Israel Adesanya put on the performance of his career this past weekend at UFC 236, rallying back from adversity to beat top-ranked contender Kelvin Gastelum via unanimous decision.
It was a fight for the ages and, as entertaining as it was, reigning UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker believes Adesanya’s defensive holes were exposed for all to see.
Speaking to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani in a recent interview, Whittaker said ‘The Last Stylebender’ should be ‘very worried’ heading into their upcoming title unification bout later this year.
“If you watch the fight you can see the holes that were there from every fight before, they just got exposed bigger,” Whittaker said, per MMA Fighting’s Jed Meshew. There were a lot holes and there were a lot of things Gastelum exploited, and there were a lot of things Gastelum could’ve exploited but couldn’t because of his makeup, because of his striking style, because of his height, his reach. Gastelum was getting in. Gastelum was landing that left. I’ll get in, I’ll land my right. I’m much faster than Gastelum. I’m a better striker, I’m more comfortable there. I stay on the outside, I don’t stay in that mid-ground. Israel should be very worried. I’m a very hard fight.”
Adesanya’s usual showboating was put on hold against Gastelum, as the former kickboxing champion was rocked early on with an overhand right. Adesanya was caught flush several times against Gastelum and, according to Whittaker, it was clear to see that the newly-crowned interim champ didn’t like getting hit.
“Israel doesn’t like getting hit and he’s very, very hittable,” Whittaker said. “That’s it. I hit hard. I like hitting people. I can get in and I can do the damage. I can do the work. If he can weather the storm and take my shots and survive five rounds and counter and do everything he did with Gastelum, then congratulations to him, he’ll get the win, X,Y, Z. But I don’t think he’s going to. I’m a different fighter than Gastelum. I bring much more heat. I hit harder, I hit faster, I gonna come with a new level of intensity he’s not used to.”
A title unification bout is all but confirmed, and ‘The Reaper’ is hoping he gets to square off with Adesanya in his hometown of Sydney, Australia.
“I haven’t heard too much just yet but third times the charm,” Whittaker concluded. “If I can get it in Australia, surely this time. . . Definitely Sydney. I want it in Sydney. I want it in my backyard. I haven’t fought here since my middleweight debut and I really want to do that. It’s one of the things I want to do, defend my belt in Sydney, home ground, backyard. Third times the charm.”
Expect the UFC to officially announce this highly anticipated match-up in the coming weeks.