With the benefit of hindsight, Israel Adesanya was perhaps always destined for the middleweight title.
Coming into the UFC with flair, a ‘take on all-comers’ approach, and undeniable star power, Adesanya put on another elite-level performance as he defeated Robert Whittaker in enemy territory.
Extending his perfect MMA record to 18-0, ‘The Last Stylebender’ showcased a calmness becoming of champions as the New Zealander rolled with the punches and took his opportunities when they arose.
With two separate check hooks causing the most damage to Whittaker, Adesanya unified the 185 lbs title inside two rounds, doing so just 18 months after his promotional debut.
UFC 243 would also provide more success for Adesanya’s gym as fellow City Kickboxing camp mates Brad Riddell emerged victorious in the fight of the night, while Dan Hooker bested fellow lightweight contender Al Iaquinta in the co-main event.
With a record-breaking night in the books for the UFC, and UFC Fight Night 161 fast approaching this Saturday, here are five fights to make with a handful of fighters from UFC 243:
Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa
As obvious as Robert Whittaker vs. Israel Adesanya was for the middleweight title, the new champion vs. Paulo Costa is equally as unavoidable.
With two undefeated big hitters emerging in the same weight class, both Adesanya and Costa have quickly risen through the division to the top of the pile.
Add in a brewing rivalry between the two and this fight is an absolute no-brainer.
Robert Whittaker vs. Jack Hermansson
As humble in defeat as he was in victory, Robert Whittaker proved his champion mentality after suffering the first loss of his middleweight career on Saturday.
‘The Reaper’ will now have to re-group and re-assess following his loss to Adesanya but at just 28-years old, Whittaker will no doubt be back.
First and foremost, Whittaker will need to get back to winning ways before the UFC thinks of a rematch and with Jack Hermansson also suffering a loss in recent weeks, a fight between the two would set the winner back on course.
Dan Hooker vs. Paul Felder
Using his reach and throwing crippling calf kick after calf kick, Dan Hooker cruised to victory over ‘Ragin” Al Iaquinta.
‘The Hangman’ is now 6-1 since returning to the lightweight division and while he has lofty aspirations to take on Dustin Poirier, that fight is out-of-reach for the time being.
With such a stacked division, Hooker will need another win on his resume before challenging a top 5 fighter – a situation Paul Felder also finds himself in.
As a result of the backlog at 155 lbs, Hooker vs. Felder is the fight to make.
Serghei Spivac vs. Pavlovich / Greene Winner
Taking advantage of Tai Tuivasa’s porous takedown defence, Serghei Spivac wore away at the Australian’s gas tank in close before sinking in an arm-triangle choke in the second round.
Spivac’s win was a nice rebound performance for the Moldovan heavyweight after he dropped his UFC debut in short time to Walt Harris.
With a 1-1 UFC record to his name, Spivac will need to build himself up before challenging the more recognisable names in the division. As Sergei Pavlovich prepares to take on Maurice Greene later this month, the winner should be lined up for Spivac in early 2020.
Brad Riddell vs. Ottman Azaitar
Engaging in a back-and-forth war with Jamie Mullarkey, Brad Riddell’s quality of striking allowed him to break away from his Australian opponent and earn a unanimous decision win on the judges’ scorecards.
Only prevented from a stoppage win down to Mullarkey’s ridiculous toughness, Riddell put his kickboxing pedigree on display as punishing hooks routinely found their mark, knocking Mullarkey’s mouthpiece out time after time.
Going forward for Riddell, a fight with another recent debutant would provide a bigger chance for either man to shine.
Following Ottman Azaitar’s spectacular KO of Teemu Packalen at UFC 242, a Riddell – Azaitar fight would guarantee fireworks.