Where: Marvel Stadium, Melbourne, Australia
When: Saturday October 5th 2019
The stage is set, the date is down, and the match has been made… Australia is getting the middleweight title clash that everyone wants and we've all been waiting for. All that needs to happen now is, they both need to show up healthy.
UFC 243 plays host to Whittaker vs. Adesanya, the New Zealand born Aussie, versus the Nigerian born Kiwi. The tensions are high given Robert Whittaker’s allegiance to Australia, despite him being born in the land of their bitter rivals. This is something Adesanya has been firm with, when calling Whittaker out for it in the media.
The build-up for this bout could be very interesting as Adesanya looks perhaps the most intent to mentally attack his opponent since his fight with Derrick Brunson, whereas “Bobby Knuckles” (Whittaker) currently remains his cool calm self.
When Adesanya was asked about what it was like when looking at Whittaker in one of their staredowns, he said it “reminded [him] of looking at a meth head” (Adesanya told MMA Junkie). It was fighting talk indeed, and only time will tell if he’ll be able to get Whittaker into an uncharacteristic verbal back-and-forth before their champion vs. interim champion showdown.
The fight is intriguing, as Whittaker is very well rounded and mainly favors his boxing, and Adesanya is an out and out kickboxer, who appears to be getting increasingly better in each aspect of his game.
I see this playing out very similarly to the "banger" Adesanya had when he beat Kelvin Gastelum in a close fight to claim his interim middleweight belt. There were knockdowns, head kicks, a little wrestling from Gastelum, and even a crazy submission attempt from Adesanya. It was wild, and the consensus front runner for Fight of the Year!
I favor Whittaker to win as I see him as a more physically equipped Gastelum. He’s pretty much as durable, his boxing is on the same level, his defensive wrestling is perhaps better, and his offensive wrestling is there if he wants it. Throw in that he also has an extra three inches in height, and two inches in reach over what Gastelum has, and it all stacks-up to cause Adesanya more issues.
My main concern is where he’s at with his health given that he’s dropped out of two fights in the last 18 months, both times on fight week and for pretty serious reasons. Add on top the two wars he had with Yoel Romero, and we really don’t know how his body might hold-up over another action packed 25 minutes.
That being said however, I’ve come to learn that you should have reservations about fighters’ conditions when entering fights, but unless you’ve seen any frailties inside of the cage, it’s generally not worth looking too far into. If you’re unsure what I mean, think back to Holloway vs. Ortega, when Holloway entered at around a pick’em, due to the betting public’s health concerns for him. Then he went in there and beat Ortega up from pillar to post, and looked every bit of a -500 favorite.
So getting back on track, I fancy Whittaker here, although I’m not a massive fan of the current line. I definitely still think it’s playable at -133 (best price), but I’m waiting for -125ish, which I believe we’ll get before fight day. I think this is a spot where casual money should come in on Adesanya, and a pick’em price isn’t out of the question on Bobby Knuckles.