The UFC heads to Melbourne, Australia Saturday for the fourth time with one of the best cards the nation has ever seen. This will be the second time the company has hosted an event at Marvel Stadium, the first being UFC 193 in November 2015. Eleven fights will be broadcast in their entirety, starting on ESPN+ at 6:30 pm EST followed by four fights on ESPN2 beginning at 8 pm EST. The main card will kick off at 10 pm EST on ESPN+ Pay Per View.
The main event of the evening features a UFC Middleweight Championship unification bout between current champion Robert Whittaker (-122) and interim champion Israel Adesanya (+100). Let’s take a deeper look at this middleweight matchup to see where we can find an edge.
Robert Whittaker (20-4-0) vs. Israel Adesanya (17-0-0)
These odds were taken from FanDuel Sportsbook on October 4, 2019.
What Israel Adesanya might slightly lack in youth, he makes up for in size and more importantly length. Standing three inches taller than Whittaker at 6’3″, Adesanya possesses a 6.5-inch reach advantage at over 80 inches. While Adesanya is two years the elder, he has taken significantly less damage and has only six fights in the UFC (6-0). A former decorated kickboxing champion, Adesanya is currently ranked number 14 in the UFC pound-for-pound rankings and has quickly risen in the ranks following impressive wins over Derek Brunson and a legend of the sport in Anderson Silva.
While Adesanya has largely been able to keep his opponents at bay with his reach and kicking abilities, he faces a new kind of challenge on Saturday against Robert Whittaker. In two of Whittaker’s last four fights, he has ended them early in large part thanks to a barrage of kicks to the head and vicious assaults on his opponents. It has, however, been well over two years since he has fought an opponent not named Yoel Romero, with two wins against the former light heavyweight both by decision. As an Australian national, Whittaker will be fighting in front of his home fans for the first time since November 2016, a TKO victory over Derek Brunson that earned him Performance of the Night honors.
While four of Adesanya’s last five fights have gone to decision, 13 of his 17 professional MMA fights have resulted in a knockout. With a shot at the middleweight belt at stake and his best chance to become a UFC superstar to date, I expect Adesanya to come out firing and looking to end this one before the final bell. On the other side of the cage, Whittaker has left the decision up to the judges in four of his last six contests and has largely been known for his grappling throughout his career. Since entering the UFC middleweight division, however, Whittaker has fought in his native Australia now four times. In three of those four, he has won either Performance or Fight of the Night honors, all three by TKO or KO prior to the end of the second round. In what will be a five-round showdown, I expect both fighters to be looking to put on a show and one of them to get caught early.