Adesanya is undefeated at 185-pounds, defending his title three times successfully against Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa at UFC 253 and Marvin Vettori at UFC 263. He suffered the first defeat of his career against Jan Blachowicz when he looked to move up to light heavyweight and become a double champion at UFC 259.
Whittaker on the other hand has won three-in-a-row since losing his title to Adesanya, easing to decision victories against Darren Till at UFC Fight Island 3, Jared Cannonier at UFC 254 and then Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 24.
This fight is between the two undisputed best middleweights in the entire world, with their performances in the division putting them far and away ahead of the rest of the weight class.
It’s now been revealed however that Adesanya and Whittaker will instead meet at UFC 271 in February following the booking of Ngannou vs Gane.
According to Brazilian outlet Combate, the UFC have moved the middleweight title fight to the following month in order to spread their title fights out a little bit for the new year.
Adesanya’s gym, City Kickboxing, are expecting to essentially relocate to the United States between now and the end of the year due to New Zealand’s quarantine rules, with several fighters desperate to fight but stuck with certain dates.
With the champion planning on moving to the USA he will be more readily available to fight and it seems the UFC are rewarding that by giving him a little extra time to prepare, while Whittaker won’t say no to that either.
The champion has a professional record of 21-1, with middleweight title fight wins over Whittaker, Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettori. The only defeat of his career came at UFC 259 earlier this year when he was beaten by light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz as he moved up to try and become a double-champ.
Whittaker is 23-5 professionally but since moving to middleweight in 2014 is 11-1, with his only defeat coming when he lost the title to Adesanya in 2019. Since then he has gone 3-0, beating all of Darren Till, Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum via decision.
UFC 271 is scheduled to take place on February 12th 2022, although a location has yet to be confirmed.
The UFC is set to announce a double header of title fights for the opening pay-per-view even of 2022, headlined by a heavyweight title fight.
The heavyweight division has seen a new champion crowned and then an interim title created too in 2021, despite the champion being available but the belts will be unified on January 22nd 2022 when Francis Ngannou looks to defend his title for the first time against former teammate Ciryl Gane.
The event will be co-headlined by another of the company’s African champions, as Israel Adesanya will face off against the man he won the belt against in 2019 Robert Whittaker in a hotly anticipated rematch.
Francis Ngannou started the year in fantastic fashion, avenging a defeat to Stipe Miocic with a brilliant performance at UFC 260 which ended in a vicious second-round knockout.
Ngannou then went on a tour of his homeland with the belt, before looking for a potential date in September to defend his title – ideally against Jon Jones or Derrick Lewis.
However when the UFC insisted on an August date and Ngannou couldn’t do it, they instead pitted Lewis against the undefeated Gane in Texas for an interim title.
Gane picked Lewis apart and eventually secured a brutal knockout in the second-round of their UFC 265 main event to move the Frenchman to 3-0 in 2021 and 7-0 in the UFC.
The two former teammates will go head-to-head in the main event, with French outlet La Sueur reporting that a deal is close to being finalized.
It’s been widely reported also that in the co-main event Adesanya and Whittaker will once again do battle for the 185lbs title, a little over two years on from their first meeting.
The first time around Adesanya put in a dazzling performance to secure a second-round knockout win over the then undisputed champion. ‘Izzy’ has continued his excellent record at middleweight since, beating all of Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettorri most recently at UFC 263 in the division although he suffered the first and only defeat of his career to Jan Blachowicz at UFC 259 when he challenged for the light heavyweight title.
Whittaker has been flawless since the defeat to Adesanya, going 3-0 with wins over Darren Till, Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum to secure himself a shot and set up a fight between the two best middleweight fighters in the world today.
UFC 270 will take place on January 22nd 2022, with Las Vegas expected to be the host location although that is not confirmed yet.
Israel Adesanya will return to the middleweight division this summer to defend his 185lbs title in a rematch against Marvin Vettori at UFC 263.
Adesanya suffered the first taste of defeat in his professional career last time out, moving up to light heavyweight to fight Jan Blachowicz in a bid to become a simultaneous champion. He found the step up too tough though as the legendary Polish power was able to stifle him and use his size to nullify him on the mat for a unanimous decision win.
