UFC 271 results, highlights: Israel Adesanya outpoints Robert Whittaker to retain title in rematch

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After being dominated by Israel Adesanya in their 2019 meeting, Robert Whittaker entered UFC 271 on Saturday night knowing he had a very difficult puzzle to solve if he wanted to regain the middleweight championship. Whittaker was largely up to the challenge, came up short as Adesanya retained the title via unanimous decision in a highly competitive fight.

Adesanya started off red hot, buzzing Whittaker with stinging shots and scoring a knockdown in the first round. The opening frame left Whittaker looking rattled on his stool in the corner before Round 2. As the fight looked like it would quickly get out of hand for Whittaker and possibly end in a replay of the second-round TKO from the pair's UFC 243 clash, Whittaker managed to regain his confidence in Round 2, landing punches and scoring with a takedown to have his first truly positive moments in his rivalry with the champion.

Whittaker would continue to try to mix in wrestling throughout the remainder of the fight, occasionally picking moments to engage in grappling, though he was never able to hold Adesanya down with any measurable success. The closest the grappling attack came to proving fruitful came in Round 4, with Whittaker able to briefly take Adesanya's back as the champion scrambled to his feet after another brief Whittaker takedown. Adesanya was able to avoid any submission danger or strikes in the briefly-dangerous position, however, and was quickly back to his preferred striking distance.

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Adesanya's ability to maintain distance was key to his victory. In using his significant reach advantage, Adesanya picked away at Whittaker with lightning-fast kicks to the legs and body, as well as with long jabs and straights that forced Whittaker to try to find ways to get inside and unload with strikes.

Despite Whittaker making most of the rounds competitive after his disastrous opening frame, Adesanya had clearly done enough to deserve the decision victory, which he received by official scores of 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46.

"I knew he was going to bring everything because last time I took everything away from him," Adesanya said after the win. "He had nothing to lose. But, like I said, I'm the champ, you have to come and get it."

The win over Whittaker was Adesanya's fourth defense of the middleweight championship since winning the belt in the first meeting with Whittaker.

For Whittaker, who had a three-fight winning streak snapped, the loss was a tough pill to swallow.

"Yeah, I did [think I won the fight]," Whittaker said. "I know I started off rocky in the first round but I felt like I took every one after that. It is what it is. Like they say, don't leave it in the hands of the judges. I'm gutted. I'm gutted. I thought I did enough."

As for the next defense of his championship, Adesanya stated he had a date and opponent in mind, singling out Jared Cannonier, who'd scored a huge knockout victory over Derek Anderson on the undercard of the event.

"I know June doesn't have a pay-per-view yet," Adesanya said. "But, like I said, I'm the new dog in the yard and I'm the big dog in the yard. I know the other dog, Jared Cannonier, did some work tonight. Yeah, I'm pissing in this cage in June. Watch me."

Elsewhere on the card, Tai Tuivasa proved he may just have staying power in the heavyweight division with his thunderous finish of former title challenger Derrick Lewis. Tuivasa rallied from a knockdown in Round 1 to drop the Houston native with a vicious elbow and leave him in a heap in Round 2. The Aussie is now riding a five-fight win streak with all of those coming by stoppages and has plenty of options to consider when it comes to his next opponent.

CBS Sports was with you the entire way on Saturday bringing you all the results and highlights from the UFC 271 below.

UFC 271 card and results

  • Israel Adesanya (c) def. Robert Whittaker via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46)
  • Tai Tuivasa def. Derrick Lewis via second-round TKO (punches)
  • Jared Cannonier def. Derek Brunson via second-round TKO (punches)
  • Renato Moicano def. Alexander Hernandez via second-round submission (rear naked choke)
  • Bobby Green def. Nasrat Haqparast via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Andrei Arlovski def. Jared Vanderaa via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
  • Casey O'Neill def. Roxanne Modafferi via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
  • Kyler Phillips def. Marcelo Rojo via third-round submission (arm bar)
  • Carlos Ulberg def. Fabio Cherant via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Ronnie Lawrence def. Mana Martinez via unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-28)
  • Jacob Malkoun def. AJ Dobson via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Douglas Silva De Andrade def. Sergey Morozov via second-round submission (rear naked choke)
  • Jeremiah Wells def. Mike Diamond via first-round submission (rear naked choke)
  • Maxim Grishin def. William Knight via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
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Official result: Israel Adesanya def. Robert Whittaker via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46) to retain the UFC middleweight championship.

