Even although he’s No. 2 in ESPN’s divisional rankings, proper behind champion Israel Adesanya, it feels as if the load class has moved on with out Whittaker. Last weekend information broke that Adesanya, who took the belt from Whittaker through a second-round KO final October, will make his second title defense on Sept. 19, dealing with Paulo Costa at UFC 253. After that, Jared Cannonier, using a three-fight successful streak, might be searching for his shot. Where would that depart the Aussie ex-champ?
Prior to the Adesanya loss, Whittaker had not been contained in the Octagon in 16 months, since his second bout with Yoel Romero — his solely battle of 2018. The put on and tear of being locked in a cage with the tenaciously violent Romero for 10 rounds took its toll. And after the Adesanya battle, Whittaker stated he felt burnt out and questioned if he nonetheless had the spark to battle. Whittaker has not been a completely lively fighter since 2017. And this sport has a brief reminiscence.
However, Whittaker has a possibility on Saturday to remind followers what they’ve in this 29-year-old out of Sydney. He faces former welterweight Darren Till in the primary occasion of UFC Fight Night on the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
It is the fourth and ultimate occasion in the UFC’s two-week run on Yas Island, which the promotion has dubbed “Fight Island.” The fights might be on ESPN and ESPN+, with the primary card beginning at Eight p.m. ET, the prelims at 5 p.m.
A decisive victory by Whittaker (20-5, 11-3 in the UFC), together with some sustained good well being, may reestablish him as a participant to not be ignored among the many 185-pound elite. After all, Whittaker went into that Adesanya battle having gained 9 in a row. He had not misplaced since he was a welterweight in 2014.
Till (18-2-1, 6-2-1 UFC) moved up from 170 kilos in November and made a big splash upon his arrival, defeating Kelvin Gastelum, who seven months earlier had competed for an interim title. That split-decision win earned Till a No. 6 rating in his new weight class. The 27-year-old out of Liverpool, England, additionally used the victory to push additional into the previous the 2 straight losses that ended his welterweight run. The skid started with a submission loss in a 2018 problem of then-champ Tyron Woodley.
So Saturday’s principal occasion may set up both man as a middleweight title challenger. But whereas Till is the brand new child on the block seeking to assert his presence, Whittaker is the man who has been there but must make an authoritative assertion proclaiming that “out of sight, out of mind” now not applies.
By the numbers
7: Consecutive UFC principal occasions in which the betting favourite has gained, a streak extending again to Amanda Nunes‘ victory over Felicia Spencer on June 6. That bodes properly for Whittaker, who’s a -125 favourite.
48: Leg kicks landed by Whittaker in his 2018 win over Yoel Romero, essentially the most in a middleweight bout in UFC historical past.
18: Unbeaten run by Till (17-0-1) at the beginning of his MMA profession.
7: Fight night time bonuses earned by Whittaker, tying him for third most amongst lively UFC middleweights. In 14 UFC appearances, he has cashed $50,000 checks for battle of the night time 4 occasions, and for efficiency of the night time 3 times. Anderson Silva leads the best way with 12 bonuses.
10: Knockout victories for Till, amongst his profession complete of 18 wins.
Sources: ESPN Stats & Information and UFC Stats
Five vs. 5
Robert Whittaker’s most up-to-date outcomes
Loss: Israel Adesanya (KO2, Oct. 6, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Yoel Romero (SD, June 9, 2018; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Yoel Romero (UD, July 8, 2017; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Ronaldo Souza (TKO2, April 15, 2017; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Derek Brunson (TKO1, Nov. 27, 2016)
Darren Till’s most up-to-date outcomes
Win: Kelvin Gastelum (SD, Nov. 2, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Loss: Jorge Masvidal (KO2, March 16, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Loss: Tyron Woodley (SUB2, Sept. 8, 2018; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Stephen Thompson (UD, May 27, 2018)
Win: Donald Cerrone (TKO1, Oct. 21, 2017; watch on ESPN+)
And the winner is …
Till proved he belongs in this division together with his win over a top-10 contender, Kelvin Gastelum, final November. Now he has a possibility to point out he actually belongs, that he is an upper-echelon 185-pounder. It will not be simple in opposition to the ex-champ. Whittaker didn’t fare so properly in his October loss to Adesanya, however previous to that he had not been defeated in 5 years. If he’s lastly wholesome and has gotten over the setback mentally, Whittaker might be loads for Till to deal with, possibly a little bit an excessive amount of. Whittaker by third-round TKO.
