MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC 271, a five-round UFC middleweight title fight rematch between champion Israel Adesanya and challenger Robert Whittaker. The event takes place on Saturday, February 12 at Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
Israel Adesanya (-280)
Adesanya (21-1) is the UFC middleweight champion. The 32-year-old Nigerian is 10-1 overall in the UFC with a perfect 10-0 record at 185lbs. Some of his notable victories include Marvin Vettori, Yoel Romero, Kelvin Gastelum, Anderson Silva, Derek Brunson, and Robert Whittaker. One of the best overall strikers in the UFC, Adesanya has some of the cleanest techniques in the weight class as well as some of the most knockout power. Adesanya also has tremendous cardio and can go five hard rounds, and we’ve seen that he has a good chin, too. The only hole in his game appears to be his takedown defense, which Jan Blachowicz exploited up at light heavyweight. But that was at 205lbs, and down at 185lbs, Adesanya is much stronger and more adept defensively than his foes. He is the middleweight champion for a reason and it’s hard to see him losing the belt anytime soon.
Robert Whittaker (+225)
Whittaker (24-5) is the former UFC middleweight champion. The 31-year-old Aussie is 14-3 overall in the UFC with wins over the likes of Kelvin Gastelum, Jared Cannonier, Darren Till, Yoel Romero, Jacare Souza, Derek Brunson, and Uriah Hall. His losses in the UFC have come to Adesanya at middleweight, plus Court McGee and Stephen Thompson down at welterweight. Since moving up to 185lbs in 2014, Whittaker has been one of the best middleweights in the sport. He has always been one of the top strikers in the division but we have also seen him add grappling to his game, making him a very well-rounded and dangerous fighter. At this point, Whittaker likely beats any middleweight not named Adesanya. But it does feel like Adesanya is a bad matchup for him, considering Whittaker will have seven inches less of reach and four inches less height in this match. Whittaker is certainly capable of beating anyone on any given day, but Adesanya seems like a tough matchup.
Fight Breakdown: This should be a good fight for as long as it lasts, but I have to go with Adesanya to win the rematch. He pretty much dominated their first fight and there’s no reason to think that he’s lost a step. If anything, I think Whittaker would be wise to try and wrestle his way to a win as he did to Gastelum. The thing is, Adesanya’s defensive grappling looked incredible against Vettori, and so it won’t be easy for Whittaker to take him down and hold him there. As such, I expect most of this fight to be contested on the feet, where Adesanya showed in the first fight that he has a massive advantage in terms of both striking technique and KO power. All of this adds up to another win for Adesanya. I expect him to outstrike Whittaker and, just like last time, eventually find the KO blow.
Prediction: Israel Adesanya