gave Cole Smith the win unanimously (29-28, 29-28 & 30-27).

My Scorecard:

FighterRound 1Round 2Round 3Total
Gagnon991028
Smith1010929

Bout 2: Arjan Bhullar (8-1) vs. Juan Adams (5-0) (Heavyweight)

Two up-and-coming Heavyweights in Arjan Bhullar and Juan Adams faced each other in the next bout. The first round was purely stand-up, with Adams throwing way more punches. Adams came out very aggressively in the second round. Bhullar landed a single leg takedown after a minute. Adam’s had his mouthpiece knocked out, which Bhullar’s corner noticed and repeatedly told him about. They got up shortly after, with not much happening on the ground. Bhullar landed a takedown late in the final round. Both fighters slowed their pace significantly in the third round. The judges all gave Arjan Bhullar the victory (29-28 29-28 & 30-27). Bhullar called out Andrei Arlovski after the fight.

My Scorecard:

FighterRound 1Round 2Round 3Total
Bhullar991028
Adams1010929

Bout 3: Kyle Nelson (12-2) vs. Matt Sayles (7-2) (Featherweight)

The next prelim bout was Kyle Nelson versus Matt Sayles. The first round opened with an aggressive stand-up battle between the two. Nelson was shoved down at one point and was given numerous hammer fist and normal strikes on the ground. Nelson survived the large volume of strikes, and then put Sayles in position for a leg lock. Sayles escaped the move and got into top mount where he landed even more strikes. Nelson was denied a takedown attempt early in the second. Later on however he landed more takedowns. Nelson tried for a rear naked choke for a while, and even had it in at one point but lost control. Nelson shot for tons of takedowns in the final round, not having much success. He did land one takedown but fell into a trap where Sayles took control and put in a head and arm choke to win the bout.

My Scorecard:

FighterRound 1Round 2Round 3Total
Nelson910
Sayles109

Bout 4: Nordine Taleb (14-6) vs. Kyle Prepolec (12-5) (Welterweight)

In the next fight, Nordine Taleb fought UFC newcomer Kyle Prepolec. The first round had very cautious striking from both fighters. The second round was similar but had Taleb landing some harder hitting combos. Prepolec was seemingly hurt by a kick in the final seconds of round three, as he sort of stopped and grabbed his leg. The fight went the distance with the judges giving Nordine Taleb the unanimous victory (30-27, 30-27 & 30-27).

My Scorecard:

FighterRound 1Round 2Round 3Total
Taleb10101030
Prepolec99927

Bout 5: Vince Morales (8-3) vs. Aiemann Zahabi (7-1) (Bantamweight)

Aiemann Zahabi, a brother of Firas Zahabi fought Vince Morales next. The first round was a slow one with Morales being the aggressor. The second was much of the same, although Zahabi did land a takedown in the final two minutes. The two fighters went all fifteen moments, not having many defining moments. The scorecards read a unanimous decision for Vince Morales (29-28, 29-28 & 29-28).

My Scorecard:

FighterRound 1Round 2Round 3Total
Morales1091029
Zahabi910928

Bout 6: Sarah Moras (5-4) vs. Macy Chiasson (#14) (4-0) (Bantamweight)

Finishing off the preliminary part of the card was Sarah Moras and Macy Chiasson. In the fist five seconds of the bout, Moras scored a takedown. Chiasson got into a top position and started to land strikes. Moras tried for a takedown at the start of the second, but Chiasson was able to gain control on the ground. Chiasson landed a flurry of strikes from above, making referee Yves Lavigne stop the bout.

