In just his third UFC fight, Nigerian-born New Zealander Israel Adesanya (14-0-0) has defeated number eight ranked Brad Tavares (17-5-0) with a dominant performance over five rounds in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter 27 Finale.
Headlining for the first time in his short UFC career, Adesanya came to The Palms in Las Vegas with an undefeated MMA record of 13-0, including a TKO victory over Australian Rob Wilkinson and a close split decision over Italian Marvin Vettori in April.
Tavares entered the Octagon riding a four-fight win-streak including victories against the formidable Elias Theodorou and Thales Leites. His only loss in his last six outings was to current middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker.
Never having fought in an MMA fight that went beyond the third round, Adesanya looked composed throughout the bout, taking advantage of the clear difference in height and reach. Landing shots from the outside, Adesanya didn’t allow Tavares to push the pace of the fight, a slow rhythm throughout working in favour of the Kiwi fighter.
With a high guard and chin tucked in, Tavares started the bout knowing that he had to be wary of the striking prowess of the ‘Style Bender’ Adesanya, constantly working on closing the distance and setting up a hard overhand right. With the first two rounds going to Adesanya by way of his clinical striking and ability to avoid punches, it really wasn’t until the third round that we saw a change in gear and the gulf of difference between the two fighters start to show.
Constant attacks from different angles and the ability to stuff the much-talked-about takedowns of Tavares had Adesanya in the driver’s seat for much of rounds three, four and five. A flurry of short and sharp elbows from Adesanya early in the fourth round opened a large gash above the right eye of Tavares, who had trouble concentrating for the remainder of the fight, often having to wipe away the blood.
Looking uneasy on his chair between rounds four and five, Tavares did his best to push the action in the final stages of the bout, but it was Adesanya who surprised many by constantly being on top as the fight went to the ground. Proving many doubters wrong who said that this fight against such a high-level opponent came too soon, Adesanya walked away with a mostly one-sided unanimous points victory.
Not wanting to slow his climb through the rankings, Adesanya used one of his post-fight interviews to call out the winner of Uriah Hall and Paulo Costa, which is set to take place at UFC 226 tomorrow. Adesanya also walked away from the TUF 27 Finale with a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus for his efforts.