The second chapter in their story comes to a close, with the UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya defeating Māori-Aussie fighter Robert Whittaker to retain his title.
Still undefeated in the middleweight division, still the king. Credit: Twitter / UFC.
It's a rematch that has been brewing since 2019, when "The Last Stylebender" knocked out "The Reaper" to take the middleweight title and begin his dominant middleweight reign.
As octagon announcer Bruce Buffer finished calling both fighters' names, bending down low with hands high behind him on the cage, Adesanya met Whittaker as the first round began, with both men testing each other's range with leg kicks and jabs.
An early knockdown came by way of an uppercut to Whittaker by Adesanya in the third minute, and Whittaker failed a takedown in response. In the last seconds of the first round, Whittaker failed a second takedown attempt, with Adesanya looking fresh and Whittaker already red in his right eye as they returned to their corners.
Whittaker got the second round going gaining control and taking chances with some kicks and jabs, only to lose that control to Adesanya in a minute.
Despite Adesanya's control, Whittaker landed more hits and eventually was successful with the third takedown halfway into the second round. Out of the clinch, Adesanya got back on octagon centre control, and both men were now not shy to throw a bit more wildly in their attacks as the round closed.
With their second fight now lasting longer than the first back in 2019, both men landed huge shots in the third round.
Adesanya's kick game was on point in the fourth round, landing a wicked leg kick and body kick as well. Whittaker took his opponent to the ground again but Adesanya carried Whittaker to the cage side and managed to get him off, returning to the stand-up.
The crowd was raucous as both fighters began their final round, with Whittaker keeping Adesanya off with his jab game. With two minutes left, Whittaker got another takedown and threw a left hook as they returned to the stand-up position, with Adesanya acknowledging his opponent's strike.
In the last few moments of the fight, "The Reaper" got Adesanya on the cage, with the champ trying to hype up the crowd.
Both men embraced, with respect for each other, as the fight reached its end, with the champ raising the challenger's hand for the crowd.
Ultimately, Buffer would announce Adesanya as the victor but the respect between Adesanya and Whittaker is what most fans will remember, with both men embracing again after Adesanya's hand was raised.
Who is next for "The Last Stylebender"? Credit: YouTube / UFC.
Talking to UFC legend and commentator Daniel Cormier, Adesanya says he knew that Whittaker was going to bring everything.
"Last time [in 2019] I took everything away from him, so he had nothing to lose.
"Like I said, I'm the champ. You want it, come get it."
When Cormier asked if he knew that Whittaker was going to attempt so many takedowns in the fight, Adesanya says, "I did, I knew he was going to try and copy Jan's [Blachowicz, who defeated Adesanya] homework, but... I'm the big dog in this yard, so he couldn't take me down at all.
Speculation on Adesanya's next challenger points to a Jared Cannonier showdown, as he won his fight against Derek Brunson via TKO earlier in the evening.
"I know June doesn't have a pay-per-view yet, but like I said. I'm the new dog in the yard, I'm the big dog in the yard, and I know the other big dog. Jared Cannonier. has done some work tonight," Adesanya said.
"I'm pissin' in this cage next time in June. Watch me."
The win takes City Kickboxing's record for tonight to two wins and one loss, with Carlos Ulberg winning his first UFC fight by unanimous decision and Mike "Blood Diamond" Mathetha unsuccessful in his debut match.
We're the two best in the world
Even after getting back to the title picture after three dominant fights before tonight and being unable to claim back his title, Robert Whittaker was still all smiles and proud with himself during his post-fight interview with Cormier.
Whittaker is still all smiles, gracious in defeat. Credit: YouTube / UFC.
Aasked if he thought he did enough to beat Adesanya, Robert says he did.
"I know I started off rocky in that first round but I feel like everything after that. It is what it is. You know what they say, don't leave it to the judges.
"I mixed it in well, I poured my heart out, I'm happy.
"But yeah, I'm gutted. I thought I did enough."
"I was surprised at how well my plan was working, I was surprised at how I executed the game plan and it was paying dividends. I was surprised with the decision but it is what it is," Whittaker laughs.
"I'm not going to take anything away from him, he's the champ, he beat me for the second time and that's that. We're the two best in the world, I know this, he knows this, we know this."