The UFC returned to Melbourne, Australia this weekend for UFC 243 with a middleweight title unification fight between Robert Whittaker and interim gold holder Israel Adesanya closing off an eleven fight card. Marvel Stadium hosts the action, two of the best middleweights in recent memory making the short trip ‘Down Under’ in a highly anticipated all Oceanic clash.
Former Invicta FC featherweight best Megan Anderson makes her Octagon return in a three-round affair alongside France’s Zarah Frain dos Santos. while there’s also slots on throughout the fixture for Aussie standouts, Jake Matthews and Tai Tuivasa. Out penultimate bout of the night takes place at 155 pounds, as the always game, ‘Ragin’ Al Iaquinta visits from New York against the Kiwi Dan Hooker.
A catchweight meeting between Khalid Taha and Bruno Gustavo Aparecido da Silva kicks off our UFC Fight Pass Preliminary card in Melbourne, with Taha looking to extend his winning streak to two, after halting the rise of Boston Salmon last time out. Displaying some wicked striking in the opening and second round, Taha ultimately adjusted after somc important takedowns for Silva, to secure a third-round arm-triangle.
In our featured bout of the UFC Fight Pass Preliminary card, Nadia Kassem meets with Ji Yeon Kim in a 127 pound catchweight matchup. New South Wales native Kassem suffered her first promotional loss last time out, via an armbar defeat to Montana De La Rosa, while Kim is also attempting to return to winning ways, after a decision loss to Antonina Shevchenko. Despite stuggling with some dymanic striking from Nadia Kassem in the opening round, Ji Yeon Kim rallied to secure an eventual second round finish via a barrage of strikes.
As mentioned previously, former Invicta FC featherweight best Megan Anderson makes her return to action tonight as the Gold Coast born striker welcomes France’s Zarah Frain dos Santos to the Octagon, with the 32-year-old eager to extend her winning streak to four with a promotional debut triumph. Displaying some good clinch and then offensive grappling, Anderson established full mount and despite being swept, managed to pull off a triangle to secure a first round stoppage.
A lightweight pairing features next as Jamie Mullarkey throws down with Brad Riddell. In a tremendous back-and-forth, in particular a barn-burner of a third round, Riddell managed a unanimous decision via a 29-27, and two 30-26’s.
Callan Potter meets Maki Pitolo at a welterweight limit in our next ESPN2 prelim of the night. Callan Potter made good on his UFC call with a 29-28 unanimous decision, despite his corner’s urge to secure the takedown rather than trade leather.
In our featured Preliminary bout on ESPN2, it’s a hometown return for the promising Jake Matthews, as he tackles Rostem Akman at 170 pounds. In a striking clinic, Jake Matthews secured a 30-27 unanimous decision victory on home soil.
Heavyweight hitters Justin Tafa and Yorgan De Castro meet in our main card opener. Putting his name into the hat for Knockout of The Night honours, Yorgan De Castro landed a bomb of a counter right hook to flatline Justin Tafa inside the opening three minutes.
New Zealand native Luke Jemeau makes the short journey to Melbourne in a pairing alongside Brazil’s Dhiego Lima welterweight. Jemeau scored a unanimous decision victory over Daichi Abe last time out, while Dhiego Lima, the brother of former Bellator MMA welterweight kingpin Douglas Lima, returned to the promotion two years ago, and looks to move to 3-2 in this run with a win over Jemeau. Damaging leg kicks are almost patented by Douglas and Dhiego Lima, and it’s a technique which the latter used to pick up a rather one-sided, but somehow a split decision win over Luke Jemeau.
The always entertaining Tai Tuivasa returns tonight, fixed on snapping a two-fight skid at he draws Sergey Spivak. Win or lose, expect a ‘shoey’ from the hometown hero. The Moldovan displayed some varied takedowns throughout the two round clash, ultimately slashing Tuivasa from the top, before securing an arm-triangle finish.
A high stakes meeting at lightweight takes co-main event of the evening status, as the gritty Al Iaquinta meets with Auckland finisher Dan Hooker who is fresh off a first round knockout of next weekend’s UFC Fight Night Tampa feature, James Vick. Utilizing outside calf kicks early and often, Hooker took a comfortable unanimous decision topped off with a second round knockdown. Afterwards, Hooker called for a 2020 hometown date with Dustin Poirier.
In our headliner of the night, Robert Whittaker clashed with Israel Adesanya, with the victor leaving Melbourne as the newly minted undisputed middleweight champion. Whittaker returns after a sixteen month lay off, while ‘The Last Stylebender’ makes the walk for the seventh time since February, 2018. Countering with precise hooks on cue, Adesanya dropped Whittaker at the very end of the opening round, and sealed his undisputed destiny with another counter left hook in the second round to finish a somewhat reckless, Robert Whittaker. In his post-fight interview with Jon Anik, Adesanya called for his first title defense against Paulo ‘Borrachinha’ Costa.