'It was hard for me' - Adesanya is made to work in UFC title defence

Source: 1News

Israel Adesanya walked to the octagon for his UFC 276 middleweight title defence against American Jared Cannonier in Las Vegas mimicking WWE's The Undertaker - music and all, including a wide-brim hat and fake urn with "Jared" inscribed on the side - but the fight failed to live up to those high-impact expectations.

Adesanya lands a right hand against Cannonier in their UFC middleweight title fight.

Part of the reason for that was because the Kiwi was always in control of the fight with his stabbing left jab and inside and outside leg kicks, all of which put his opponent on the back foot or at least wary about rushing in.

It made for a cagey affair, with renowned striker Adesanya connecting more than Cannonier - in every round except round three - and that's the way the judges saw it too. One judge gave all five rounds to Adesanya, the other two scoring it 4-1.

"They had an excellent game plan," he said afterwards, adding: "it was hard for me to get my second phase going."

One of the more exciting things about the fight was its aftermath, with Adesanya calling out Brazilian Alex Pereira, who knocked out Steve Strickland in devastating fashion on the undercard.

Pereira, who has beaten Adesanya twice in kickboxing bouts, rocked Strickland with a vicious left hook before closing the fight with an accurate right hand. The fight was over within the first round.

The fight between the pair, if made, will be a highly anticipated one.

As it is, Adesanya's winning streak goes to 12, the longest active sequence in the UFC's middleweight division.

Before the bout, Adesanya, who was defending his belt for the fifth time, spoke of wanting to “show off” his skills to the Las Vegas crowd at the T-Mobile Arena.

The Nigerian-New Zealander, who was a heavy favourite and had a 22-1 record going into the bout (undefeated at middleweight), said: "I want to show my essence, I want to express myself, I want to show off."

Veteran Cannonier, 38, was coming off two impressive wins against Kelvin Gastelum and Derek Brunson.

However, Cannonier, who was seeking his first world title, recognised Adesanya presented his toughest test to date.

"I would say he definitely is [the biggest challenge]. He's definitely the best striker that I've come up against," he told BBC Sport.

"He's a great fighter, he's been very entertaining, very educating for me to watch.”

As it was, Cannonier, with swelling on his right eye from Adesanya's accurate jab, wasn't prepared to risk enough.

Israel Adesanya mimics The Undertaker as he walks to the octagon at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

In the co-main event, Australian Alex Volkanovski, Adesanya's stablemate at Auckland's City Kickboxing gym, comprehensively beat American Max Holloway over five rounds in a featherweight world title fight.

It was the third meeting between the pair and Volkanovski was far too sharp in all respects, opening up a deep cut on Holloway's left eyebrow with a right hand in round two and winning every round according to the three judges.

The undefeated Volkanovski, who now has 21 consecutive wins, indicated his willingness to move up a weight class to lightweight afterwards. He was in such control during the fight he shouted he was "way too fast" in round one. After opening up the cut on Holloway's brow in round two, Volkanovski said: "That's a bad one".

On another undercard fight, Christchurch's Brad Riddell suffered a first-round defeat via submission to American Jalin Turner. Riddell was hurt by a right hand and then an uppercut before Turner submitted him after 45 seconds.