We will see a clash of the top middleweights, the fight to stay relevant in the lightweight division and the climbing of heavyweights Saturday. All of this will be on display when the UFC travels down under for UFC 243 in Melbourne, Australia.
The main event of the evening features the title unification bout between Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya. Whittaker has held the title since 2017 when he beat Yoel Romero by unanimous decision. However, Romero is the only person that Whittaker has defeated during his reign at the top of the division, once in 2017 to earn the title and again in June 2018. Whittaker’s time with the belt has been heavily plagued by injuries battling a staph infection in 2018 and an abdominal hernia through late 2018 and early 2019.
Now as Whittaker comes back healthy, he is a man to be afraid of. Whittaker won the Ultimate Fighter in 2012 and has been a dominant fighter in the UFC ever since. In the UFC, Whittaker is now 13–2 with six of those victories coming from knockout. He is a skilled striker and grappler, boasting black belts in both hapkido and goju-ryu karate as well as a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
However, Whittaker is taking on one of the most precise strikers the UFC has ever seen. The man they call “the Last Stylebender,” Israel Adesanya, took the UFC by storm winning every fight he was in including unanimous decision victories against Anderson Silva and Kelvin Gastelum. Adesanya is not the type of fighter to explode on his opponents and get the finish; instead, he uses a calculated, methodical approach that pulls them apart piece by piece.
The co-main event is lightweight bout between Al Iaquinta and Dan Hooker. Both Iaquinta and Hooker know what it’s like to be among the top of the division. Iaquinta fought his way to a championship fight back in April 2018 but failed to capitalize missing weight and lost the fight by unanimous decision.
Since then, it has been a struggle to get back to the top after beating Kevin Lee and getting manhandled by Donald Cerrone in his last two fights. Now ranked sixth in the division, Iaquinta looks to use a victory over Hooker to push him back up the list.
Hooker, on the other hand, is just fighting to stay in the rankings. He won five of his last six fights to give him the last spot in the top 15. After finishing each of the five wins, including three first round knockouts, Hooker looks to get a statement win again to propel him up the leaderboard.
Also on the card is a heavyweight bout featuring Tai Tuivasa and Sergey Spivak. Both fighters have struggled as of late and are looking to get back on the winning side of things. Tuivasa has lost his last two fights and has fell to No. 14 in the rankings. With a wide-open heavyweight division, a victory against Spivak could get the ball rolling on a path to a future title fight for Tuivasa.
With heavy strikers and so much at stake for each of these fighters, Melbourne is in for treat Saturday night with UFC 243 in town.