DUBAI: The four-event UFC Fight Island in Abu Dhabi on Sunday came to a successful close as Robert Whittaker defeated Darren Till by unanimous decision at Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi.
UFC Fight Night 3’s headline fight saw the former Middleweight champion from Australia edge his English opponent (48-47, 48-47, 48-47) to return to winning ways after losing this championship belt to Israel Adesanya at UFC 243 last October.
“Honestly, I feel over the world,” Whittaker said. “There was a lot of stress, a lot of pressure, a lot of thoughts going into this fight. My team was stressed, a lot of pressure, a lot of pressure. The world is crazy at the moment, so to be able to walk away with a win just means the world to me. Over the moon, over the moon, I feel amazing.”
Whittaker admitted he was surprised by the stubbornness shown by his opponent, who woHonestly, he almost got me in that first, it was a hard go,” he said. “I guess that was onuld not commit to any strikes and “just sat back and waited for me”.
“e of the most technical fights I’ve ever had, to be able to share the Octagon with him was a privilege.”
The elated winner also looked forward to retaining a UFC championship belt.
“I would love to fight for a title, I would love that,” Whittaker said. “I’m world championship level, that’s who I am, I’m a world champion, with or without the belt, and I would love to fight for that. I’m going to go FaceTime my family, I miss them, everything I do is for them, that’s who I want to share this with.”
Earlier on the main card, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua of Brazil had overcome compatriot Antonio Rogerio Nogueira via a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
“Every time I fight Rogerio he’s super tough, I know it’s going to be a war, he’s a legend, a guy I respect a lot,” Rua said. “I’m very happy and it is very nice to put on a show and please the fans and please the promoters, so what more can you ask for?”
Rua revealed that the familiarity with each other’s style meant a tough fight was inevitable.
“I know that he knows my game a lot, I know his game a lot so we prepared for all the details,” he said. “I was curious to see how this would unfold and what would actually happen and thank God, I was able to come out with yet another win in yet another war.”
Before Brazilian Alex Oliveira had beaten Peter Sobotta of Germany via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) at Welterweight, Fabricio Werdum had made quick work of Alexander Gustafsson, forcing a submission after 2:30 in Round 1 of their Heavyweight bout.
Immediately after his win against his Swedish opponent, the Brazilian appeared to announced his retirement from UFC.
“I want to thank everyone that supported me and helped me during my career and here at UFC, I leave the company happy, I’m a bit emotional,” he said. “Everything that we trained for happened in the fight, it was awesome, exactly what we trained for happened, we did everything right, we trained jiu jitsu, muay thai, boxing, conditioning, but specially the mental strength, that you need to be equally balanced.
“No matter how good your body is trained, if your mind is not in the right place it won’t work, your body won’t answer,” he added. “That’s why I’m so happy. I was looking for the victory for this my last UFC fight. I’m not sure what I’m going to do, where I’ll go, I don’t know, I just want to enjoy this moment and thank everyone that always supported me.”
Elsewhere Paul Craig (Scotland) had forced Gadzhimurad Antigulovinto (Russia) into a first-round submission at Leight Heavyweight after American Carla Esparza beat Marina Rodriguez of Brazil via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27) in their Strawweight opening bout of the main card.
“The game plan was pretty much what you saw, I planned to move around with her,” Esparza said. “She has some heavy knees and elbows and clinch game, I was just planning to move, move, go in for that takedown. I felt that I had the superior ground game, she was more active off her back that I thought, I actually got split from some elbows off her back. She’s super tough and I’ve seen her fight some really tough grapplers and she doesn’t quit, so I definitely wasn’t expecting her to fold over. I was looking for that submission, especially out here in Abu Dhabi, but I’ll take a win against an undefeated fighter any day.”
The undercard had concluded with the gifted Chechen-born Swede Khamzat Chimaev comfortably beating Rhys McKee at welterweight only 10 days after his first UFC win against middleweight John Phillips at Fight Night 1.
Just prior, Francisco Trinaldo beat Jai Herbert via a third-round TKO after Jesse Ronson had overcome Nicolas Dalby via submission in Round 1.
Meanwhile in one of the fights of the night Tom Aspinall, making his UFC debut, had stopped Jake Collier via a TKO (strikes) in just 45 seconds.
Three unanimous decisions saw Pannie Kianzad overcome Bethe Correia (30-27, 30-27, 29-28); Ramazan Emeev defeat Niklas Stolze (30-27, 30-27, 29-28); and Nathanial Wood beat John Castaneda (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Fight Night 3 had kicked off with Tanner Boser beating Raphael Pessoa via a Round 2 TKO.