Previewing the UFC Middleweight unification bout between Australia’s Robert Whittaker and New Zealand’s Israel Adesanya.
The build up for the fight has been light on drama but high in anticipation. Whittaker is not the type of fighter who likes to engage in verbal sparring, preferring to let his work in the cage do his talking for him. On the flip side you have Adesanya who is never short of a memorable quote and will engage in trash talk every chance he gets.
As men they are polar opposite and that also translates to their fighting styles even though they are both primarily stand up fighters.
Whittaker will have watched Adesanya vs Gastelum and taken a great deal of confidence that a fighter who is primarily a knockout artist was able to cause Adesanya so many issues on the feet. Whittaker is the most unconventional striker in the middleweight division as he strikes from awkward angles and is very difficult to gameplay for.
Importantly for Whittaker will be his ability to close the distance to negate the reach advantage that Adesanya has over him (6.5in differential). To do this he will need to utilise his wrestling to dictate where the fight takes place. If the fight takes place at distance then that plays right into Adesanya’s game.
If Adesanya is to emerge as unified champion then he will need to utilise his kicking prowess to maintain distance and frustrate Whittaker. Even though he is fairly new to most MMA fans, Adesanya has a significant experience advantage and his fight IQ is not to be underestimated. Facing adversity in his last fight he was able to make subtle changes to his game mid fight which is a trait that only elite fighters possess.
The major difference in this fight could come down to Whittaker’s inactivity and whether there will be an element of ring rust whereas Adesanya has been one of the most active fighters on the roster recently. He has fought 4 times since Whittaker’s last fight against Yoel Romero.
This is truly a fight where a strong argument could be made for each competitor to have their hand raised and it promises to be an intriguing tactical battle between the 2 best fighters in Australia and New Zealand.
Will Whittaker utilise his wrestling game and unique strikes to inflict the first loss in the MMA career of Adesanya? Or will Adesanya utilise his range to wear down the champion and cement himself as a pound for pound great.
Tune in Sunday to find out!