Israel Adesanya's ascent up the middleweight rankings came to a head at UFC 243 on Saturday in Melbourne, Australia, as he became the division's undisputed champion with a second-round TKO win over Robert Whittaker in the main event.
Adesanya put away the now former champion with a counter left hook as Whittaker struggled to close the distance with his opponent throughout the two-round fight.
Whittaker looked to prove that he wasn't missing a beat after a long layoff in the early going. He heaved some heavy punches at Adesanya as the interim champion seemed to analyze the spacing between the two.
The Last Sylebender didn't spend the whole round analyzing, though. He seemed to get comfortable as the opening frame came to a close and showed that with a huge blow that floored the champion right at the horn.
Adesanya's length continued to be a problem for The Reaper. He consistently opted to lung into his offensive attacks to close the distance and while it worked at times, it also opened him up for devastating counters. It didn't take long for it to catch up to him.
Winging another wild hook at Adesanya's head, the new champion fired back two punches with the last one being a left hook that sent Whittaker crashing to the canvas and a new champion was born.
Adesanya didn't waste time building up his next fight either. He engaged in some post-fight trash talk with undefeated Brazilian Paulo Costa who is ostensibly next in line to challenge the new titleholder's status.
The Last Stylebender's journey to the top has been littered with highlight-reel finishes and memorable performances, but this is his biggest win. Whittaker's reign as the champion will go down as one of the most unfortunate in the history of the organization.
The Reaper's only title defense wasn't even officially a title fight because opponent Yoel Romero missed weight. Then he was forced to withdraw from a defense against Kelvin Gastelum because of emergency abdomen surgery.
Now, it's Adesanya's turn with the belt, and he already has his eye on a few contenders in the division and ultimately wants to fight light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
"I wouldn't say he's the ultimate, but he's definitely a boss on the game I want to play against," Adesanya said to The Mac Life (h/t ESPN's Marc Raimondi) earlier in the week. "The middleweight division is getting stacked right now. [Paulo] Costa, I got to take care of, and a few others. I'm saying 2021 [for Jones] ... probably early."
It's the kind of run that would make Adesanya one of the sport's biggest stars. With his exciting striking style and bold personality, The Last Stylebender has always had the ingredients to become a superstar.
Now he can add the title of champion as a major qualifier.