My Scorecard:

FighterRound 1Round 2Round 3Total
Moras9
Chiasson10

Main Card

Bout 7: Andrew Sanchez (10-4) vs. Marc-Andre Barriault (11-1) (Middleweight)

Starting the main card was Andrew Sanchez and Marc-Andre Barriault. A story was told on commentary before the fight, explaining how these two fighters sparred the day before they were offered a fight against each other. Funny coincidence. Sanchez is a Tristar Fighter but got boos when being introduced. Sanchez landed a takedown in the first minute of the bout. They traded strikes while on the ground. In the final minute of the round Sanchez landed another takedown but Barriault got up immediately. Barrialt had dominant striking in the second round, making Sanchez clinch up. Sanchez kept getting it hard but never got dropped. Barriault defended a takedown for a while but eventually got tripped and went down. Sanchez had control on the ground for a good chunk of the round. The fight went all three rounds. The judges gave Sanchez the win via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28 & 29-28). The crowd did not approve of this.

My Scorecard:

FighterRound 1Round 2Round 3Total
Sanchez1081028
Barriault910928

Bout 8: Walt Harris (12-7) vs. Sergey Spivak (9-0) (Heavyweight)

We saw a Heavyweight battle in the next bout on the card. Walt Harris fought Sergey Spivak. Early on, Harris was landing strong punches and knees. Spivak completely covered up and fell, getting hit more and more until the referee intervened.

My Scorecard:

FighterRound 1Round 2Round 3Total
Harris
Spivak

Bout 9: Brad Katona (8-0) vs. Merab Dvalishvili (8-4) (Bantamweight)

Undefeated Brad Katona fought Merab Dvalishvili in the next bout. After a close striking battle for the first couple of minutes, Dvalishvili scored a takedown. They both stood back up shortly after. Katona tried for a takedown too but found himself in a clinch that ended with Dvalishvili landing a trip and getting a takedown himself. At the start of the second round, Dvalishvili got another takedown. Dvalishvili was dominant throughout the round, landing a good trip takedown at the end as well. In the final round, Dvalishvili out-wrestled Katona. The scorecards were all in agreement, giving Dvalishvili the win (30-27, 30-27 & 30-27).

My Scorecard:

FighterRound 1Round 2Round 3Total
Katona99927
Dvalishvili10101030

Bout 10: Cub Swanson (#10) (25-10) vs. Shane Burgos (11-1) (Featherweight)

UFC veteran Cub Swanson faced younger fighter Shane Burgos in the next fight. The first round was kickboxing only from both fighters. The second round was very much the same. Swanson came out much more aggressively in the third round. Swanson tried for a takedown, but didn’t fully get it, being stuck against the cage for a while. Burgos had his moments in the second half of the round. The judges were split on the decision, but the majority selected Burgos as the winner (30-27 Swanson, 30-27 Burgos & 29-28 Burgos).

My Scorecard:

FighterRound 1Round 2Round 3Total
Swanson910928
Burgos1091029

Bout 11: Derek Brunson (#9) (18-7) vs. Elias Theodorou (#13) (16-2) (Middleweight)

In the co-main event slot was a battle between ranked Middleweight fighters Derek Brunson and Elias Theodorou. Brunson scored a takedown within the first minute of the fight. He took the back and put in a rear naked choke, but Theodorou escaped. Brunson kept trying for it but stopped being able to once Theodorou stood up. Both fighters, but especially Theodorou were throwing lots of kicks. While neither fighter had an amazing second round, and the crowd voiced their opinion on this, Theodorou out-struck Brunson. Brunson had an amazing takedown in the third, picking up and carrying Theodorou, then slamming him on is back. The final round ended with the crowd booing the two fighters. Derek Brunson won the fight unanimously (29-28, 29-28 & 30-27).

