The UFC is headed to Melbourne, Australia, with perhaps the best fight of 2019.
The UFC saw the opportunity to put on a massive show Down Under and hit the nail on the head.
Australia’s Robert Whittaker and New Zealand’s Israel Adesanya will headline in Marvel Stadium. Oceania will come alive for their two amazing champions, and the middleweight title will be unified in the main event.
Will Whittaker derail the hype train of “The Last Stylebender” or will another new era begin with Adesanya shedding the interim tag to become the undisputed champion?
The co-main event was scheduled to be a bantamweight clash between Holly Holm and Raquel Pennington, but the former dropped out due to a partially torn hamstring. She revealed the injury via an Instagram post, and the UFC has yet to decide which undercard bout to promote to the main card.
Still, this event is all about the stellar main event. Whittaker. Adesanya. For all the marbles.
Summer may be ending, but the UFC is still bringing the heat.
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UFC 243 Main Card (PPV)
- UFC Middleweight Championship: Robert Whittaker vs. Israel Adesanya
- Al Iaquinta vs. Dan Hooker
- Tai Tuivasa vs. Sergey Spivac
- Luke Jumeau vs. Dhiego Lima
UFC 243 Preliminary Card (ESPN)
- Jake Matthews vs. Rostem Akman
- Justin Tafa vs. Yorgan De Castro
- Callan Potter vs. Maki Pitolo
- Megan Anderson vs. Zarah Fairn dos Santos
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass)
- Jamie Mullarkey vs. Brad Riddell
- Nadia Kassem vs. Ji Yeon Kim
- Khalid Taha vs. Bruno Silva
The Main Event: Robert Whittaker vs. Israel Adesanya
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The main event is the definition of a barn-burner. UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker and interim champ Israel Adesanya will unify the 185-pound gold inside the Octagon.
The Whittaker-Adesanya unification bout is the height of MMA. It is also the height of Oceania MMA. The Aussie and New Zealander will headline this bout in a stadium for the local crowd in Marvel Stadium.
Whittaker is on a nine-fight win streak, and he is undefeated at middleweight in the UFC (8-0). His superior striking and grit has led him to the title. While Michael Bisping held out for a fight against Georges St-Pierre, Whittaker beat Yoel Romero in a five-round slugfest on a battered leg to win the interim title. After GSP defeated Bisping, he retired again instead of defending against Whittaker. Thus, he was promoted to the undisputed champion.
Whittaker rematched with Romero in another 25-minute war that surpassed the original. Once again, his mettle overcame adversity en route to a decision nod. But injuries have sidelined the 28-year-old during his reign. This led to another interim title being created.
Adesanya came on to the MMA scene in 2012, and he made his UFC debut in 2018. It has been a quick rise for the talented striker, who has dispatched everyone in his career to the tune of a perfect 17-0 record. At UFC 236, while Whittaker was recovering, Adesanya bested Kelvin Gastelum for the interim gold in what could be 2019’s Fight of the Year.
If there is one fight that could usurp it on the award list, it is this one.
Not only are these two the best middleweights, but they are also the best middleweight strikers with distinctive styles and a willingness to stay in the pocket and exchange. Both men have received as they have given; and both men have overcome hardships to prevail.
Per UFCStats.com, Whittaker has a higher output of significant strikes (4.82 per minute to Adesanya’s 4.44) while Adesanya leads in accuracy (51 percent to 40 percent). Neither is afraid or inexperienced on the canvas, either. Adesanya showcased a credible ground game against Gastelum, while Whittaker’s takedown defense has shined.
Conventional wisdom will say Adesanya has a decided advantage on the feet, but the Gastelum fight proved he is not invincible. Whittaker’s pressure and boxing will be cause for concern for New Zealander.
Everything from their recent fights points to this being an all-action affair with some of the highest-level striking you will see. This is not a cherry on top of an ordinary sundae, but rather a Michelin-star level dessert presented to you by the greatest chefs in the world.
