UFC 243 is upon us. Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya look to unify the Middleweight title in front of 50,000 fans in Australia. The biggest fight in Oceania history.
Exactly 50 UFC PPVs ago at UFC 193, Robert Whittaker was in the middle of the main card in an exciting striking oriented match up with Uriah Hall.
Whittaker showed some grappling control and willingness to grind it out as well as a fantastic top game. Recently his coach made comments that he was “better than GSP”, so seeing him have this GSP style mid career transformation and grind out a wrestling heavy, long portions spent passing and ground striking vs. Adesanya would be pretty amazing.
Whittaker has a very underrated top ground game. He kept Yoel Romero down.
We can immediately see a different Whittaker from the one that fought the shorter, less rangy Yoel Romero. Opting for looping shots over the top on the longer Hall as opposed to straight shots vs. the similarly sized Romero (who is actually also listed as 6 ft and 73.5 reach exactly the same as Whittaker). Notice that final jab from south paw. Whittaker began the combo in orthodox (left foot forward), he “shifts” in a similar fashion that Cody Garbrandt has done it. Instead of staying in one stance, Whittaker “continues” punching into south paw to cover more distance.
Whittaker landed this jab/jab set to the right low kick throughout the fight. Hall began reaching for the kick and eventually was able to fully catch it in round 2 for the catch and head kick counter.
PEEP THAT URIAH RIGHT HAND TO THE BODY OFF THE KICK CATCH. This was a kick catch right straight to the body from orthodox into southpaw left head kick. The fucking mad man. Too bad Uriah proceeded to follow Whittaker around the cage for about 2 revelations.
In this clip we see Uriah Hall attempting two step through/flying knees at the start of round 2. He hadn’t throw this in round 1, so it was a mid fight adjustment since Whittaker will often hold his ground and look to counter with punches, sometimes even dipping his head down as he did in round 3. Uriah had his best stretch of offense in the whole fight right here, even making Whittaker back up, before INEXPLICABLY DECIDING TO CLINCH. Look how wacky this process is. Starts piecing up Whittaker on the feet a little. Kicks are going to the head and leg, flying knees are colliding with dipping down punches… and Uriah shoots a takedown, Rob stops it, Uriah transitions to double collar and lands two good knees to the body.
- Shooting the takedown was already strange. But Hall manages to turn that into two good knees to the body. If this was his actual process, it would be very cool. Grappling straight into striking transition.
- BUT it’s likely not. He just did it and it looked cool, but no process. Whittaker defends and Hall goes for a body clinch and they chill on the cage for a bit. I’m not sure if Hall is cognizant of what he’s doing or what. Maybe he wanted to rest. But seriously he was doing his best work before stalemating on the cage.
I think that the amount of offense Hall managed to get off on Whittaker is very important when thinking about what Adesanya can bring to their fight. It was a clear, and in some retrospects even, a dominant win for Whittaker over Hall. But in between there were moments that Hall had that I can’t help but feel Adesanya could do the same, but more frequently.
Whittaker closing the distance successfully and unsuccessfully
I see it as a double edged sword. Those blitzing over the top punches catch many by surprise, especially as a counter to the conventional jab, but if Whittaker misses it does leave himself fairly open for a counter.
Willingness to grind it out
— Pannie Tran (@tranypanda) October 5, 2019
Yeah that’s my Twitter. No one follows me lol but yeah I post some fight shit on there some times.
Whittaker towing the line between exciting and smart. Back control, staying busy with knees and foot stomps. Even with Hall appearing to be on his way out, Rob plays it smart/safe and keeps dominant back control position when he sees Uriah is still defending (and even attacking with a kimura as a response to Whittaker’s double unders back control).
Whittaker has a FANTASTIC top game. Smooth and technical.
bonus romero whittaker 1 clips
If he can keep Romero down, he can probably keep anyone down. Romero uses that underhook and gets back to his feet against the vast majority of opposition.
And the moment you’re on the ground, Whittaker is gonna be crashing down trying to strike and/or pass, sometimes at the same time.
Here’s two sequences vs. Hall showing Whittaker’s top game (and also Hall’s underrated defensive grappling):
In the second clip above, Whittaker lands two consecutive right hands, which could be seen as two south paw grounded jabs. Whittaker picks his shots on the ground the same way he does on the feet, coupled with passing guard, makes him a very effective and high output ground fighter. You see some guys just be totally ineffective with their ground striking, so I love watching Whittaker DYNAMIC guard passing (shout out Jack Slack for that terminology way back when to describe Fedor’s simultaneous striking and guard passing). Whittaker just prefers to do the bulk of his work on the feet, so this aspect of his game isn’t seen as much.
Uriah also landed jabs throughout the fight. But for every Uriah jab, Whittaker would also fire back and land frequently with a right hand cross counter.
I enjoyed rewatching this fight very much. We got to see Whittaker on the front foot leading the dance, forcing the dance.. we saw him on the backfoot. We saw him grind along the cage, and on the ground. Just a great all around performance by Whittaker, and getting through the random brilliance from Uriah Hall (see Gegard Mousasi 1, round 2).