The two will go head to head in a rematch from 2018, where Adesanya claimed victory in a split-decision bout that Vettori was grossly unhappy about.
The Italian protested the decision in the cage and hasn’t lost a fight since, while forever maintaining that he felt he won the first fight and is better than Adesanya. ‘The Last Stylebender’ would go on to beat Brad Tavares, Derek Brunson, Anderson Silva, Kelvin Gastelum, Robert Whittaker, Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa at UFC 253 after the first bout to be recognised as one of the best middleweights ever.
According to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani and UFC president Dana White, the organisation did offer Whittaker the fight first but the timings didn’t quite work out. Whittaker must quarantine for two weeks before he is able to go back to his family, and with the date being just eight weeks away he deemed it too short.
Adesanya was reportedly adamant about fighting in June to make amends for his March defeat at UFC 259 and thus Vettori was offered the fight instead. White has confirmed that Whittaker will get the next title shot as he is recognised as the number one contender and this would’ve been his fight had he been available.
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.
Pena is a great striker with a good submission game too, while Munhoz is a strict wrestler who if he can’t get the fight down to the ground will undoubtedly struggle. Pena has all the tools to put a good run together, but it just never seems to click for him in the cage. Munhoz suffered a first defeat last time out against one of the better boxers in the division last time out.
It’s a one-sided fight, it’s just hard to know which way it goes because of the weaknesses both men have leading in to the opposite numbers strengths. As it stands though, I think Munhoz is likely to get the takedowns needed to grind out a decision win. PICK – Alexander Munhoz via Decision
Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-3) vs Jacob Malkoun (4-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Both guys are violent strikers with power that puts people to sleep, but Alhassan is by far the more experienced man in the cage. Malkoun’s record is short and a bit stodgy and his biggest claim to fame is that he’s a training partner of Robert Whittaker’s. Both guys have the power to put the other to sleep, but I can’t see past Alhassan getting back on the winning trail with a big, violent stoppage. PICK – Abdul Razak Alhassan via Knockout, Round 1
Andrei Arlovski (30-20) vs Chase Sherman (15-6) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The legendary former world champion makes a quick turnaround to take on a big prospect in the heavyweight division. Andrei Arlovski had won two in a row beating Phillipe Lins and Tanner Boser at UFC Vegas 13, before being submitted by Tom Aspinall at UFC Vegas 19 earlier this year. Sherman has won four in a row including his UFC return against Isaac Villanueva back in May 2020.
Arlovski is a legendary kickboxer with tremendous punching power and great technique, while Sherman is a bit more of a traditional boxer with great power in his hands. Sherman is a specialist knockout artist, but considering he’s mainly a boxer he gets hit an awful lot.
It’s a tough fight to call, because both men have had questionable chins in the past and while Sherman has more power now Arlovski is the better all-round fighter. Despite that, Arlovski has lost a step in age at 42-years-old now and I think Sherman should be able to get enough volume going to get a win. PICK – Chase Sherman via Decision
Jeremy Stephens (28-18 1NC) vs Drakkar Klose (11-2-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An intriguing lightweight bout in the co-main event as ‘Lil Heathen’ makes a return to 155lbs for the first time in nine years to take on the highly rated Drakkar Klose. Stephens was a contender at featherweight for a while but then went 0-4 (1 NC) in his last five to send him on a spiral back up to lightweight, while Klose had won three in a row before getting knocked out in a crazy fight against Beneil Dariush just over a year ago.
Stephens is a well rounded fighter who often relies on his heavy hands and steady boxing for big wins and it’s come up trumps more often than not. While his recent record is horrendous, he’s only been beaten by the elite of the 145lbs division so it’s hard to see how far he’s fallen if at all. Klose on the other hand is fantastic wrestler who has heavy hands of his own, but usually looks to take fights to the mat and work his ground and pound.