Saturday’s battle schedule
ESPN/ESPN+, Eight p.m. ET
Robert Whittaker vs. Darren Till | Middleweight
Mauricio Rua vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira | Light heavyweight
Fabricio Werdum vs. Alexander Gustafsson | Heavyweight
Carla Esparza vs. Marina Rodriguez | Strawweight
Paul Craig vs. Gadzhimurad Antigulov | Light heavyweight
Alex Oliveira vs. Peter Sobotta | Welterweight
ESPN/ESPN+, 5 p.m. ET
Francisco Trinaldo vs. Jai Herbert | Lightweight
Nicolas Dalby vs. Jesse Ronson | Welterweight
Tom Aspinall vs. Jake Collier | Heavyweight
Movsar Evloev vs. Mike Grundy | Men’s featherweight
Tanner Boser vs. Raphael Pessoa | Heavyweight
Bethe Correia vs. Pannie Kianzad | Women’s bantamweight
Ramazan Emeev vs. Niklas Stolze | Welterweight
Khamzat Chimaev vs. Rhys McKee | Welterweight
Nathaniel Wood vs. John Castaneda | Men’s bantamweight
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What else to search for … past the primary occasion
For an MMA historical past lesson, look to the co-main occasion
Take a glance again on the two earlier matchups between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Rogerio Nogueira as they put together to battle once more on Saturday July 25th.
Back in 2005, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira met in a quarterfinal of the Pride Middleweight Grand Prix. Rua was two months faraway from a soccer-kick KO of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, whereas Nogueira was coming off an armbar submission of Dan Henderson. “Shogun” took the battle of Brazilians by unanimous resolution, then went on to win the match. It was considered one of his crowning achievements.
Rua and Nogueira met once more in 2015 in the UFC, by which period “Shogun” had had a quick reign as gentle heavyweight champion, minimize quick by the emergence of younger Jon Jones. Rua gained the second assembly with Nogueira, too, additionally by unanimous resolution.
On Saturday, in the co-main occasion, they conflict for a 3rd time. Nogueira, generally known as “Little Nog” as a result of he’s the dual brother of former interim heavyweight champ Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, is 44 now and has misplaced 4 of his previous six. Rua, 38, has only one loss in his previous six fights, a turnaround from a skid of his personal.
Between these two fighters, they cowl plenty of MMA historical past.
Notable conquests by Rua (in addition to “Rampage”): Lyoto Machida (2010), Chuck Liddell (2009), Mark Coleman (2009), Alistair Overeem (2005 and 2007) and Ricardo Arona (2005).
Notable conquests by Nogueira (apart from Henderson): Rashad Evans (2013), Tito Ortiz (2011), Overeem (2006 and 2005) and Kazushi Sakuraba (2003).
Three extra issues to know (from ESPN Stats & Information)
1. Khamzat Chimaev is combating simply 10 days after dominating John Phillips in his UFC debut. It’s the quickest turnaround in the UFC fashionable period (Chas Skelly: 13 days). Chimaev outstruck Phillips 124-2 in complete strikes, and his 118 complete strikes in the primary spherical had been the second most in a single spherical by a middleweight in the UFC fashionable period. This bout might be at welterweight.
2. Former UFC ladies’s bantamweight title challenger Bethe Correia faces Pannie Kianzad. Correia can tie Ronda Rousey and Sara McMann for the third-most wins in the historical past of the UFC weight class (6).
3. Jake Collier fights for the primary time since 2017 after lacking time attributable to harm and a USADA suspension. He is making his UFC heavyweight debut. With a win, Collier can grow to be the 11th fighter to win in three totally different UFC weight lessons (additionally middleweight and lightweight heavyweight).
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