The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 243 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.
UFC 243 on Saturday was not a contender for card of the year, but it certainly had its moments. The main event alone was enough to have a discussion over as Israel Adesanya defeated Robert Whittaker via second-round knockout to become the new undisputed middleweight champion.
And so, here are five lessons we learned from UFC 243:
1. Adesanya is the Real DealAs the greatly-hyped Adesanya initially racked up the wins, it seemed like each next opponent would be the one to expose him. First, it was Brad Tavares, who was outclassed over five rounds. Then it was Derek Brunson, who ended up getting knocked out in the first round. Kelvin Gastelum seemed to be the toughest test for Adesanya and it certainly ended up that way. However, “The Last Stylebender” still came away with a unanimous decision (48-46, 48-46, 48-46) verdict, notably knocking Gastelum down four times in the final round.
But if anyone was to stop Adesanya’s hype train, it seemed to be Whittaker, who had beaten the likes of Yoel Romero (twice) and Ronaldo Souza, and many argued was equally as good a striker. Surely, this would be the end of the fairytale?
Nope. In the end, “The Reaper” turned out to be one of Adesanya’s easiest fights as he was just too quick and precise for Whittaker as a new king in the middleweight division had arrived. It’s time to acknowledge that this is a very special fighter, and the fact that he performed such a walkout before the fight showed just how confident he was of his ability and coming away with the victory.
2. Whittaker Shows How to Accept DefeatEver since Ronda Rousey turned heads with her handling defeat to Holly Holm poorly, we’re always quick to note how fighters react after suffering a loss. Whittaker certainly passed the test with flying colors. In his post-fight interview, he praised Adesanya as a great striker, offered no excuses and thanked all the fans who came to watch the show.
What was also refreshing was that he maintained that this was the best he ever felt so he took nothing away from Adesanya. And rather than calling for an instant rematch, he also said he’ll meet him in a fight or two. This was his only loss at middleweight as well as his first since 2014, but Whittaker showed what a champion he was in the way he handled this setback.
3. Dan Hooker is Ready for the Next LevelWhen Hooker previously called for a ranked opponent, it didn’t go well. He was thoroughly outclassed by Edson Barboza and ended up suffering his first professional defeat via knockout. Such a matchup may have come too soon for “The Hangman” at the time. The New Zealander completely dominated Al Iaquinta in virtually every department in their co-main event lightweight bout -- he outstruck him, he didn’t get taken down once and he even got Iaquinta’s back in the first round.
Given Iaquinta’s ranking of No. 6 before the fight, Hooker should overtake the New Yorker, which would see him sit just below the top five. He called out Dustin Poirier after the fight and while that may not be what’s next for him, Hooker is certainly ready to test himself against the truly elite fighters in the division.
4. Judging in Enemy Territory Can Still Be a ProblemWhile Hooker’s win over Iaquinta was unanimous for just about everyone watching, another New Zealander may have snuck out a win thanks to the judges. Dhiego Lima and Luke Jumeau fought in a welterweight bout on the main card and it was the former who dictated the fight and landed the more meaningful strikes over three rounds.
Despite that, the judges saw it as a split-decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) with one surprisingly scoring it to Jumeau. For context, only one round was collectively given to Jumeau by the 18 media scorers on MMADecisions.com.
Luckily for Lima, he came away with his third win in a row. But not all fighters avoid getting robbed, especially in enemy territory.
5. City Kickboxing Emerging as Top GymWhen people think of the top mixed martial arts gyms in the world, they think of American Top Team or Jackson-Wink MMA. However, Auckland’s City Kickboxing could be up there soon. UFC 243 was another successful night for Eugene Bareman’s gym as Adesanya, Hooker and Brad Riddell all came away with victories.
It means the City Kickboxing stable has gone 20-1 in the UFC since the start of 2018 and if things keep going this way, it’ll only be a matter of time before they’re considered among the very elite.