This is a really fun fight, but I can’t see it going particularly well for Stephens. Klose is the more technical fighter of the two, and while both men are durable Stephens was getting hurt by smaller guys than Klose. I think Klose will threaten the takedown and throw his hands too to be able to secure a decision win. PICK – Drakkar Klose via Decision
Robert Whittaker (23-5) vs Kelvin Gastelum (17-6) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Whittaker is an elite level kickboxer who is a master of range, with heavy hands and great footwork. Gastelum on the other hand is a heavy-handed wrestler who has good submission skills too. Whittaker is one of the best middleweights of all-time but he does get hit and rocked quite often. Gastelum has the power to hurt Whittaker with his hands, but he needs to get close enough and land clean to do it and I can’t see that.
‘Bobby Knuckles’ is better in every aspect of MMA and while Gastelum has a remarkable chin that will likely hold out, I cannot look past Whittaker waltzing to a decision win once again. PICK – Robert Whittaker via Decision
The youngest man ever to win The Ultimate Fighter, Kelvin Gastelum’s career has seen highs and lows over the last eight years.
He won the competition as a middleweight, then moved down to welterweight immediately. He struggled to make the weight, missing by as much as 10lbs before his defeat to Tyron Woodley and then being forced to move back up.
When he moved back up he stopped Tim Kennedy, Victor Belfort (overturned to a NC) and Michael Bisping before beating Jacare Souza too to set himself up a title fight with Robert Whittaker.
When that fight fell through because of Whittaker being in need of emergency surgery on fight night, Whittaker was installed in an interim title fight against Israel Adesanya – who got bumped up to the main event spot at UFC 234 in Whittaker and Gastelum’s absence.
That fight would go down as one of the greatest in middleweight history, with The Last Stylebender and Gastelum going through an incredible 25 minute war. The fight ended in defeat, with a stoppage loss only saved by the end of the final round.
His stock wasn’t harmed by the defeat though, because it was well accepted that Adesanya was and is just that good.
That defeat caused a bit of a spiral though as he failed to build on that momentum in his next fight against Darren Till, failing to really pull the trigger and losing a split decision at UFC 244. Till was making his debut in the division and was expected to make waves, so the defeat was once again not looked on too poorly.
In the end they both did, but it was Paulo Costa who withdrew first and Gastelum was quick to throw his name in the hat to finally get that bout against Whittaker from two years previous.
Whittaker is flying and back in the run of things after his own defeat to Adesanya, but this bout is now more about Gastelum’s redemption than Whittaker’s.
The Aussie has cemented his contender status with wins over Till and Jared Cannonier and is already established as #1 in the rankings. Gastelum though needs this win to be talked about in a positive way once again.
Defeat puts him back to where he was before the Heinisch win, clawing his way back into the positives against lower-ranked opposition and just as an after-thought in the title picture. A win though, and he’s right amongst the conversation.
While it shouldn’t be enough to outright earn him a title fight against Adesanya considering the run Marvin Vettori is on at the moment, it would likely set him up for another big contender fight which would likely see him get said shot with a win.
He needs to find the form of his prime run in the middleweight division where he won four of five with powerful striking, good ground game and cardio that could go the distance. He has the skillset and mentality, but he’s always fallen just short against the very top guys and that must change at UFC Vegas 24.
The middleweight division is as hot as it’s been in several years right now and yet barring a huge shock at UFC Vegas 24, there is still only one fight to make for the championship.
Robert Whittaker has lost just once since 2014, against Israel Adesanya in a bout that saw him lose the 185lbs title of the world back in October 2019.
In that fight he was the underdog going in and was impressively knocked out in the second round, with many people believing that could be the end of his career at the top.
He had been suffering with burnout from non-stop fighting for years, to the point where before his fight with Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 234 he was forced to withdraw just hours before the event with a hernia and a twisted and collapsed bowel which needed emergency surgery.
After losing to Adesanya, Whittaker took ten months off from the sport. He withdrew from a bout against Jared Cannonier and instead just opted to spend time with his family and really heal up. He returned in July on Fight Island to take on the division’s newest contender Darren Till.
He completely nullified the Brit and despite being knocked down in the first round, he eased to a dominant decision win in his first fight back without the belt around his waist.
