This is the first big sports weekend of the year in 2022. The day before Super Bowl Sunday, we will have some of the top talents in the UFC squaring off in the Octagon for UFC 271. The title fight between Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker is the main event for this card, and former heavyweight title challenger Derrick Lewis will face up-and-comer Tai Tuivasa in the co-main event. Top middleweights Jared Cannonier and Derek Brunson
Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker
UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya unified the division with his second-round knockout over Robert Whittaker at UFC 243 in October 2019. Adesanya is 20-1 over the course of his career, and his lone loss was by unanimous decision when he moved up to light heavyweight to challenge Jan Blachowicz for the UFC title last year at UFC 259. The Last Stylebender has successfully defended his belt three times since his first win over Whittaker with wins over Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa, and Marvin Vettori.
Whittaker has been yearning for this rematch since he was knocked out by Adesanya two-and-a-half years ago. He had won nine straight bouts before his loss to Adesanya, and he has won three straight fights since that defeat. However, Whittaker doesn’t have a lot of finishing power. His last five victories have all come by decision, and he only defeated Yoel Romero the second time by split decision.
Derrick Lewis vs. Tai Tuivasa
There are usually fireworks whenever Derrick Lewis enters the ring. Lewis recently turned 37 years old, and he would love to celebrate his birthday with another victory. He is 26-8 in his professional MMA career, and he holds the UFC record for most knockouts. Lewis has 21 knockouts overall in his career with 13 of those KOs coming in the UFC.
Tai Tuivasa has won four straight fights coming into this showdown. Tuivasa had lost three straight fights in a 10-month span from late 2018 to October 2019, but he has been able to use his impressive power to knock out his last four opponents coming into this fight. In his career, Tuivasa has knocked out his opponent in 12 of his 13 wins, and 11 of those knockouts came in the first round. That means his showdown with Lewis is unlikely to last more than a round or two.
Jared Cannonier vs. Derek Brunson
Before coming to the UFC, Jared Cannonier was 7-0. He was dominating opponents in Alaska, but he has been up and down since taking a big step up in competition. Cannonier is 9-5 in the UFC, yet he has started to figure some things out. He has won four of his last five fights with impressive wins over names like Anderson Silva, Jack Hermansson, and Kelvin Gastelum.
The great Derek Brunson has headlined his last three events. Brunson has won five straight fights coming into this showdown with Jared Cannonier, and his last defeat came at the hands of Israel Adesanya. This is a step up in competition for him though, as Cannonier is ranked ahead of him in the current UFC rankings.