- A middleweight unification bout between champion Robert Whittaker and interim title-holder Israel Adesanya headlines UFC 243
- Will the nearly 16-month layoff hurt or help Whittaker?
- Could this fight launch Adesanya into superstar status?
The UFC heads to Melbourne, Australia’s monstrous Marvel Stadium for UFC 243 Saturday (Oct. 5). In the main event, Aussie Robert Whittaker battles New Zealand’s Israel Adesanya with the winner claiming the title of undisputed UFC middleweight champion.
The last time the UFC visited Marvel Stadium, more than 56,000 fans saw Holly Holm knockout Ronda Rousey in the main event of UFC 193.
The main card for UFC 243 streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view at 10:00 PM ET, following prelims on ESPN at 8:00 PM ET and early prelims on ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass at 6:15 PM ET.
WHITTAKER VS ADESANYA ODDS
|Fighter||Moneyline Odds (as of Oct. 1st)|
Whittaker began his career as a welterweight. He won “The Ultimate Fighter: Smashes” in 2012 at 170 pounds. However, he never really found traction at that weight, going 3-2 with the UFC. In June 2014, Whittaker moved to middleweight. He has not lost a bout at 185 pounds. Whittaker’s middleweight record stands at 9-0. The Australian is coming off back-to-back five-round decisions over Yoel Romero. His most recent victory came in June 2018.
[Whittaker] has not lost a bout at 185 pounds. [His] middleweight record stands at 9-0.
Adesanya spent much of his early MMA career also competing in kickboxing. Despite splitting his attention between the two disciplines, he ran up an 11-0 MMA record before joining the UFC in 2018. In the short time Adesanya has been with the promotion, he has racked up six wins in six fights. The Nigerian (by way of New Zealand) is coming off a five-round decision win over Kelvin Gastelum in April.
At 28, Whittaker is at an age where he should still be adding to his bag of tricks. But we don’t know if he’s been developing his arsenal since he has not fought for nearly 16 months, and that unknown could be a problem for Adesanya.
Already a very well-rounded fighter, Whittaker could have added a new wrinkle to his game while recovering from injury. If he and his team used that time wisely, we could be in for a shock on Saturday. I don’t see the time off hurting the returning champ in any way. He was off for 11 months between his two most-recent bouts and did not show cage rust in his return.
Adesanya has packed a lot of action into a relatively short amount of time with the UFC. He fought four times in 2018 and UFC 243 will mark his third outing this year. The concern of a schedule like that is that it might only allow the 30-year-old to prepare for his next opponent and not progress in his overall skill set. Adesanya is very well coached, but I don’t know if his team at City Kickboxing has had enough time to develop him into a well-rounded fighter.
TALE OF THE TAPE
|Robert Whittaker||Category||Israel Adesanya|
|4.82||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||4.44|
|3.65||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||2.49|
|0.37||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||0.00|
|0.0||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||0.5|
WHAT’S AT STAKE
For Whittaker, this fight is a chance to remind fans just how good he is. Whittaker has always been a fighter’s fighter. He does not trash talk, he does not shine a spotlight on himself, he just goes out, fights and wins in an entertaining fashion. A victory over Adesanya will not only give Whittaker the undisputed middleweight belt, it might also earn him some of the star status fans have lavished on the more-outspoken Adesanya.
Whittaker has always been a fighter’s fighter. He does not trash talk, he does not shine a spotlight on himself, he just goes out, fights and wins in an entertaining fashion.
Adesanya announced his presence in the UFC by saying that he was the new dog in the middleweight division after his promotional debut. He’s lived up to that billing by running roughshod through the other contenders. The only fighter standing in his way from true superstar status is Whittaker.
If Adesanya becomes the undisputed champ and he keeps fighting at the pace he has been, expect the UFC to give him a substantial promotional push.
Whittaker is an incredibly aggressive kickboxing-based fighter. He pushes forward and has added leg kicks to his arsenal over his past two fights. The one thing we have not seen from Whittaker is his offensive wrestling in the octagon. During his time off, Whittaker worked on that skill enough to qualify to represent Australia at the 2018 Commonwealth Games (though he did not compete).
It would not be a surprise to see him ramp down his aggression and ramp up his wrestling and leg kicks to make up for the height and reach difference in this fight.
On the other hand, Whittaker’s relentless attacking style could keep Adesanya from doing anything but defending.
Adesanya is also a kickboxer, but he is not as aggressive as Whittaker. He doesn’t have to be. His height and reach allow him to wait for the fight to come to him and counter. His striking is faster than most middleweights, and his striking defense is among the elite. He employs a great deal of movement, which forces his opponents to expend an incredible amount of energy trying to hit him. One concern about Adesanya is that he has not added much to his game since he joined the UFC.
This is an incredibly tough fight to pick. The outcome likely hinges on growth. Whittaker has shown technical improvements from fight to fight during his UFC run. Adesanya has gotten better during his UFC career, but he hasn’t added any new wrinkles to his game.
That means Adesanya has more to prepare for ahead of this fight, while Whittaker more or less knows what he’s going to face.
Pick: Whittaker (-110)