Chael Sonnen thinks Robert Whittaker was petrified against Israel Adesanya in their first middleweight title fight at UFC 243 and believes said fear factor played a major role in ‘The Reaper’s’ knockout defeat.
“I believe Robert Whittaker was petrified the first time they fought and I don’t know why,” Sonnen said on his YouTube channel when making a prediction for Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2 (h/t BJPenn.com). “Cause Robert Whittaker was believed by many people that he was going to stop Adesanya. Don’t forget it was Whittaker who was the champion at the time.”
“Whittaker was the one that walked out second. Something about it threw him off,” he added. “I could see it in his eyes in the walkout. There was a lot of pressure, 57,000 live people. It was still Whittaker who I believe as the one of the greatest strikers ever in the sport let alone in the division, against Adesanya who’s one of the great strikers ever within the division and the sport.”
“The experience of Whittaker, the support of the hometown. Things are going to be great for Whittaker. It was anything but that. Whittaker was knocked out twice, twice the referee had to come in to stop the fight. Whittaker didn’t want a rematch. They tried to book it. Whittaker has fought 3 guys since. I know Robert Whittaker doesn’t want this. I’ve never competed with anyone in my life and lost and not wanted another fight.”
Sonnen isn’t sure where Whittaker’s head is at heading into this weekend’s rematch but acknowledges ‘The Reaper’ has made some big improvements since the first fight, notching three straight victories against top contenders Darren Till, Jared Cannonier, and Kelvin Gastelum.
With that said, ‘The Bad Guy’ believes there is still a ‘big gap’ in skill between the two fighters and, for that reason, leans towards a victory for Adesanya on Saturday night.
“Physically speaking Robert Whittaker has made the bigger gains, for sure he’s made the bigger gains from the 1st time he met with Adesanya till now. But there’s a big gap, there’s still a gap. I lean towards Adesanya,” Sonnen said.
“If Whittaker doesn’t look at the man in the mirror and know he’s the better guy tonight and he doesn’t have a plan B then he’s in trouble. Whittaker has what it takes to go all five rounds, there is a path to beat Adesanya. I’m putting the curse on Izzy.”
UFC 271: Adesanya vs. Whittaker II takes place Saturday, Feb. 12 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.