When Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker first clashed on October 5, 2019, the closing odds were in the interim titleholder’s favor — Adesanya was a slight -130 favorite over the +110 champion.
Before Adesanya and Whittaker meet for the second time this weekend at UFC 271, the odds aren’t as tight with Adesanya now available as a -280 favorite vs. Whittaker at +225. The rematch and the entire UFC 271 fight card will stream live only on ESPN+ PPV in the United States.
Although the odds were close, the matchup, from start to finish, was quite lopsided. In the bout, Adesanya fought the style and pace that maximizes his attributes. More specifically, he was able to stay at a comfortable range, and when Whittaker decided to attempt to negate the distance, Adesanya landed clean strikes, from head to toe. These strikes proved to be quite damaging, having dropped Whittaker at the end of the first round, and come the second, finished the fight in impressive fashion.
The success of Adesanya cannot be negated, as he had a near-flawless performance. The reason why absolute flawlessness cannot be cast upon Adesanya’s performance is due to his elite style having inherent issues that did arise in the fight against Whittaker. The main issue was Whittaker having greater output compared to Adesanya for much of the first round. The way in which he did so was by frequently rushing in, throwing lead hooks followed by an alternate strike – right hand and kicks.
Prior to getting knocked down at the end of the first, the judging of round one, although close, would likely have been scored 10-9 in Whittaker’s favor. The lead left hook being used to negate distance landed against Adesanya, but it left Whittaker susceptible to being countered. If Whittaker can find an alternative strike that negates distance in a safer manner, he can use output to outpoint the counter-striking style of Adesanya. This is likely easier said than done, as Adesanya is undefeated as a middleweight and has defended his belt against Romero, Costa, and Vettori quite impressively since having fought Whittaker.
The final point of review, and one that cannot go understated, is Whittaker lacking a strong and clear head leading up to his fight against Adesanya. Whittaker, being a natural leader, has been willing to be upfront, honest, and outspoken about his mental health struggles, specifically, battling depression at moments within his career. Although not using his mental status as an excuse for his loss to Adesanya, the mental struggle Whittaker experienced during the time period of the Adesanya fight nets a clear factor of change in this matchup, given Whittaker seems to be in a far greater mental state now than what he was in 2019. This change, in conjunction with the former lightweight champion, Jan Blachowicz, showcasing a style of fight that can beat Israel Adesanya, results in this matchup likely shaping up to be far different from the first, and one that cannot be missed.
You can order the UFC 271 PPV on ESPN+ here to watch Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2 and the entire fight card live this Saturday, January 12 in the United States.