Whittaker vs. Adesanya will rival any bout from this year and should be the most anticipated fight remaining on the UFC’s 2019 slate. It’s just that good.
The Co-Main Event: Al Iaquinta vs. Dan Hooker
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The lightweight division has always been rich with talent, and the co-main event is just another example of that. No. 6-ranked Al Iaquinta will stand opposite No. 15-ranked Dan Hooker.
Hooker is coming off a brutal knockout of James Vick, and he will look to make it a stellar night for the local crowd. He has won five of his last six. Beating Iaquinta would move him into the top end of the division and make him a true title contender.
Iaquinta will look to play spoiler Down Under.
After an unsuccessful bid at the lightweight title, he has gone 1-1 with a win over Kevin Lee and a loss in a Fight of the Night against Donald Cerrone. The level of competition combined with his performances has allowed him to remain inside the top 10. Accepting the challenge of Hooker will be a test to see if Iaquinta is still among the division’s elite.
Both Iaquinta and Hooker are incredibly well-rounded with power in the hands and sneaky submissions on the mat.
The stakes are high for both men as 2019 draws closer to a close. The pathway to a title shot is not long for the winner of this bout.
Coming on the heels of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s win over Dustin Poirier, this fight should help build a future contender in 2020.
Fight to Keep an Eye On: Justin Tafa vs. Yorgan De Castro
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If you are searching for a fight that may be going under the radar but will provide a lot of excitement, look no further than the heavyweight prelim bout between Justin Tafa and Yorgan De Castro.
As the heavyweight talent pool deepens, this is a chance for these two debuting combatants to put themselves on the map in an emphatic way.
De Castro is 5-0 and coming off a first-round TKO performance on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. Where other Contender Series participants have been given more favorable matchups, the UFC has afforded him no such luxury. Tafa is undefeated himself at 3-0 with three KO/TKO showings.
This fight is not likely to go to the scorecards. It is two hard-hitting heavyweights who will sling heavy leather at one another until the referee pulls the victor away from an unconscious opponent.
Undefeated prospects debuting against each other is not typical for UFC matchmaking, but at UFC 243 you will be introduced to two new faces seeking a quick rise in the heavyweight division. Don’t blink.
Best of the Rest
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Tai Tuivasa vs. Sergey Spivak
Any time Tai Tuivasa steps inside the cage, the fight is worth your attention. The charismatic heavyweight began his career 8-0 before dropping his most recent two fights against Junior dos Santos and Blagoy Ivanov. Now, the UFC is trying to rehab him with a favorable fight against Sergey Spivac.
Spivak made his UFC debut against Walt Harris and was dispatched in 50 seconds. The UFC seems to be serving him up to Tuivasa, but he has no pressure while Tuivasa enters with the weight of the country on his shoulders.
Could an upset be brewing or will Tuivasa show why he quickly gained notoriety with another big finish?
Luke Jumeau vs. Dhiego Lima
Currently scheduled to be the curtain-jerking bout of the main card, Luke Jumeau vs. Dhiego Lima promises to be a scrap worth tuning in to see.
Jumeau will be performing in front of a friendly crowd, but Lima is the fighter with more upside. Lima has scored back-to-back wins over quality opposition (Chad Laprise, Court McGee). A win over Jumeau, on a PPV card, will give him a big boost as he tries to enter into bigger ranked bouts in 2020.
It’s an exciting matchup with potential to be Fight of the Night.
Jake Matthews vs. Rostem Akman
Jake Matthews was once supposed to be the shining prospect of Australia. He has yet to live up to the hype, but he has proved to be an exciting fighter. This will be his first fight of 2019.
Matthews went on a three-fight streak, including a win over Li Jingliang, before tapping out to Anthony Rocco Martin. If he can regain the form that saw him pick up three straight wins, Matthews will re-insert himself into the welterweight rankings picture.
Nadia Kassem vs. Ji Yeon Kim
This early Fight Pass preliminary is worth a look. While both women are coming off losses, the flyweight division is still wide open. Any big performance will give a big boost to the winner, and the opportunity is there for the taking between these two fighters.