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UFC 271: Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2 Recap and Highlights

By Timothy James  |  February 13, 2022  |  336 Comments

The UFC’s second PPV event of the calendar year provided some electric fights, big upsets, and captivating storylines.

There was a lot at stake for a lot of fighters heading into UFC 271. The main card featured plenty of fights with wide-reaching implications for the direction of their respective divisions. When the dust finally settled, a clearer picture of each weight class was formed.

The co-main event featured a heavyweight bout between two of the most beloved figures in the sport, each of whom happen to be prolific knockout artists. There was a middleweight contender bout that promised to deliver the next title challenger. And, of course, the main attraction was the most anticipated championship rematch since Usman vs. Covington 2.

Would Houston’s own Derrick Lewis add another notch on his belt of UFC knockouts? Would Blonde Brunson continue his ascendence in defiance of father time? Would women’s MMA pioneer Roxanne Modaferri end her career with a victory? And most importantly, could Robert Whittaker find redemption after being knocked out by Israel Adesanya at UFC 243?

We got our answers, and then some.

The Main Event: Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2

We’re at a strange point in UFC history, where there are quite a few examples of two fighters being head and shoulders above the rest of their divisions. Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway are in a tier of their own at featherweight. Kamaru Usman only looks beatable when he’s standing across Colby Covington.

And at middleweight, nobody seems to be able to beat Robert Whittaker. Except for one man: The Last Stylebender. In fact, Whittaker was unbeaten in 8 fights at 185 pounds until he stood across from Israel Adesanya at UFC 243 in October of 2019. That fight ended in an emphatic second round knockout, ending the title reign of the beloved Aussie known as Bobby Knuckles.

That’s the thing about Bobby Knuckles, though. You can’t keep him down for long. He went on a three fight win streak after that loss, determined to get a chance to reclaim his belt. While that was happening, Adesanya defended his middleweight belt a couple of times before testing the waters at light heavyweight - giving a glimpse into how he could be beaten when Jan Blachowicz wrestled his way to victory.

In the first fight, it was clear that Whittaker was anxious. He wasn’t being patient and ended up running into very damaging counters. Things were different from the very first bell in the rematch, with Whittaker being much more poised and patient. Still, he was having a hard time finding his range.

The first round was all Izzy, and he seemed destined for another finish. He picked Whittaker’s lead leg apart while controlling the distance, making The Reaper miss on nearly every shot. There was plenty of showmanship from the Nigerian as well, gesturing with his hands to “slow things down” after a straight punch knocked Whittaker down.

However, in keeping with the event’s theme of shifting momentums, Whittaker actually seemed to get better as the fight progressed. Even though he was still losing the striking exchanges, he managed to score a takedown in the second. He also seemed more comfortable in his range, closing the distance when it opened. The showboating from Adesanya was noticeably absent moving forward.

The next three rounds were a closely contested chess match. As time went on in the fight, Whittaker was finding more success with his jab and managed to score a few more takedowns. Where the first round was definitely the champ’s, the next were tightly contested.

One of the most dangerous moments of the fight for the champion came in the fourth, when Whittaker attempted his best Charles Oliveira impersonation. Whittaker shot for a takedown and when Adesanya worked back to his feet, Bobby Knuckles moved into the backpack position and tried to work a rear-naked choke. Unfortunately for the challenger, it was all for naught.

Whittaker’s best round was the fifth, where he controlled the pace and landed some good shots. But it was too little too late, as Adesanya went on to win via unanimous decision, 49-46, 48-47, and 48-47.

It marks Adesanya’s fourth title defense (fifth according to the champion, who believes his first defeat of Whittaker should count as a defense since he was interim champion at the time) as he continues to build on his legacy as one of the brightest stars in the organization.

Whittaker stated that he thought he had done enough to reclaim his belt, but he was satisfied with his improvements and believes that a third fight with Adesanya is inevitable.

Fan Favorites at Heavyweight: Bam Bam bests the Black Beast

Sometimes, the UFC matchmakers set up a fight where fans don’t want either guy to lose. That was the case of UFC 271’s co-main event, featuring surging prospect Tai “Bam Bam” Tuivasa and the promotion’s knockout king, Derrick “the Black Beast” Lewis.

Lewis and Tuivasa are beloved as two of the funniest and likable characters on the UFC roster, aided by the fact that they both pack dynamite in their hands and are prolific knockout artists. While Lewis holds the record for the most KOs in UFC history, Tuivasa was also known for his heavy hands, coming into the fight off 4 consecutive KO victories.

