Robert Whittaker defeats Darren Till to close UFC Fight Island in Abu Dhabi

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Robert Whittaker strikes a blow during his unanimous win over Darren Till. (Getty Images/UFC)
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Fabricio Werdum celebrates his win over Alexander Gustafsson. (Getty Images/UFC)
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Updated 26 July 2020

Robert Whittaker defeats Darren Till to close UFC Fight Island in Abu Dhabi

  • Whittaker surprised by the stubbornness shown by his opponent
  • Rua says familiarity with each other’s style meant tough fight was inevitable

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.




Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (right) of Brazil in his win over compatriot Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. (Getty Images/UFC)

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.




Carla Esparza punches Marina Rodriguez in her split decision victory. (Getty Images, UFC)

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.


Lakers roll in Game 1 of NBA finals, top Heat 116-98

Updated 01 October 2020

Lakers roll in Game 1 of NBA finals, top Heat 116-98

  • LeBron James has become the seventh player to appear in 50 NBA Finals games

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida: LeBron James finally got an easy Game 1 in the NBA Finals.
A very easy one, at that.
Anthony Davis scored 34 points in his finals debut, James had 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists and the Los Angeles Lakers rolled past the Miami Heat 116-98 on Wednesday night.
The Heat left beaten and battered.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 13 points, Danny Green had 11 and Alex Caruso finished with 10 for the Lakers. They returned to the finals for the first time in a decade and sent a very clear message. James’ teams had been 1-8 in Game 1 of past finals, with losses in each of the last seven openers.
Not this one.
“We kind of picked it up on both ends of the floor,” Davis said.
Jimmy Butler fought through a twisted left ankle to score 23 points for Miami. The Heat lost point guard Goran Dragic at halftime to a left foot injury and saw All-Star center Bam Adebayo leave in the third quarter after apparently aggravating a left shoulder problem.
Kendrick Nunn scored 18 points for the Heat, Tyler Herro had 14 and Jae Crowder 12. Adebayo was held to eight points in 21 minutes, and Miami went with subs for a fourth-quarter burst that turned a total rout into something only slightly more palatable in terms of final margin.
Game 2 is Friday night.
The Lakers did whatever they wanted. They outrebounded Miami 54-36, led by as many as 32 points, and made 15 3-pointers — a big number for a team that doesn’t necessarily count on piling up that many points from beyond the arc. They’re 21-3 this season when making at least 14 3s.

Miami Heat's Jae Crowder, right, tries to grab the loose ball as Los Angeles Lakers' Dwight Howard (39) rolls on the floor during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals on Sept. 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The only stretch that provided hope for Miami came in the first six minutes. The Heat scored on six consecutive possessions in what became a 13-0 run to take a 23-10 lead midway through the opening period.
So, the first six minutes were fine for Miami.
Everything else was all Lakers.
The simplest way to sum up what happened over the rest of the opening half is this: Lakers 55, Heat 25. The Lakers came into Game 1 ranked 21st out of the 22 teams that spent time in the bubble from 3-point range, making only 33.6% of their tries from deep at Disney. They were the only team in the postseason to have two games shooting less than 25% on 3s.
Perhaps they were due. The Lakers went 9-for-11 on 3’s in the final 16 minutes of the first half. Of the nine Lakers who played in the first two quarters, eight tried a 3-pointer — and all eight made at least one.
They closed the first quarter on a 19-3 run. Herro banked in a 3 from a sharp angle for a 43-41 Miami lead with 7:33 left in the half, and then the Lakers took off again, this time on a 24-5 burst to go into the break with a 65-48 lead.
And if things weren’t already bad enough for Miami, the Heat determined at the half that Dragic — playing in his first finals game — couldn’t keep going in Game 1 because of a left foot injury.
The Lakers started the third on another run, this one 18-3, and the rout was officially underway.

TIP-INS
Heat: Butler turned his left ankle in the final seconds of the first half, remained in the game and started the second half. ... It was the 19th time that Miami lost a game this season after leading by double digits at some point.
Lakers: The Lakers improved to 17-15 in Game 1s of title series. ... Davis was 10 for 10 from the foul line, plus added nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks.

JAMES’ RECORDS
The NBA Finals record book is basically a James scrapbook of career achievements, and he raised his spot on some of those lists Wednesday. He became the seventh player to appear in 50 NBA Finals games (he could climb all the way to a tie for third on that list if this series goes seven games) and passed Michael Jordan and George Mikan for fifth in finals free throws made.


FAMILIAR SPOT
The Heat fell to 1-5 in Game 1 of title series. All three of Miami’s championships have come after dropping the opener.