Tonight, in the main event of UFC 271, Israel Adesanya will defend his UFC middleweight title against Robert Whittaker. The first time they met, the shoe was on the other foot, with Whittaker the champion and Adesanya the challenger.
In that first meeting, at UFC 243 in 2019, Adesanya was victorious. He beat Whittaker by second round TKO.
Despite the lopsided outcome in the first fight, many onlookers believe tonight’s contest will be a close affair. UFC middleweight Kelvin Gastelum is a better judge than most when it comes to picking a winner here.
The former TUF champion has fought both men in the past three years. In 2019 he shared Fight of the Year plaudits with Adesanya as the pair battled at UFC 236 for the interim UFC middleweight title. Adesanya won that bout by unanimous decision. Last April Gastelum lost a unanimous decision to Whittaker in the main event of UFC Vegas 24.
Gastelum offered his thoughts on the fight during the UFC 271 live weigh-in show. And he was full of praise for the challenger, stating Whittaker was a harder fight for him than ‘The Last StyleBender’.
“After my last fight with Rob Whittaker, I’ve never been that dazed, kind of scratching my head,” he said (ht sportskeeda). “Like, ‘Man, this guy was really better than me today.’ And I really didn’t see an opening. And he was just much better. I just had never felt that in a fight before. And not even against Adesanya, did he make me feel that way. I think Robert Whittaker was just operating on a different level. And I think if he can continue operating at that level, then I think he may be able to take it.”
After his loss to Whittaker, Gastelum lost to Jared Cannonier by unanimous decision. Cannonier will also be on tonight’s card. He faces Derek Brunson in a match that could determine who faces the winner of Adesanya vs. Whittaker.
If Gastelum is correct, those men might be competing for a rematch with Whittaker; a man who has beaten them both in the past.
About the author