LAS VEGAS -- When the UFC first announced middleweight prospect Israel Adesanya would face Brad Tavares at The Ultimate Fighter Finale, the question on everyone's mind was, "Is it too much, too soon?"
The answer? It was not.
Adesanya (14-0) improved his UFC record to 3-0 on Friday, dominating his way to a unanimous decision over Tavares (17-5), who made his 18th Octagon appearance. Judges scored the 185-pound contest, which headlined TUF Finale at The Palms, 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46.
Tavares, 30, had just enough heart and experience to keep the fight mildly competitive, but overall, it was an eye-opening performance by Adesanya.
"All the pundits and experts said, 'Is it too soon? He's only had two fights in the UFC,'" Adesanya said. "[Tavares] is a tough dude. He's got Ray Sefo, a New Zealand legend, in his corner.
"I'm only getting warmed up."
Adesanya, 28, spent the first round figuring Tavares out, landing just 12 total strikes, none of which were significant. He attempted a wild, rolling submission attempt in the final seconds of the round, which caught everyone off guard but was mostly ineffective.
That might have been the only technique Adesanya tried that fell flat. He rocked Tavares with elbows and knees up close and picked him apart with his jab and right hand from a distance.
Tavares, of Kailua, Hawaii, hung around in the later rounds, despite the accumulating damage. He scored a takedown in the beginning of the fourth round that threatened to steal momentum, but Adesanya calmly worked back to his feet and even eventually reversed the position.
The bout ended with Adesanya moving to full mount, in a guillotine attempt. After essentially 25 minutes of punishment, Tavares might have even been saved by the bell, Adesanya's submission attempt appearing to be tight.
All three of Adesanya's wins have come in 2018. A former professional kickboxer, he has 12 career knockouts in MMA.
Trizano edges Gianetti for 155-pound TUF crown
New Jersey's Michael Trizano (7-0) edged out a close, split decision win over Joe Giannetti (6-1) to win the lightweight TUF 27 crown.
Two judges scored it for Trizano 29-28, while a third had the same score for Gianetti. It came down to the third round, in which Trizano outlanded Gianetti in total strikes 31 to 19, according to Fightmetric.
Trizano, 26, admitted it wasn't his best performance but was obviously happy with the result.
"I visualized this since day one," Trizano said. "Visualization is the key to being successful. Any of you guys out there have a dream, visualize it first and achieve it."
Gianetti got off to a good start in the opening round, relying on his grappling, but couldn't keep the momentum. Trizano attacked the leg in the second round and won a handful of key scrambles. After the fight, Trizano asked for a fight on the UFC's annual November card in New York.
Katona seizes TUF featherweight title
Katona, 26, dropped Cucciniello with left hooks in the first and second rounds, and nearly finished him with strikes on the ground in the third. All three judges scored it a clean sweep for Katona on the scorecards, 30-26.
"It means the world," Katona said. "I started on this journey when I was 14 years old with my original coach at Winnipeg Academy of Martial Arts. My life could have taken a different path. I could have been the nerdy kid, not the nerdy kid who does martial arts."
Katona, who now trains out of Conor McGregor's home gym SBG Ireland, outlanded Cucciniello in total strikes by a whopping 117 to 18 margin.