On Saturday night, the UFC returns with another big pay-per-view event as UFC 271 heads to Houston’s Toyota Center. In the main event, Robert Whittaker looks to regain the middleweight championship when he rematches titleholder Israel Adesanya.
Adesanya and Whittaker met for the first time at UFC 243 in October 2019, when Adesanya, then the interim champion, knocked out Whittaker in the second round to become world champion. Adesanya has continued to dominate the division since winning the belt.
Whittaker (23-5) appeared poised to build himself a compelling case as UFC’s second greatest middleweight champion, just behind the legendary “Spider” Silva. That spark was short-lived after being outclassed and knocked out by Adesanya in front of Whittaker’s Australian faithful. The former champion defended his No. 1 contender’s position with consecutive wins over Gastelum, Jared Cannonier and Darren Till en route to redemption.
As with every major UFC event, the card is deeper than just the main event. In two of the most anticipated fights of the card, Derek Brunson and Jared Cannonier are set to meet in a middleweight bout that could determine the next challenger for the winner of the main event and heavyweight bangers Derrick Lewis and Tai Tuivasa are set to clash.
Clearly, it’s easy to get lost in the minutiae of a big event. So we’re here to help give you a concise outlook of what to expect and what to know for every main card fight. Let’s take a closer look at what to expect on Saturday.
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Bobby Green vs. Nasrat Haqparast, Lightweight
- Odds: Green -150, Haqparast +125 | Last three results: Green – W,L,L | Haqparast – L,W,W
- Green: Looking to build on the momentum of his first stoppage victory since 2013
- Haqparast: Coming off a loss that snapped a two-fight winning streak
The main card kicks off with an intriguing lightweight battle between two men in need of a victory. Green (28-12-1) went 4-1 in his Strikeforce career, winning his final four bouts in the promotion. That momentum carried into his UFC career where he won his first four bouts in the Octagon to bring his winning streak to eight. Things have since taken a rough turn for Green as he’s gone on a run of 5-7-1 since November 2014. Green snapped his most recent losing skid in his last outing, picking up a big TKO victory over Al Iaquinta this past November. The win was the first by stoppage for Green since November 2013, a stretch that covered eight years and 15 fights. Haqparast (13-4) is 5-3 in the Octagon. In his most recent outing, he suffered a decision loss to Dan Hooker. That loss snapped a two-fight winning streak. Haqparast’s first nine career fights ended inside the distance. However, since joining the UFC, six of eight fights have gone to decision.
Kyler Phillips vs. Marcelo Rojo, Bantamweight
- Odds: Phillips -400, Rojo +310 | Last three results: Phillips – L,W,W | Rojo – L,W,L
- Phillips: An exciting young prospect coming off his first UFC loss
- Rojo: A striker coming off a short-notice loss in his UFC debut
Phillips (9-2) got his UFC career off to an exciting start, winning his first three Octagon outings, including an impressive win over Song Yadong. That momentum was halted in his most recent outing, a fight where Phillips dropped a majority decision to Raulian Paiva. Phillips had dominated the first round of his fight with Paiva but faded when his opponent managed to survive the round. Had more than one judge scored the opening round 10-8, Phillips would have escaped with a draw. With a good combination of karate-based striking, wrestling and a jiu-jitsu brown belt, Phillips can take a fight anywhere while still being dangerous. Rojo debuted in the UFC in March 2021, losing a short-notice bout against Charles Jourdain, though he gave a very good showing of himself in a tremendous fight before Jourdain scored a third-round TKO. Rojo has solid striking but has been stopped five times in his career, including four losses by submission.
Jared Cannonier vs. Derek Brunson, Middleweight
- Odds: Cannonier -170, Brunson +145 | Last three results: Cannonier – W,L,W | Brunson – W,W,W
- Cannonier: A former heavyweight who has become a top-tier middleweight
- Brunson: Long one of the world’s top middleweights, now riding a five-fight winning streak
Cannonier and Brunson are meeting in a battle that may well determine the next man up to challenge for the championship at 185 pounds. For Brunson (23-7), the fight is a chance to extend his winning streak to six and add another big name to his resume. That resume is actually fairly incredible, with his only UFC losses coming to men who held major world titles (Israel Adesanya, Robert Whittaker, Anderson Silva, Jacare Souza) or who have challenged for world titles multiple times (Yoel Romero). Cannonier (14-5) is looking to prove he’s on the level of those elite fighters who can handle Brunson’s powerful wrestling attack. Cannonier was a heavyweight when he entered the UFC but worked his way down to light heavyweight two fights later before finally ending up at middleweight. The division has proven to be an ideal weight for Cannonier because he’s gone 4-1, only losing to Whittaker while knocking off dangerous opponents such as Anderson Silva, Jack Hermansson and Kelvin Gastelum.
Derrick Lewis vs. Tai Tuivasa, Heavyweight
- Odds: Lewis -190, Tuivasa +160 | Last three results: Lewis – W,L,W | Tuivasa – W,W,W
- Lewis: One of the sport’s most dangerous — and most popular — fighters
- Tuivasa: A heavy-hitting fighter on a run of knockouts, famous for his “shoeys”
If you were looking to book a heavyweight fight that nearly guarantees fireworks, you couldn’t do much better than Lewis vs. Tuivasa. From a pure stoppage perspective, Lewis and Tuivasa have a combined 33 knockouts in 39 career wins. Lewis (26-8) is coming off a knockout of Chris Daukaus in December. That victory helped Lewis rebound from his second loss while going after UFC gold, a decision loss to Ciryl Gane for the interim championship. Tuivasa (13-3) made a splash in the UFC by winning his first three fights for the promotion, including a decision win over former champion Andrei Arlovski. Then came a three-fight losing skid and doubts over Tuivasa’s future in the Octagon. He responded by winning his next four fights and rising to a position where he can co-main event a major pay-per-view event. Tuivasa’s star power has also risen because of his post-win “shoeys,” a celebration where he chugs beer out of a shoe.
Israel Adesanya (c) vs. Robert Whittaker, Middleweight title
- Odds: Adesanya -280, Whittaker +230 | Last three results: Adesanya – W,L,W | Whittaker – W,W,W
- Adesanya: Middleweight’s undisputed king and one of the sport’s most dynamic strikers
- Whittaker: The former champion, riding a three-fight winning streak since losing his belt to Adesanya
The first time Adesanya and Whittaker met, it was no contest. Adesanya’s (21-1) slick technical striking was far too much for Whittaker. Whittaker (23-5) was basically knocked out twice in the fight, being saved by the bell after a crushing shot in Round 1 before being put to sleep in Round 2. It was a stunning performance by Adesanya, who has turned high-level striking into a fully MMA-ready style that has allowed him to dominate the middleweight division. Whittaker has suggested he wasn’t in the right headspace for that first fight and plans to enter the breath far more focused. Whittaker has looked sharp since the title loss, picking off Darren Till, Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum to earn his rematch. Since beating Whittaker, Adesanya has defended his belt against Yoel Roero, Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettori while losing to Jan Blachowicz in a move up to light heavyweight in an attempt to become a two-division champion.
Who wins Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2? And what other picks do you need to see? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed top picks on UFC 271, all from the insider who’s up more than $10,000 on MMA picks the past two years, and find out.