When you think about the best fighters to ever compete in the middleweight division in the UFC, there are three names that should jump to the top of everyone’s list.
One is the long-time UFC champion of yesteryear Anderson Silva, who to this day holds the record for the longest undefeated run in the organisation’s history at 16.
The other two are once again headlining a card with the belt on the line this weekend; Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker.
When these two men fought for the first time back in October 2019 at UFC 243, it was long-reigning champion against number one contender and interim champion.
On that occasion it was the challenger, Adesanya, who came out on top with a vicious second-round knockout in what was seen as a relatively flawless performance.
That defeat, which is the only one of his professional MMA career, came when he moved up to light heavyweight to try and become a double champion against Jan Blachowicz.
Whittaker on the other hand has gone 3-0 since that fight, earning himself unanimous decision victories against Darren Till at UFC Fight Island 3, Jared Cannonier at UFC 254 and Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 24.
He has never dropped below number one in the rankings and is the rightful contender to the title.
Now not much has changed since their first fight, and thus many are expecting the same result. But now that they’ve been in there with each other and have evolved further, things are bound to be a bit different.
Whittaker has openly stated that he believes Blachowicz laid the blueprint on how to beat Adesanya when the fought at UFC 259, suggesting that he could look to wrestle more in the rematch.
Izzy on the other hand is adamant the outcome will in fact be the same, claiming that Whittaker’s most recent wins have been blown out of proportion.
But it’s impossible to ignore just how evenly matched these two fighters are on paper. Both have got excellent striking techniques, knockout power, great movement and a brilliant fight IQ.
Anyone who tells you they’re completely writing either man off is a liar, because it’s just impossible to do so.
If Adesanya is to claim a second victory over Whittaker, then he undoubtedly jumps ahead of him in that list of memorable and great middleweights that was mentioned earlier.
There is even a case that he tops it, considering he holds a win over Silva too and has done everything in such a short period of time.
A win for Whittaker though pits them closer than ever before in the legacy rankings, which means a third and final deciding fight will be needed to separate them and decide who the best really is.