My Scorecard:

FighterRound 1Round 2Round 3Total
Brunson1091029
Theodorou910928

Bout 12: Al Iaquinta (#4) (14-4-1) vs. Donald Cerrone (#8) (35-11) (Lightweight)

Finally, it was time for the main event. In the main event, Al Iaquinta faced Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. The first round was a feeling out process, with Cerrone landing a solid knee when Iaquinta tried for a takedown at one point. The second round was similar, with both fighters landing some good strikes periodically. In the third round Iaquinta started to bleed from his nose quite a bit. They started to really open up with strikes at the end of the third round. Iaquinta was dropped with a punch in the final seconds of the third. Cerrone landed strikes on the ground until the round ended. Iaquinta was dropped yet again in the fourth with a front kick. He got up shortly after. Cerrone strung together a good combination of punches in the final minute of the fourth. Iaquinta had a takedown blocked in the final seconds of the round. The fight went all 25 minutes with the final round being another methodical striking battle between the two. The fight was stand-up with periodic moments of fighting on the ground due to a knockdown. The judges gave “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone the win Unanimously (49-45, 49-45 & 49-46). Cerrone celebrated with his son.

My Scorecard:

FighterRound 1Round 2Round 3Round 4Round 5Total
Iaquinta91099946
Cerrone10910101049

UFC returns next week with the PPV event UFC 237. In the main event, Rose Namajunas will attempt to defend her Strawweight Championship against Jessica Andrade. The show will take place in Brazil, and feature home country talent like Anderson Silva and Jose Aldo on the main card.

UFC on ESPN+ 9: Iaquinta vs. Cowboy Preview

UFC’s last appearance in Canada was back in December when Toronto played host to UFC 231: Holloway vs. Ortega. This time around it’s Ottawa holding the event, with the event being much smaller scale than the pay-per-view event before. The card had an obvious Canada versus The World theme to it, with eight bouts being a Canadian versus someone from a different country. In the main event, Al Iaquinta is set to face Donald Cerrone. It’s an interesting matchup because, while it’s a high profile fight, the line for Lightweight contenders is long already. While the future of the winner of this bout is hard to call, an easier bet is that it will be a fun fight to watch. Cerrone and Iaquinta both have a past of putting on “fan friendly” fights, no matter win or loss. Before we go further into that bout, let’s go through the whole card.

Preliminary Card

Bout 1: Mitch Gagnon (12-4) vs. Cole Smith (6-0) (Bantamweight)

The opening fight of the show will pit one Canadian against another, as Mitch Gagnon will face Cole Smith. Gagnon has a 4-3 UFC record dating back to 2012 and hasn’t fought since 2016 when he lost to Matthew Lopez. Cole Smith will be making his UFC debut, currently holding an undefeated 6-0 record. He has mainly fought in the Canadian promotion BFL, being the promotion’s Bantamweight Champion for some time.

Bout 2: Arjan Bhullar (8-1) vs. Juan Adams (5-0) (Heavyweight)

In the first of two Heavyweight clashes in the evening, Arjan Bhullar will face Juan Adams. Bhullar is a Canadian fighter who currently has a 2-1 record in the UFC. Bhullar was the first Indo-Canadian to sign with the promotion. He fought in Alberta and British Columbia before making it to the big leagues. His only career win is to Adam Wieczorek, who caught him with an omoplata. Juan Adams will be putting his undefeated streak on the line in his second appearance in the UFC. He earned a contract through Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series and got a win in December against Chris De La Rocha as well.

Bout 3: Kyle Nelson (12-2) vs. Matt Sayles (7-2) (Featherweight)

Kyle Nelson faces Matt Sayles in the next bout. Nelson, like many Canadians on this card, fought at UFC 231 in Toronto back in December. He came out of the event unsuccessful, losing to Diego Ferreira. Sayles is also coming off a loss, falling to Sheymon Moraes at the UFC 227 prelims.

Bout 4: Nordine Taleb (14-6) vs. Kyle Prepolec (12-5) (Welterweight)

Canadian fighter Kyle Prepolec will make his UFC debut against French fighter Nordine Taleb, who fights out of Tristar in Quebec. Taleb lost recently to Sean Strickland in the second round. He is currently on a two-fight losing streak. Prepolec is the flipside, as his last two fights were wins in the regional promotion “BTC.”

