The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 243 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday made its way to Melbourne, Australia, with UFC 243 and did so with a middleweight title unification bout between Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya as its centerpiece. Some stocks rose and others fell.
Israel Adesanya: It truly was a championship-worthy performance for Adesanya. The City Kickboxing representative seemingly had Whittaker’s number early on in the fight and in the second round landed the kill shot that earned him the undisputed belt. Adesanya debuted in the UFC under two years ago, and in that span, he has put together a perfect run of seven straight wins culminating in a near-flawless title victory. The win improved Adesanya to 18-0 and made him the first fighter to unify a UFC title since Max Holloway. Afterward, Adesanya set his sights at Paulo Henrique Costa for a showdown that would represent his first title defense and also match together two undefeated middleweights at the height of their careers.
Dan Hooker: Across three rounds, Hooker utilized his height and reach advantages beautifully, picking apart Al Iaquinta while knocking down the door to the lightweight Top 10. Hooker went to the leg kick early and often. It took effect on his opponent almost immediately and allowed him to sit down on his punches and score from the outside. Between Hooker’s diversity of strikes and his takedown defense, it was undoubtedly his most complete performance since he moved to the lightweight division and could earn him a shot against and elite opponent next time out. Following his latest victory, he set his sights on Dustin Poirier -- a fight that would certainly excite fans.
Yorgan De Castro: De Castro went from a win as a heavy underdog on Dana White’s Contender Series to landing a performance bonus-worthy knockout in a pay-per-view main card opener before a record-setting crowd. It was quite a UFC debut. While he may be lacking in-cage experience, De Castro has plenty of power and athleticism upon which to lean, and in a division where any given punch can put out the lights, the future looks bright for the UFC’s first-ever prospect out of Cape Verde. Expect De Castro back in the Octagon against another opponent with the same level of experience, as the UFC looks to slowly build him into an elite fighter.
Robert Whittaker: It was a title reign plagued by injuries Whittaker, and in his first fight back from a layoff that spanned over a year, he never managed to get going against the more dynamic striker in Adesanya. Whittaker is without a doubt a world-class talent, but one must wonder if his multitude of injuries and back-to-back wars with Yoel Romero have taken a more significant toll on “Bobby Knuckles” than originally thought. Whittaker does himself no favors from a promotional standpoint, so he will be hard-pressed to find another title opportunity until he can prove his durability and pick up wins over multiple contenders. Nevertheless, Whittaker is just 28 years old, and if he can establish a bit of consistency, he may indeed regain his title form before all is said and done.
Al Iaquinta: It was a rough night for “Raging Al,” as his clash with Hooker earned him his third loss in his last four Octagon appearances. Iaquinta will likely be ushered out of the lightweight division’s Top 15 and finds himself on the outside looking in, desperately needing a win if he wants to remain relevant. From the opening bell, Iaquinta had no answer for Hooker’s low calf kicks and had a difficult time dealing with his opponent’s range. He was rocked on several occasions during the three-round affair. Iaquinta will likely look toward the back end of the Top 15 as he looks to regain some lost momentum and re-establish himself as a title contender.
Tai Tuivasa: Tuivasa has thus far failed to make improvements to his grappling game and cardio, and it may just cost him his place in the UFC after suffering his third straight loss in a lopsided affair against Sergei Spivak. His deficiencies on the ground became painfully obvious early on in the fight. Despite Tuivasa coming in as a near 4-to-1 favorite, he looked completely out of his depth, and at this point, “Bam Bam” may need to refine his game on the regional circuit. Tuivasa boasts an excellent chin, along with punching power and boxing skills, but he simply needs more if he ever wants to become a contender at the sport’s highest levels.