The second pay-per-view of 2022 brings us to Houston, Texas for UFC 271: Adesanya vs Whittaker 2. Here are the most significant matchups.
(All stats according to UFC’s Record Book as of February 9, 2022, and only include active athletes in their respective division unless noted otherwise)
Main Event: Israel Adesanya vs Robert Whittaker 2
Key Stats: 65.5% significant strike defense (tied 5th all-time among MW), 83.3% takedown defense (tied 5th all-time among MW), 11 knockdowns landed (3rd all-time among MW)
What It Means: Considered one of the most sophisticated strikers on the whole roster, Adesanya’s keen sense of range and timing make him a slippery and dangerous puzzle on the feet. He is patient, but not lackadaisical, in his approach, constantly feinting and making reads. His offense often stems from low leg kicks and body kicks, and then he’ll string together combinations accordingly. When countering, he has become adept at sliding back but staying in range to fire off a few counter hooks, making the most of his elusive head movement. He is disciplined when fending off takedowns, making a point to stuff his opponent’s head and sprawl or to dig underhooks along the fence and circle away.
Key Stats: 34% takedown accuracy, 4.73 strikes landed per minute (9th all-time among MW), 7 knockdowns landed (8th all-time among MW)
What It Means: “The Reaper” is well-rounded to a devastating level, and presents a unique blend of quickness, power and tenacity in the middleweight division. He darts in and out of range with ease and moves lightly on his feet. His jab comes from down low and is quick, and he strings his takedowns together well off that jab. He also likes to throw a 1-2 followed by a right side high kick. It’s a combination he lands consistently, so the set up for it is clearly deceptive.
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What to Look For in the Fight: The common thought is that Whittaker’s best road to regaining his belt is to mix things up and use his whole skill set, so it’s not a matter of if, but rather when, he decides to shoot for a takedown. While Adesanya has been very successful in staying on his feet, Whittaker has a keen sense of both timing and surprise when shooting. On the feet, Adesanya is the more diverse striker, and he never really had to deviate from Plan A in their first fight as Whittaker kept throwing himself into the fire and ate several counter shots. Look for Whittaker to time Adesanya’s kicks as a way to enter on a takedown, and if the fight stays on the feet, expect a more patient and measured approach from both.
Co-Main Event: Derrick Lewis vs Tai Tuivasa
Key Stats: 13 KO/TKO wins (1st all-time), 17 wins (2nd all-time among HW), 50.1% significant strike accuracy (8th)
What It Means: “The Black Beast” is an explosive knockout artist who embraces a “swang-and-bang” style that embodies the best of heavyweight brawling. Lewis is completely comfortable waiting for his opponent to enter the pocket before he unleashes bombs of his own because when he connects, few heavyweights stay upright. Because of his patient approach and opponent’s generally respecting his power, a lot of his finishes come in the second and third rounds. He’s not a hands-only striker, either. He will throw flying knees, jumping switch kicks and high kicks seemingly out of nowhere when the fight is at range.
Derrick Lewis And Tai Tuivasa | Best Moments
Derrick Lewis And Tai Tuivasa | Best Moments
Key Stats: 1.39 knockdowns per 15 minutes (6th all-time among HW), 6:30 average fight time (tied 4th-shortest), 52.1% significant strike accuracy (4th)
What It Means: Few people have more outright fun in a brawl than Tuivasa, who is a fast, powerful force in the heavyweight division. He possesses strong technical striking, but when it comes down to it, the guy just wants to throw down. “Bam Bam” whips wicked leg kicks when at range, and he can enter the pocket really quickly. His hands are fluid and pack real pop, and when he sniffs a finish, he pounces quickly. He has a good jab and uppercut as well, and along the fence, he loves to mix it up and throw elbows when clinched up with his opponent.
What to Look For in the Fight: This has every reason to be a barnburner, but both fighters are aware enough of the power coming back to not get too reckless in the exchanges. Tuivasa makes more of a point to pressure forward and cut the cage off, but he can’t do so without regarding Lewis’ spontaneous explosions. Tuivasa would be wise to cash in on leg kicks early and make the most of his quickness, but Lewis has the equalizer in his right hand.
