UFC 271: Former UFC middleweight champ picks Robert Whittaker to upset Israel Adesanya

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ufc 271
Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker takes on interim champ Israel Adesanya in the headliner of UFC 243.

Robert Whittaker Israel Adesanya Ufc 243 Official Weigh Ins

One-time UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman believes Robert Whittaker will earn ice-cold revenge against Israel Adesanya on Saturday night.

UFC 271 will be headlined by a monumental championship rematch between the two best 185-pound UFC fighters of the last five years. Adesanya (21-1) heads into the event looking to defend his middleweight crown for a fourth straight time against Whittaker (23-5). A man hoping to regain the title he lost to his rival from New Zealand two and a half years ago, at UFC 243.

That original fight ended definitively when “The Last Stylebender” made easy work of the former champ after little more than two rounds of action. Adesanya’s destructive technical knockout win and his place among the best pound-for-pound talents in the world is why he enters the rematch as a sizable betting favorite with most bookmakers. However, one-time middleweight king Weidman (15-6) sees a title switch coming inside the Toyota Center in Houston, Tex.

In “All American’s” mind, it boils down to who has gotten better since the pair’s first fight. And he believes “Bobby Knuckles” has grown significantly since that forgettable night in October 2019.

Chris Weidman believes Robert Whittaker has improved more than Israel Adesanya since their first fight

“I think Whittaker looked so good in that last fight against [Kelvin] Gastelum. You can look at the Gastelum fight where Adesanya fought him [in 2019] and you can compare it to when Whittaker fought Gastelum. But I think you had two different Gastelums at that time, with different confidence levels. That being said, it’s hard to take that fight and be like Whittaker is definitely winning,” Weidman said during an appearance on MMAFighting podcast The Fighter vs The Writer. “But I look inside those fights and I look at how guys have progressed since they fought the first time.

“Look at Whittaker and Adesanya since their first fight. Adesanya’s had a loss. He lost to [Jan] Blachowicz — he got outwrestled. He beat [Marvin] Vettori. He’s looked good but I don’t think he’s looked like he’s improved, and got better, and more dangerous and spectacular. I think there’s less of an aura around him than there was in the beginning,” he added. “I think there’s chinks in his armor that have been exposed. And Whittaker’s obviously had his losses, but he’s been coming back looking better than ever. And I think he has a chip on his shoulder going into this fight.

“The crap that Adesanya talked in the first fight, and after the fight happened, and how Whittaker kind of just kept to himself and he didn’t come back at Adesanya and try and talk trash back. He just kept it in, kept training and you can see he’s improved. And now he has his opportunity to get redemption against a guy who everyone thinks is the best and the greatest of all time. I don’t think he’s at that level yet to even be spoken about at [as the middleweight GOAT].”

Weidman explains how Whittaker gets the win at UFC 271

ufc 271
Oct 5, 2019; Melbourne, AUSTRALIA; Robert Whittaker (red gloves) reacts after losing to Israel Adesanya (blue gloves) during UFC 243 at Marvel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasmin Frank-USA TODAY Sports

Many have speculated, and even Whittaker has suggested in some interviews, that following Blachowicz’s successful game plan and using wrestling to beat the champion is a possibility. Weidman knows what it takes to win with grappling at the highest levels and doesn’t think the Australian will be able to mirror the former light heavyweight champion’s success exactly. However, he does see Whittaker scoring enough takedowns to steal a couple of rounds en route to a victory.

“My prediction: I think Whittaker makes it happen,” he said. … “I think he can win a couple of rounds with some takedowns, but also be way better than he was the first time. The first time that they fought, he had a malfunction out there. It wasn’t his best self for sure.”

Since their first clash, Adesanya successfully defended his title three times against Yoel Romero, Vettori, and Paula Costa. His lone defeat against Blachowicz was in a bid for the 205-pound title.

In that same time, Whittaker has earned three straight unanimous decision wins over Darren Till, Jared Cannonier, and Gastelum.

UFC 271 takes place on Feb. 12, with the $74.99 main card pay-per-view airing exclusively on ESPN+ at 10 pm ET


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