Israel Adesanya defended his UFC Middleweight Championship once again with a unanimous decision win over Jared Cannonier in the main event of UFC 276 from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Adesanya aims to put on a show and he got things started before he even stepped in the cage. He channeled the Undertaker for his walkout to the cage:
Once the opening bell rang, Adesanya was all business. His first-round gameplan was heavy on leg kicks but featured a few combinations as well. Meanwhile, Cannonier was hesitant to commit to anything significant.
As the fight moved to the second round, Canonnier's struggle to close the distance and mount an offense was more pronounced. Adesanya started picking him apart from range with crisp jabs and leg kicks.
Cannonier did find some success in the later rounds in the clinch. He was able to neutralize the champion's advantage in the striking game, making the fight ugly.
The strategy did not make Cannonier a fan favorite:
Ultimately, it didn't help him get his hand raised either. Adesanya's clean striking was enough to earn him the nod in the eyes of the judges.
Adesanya's death grip on the middleweight crown doesn't seem to be getting any looser. The 32-year-old has now defended the belt five times against some of the best the weight class has to offer, including Robert Whittaker, Paulo Costa and Yoel Romero.
The champion noted that he is desperate for new challengers.
"I like having new blood. The last two, the (Marvin) Vettori one I got bored, the Robert (Whittaker) one I was waiting a little bit and I didn't like that from my performance," Adesanya told reporters prior to the fight. "So I like having new blood and I like having to rise to the occasion."
He holds wins over everyone who entered the night in the top five of the division except for Sean Strickland, leaving few options that present interesting challenges.
That new blood could actually come from a familiar foe in his next fight. Alex Pereira only has seven MMA fights on his resume but made a big statement with a win over Strickland on the UFC 276 main card.
Pereira has fought Adesanya twice in kickboxing, defeating The Last Stylebender both times.
It's fairly uncommon for an unranked fighter to propel himself to a title shot this early, but the fact that Adesanya has cleaned out the division combined with the history they share could create an exception.