Bout 5: Vince Morales (8-3) vs. Aiemann Zahabi (7-1) (Bantamweight)

IN another Canada versus The World matchup, Canadian Aiemann Zahabi will face Vince Morales. Aiemann is the younger brother of Firas Zahabi, a well-known trainer from Tristar Gym. He is coming off an 18-month break from competition, losing to Ricardo Ramos at UFC 217 (which also featured fellow Tristar talent Georges St-Pierres. Morales lost his UFC debut in November but plans to bounce back from the loss.

Bout 6: Sarah Moras (5-4) vs. Macy Chiasson (4-0) (Bantamweight)

Ending off the prelims for the show will be Sarah Moras and Macy Chiasson. Moras, a Canadian, has been in the UFC since 2014 but has had a shaky record of 2-3 since then. She will face Macy Chiasson, who won The Ultimate Fighter Season 28 in late 2018. She fought back in March as well, getting a first-round stoppage over Gina Mazany.

Main Card

Bout 7: Andrew Sanchez (10-4) vs. Marc-Andre Barriault (11-1) (Middleweight)

Starting the ESPN+ main card will be Canadian Marc-Andre Barriault and Andrew Sanchez. Barriault will be making his UFC debut, coming from the Canadian promotion TKO. His record shows that he has powerful striking, picking up many early stoppage wins. Sanchez won season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter, defeating Khalil Rountree. He has won and lost twice since then, recently getting the nod over Markus Perez.

Bout 8: Walt Harris (12-7) vs. Sergey Spivak (9-0) (Heavyweight)

“The Big Ticket” Walt Harris will be Sergey Spivak’s first challenge under the bright lights of the UFC. Spivak currently has a 9-0 record, fighting most of them in WWFC, a Ukranian promotion. He has numerous recorded first-round finishes. His first UFC bout won’t be an easy one as his opponent, Harris, recently beat veteran Andrei Arlovski in December.

Bout 9: Brad Katona (8-0) vs. Merab Dvalishvili (8-4) (Bantamweight)

Brad Katona has had a great past 12 months. Back in July, he defeated Jay Cucciniello to win season 27 of The Ultimate Fighter. After that, he beat Matthew Lopez at UFC 231. Attempting to keep his undefeated streak intact, he will compete against Merab Dvalishvili. Dvalishvili had a rough start to his UFC career with two losses but defeated Terrion Ware in September via decision. It will be a clash between an untouchable fighter and a more experience one on the main card.

Bout 10: Cub Swanson (25-10) vs. Shane Burgos (11-1) (Featherweight)

Cub Swanson is an experienced UFC fighter but has gotten into a three-fight slump recently. Hoping to bounce back from the losses, he is scheduled to face Shane Burgos. Burgos will be competing in his sixth UFC bout, currently having 11 pro wins with only one blemish on his record.

Bout 11: Derek Brunson (18-7) vs. Elias Theodorou (16-2) (Middleweight)

Ontario’s own Elias Theodorou will face Derek Brunson in the co-main event of the show. Theodorou’s last performance was a decision victory over Eryk Anders at UFC 231. On a three-fight win streak, his last seven fights have ended via decision. Brunson is coming off a late 2018 loss to now-interim Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya. The fight didn’t leave the first round, with Adesanya getting a stoppage victory.

Bout 12: Al Iaquinta (14-4-1) vs. Donald Cerrone (35-11) (Lightweight)

“Cowboy” Donald Cerrone will face Al Iaquinta in the main event of Fight Night Ottawa. Cerrone, who is nothing short of a UFC veteran will be trying to improve off of his two-fight win streak. He recently defeated Mike Perry and Alex Hernandez. His win over Hernandez came after extensive trash talk from the 26-year-old fighter. Iaquinta is coming off a dominant five-round performance against Kevin Lee. It was his first fight since going to a five round decision loss against current Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Next week, UFC will head to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for UFC 237. The show will be headlined by Rose Namajunas, who will be defending her Strawweight Championship against Jessica Andrade. The show will also feature well known Brazilian talent Anderson Silva and Jose Aldo.