UFC 243: Adesanya Stops Whittaker to Claim Undisputed UFC Middleweight Title
By: Jesse Donathan
According to multiple sources, UFC 243 in Melbourne, Australia saw approximately 56,000 fans in attendance to watch the UFC middleweight title unification bout between Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya and Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker in the evenings main event. Adesanya, fighting out of New Zealand by way of Nigeria and Whittaker, a Sydney, Australia native are both hometown boys in the eyes of the Australian crowd who obviously turned out in mass to support their mixed martial arts heroes at the beautiful Marvel Stadium in downtown Melbourne.
Adesanya came into his UFC 243 middleweight title unification bout against Whittaker with a six-and-a-half-inch reach advantage at 6-foot-4-inches tall, at least a full four inches taller than his opponent. Nonetheless, the reigning, defending UFC middleweight champion Whittaker came into the fight a -105 betting favorite to hand the undefeated Adesanya his first career mixed martial arts loss.
“The Reaper” would come out strong right out of the gate, meeting Adesanya in the middle of the Octagon and pressing the action on the interim champion who displayed excellent footwork in measuring up the aggressive Whittaker. Taking a page out of UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones playbook, Whittaker immediately looked to land oblique kicks to the side of Adesanya’s knee. It was a war of low kicks early, with Whittaker bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet, periodically lunging in with powerful jabs and left hooks in an attempt to mitigate the reach and distance management of the experienced kickboxer Israel Adesanya.
Just over half way through the bout, the fighters would briefly clinch up with one another in the Octagon, and on the break, Whittaker miffs an open-handed strike passed Adesanya which rakes the interim champions eye, briefly bringing a halt to the action as referee Marc Goddard assesses the situation. After momentarily wiping his eye on Goddard’s shirt, Adesanya would collect himself despite the increasingly common eye gouging technique that seems to enjoy the benefit of the doubt all too often anymore.
The fight would resume with Adesanya momentarily pressing forward on Whittaker before “The Reaper” would turn the tables, launching a failed superman punch that got Adesanya backing up. With both fighter’s head hunting, high kicks would launch numerous times from both athletes, Adesanya coming dangerously close to connecting on Whittaker at one point during the contest.
With just under 10-seconds left in the round, Whittaker would explode with a final volley of punches that ended up seeing Adesanya clobber Whittaker with a huge right hand just as the bell sounded that sent Robert crashing to the canvas, the champion potentially saved by the bell as “The Reaper” looked noticeably hurt returning back to his corner. It was a 10-9 round for the interim champion Adesanya who looked poised, calm and collected in the first stanza of the bout.
In between rounds, Whittaker looked calm and collected on his stool, the champions conditioning no doubt playing a huge role in his ability to recover from such a powerful blow. The two fighters would again meet each other in the middle of the Octagon, with Whittaker going back to the oblique kicks and his lunging style of attack against Adesanya in part credited by the fight announcers to the hard-fought success Kelvin Gastelum found against Adesanya in his losing effort to capture the interim title against Israel. In critiquing Adesanya’s game plan, former two-division champion Daniel Cormier, calling the evenings fight in Melbourne, would note that Adesanya was looking to counter Whittaker with a hook throughout much of the fight, an observation which would soon turn out to be a prophetic.
Whether through the fog of war, a lapse in focus and concentration, fatigue or perhaps even injury, Whittaker would begin to noticeably slow down half way through the second round. His footwork, in and out movement and overall mobility began to cease as the flatter footed, stationary Whittaker looked more and more like a target for the dangerous Adesanya. This was the beginning of the end for Robert Whittaker whose right leg seemed to be injured and giving him problems.
With under two minutes remaining in the round, Whittaker would launch a multiple punch combination against Adesanya who managed to connect with a huge left hook in the middle of the sequence which sent Whittaker crashing to the canvas with Adesanya and Goddard in close pursuit.
Swarming the obviously hurt Whittaker, referee Marc Goddard had decided he had seen enough, waiving off the contest with Israel Adesanya claiming the undisputed UFC middleweight championship in impressive fashion.
Like the true champion that he is, Robert Whittaker came to compete Saturday night and went out on his shield like many legendary warriors before him. “The Reaper” came to bang against a dangerous, seasoned kickboxer in a fight he could have easily chosen to take a completely different path in game planning against. Hindsight being 20/20, perhaps Whittaker should have looked to execute a more takedown based, ground oriented style of attack against Adesanya but the UFC middleweight title is now unified and Israel Adesanya has put his name on the map as someone to be respected and reckoned with in the middleweight division. Next up for Adesanya, a potential clash with middleweight juggernaut Paulo Costa or perhaps better yet, even a superfight with UFC light heavyweight kingpin Jon Jones in a fight the UFC has been looking to put together for quite sometime now.
