Israel Adesanya on Saturday became the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight titleholder with an emphatic technical knockout of Robert Whittaker in the UFC 243 main event at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia. “The Last Stylebender” confirmed his place as the best 185-pound fighter in the world and now has a giant target on his back.
Meanwhile, Dan Hooker netted the most significant win of his career with a dominant unanimous decision over Al Iaquinta; Sergey Spivak secured his first victory under the UFC banner with a submission of Tai Tuivasa; Dhiego Lima outpointed Luke Jumeau; and Yorgan De Castro made a triumphant Octagon debut with his sensational knockout of Justin Tafa.
What becomes of the UFC 243 losers? Some ideas:
Robert Whittaker vs. Kelvin Gastelum-Darren Till winner: Whittaker suffered his first defeat since 2014 and lost for the first time since he moved to middleweight. Like “The Reaper” said afterwards, it was not the end of the world. Remember, he is still only 28. A win or two could see him get a chance to regain his title and with Paulo Henrique Costa next in line, it makes sense for Whittaker to face the winner of the UFC 244 confrontation between Gastelum and Till in November. Whittaker also revealed he did not sustain any major injuries in the fight, so we can expect to see him back in the cage sooner rather than later.
Al Iaquinta vs. Alexander Hernandez: Iaquinta has now dropped three of his last four bouts and lost two in a row for the first time in his career. The New Yorker should still remain in the Top 10 at 155 pounds, but he may have to fight someone ranked below him, given his current run of results. Hernandez -- currently ranked No. 13 -- would be an appropriate matchup against an opponent who poses a more favorable stylistic challenge.
Tai Tuivasa vs. Marcin Tybura: Tuivasa has gone from a potential heavyweight contender to a three-fight losing streak. He is unlikely to get cut by the promotion, but it is entirely possible that he drops out of the Top 15 following his loss to Spivak. Tuivasa needs to get back to his winning ways, and Tybura finds himself in a similar position, having lost four of his last five fights. A matchup between the two makes sense.
Luke Jumeau vs. Siyar Bahadurzada: Jumeau never really got going against Lima due in large part to the Brazilian’s leg kicks. Regardless, it is back to the drawing board for the New Zealander, who is now 2-2 with the promotion. Bahadurzada, meanwhile, is 4-4 with the promotion but has also lost his last two contests. He would make a suitable next opponent for Jumeau.
Justin Tafa vs. Allen Crowder: We did not get to see much of Tafa, as he was knocked out cold by fellow UFC debutant De Castro as he rushed in. However, anyone can be caught in the heavyweight division, and there was plenty of hype surrounding the Australian leading up to the event. Match him with Crowder, who is coming off a knockout loss to Jairzinho Rozenstruik.