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Whittaker landed a good left hand on the break after failing to get the fight back to the ground. Whittaker again drove for a takedown, though Adesanya fought it off. Whittaker held on to Adesana against the cage. Another close round, probably the best for Whittaker. Unofficial scorecard: 10-9 Whittaker (48-47 Adesanya)

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Whittaker failed on a takedown attempt and Adesanya hit an accidental eye poke, leading to a brief break in the action. Whittaker shot and scored another takedown but again Adesanya quickly popped back to his feet.

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Israel Adesanya (c) vs. Robert Whittaker -- Round 5: Adesanya landed a short left hand to start the round Whittaker landed a jab just as Adesanya landed another leg kick. Whittaker did connect with another jab, however, and continued to keep things close.

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@ufc via Twitter
February 13, 2022, 5:46 AM
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Adesanya landed more of his leg kicks but Whittaker did land a short uppercut. There have been several close rounds in a row now and it is possible the fight could be decided by the final round. Unofficial scorecard: 10-9 Adesanya (39-37)

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Israel Adesanya (c) vs. Robert Whittaker -- Round 4: Whittaker landed a good left hand at the start of the round. Adesanya again landed heavy to the leg and then landed a knee to the head. Whittaker got inside and scored with another takedown and took the back as Adesanya stood to get to his feet. Whittaker tried to ride Adesanya's back but Adesanya escaped back to distance. 

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A massive leg kick from Adesanya appeared to bother Whittaker. Adesanya also scored with a body kick before the end of the round. Unofficial scorecard: 10-9 Adesanya (29-28)

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Whittaker drove for a takedown that was easily stuffed before Adesanya landed a knee and broke away. Adesanya threw a head kick that Whittaker was able to catch to score a takedown. Adesanya got to his feet and Whittaker stuck to his body, trying to find a way to get to the ground again.

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Israel Adesanya (c) vs. Robert Whittaker -- Round 3: A cautious start to the round from both men before Adesanya landed a heavy kick to the body. Adesanya just missed with a head kick as Whittaker charged forward. Adesanya also continued to work kicks to Whittaker's lead leg before Adesanya cracked wit a hard straight shot.

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@ufc via Twitter
February 13, 2022, 5:34 AM
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Whittaker blocked a high kick and slid out of the way of a leg kick. Much better round for Whittaker in the second. Unofficial scorecard: 10-9 Whittaker (19-19)

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Whittaker got in on the legs and scored his first takedown of the fight. Whittaker landed a few short punches before Adesanya got back to his feet. Whittaker kept him pinned to the cage, grinding away and trying to grapple before Adesanya broke free.

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Whittaker landed a solid jab but caught part of an uppercut from Adesanya. Whittaker got in clean with a hard left hand, starting to find a bit more success than in the very negative opening round.

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Israel Adesanya (c) vs. Robert Whittaker -- Round 2: Whittaker missed with a high kick early in the round. Adesanya landed more leg kicks and a few punches as Whittaker tried to turn up his offensive output.

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Good opening round for the champion. Unofficial scorecard: 10-9 Adesanya

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Whittaker shot for a takedown but Adesanya easily sprawled to defend and go right back to striking at distance. Adesanya landed another heavy leg kick and backed to distance, feeling the distance was working well.

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Adesanya landed his own leg kicks while feinting and trying to keep Whittaker off-balance. Adesanya just missed with a head kick and a hard left that briefly dropped Whittaker to the canvas, though the challenger got back to his feet quickly.

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Israel Adesanya (c) vs. Robert Whittaker -- Round 1: Adesanya opened looking to keep a wide distance at which to strike. Whittaker met that by flicking out some kicks at the champion's legs. Whittaker did land a few leg kicks while Adesanya tested range with the jab.

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