There will be no new UFC “champ champ.” Not on Jan Blachowicz’s watch.
The light heavyweight champion successfully defended his title against middleweight king Israel Adesanya, winning a unanimous decision with scores of 49-46, 49-45 and 49-45 on Saturday at UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
“Now, I deserve some respect,” said Blachowicz (28-8, 17 finishes), who won his championship in September, on the pay-per-view broadcast after the decision was read. “I’m the true champion.”
The first three rounds were closely contested on the feet, with Adesanya (20-1, 15 finishes) finding earlier success using kicks to Blachowicz’s lead leg. But the incumbent champion held his own from distance and looked to find success in the clinch, but Adesanya fought his way well out of exchanges against the cage.
Of the three, only the first was scored unanimously for Blachowicz. Round 2 saw a majority for the champ, while the third had two of three judges seeing it in Adesanya’s favor.
“I’m bigger, strong. I knew I [was] going to be better on the ground,” said Blachowicz, who identified Glover Teixeira as his preferred next challenger.
As the challenger began to find Blachowicz’s chin, a blast double-leg takedown midway through the fourth round turned the momentum against Adesanya. The Pole landed well from on top for the remainder of the frame to win it on the scorecards.
The fifth and final round looked much the same, with Adesanya narrowly outlanding from distance before yielding a well-time double-leg from Blachowicz at the midway point. Blachowicz worked his way to mount and was landing solid punches in the waning seconds. That earned him the more lopsided 10-8 scores from two of three judges.
“It didn’t go exactly as I wanted [it] to go, but dare to be great,” Adesanya said on the broadcast afterward.
The first of UFC 259’s championship tripleheader ended in controversy, with Long Island’s Aljamain Sterling became the new bantamweight champion via disqualification due to an illegal strike.
“To have the fight go like that … that’s not the way I wanted to win,” Sterling (20-3, 10 finishes) said on the broadcast after the fight. “That’s not the way I envisioned this.”
In the fourth round of a fight he was losing on two judges’ scorecards, he absorbed an illegal knee from defending champion Petr Yan. The fight was stopped to sort through what had transpired, and a clearly woozy Sterling was not allowed to continue at 4:29 of the round.
“I was in bad shape,” Sterling said of how he felt after the knee from Yan (15-2, eight finishes), which was delivered as Sterling’s knee clearly was down.
In the evening’s co-main event, featherweight champion Amanda Nunes (21-4, 17 finishes) made quick work of Megan Anderson (11-5, nine finishes) with an armbar finish at 2:03 of the first round after first hurting the challenger with heavy hands.