WATCH: Israel Adesanya TKO's Robert Whittaker to win the UFC Middleweight title

07/10/2019

New Zealand has a new world champion and his name is Israel Adesanya.

'The Last Stylebender' proved he was worthy of all of the hype, all of the fanfare, as he sent Robert Whittaker to the canvas in the second round of their blockbuster main-event clash at UFC 243 in Melbourne to unify the middleweight world title.

On a history-making event in the Victorian capital, where a crowd of 57,127 inside Marvel Stadium set a new attendance record, Adesanya did the occasion justice with a performance that establishes him as New Zealand's brightest global sporting star.

Adesanya may have been the holder of interim world title, but even he acknowledged that true belt was around Whittaker's waist. Now Aotearoa genuinely has its first UFC world champion, the Nigerian-born Kiwi solidifying his spot as the country's greatest ever combat sports talent.

It caps a staggering rise to the top. From promotional newcomer to world champion in less than two years, a 6-0 record in the UFC and 18-0 overall in his professional career.

Whittaker was saved by the bell at the end of the first round, after Adesanya crumpled him to the mat in the final second as the clock ticked away.

But the Australian wasn't as fortunate in the second stanza, when Adesanya caught him lunging and put him away with a crisp left-right counter combination that lay Whittaker prone and instantly forced the referee to step in.

The victory capped a landmark day for NZ MMA and, in particular, Auckland's City Kickboxing, which had a flawless outing, following wins to Dan Hooker and debutant Brad Riddell.

Setting the scene with some slick choreography to mark his entrance, Adesanya continued the fleet-footedness into the opening round, when Whittaker came out ultra-aggressive, throwing plenty of heat.

Adesanya maintained his composure through the onslaught and with mere seconds remaining in the round, put Whittaker flat on his back with a counter left-hook that had many of the crowd believing it was the end of the fight, rather than the round.

Ten more seconds and it probably would've been.

The Aussie's gameplan was clearly based on the blueprint provided by Kelvin Gastelum, who pushed Adesanya to the limit in Atlanta with a similar high-pressure style.

But Adesanya was prepared, combining deft head movement with effective counter-striking - a recipe that ultimately spelled the end for Whittaker.

"I’m real petty," said Adesanya afterwards. "I remember everything like an elephant.

"I was in the nose bleeds and now I made his nose bleed."

"He threw everything we expected. We had everything planned for plan A to Z.

"It‘s unreal. They said I have no knockout power."

The 30-year-old wasted no time confirming who he wanted next, as he looked cage-side and unleashed on Brazilian Paulo Costa.

"You know who’s next. I have a heavy Ricky Martin wannabe next. Borrachinha. This is my Octagon. I’m going to smash him. I want to rearrange his face."

And that bout may well take place on New Zealand shores. Last week, UFC boss Dana White confirmed that if Adesanya were able to take the belt, he should headline the first card here in almost two-and-a-half years.

In the co-main event, Dan Hooker made a great case for another potential double-headline act with his teammate, with a hugely impressive unanimous decision win over hard-nosed American Al Iaquinta.

'The Hangman' put on the best performance of his lengthy UFC career against the No.6-ranked Iaquinta, that could see him elevated inside the division's top five. 

Newshub.