#3 – Israel Adesanya vs Robert Whittaker
Adesanya shocked the world with such a dominant performance over Whittaker at UFC 243, cementing himself as the new UFC Middleweight champion. The pure confidence Adesanya showed before the fight to choreograph a dance routine as his ring entrance was unbelievable. From the moment he came out for his ring walk to the ending fight sequence, Adesanya showed throughout the insane amount of confidence he has in himself.
Straight out the gate Whittaker came into the fight with his game face on. He was quickly trying to prove there was no ring rust, throwing heavy punches every time they exchanged. However Whittaker had very little success with nothing really landing on the agile Adesanya, it seemed Adesanya was trying to make reads for the first round until he started getting into his groove later in the round. By the end of the first round, Adesanya started finding counters regularly, leading to the Champion getting dropped right as the horn sounded.
Likewise in the second round, Adesanya’s length and his ability to counter proved to be a problem for Whittaker. The Reaper started to get reckless in his offensive attacks, falling right into Adesanya’s hands. It all came to an end when Whittaker’s giant left hook was met by two counter shots from Style Bender to send the champ to the canvas, solidifying himself as the new king of the division.
This fight proved Adesanya is one of the biggest stars in the UFC. It’s been a thing of beauty watching Adesanya join the UFC less than two years ago and run through the division, this fight against Whittaker proved to be the icing on the cake. The pure confidence and charisma he showcased in his fight was symbolic of his rise in the UFC, a fighter with 100% belief in his abilities.
#2 – Yair Rodriguez vs Jeremy Stephens (The Rematch)
The anticipation for this rematch was immense. After the first fight which got stopped because of an eye poke within the first minute, both fighters haven’t seen eye to eye about the incident (pardon the pun). The pair have exchanged words and nearly even went at it in the hotel after the fight. The fans were robbed of a thrilling match up the first time between a powerhouse and a varied striker, but damn did it deliver this time!
Yair wasted no time inflicting damage onto his nemesis, launching a running sidekick towards Stephens (Masvidal-esque). Yair continued to pick apart his opponent through his devastating kicks to the head,body and legs whilst it was clear Stephens only had 1 thing on his mind… A disgusting KO. The first round ended similar to how it begun, with Yair inflicting most of the damage including dropping Stephens for a brief second with a stiff jab.
The second round started similar to the first, Yair was finding his range with the body kicks consistently and to no surprise Stephens went down holding his midsection. Rodrigues was quick to unleash a rapid fire of punches aiming to end the fight, however Stephens had other ideas showing a phenomenal amount of heart to whether the storm and mount a comeback ending the round in a dominant position.
The third round was nothing like the first two. Stephens knew he needed a finish but instead of looking for the right punch, he took the fight to the ground in search of some success. This time Yair was able to whether the storm and make it to a decision.
Rodriguez got the unanimous decision win but this was a fight that both fighters’ price went up. Stephens especially showed an unbelievable amount of grit and determination to survive that second round. It would also be hard to argue against if the fight was 5 rounds like the first Stephens would’ve got the nod, It was Yair that was in trouble towards the end of the fight and Yair that was fading quicker. This is a fight in which id love to see yet another rematch. Two of the most exciting featherweights putting everything on the line again, who wouldn’t want to see that?
#1 – Kron Gracie vs Cub Swanson
Perhaps unexpectedly, this is my fight of the month. Both fighters were hell bent on winning from the get go. Kron was eager to prove he was more than just a jiu jitsu competitor, he wanted to be seen as a threat to the top in the division whilst Cub was on a four fight losing streak coming into the fight.
From the very beginning Swanson was on fire, he was piecing Kron up with everything he threw and made it look effortless. He was moving fast and fluid whilst Gracie was missing with everything he swung, Swanson had not looked this good in years. With each of Swanson’s kicks to the midsection of Gracie echoing around the arena it looked certain Cub had this fight in the bag.
However, Kron did not seem to feel anything, anything at all. Swanson unloaded on his body and legs but like the Diaz brothers, Kron relentlessly marched forward throwing a ridiculous amount of strikes at Cub. Kron started to feed on Swanson getting tired. Cub started to move less and less whilst Kron begun to throw more and more.
Luckily Swanson still had his wits about him. Even though he was tired and couldn’t move as fluid as in round one, he was able to plant his feet and avoid takedowns as well as dishing out some nasty body shots in the process. It was a hard fought battle but Cub was a deserved winner (just about).
This fight had to be at #1 for me. It had everything – disgusting body shots, an insane amount of heart shown, relentless pace, etc. Similar to Rodriguez – Stephens, this was a fight that saw both fighters stock go up. Rightfully earning fight of the night, both fighters showed an absurd amount of heart and willingness to put it all on the line. The anticipation for their next fights is going to much higher than anyone could have predicted.