Other Fights to Watch (Jared Cannonier vs Derek Brunson, Roxanne Modafferi vs Casey O’Neill)
Key Stats: 84.6% takedown defense (tied 1st all-time among MW), 1.07 knockdowns averaged per 15 minutes (4th), 59.1% significant strike defense (tied 8th)
What It Means: Cannonier is a powerful force at middleweight with great strength and knockout power that carries deep into fights. When he’s on his game, Cannonier is walking his opponents down and throwing tight, technical shots that make the most efficient use of his natural power. His physical strength really shows itself when opponents shoot for takedowns. He has technically sound defense, but along the fence, he can really find leverage and create gaps for escape because he is so strong. On the feet, he has powerful leg kicks, and he’ll string punches off that to great effect.
Key Stats: 9 finishes (2nd all-time among MW), 40.2% control time percentage (9th all-time among MW), 32 takedowns (7th all-time among MW)
RELATED: Derek Brunson's Endgame
What It Means: Brunson, particularly on his recent five-fight winning streak, has displayed a more mindful approach that takes advantage of his explosiveness. On the feet, he has power, and where he used to wing wild punches, he now throws tight, technical combinations. When things get a little stagnant or hairy on the feet, he does well to time his opponent’s strikes for a takedown attempt and does well to maintain top control from there. His ground-and-pound is malicious, and he has a little bit of unpredictability to his striking that makes things all the more dangerous.
What to Look For in the Fight: While both fighters carry knockout power, Brunson’s path of least resistance stems from his ability to get Cannonier onto the mat. That’s easier said than done, and Cannonier has not only shown the ability to fend off takedowns, but also time an uppercut on his opponent. Brunson could be served well to press Cannonier against the fence, particularly early in the fight. While it might seem like Cannonier has the striking advantage, he’ll need to be mindful of throwing low kicks, as it gives Brunson a chance to initiate a grappling exchange.
Roxanne Modafferi | Career Retrospective
Roxanne Modafferi | Career Retrospective
Key Stats: 10 total fights (3rd all-time among WFLW), 2:33:32 total fight time (1st all-time among WFLW), 14 takedowns landed (tied 3rd all-time among WFLW)
What It Means: A crafty veteran, Modafferi has maintained her stature in the sport due to her incessant curiosity, toughness and fundamental technique. On the feet, she’s not super dynamic, but she makes the most of her talents and pressures her opponents well. Where she shines is in grappling exchanges. She has a good sense of leverage and manipulates space well when up close to take advantage of exchanges along the fence. Once she gets the fight to the ground, she is patient but methodical in her approach. Once a mistake is made, she can pounce accordingly. She is also undeterred in the face of adversity, so even if she gets a little behind, she can adjust and wear down opponents late in fights.
Key Stats: 3.83 takedowns per 15 minutes, 5.48 strikes landed per minute, 50% takedown accuracy
What It Means: “King” is a marauding, pressure fighter with a nasty streak and particularly good finishing instincts. On the feet, she continues to improve her arsenal, but where she shines is when she gets her hands on her opponent and has her way with them. She is physically very strong and has good grappling technique, especially when on top. Her ground-and-pound is vicious, and she definitely has a mean streak when imposing her will. Whether the window is for strikes or a submission, O’Neill sniffs it out and attacks accordingly.
What to Look For in the Fight: This is a great test for O’Neill as Modafferi sometimes struggles more with hyper-athletic opponents. While O’Neill is definitely athletic, Modafferi will test her grappling and ability to maintain top control. The early exchanges along the cage will be telling, as well, especially if O’Neill can have her way with Modafferi the way she has with her opponents so far, but that’s easier said than done with “The Happy Warrior.” Fighting Modafferi can turn into a frustrating experience for a prospect because of the veteran’s overall grit and patient, technical approach.
UFC 271: Adesanya vs Whittaker 2 took place on Saturday, February 12, 2022, live from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive all of the action on UFC Fight Pass.