UFC 221 wasn’t a card that likely drew a lot of eyeballs on pay-per-view, but for those who did watch the event, it offered some thrilling moments. It’s often hard to predict which MMA events will stand out the most. Some fights like Dustin Poirier-Justin Gaethje are pretty much can’t-miss ventures, but MMA in general delivers more surprises when it comes to action than other sports. Jake Matthews’ perseverance against Jingliang Li and Tyson Pedro’s deft submission of Saparbek Safarov were highlights on Saturday in Perth, Australia, but arguably the biggest thrills came from three destructive knockout finishes.
Israel Adesanya generated buzz ahead of his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut because of his glossy record: all wins, all knockouts. UFC 221 was a nice teaser of the promise he offers. Adesanya acknowledged himself it wasn’t his most impressive performance, but you could still see all the tools: the speed, movement and precision in his striking. It was also hard to miss the way Rob Wilkinson reacted to his strikes, as even Adesanya’s jabs landed emphatically. By the end, Wilkinson’s face was a mess and he was just covering up to protect himself from Adesanya’s barrage of offense.
If it was a bad night for Wilkinson, it was an even worse night for Cyril Asker, who was tasked with taking on young knockout artist and beer shoe enthusiast Tai Tuivasa. Like Adesanya, Tuivasa has knocked out every opponent of his MMA career. Unlike Adesanya, it has never taken him longer than a single round. That power was on display against Asker, as Tuivasa delivered incredible damage to the Frenchman’s face in very short time. It was the sort of performance that fans love from heavyweight fighters.