He followed that up by finally taking the fight against Cannonier, with both fighters believing that a win would see them named as the next contender to Adesanya’s crown. The champion had publicly admitted that Cannonier would get the next shot with a win, so when Whittaker comfortably despatched of him via a unanimous decision too he was expected to get his rematch.
Instead of that rematch though, Adesanya opted to attempt to become a double champion by moving up to light heavyweight to fight Jan Blachowicz. He made the move but got comfortably beaten by the legendary Polish power and now must come back down to 185lbs to show everyone he can still reign supreme in his natural weight class.
You can maybe argue that Vettori is worth the shot first since his defeat came back in 2016 and both he and Adesanya have improved exponentially since then, but the only fight we want now is Adesanya and Whittaker.
This weekend ‘The Reaper’ takes on Gastelum in a fight he didn’t need to take. He’s said several times now that he’s not concerned with chasing his loss to Adesanya, it’s more about getting the title back.
A win against Gastelum would mean he’s followed up consecutive top five opponents with a short-notice replacement who is considered to be one of the more dangerous fighters in the division. He will have earned the bout and he will undoubtedly be a bigger draw than Vettori, which will entice Adesanya more.
Should he lose, it will only strengthen Vettori’s case but it may just mean that we don’t see Adesanya for a while. But watching his last two performances, he has been stellar. He looks sharp, quick, powerful, agile and arguably better than ever before.
The rematch between the two best welterweights in the world is what the fans and the division needs, Whittaker just needs to do his job at UFC Vegas 24 and keep winning.
It means that Gastelum steps in on 32 days’ notice to fight the former champion, two years after they were originally supposed to do battle.
Whittaker and Gastelum were supposed to fight for the undisputed middleweight championship back at UFC 234 in February 2019, only for Whittaker to withdraw from the bout just hours before the event was due to take place following a hernia and twisted and collapsed bowel which required emergency surgery.
The event was instead headlined by Israel Adesanya and Anderson Silva and when Adesanya got the win, it set up the classic fight between himself and Gastelum just a few months later for the interim title – which Adesanya won via decision after a five round war.
Gastelum would spiral following that defeat, losing to Darren Till and Jack Hermansson too to completely find himself out of the title picture. He recently got back on the winning trail though, with a unanimous decision win over Ian Heinisch at UFC 258 back in February of this year.
Whittaker on the other hand would lose the title to Adesanya later in 2019, but has bounced back from that defeat with back-to-back wins over Till and Jared Cannonier to earn himself the number one contender’s position again.
Robert Whittaker defeated Darren Till and Jared Cannonier in the latter half of 2020 which many believed was enough to earn him a rematch with Adesanya, who took the title from him in a stunning knockout at UFC 243 in Australia.
However, with Adesanya’s decision to go up in weight Whittaker has made the decision not to wait around and instead stay active. So on April 17th, he will fight Paulo Costa in the main event of a UFC Vegas card according to ESPN.
He made excuses after the fight about injuries and illness and called for an immediate rematch, all of which were ignored. He will now look to get right back on the horse against Whittaker, who has lost just one fight since moving to middleweight and only to Adesanya since 2014.
A win for Whittaker will cement his spot as the number one contender for the belt whether it be against Adesanya or for the vacant strap, while a win for Costa will raise interest in a potential rematch for himself also.
If Costa wins though, he is more likely to face the winner of another fight that has been made for April when Darren Till takes on Marvin Vettori the week before on April 10th.
Till was due to fight against Jack Hermansson in December, but injuries sustained in his previously mentioned defeat to Whittaker hadn’t quite healed yet and he was forced to withdraw. Vettori stepped in on short-notice in that bout and won via dominant decision to enter the top five conversation.
A win for either would likely set up a bout in a title eliminator situation, with Till 1-1 in the division since moving up from welterweight while Vettori has won his last four in a row with his last defeat coming in a split decision to Adesanya before he was champion.
The first quarter of 2021 continues to produce hugely important main event bouts and the middleweight division will finally be on the move once again after these two fights are completed.