Robert Whittaker confirmed his status as the number one contender and best of the rest in the middleweight division with a dominant win over Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 24.
‘The Reaper’ controlled the fight throughout landing 150 significant strikes and four takedowns in the 25 minutes, to waltz to a 50-45 unanimous decision win across the board.
It marked three wins in a row for Bobby Knuckles, who’s only defeat in the middleweight division thus far has come against the current champion Israel Adesanya when he lost the title in 2019.
But the version of Whittaker we have seen since that bout against The Last Stylebender is arguably the best one, with three dominant decision wins in which he’s taken minimal damage and managed to nullify three top ten contenders in succession.
He looks light on his feet, sharp in the striking, is mixing his game up tremendously and most importantly avoiding damage. Prior to his fight with Jared Cannonier at UFC 254, Whittaker had been knocked down five times in three fights and was getting himself into wars.
He was burnt out and needed a break, so after losing his title he did just that. While he got caught with a flush elbow from Till in his return, that can happen against a world class striker that. But he came back and dominated the fight for the most part to win comfortably, then completely strolled through the Cannonier and Gastelum fights.
After the bout he made it clear that he does want a rematch with Adesanya for the title, and called on the UFC to make it happen in a sold-out stadium in Australia in September time. Speaking in his post-fight press conference, Whittaker said directly to Adesanya;
“I think we should talk mate, I think it’s about time we crossed paths once again and I think we can get a sold out stadium, they might even open up the borders for Australia in September. Lets make that happen, lets see if we can get a stadium back home.”
Adesanya tweeted out after Whittaker’s impressive win “good job my son” in response, and Whittaker admitted he’s entitled to trash talk after winning the first fight between them. He did say however that he believes he’s got the tools to win a rematch.
“I’m going to work hard. I think I’ve got some tricks he hasn’t seen yet and I’ll give him a good run I think.”
The win means that Marvin Vettori is likely to need to wait for his title shot, meaning he will likely take another fight in the mean time. Vettori was rallying for a shot after beating Kevin Holland in the main event at UFC Vegas 23.
The Italian was at cageside for the UFC Vegas 24 main event and afterwards admitted that he feels he’d give Whittaker trouble with his pressure style, but that fight is unlikely to happen with Adesanya’s response essentially accepting that a rematch between himself and Whittaker is inevitable.
Vettori could fight Derek Brunson next, who also beat Kevin Holland just last month to move into the top five of the rankings. That fight could happen around the same time as Adesanya-Whittaker 2 or even on the same card in case someone was to drop out, or would set up the next contender immediately.