It was safe to assume that this fight wasn’t going to escape the first, as the two men promised to “Swang and bang” in the UFC 271 pre-fight press conference. Funnily enough, it made it as far as the second. Following in the footsteps of unexpected grappling from heavyweights known for heavy hands, Lewis won the first round with some wrestling and ground and pound that put Tuivasa in a very dangerous position.

Going into the second, the tension was palpable. This was a fight that could be over in any second, as both guys seemed determined to let things rip once they had space. Well, Tuivasa cut that tension with a devastating slashing elbow in tight space. Clinched against the cage, he turned Lewis’ lights off with a hellbow that sent the Black Beast slumping to the canvas.

It’s a tough pill to swallow for fans of Lewis, who continues his home crowd struggles. Lewis lost his last fight in Houston against Ciryl Gane, stating after the bout that he doesn’t like fighting in his hometown since it puts more pressure on him. He wasn’t present at the post fight press conference, so it’s unclear whether he believes this played a factor in this fight.

As for Tuivasa, he’s now on a 5 fight win streak with 5 knockouts, placing him firmly in title contention. Dana White mentioned his name with Francis Ngannou, Jon Jones, and Stipe Miocic in the post fight press conference, so there may be gold in the young Australian’s future.

Inside Fighting had an exclusive interview with Tai back in December of last year, which you can watch here.

UFC 271: A Night of Epic Comebacks

A common theme on the night was fighters coming back to win fights they looked like they were destined to lose. The most prominent of which came in the contenders eliminator bout between Jared Cannonier and Derek Brunson.

Blonde Brunson looked like he was going to be cruising to a victory, utilizing his wrestling to negate Cannonier’s power and control the pace of the fight. He nearly closed the show towards the end of the first, knocking Cannonier down and following him to the canvas. He worked for a rear-naked choke and seemed close to sinking it, but with only a few seconds on the clock, Cannonier survived.

The script was flipped in the second when Cannonier rocked Brunson with an elbow, tapped him on the chin with a backfist (not spinning, a front-facing backfist) and finished his adversary off with devastating hellbows. Brunson was knocked out cold, with his corner actually throwing the towel just before some of those elbows landed.

Cannonier demanded a title shot from Dana White during his octagon interview with Daniel Cormier, which the UFC president seemed to acknowledge. Both White and Adesanya expressed their desires to make that the next middleweight championship fight during the post-fight press conference, so fans can expect the Killa Gorilla to square off against The Last Stylebender as soon as this June.

Of course, the aforementioned Tuivasa came back after dropping the first to win in the second round. But the most electric comeback of the night actually came during the early prelims. Douglas Silva de Andrade was nearly finished on the feet by Sergey Morozov, being knocked down, beat up, and badly cut. One judge scored the round a 10-8, which in hindsight seems like the right call.

Things changed in the second, though, when de Andrade demonstrated his power and toughness. He knocked Morozov down three times in the round, finally following him to the ground and sinking in the fight-finishing rear-naked choke. It was a frenetic fight that deserves the Fight of the Night honors for UFC 271.

Roxy’s Swansong: WMMA Pioneer Roxanne Modafferi’s Retirement Fight

One of the most wholesome and well regarded figures in the world of MMA is Roxanne Modaferri. A pioneer who helped bring women’s MMA into the mainstream, she’s been involved in the game for two decades. Heading into UFC 271, she announced that her fight against prospect Casey O’Neil would be her last.

The Houston crowd and MMA fandom were pulling for the veteran, who displayed the grit and determination that made her so endearing amongst the fans. However, Casey O’Neil was just a touch better on the night, winning by a controversial split decision (one judge gave the fight to Modaferri, though it’s likely a bit of fan favoritism influenced this).

O’Neil remains one of the most promising women’s flyweights on the roster, moving to 9-0. While Modaferri’s career ends without a victory, she goes down as one of the most influential figures in the young sport’s history.

Thank you for everything you’ve contributed to this wild sport we love, Roxanne! Congratulations on retirement.

Honorable Mentions and Final Thoughts

UFC 271 was an overall highly enjoyable event with plenty of memorable fights and compelling storylines. Bobby Green put on one of the best performances of his life, piecing up Nasrat Haqparast for 3 rounds, while Renato Moicano choked out Alexander Hernandez and gave one of the more memorable Octagon interviews on the night.

It was a tough night for some fan favorites, with Modaferri, Lewis, and Whittaker all coming up short. However, we now have a new mix at heavyweight with Tuivasa arriving to the championship spotlight and an explosive middleweight championship matchup in Cannonier vs. Adesanya.

Which fights were your favorites? How did you do on your parlays? Let us know in the comments!

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