Robert Whittaker: Dricus Du Plessis beats Israel Adesanya — ‘He’s awkward and he’s going to be pushing forward’
The Middleweight division in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has gone through quite a transformation over the past year.
UFC 276 in July 2022 was the last time the 185-pound crown was successfully defended, as the then-champion, Israel Adesanya, pitched a shutout effort to secure a unanimous decision win over Jared Cannonier. Since then, the title has bounced around between four different owners, including Adesanya.
The title once again changed hands at UFC 297 when Sean Strickland and Dricus Du Plessis went to war this past weekend (Jan. 20, 2024). Strickland entered the bout as the champion and unfortunately for him lost a closely-contested split decision to his South African counterpart (watch highlights). As Strickland won the title from Adesanya (watch highlights) in place of Du Plessis this past September 2023, the returning “Stylebender” looks like a prime candidate for his rival’s first title defense. Familiar with both men and looking to work his way back into the conversation, the former champion, Robert Whittaker, believes Du Plessis has proven enough to handle the legendary striker, Adesanya.
“I’m going to say ‘DDP,’” Whittaker said on The MMA Hour. “Just because, like Sean with Dricus, the safe bet is Sean, but Dricus showed what he was willing to do and what he was willing to go through. Can he do that again against ‘Izzy’? Who knows? But he’s a tough guy. He’s awkward and he’s going to be pushing forward that entire time. It doesn’t matter if he’s getting hit, he showed that tenacity in that fight. So I’ll go ‘DDP.’”
Adesanya and Du Plessis are the only fighters who have managed to solve the Whittaker puzzle at Middleweight. The latter of which handed “The Reaper” a second round technical knockout loss in his last fight (watch highlights).
Whittaker admittedly felt ahead of Strickland vs. Du Plessis that Strickland’s more refined technique in the striking department would have been enough to stifle “Stillknocks.” However, it’s gotten to the point where the effectiveness of his awkward style is undeniable.
“As someone who has fought Dricus, I understand how awkward he is to fight,” Whittaker said. “Everyone who saw the fight can say how awkward he looks. Dude, he was throwing overhands from the first bell to the last bell, and he was throwing combos off of them! (laughs) I’ve never seen someone combo a left overhand into a right overhand! The guy is awkward, switching stances the whole fight, pushing forward, tough as nails, taking shots the entire time to land shots. You’ve got to give it to him.”
Whittaker returns to action against Paulo Costa at UFC 298 in Anaheim, California next month (Feb. 17, 2024).
For complete UFC 297 results, coverage and highlights, click HERE.