Whittaker Gastelum

Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker (25-6; 15-4 in the UFC) will put his 9+ year record on the line with being undefeated since 2014 to opponent’s not named Israel Adesanya when he goes up against the surging South African prospect, Dricus Du Plessis (19-2; 5-0 in the UFC), who is looking to earn a title shot with a win over former champion of the middleweight division in Whittaker.

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Betting Odds

The more proven former champion, Robert Whittaker, is a sizeable -380 favorite over the hungry prospect, Dricus Du Plessis, coming back as a +300 dog.

  • Robert Whittaker: -380 (BetUS)
  • Dricus Du Plessis: +300 (BetUS)

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Fight Breakdown

There are a handful of fighters who are stated as “would-be champions” if it were not for the current champion in their respective division. The two notable fighters to fit this bill are Max “Blessed” Holloway and Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker. Both these fighters have been champions in the past, and while each has fallen short of beating the current champion – Israel Adesanya in the Middleweight division – they are perceived as the unequivocal top contender.

What makes Robert Whittaker so good is quite similar to the opponent who has Max Holloway’s number, that is, Alexander Volkanovski. Both men have sound grappling, and most importantly, a keen understanding of distance and timing on the feet that is seamlessly blended with elite speed and high fight intellect. For Whittaker in particular, he loves to throw a right-hand, left-hook combination that is followed by an arena-thumping kick, thrown to the leg, body, and/or head of his opponent. While simple in theory, the best of the best are able to make a basic combination into one that is truly devasting, and Whittaker has done that time in and time out, as he has dominated the middleweight division not named Adesanya.

Dominance over the middleweight division can be argued for Du Plessis as well, as he has finished four of his five UFC bouts, and all finishes besides one are against ranked-caliber opponents. Moreover, the way in which Du Plessis is able to dominate is a combination of striking and grappling success, thus making him a well-rounded opponent, similar to that of Whittaker.

The difference between Du Plessis and Whittaker does become stark when you analyze the way in which they dominate fights. Whereas Whittaker uses elite speed and technically sound movements, Du Plessis relies more on his physical ability, and this is not too surprising when you see just how strong he is from a body-frame standpoint. The benefit for Du Plessis with choosing to rest on his physical ability is that he is in his prime, and the power he has in his hands coupled with the ability to be heavy and strong in grappling makes him a proven problem. The issue though is that if he faces an opponent who can use technique in both striking and grappling to mitigate the physical advantage he has, then he can become stiff and slow down as the fight ensues.

We saw moments of this in the Brad Tavares fight, where Tavares was able to use sound technical ability to stuff all seven takedown attempts, and then, use basic boxing to find some success on the feet. And while Du Plessis was able to power through and find the win, the lone non-specialist, well-rounded ranked fighter that he fought showcased problematic areas for him brings doubt here as Whittaker is levels ahead of where Tavares is currently at, as such, will likely be able to mitigate the threat the same way, but extend his success once the threat is mitigated.


Dricus Du Plessis is justifiably confident given his UFC success and is someone with legitimate power and a strong grappling game. These threats of striking power early coupled with an ability to potentially control the fight with grappling raise concern, but when you analyze the technical ability of Whittaker everywhere the fight takes place, then the concern becomes extremely mild.

Simply put, Whittaker has proven time in and time out to be leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the middleweight division with being 13-2 since 2014, and I expect this fight to be no different. Lack of difference comes into play with the recent track record of him going to decisive decision victories, so I am electing to go with him by decision once more at +195 odds.

Pick: Whittaker by decision (+195)

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