UFC 243 Middleweight Title Unification: Whittaker vs. Adesanya
By: Jesse Donathan
UFC 243 will air Saturday, October 6, 2019 at the Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia live on ESPN+ pay-per-view (PPV) with the main event slated to take place between the UFC Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker (20-4, 9 KOs) and the UFC Interim Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya (17-0, 13 KOs). The evenings co-main event will feature a lightweight showdown between Al Iaquinta (14-5-1, 7 KOs) and New Zealander Dan Hooker (18-8, 10 KOs). For those interesting in watching the big boys go to town, Australia’s own heavyweight Tai “Bam-Bam” Tuivasa (8-2-0, 7 KOs) will meet Sergey Spivak (9-1-0, 4 KOs) in a battle of Octagon supremacy.
“I never have any expectations with fights,” Whittaker told MMAJunkie.com in an October 2, 2019 social media report. The champion would go on to state, “I prepare for a war and you know, I am pleasantly surprised if anything else. So, I am prepared to go to war with this guy, I am prepared to drag it and make it dirty, make it messy for five rounds, for 25-minutes. Every second of being hard, I am prepared for that. And you know, I am happy to take it there if that’s where he wants it to go. But as far as I am concerned, I have 25-minutes to try and put him away and I am going to use every minute to try and do that.”
“Look, (expletive) the belt,” Adesanya told TheMacLife in their October 3, 2019 interview on YouTube.com titled, “Israel Adesanya: “He’s not the first Maori I’ve fought, trust me” | UFC 243 Open Workout.” According to “The Last Style Bender,” who captured the interim title at UFC 236 in April against Kelvin Gastelum, “For me, the real goal is beating him because he is a warrior. He’s got that Maori blood in him and he’s not the first Maori I’ve fought, trust me. So, Sunday, October 6th, if you don’t have your tickets, don’t steal, don’t do nothing crazy, just make sure you get your tickets because trust me, we are going to blow that place up.”
Unfortunately, perhaps the biggest story of UFC 243 is the increasingly common seepage of political dogma into combat sports. “In many ways, the UFC took a few pages out of boxing’s book when it came into existence nearly 26 years ago,” writes BloodyElbow.com’s Milan Ordonez in his September 11, 2019 article titled, “Melbourne politician wants Octagon girls out of UFC 243: ‘It’s surely time to move on’.” According to Ordonez, among the pages the UFC took out of boxings playbook were, “the 10-point must system, the three judges scoring the fight, and ring girls.”
But if Australia’s politicians would have their way, the UFC’s Octagon girls could be replaced with Fight Progress Managers. “During the controversial boxing match between Jeff Horn and Michael Zerafa in Bendigo, Australia in late August, ring card girls were replaced by men referred to as Fight Progress Managers,” writes BloodyElbow.com.
“It’s 2019, do we really still need scantily-clad women to wander around the middle of a fighting ring between rounds,” Lord Mayor of Melbourne Sally Capp told the Herald Sun. “Grid girls are no longer part of Formula One; walk-on girls are no longer part of professional darts — surely it’s time to move on,” suggested Capp.
In a September 26, 2019 MMAMania.com article titled, “Dana White reacts to ‘ridiculous’ ban on UFC Octagon girls — ‘Nobody treats women better than we do,” author Jesse Holland quotes UFC President Dana White’s comments to The Daily Telegraph in response to the Lord Mayor’s political wrangling into combat sports. “Our Octagon girls, they’re as much a part of the UFC brand as anyone, they’re ambassadors for our sport,” said White. “So, for someone who has absolutely no education whatsoever about who these girls are – about what they do, what they mean to the UFC – to start going off, it’s ridiculous.”
While it may be ridiculous, mixed martial arts has a long history with political red tape interfering with an otherwise enjoyable evening of fights dating back to nearly the inception of the sport itself. With the No Holds Barred era of MMA essentially stamped out of existence due to overzealous politicians and the implementation of the unified rules system, this latest dustup from Australia’s elected officials is only the beginning of a political platform that is sure to grow louder in the coming years as the desire for change reverberates throughout a combat sports community with a sympathetic ear to lobbying interests and radically shifting cultural and social norms. For those who are just fine with the way things currently are now in MMA, tune into the UFC 243 pay-per-view event live on ESPN+ Saturday night to catch all the evenings best fights.