27-Year-Old UFC Middleweight 20-4-0
June 11, 2018 Robert Whittaker News
RotoWire Fantasy Analysis
Whittaker will undergo hand surgery but is hopeful for a 2018 return, MMAFighting.com reports.
Whittaker told Joe Rogan during a post-fight interview that he broke his hand in the first round of his 25-minute war with Yoel Romero, and his initial assessment appears to be correct. Fortunately for Whittaker, it appears to be a "clean break," which greatly reduces the expected recovery timetable. Barring any complications, Whittaker could be given a chance to defend his middleweight strap prior to the conclusion of the calendar year. It's too early to speculate on a potential opponent, though the likes of Kelvin Gastelum and Chris Weidman are currently the highest-ranked, healthy middleweights without an immediate fight booked.
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Fantasy AnalysisWhittaker would have walked out of the United Center with his title either way, but he now also leaves with the victory he worked so hard for. Despite breaking his right hand throwing a punch in Round 1 and telling Joe Rogan in his post-fight interview that his arm was numb all the way up to his elbow, Whittaker somehow continued to dish out punishment and eat everything Romero threw his way. There were countless times that the ordinary human being would have been stopped by Romero's superhuman strength, but Whittaker persevered. He may have gotten a break from the judge's as this was a fight that truly could have gone either way, but that's not his concern. Whittaker's chin and heart have proven to be as impressive as his offensive arsenal. A trilogy fight with Romero would have been an option, but the UFC is going to have difficulty booking Romero in another middleweight title fight after he missed weight his last two times. ESPN's Ariel Helwani reported earlier Saturday that the UFC was eyeing either former champion Chris Weidman or up-and-comer Kelvin Gastelum for Whittaker's next title defense.
Fantasy AnalysisThe biggest story in the MMA world Friday morning is the fact that Romero missed the 185-pound middleweight title limit after checking in at 185.2 pounds on his second attempt. Whittaker appears to be unfazed by his opponent's mishap and has been preparing as if the fight is still on, stating "I'm refueling and getting ready for a fight." It's seems like a win-win scenario for Whittaker, as it appears he won't lose his championship belt with a loss, though White failed to confirm whether or not the belt would be on the line. Details regarding the title belt, potential fine for Romero and number of rounds have yet to emerge, but it appears the two will be facing off Saturday night. As of early Friday evening, Whittaker is approximately a (-250) betting favorite for the event.
Fantasy AnalysisWhittaker will look to defend the middleweight title he won over Romero last summer at UFC 213. By accepting this invitation, it seems reasonable to say that Whittaker expects to be soon recovered from the knee injury that forced him to withdraw from his February matchup with Luke Rockhold. Matchup-wise, Whittaker was able to drag out their first fight to the championship rounds, where he used superior cardio to get the better of the "Soldier of God." There's little doubt Whittaker will try to exercise a similar game plan this time around, but he cannot let his guard down for even a second against a fighter as dangerous as Romero. Romero only needs a small opening to end a fight, as 11 of his 13 professional wins have come via KO/TKO.
Fantasy AnalysisWhittaker was set to take on Rockhold for the middleweight belt at UFC 221 on Feb. 10 in his home country of Australia. Following this announcement, the promotion scheduled an interim title bout between Rockhold and Yoel Romero on the same night. Prior to this fight, Whittaker was working his way back from a 180-day medical suspension that stemmed from his victory over Romero in early July. Whittaker won that fight via unanimous decision but suffered a knee injury which caused the medical suspension to come into effect. At this point, there has been no word on whether his new injury is related to the knee, but there is sure to be an update on his status in the near future.
Fantasy AnalysisWhittaker -- who is currently in the midst of a 180-day medical suspension -- was crowned the undisputed middleweight champion Thursday after Georges St-Pierre vacated his belt due to a battle with ulcerative colitis. Whittaker will have the opportunity to defend his title in early 2018 against Rockhold, who is coming off a TKO win over David Branch in September.
Fantasy AnalysisWhittaker didn't win the first two rounds and was hit with a crippling leg kick, but he came back against "The Soldier of God" to secure the victory. After tripping Romero in the final minutes of the fight, Whittaker took the top and remained there until the bell rang. He claimed the Interim Middleweight Championship and will face Michael Bisping at a future date. However, due to the knee injury sustained in the first round, Whittaker has been given a 180-day medical suspension and will have to sit out unless cleared earlier by a physician. Other fighters to receive long suspensions pending clearance include Curtis Blaydes, Anthony Pettis and Travis Browne.
Fantasy AnalysisWhat a gutsy performance by Whittaker! Early in the first round "The Reaper" suffered a knee injury when he was leg kicked by Romero. For the first two rounds, Whittaker was outpointed by "The Soldier of God" and was taken down a few times, but was never in danger of being finished. Once the third round hit, it seemed as if adrenaline kicked in and Whittaker forgot about his injury. He clipped the Cuban middleweight in the third round and controlled the fight from distance. He also had great takedown defense. The fourth round was similar, and, in the fifth, Whittaker dominated the fight. He was the fresher fighter and landed good shots on the feet. He tripped Romero with about two minutes left in the fight, and dove on top. The Australian middleweight kept top control for the remainder of the fight. Whittaker showed championship-level resolve in surviving the fight despite his injury. Whittaker will now face Michael Bisping at a date to be determined for the UFC middleweight championship. That fight should be another war and hopefully "The Reaper's" knee recovers quickly and he leapfrogs Georges St. Pierre for the next shot at Bisping.
Fantasy AnalysisWhittaker and Romero will co-main UFC 213 with their fight now that T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt (back) have been bumped from the card. Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko's title fight will main event. Whittaker is coming off an impressive TKO victory over Jacare Souza in his last fight and has thoroughly earned the opportunity to compete for the interim title.
Fantasy AnalysisUnbelievable. Facing one of the better pound-for-pound fighters in the world and one of the most dangerous men in the company, Whittaker fought a perfect fight. He was taken down early, but managed to work his way back to his feet. Once there, he peppered Souza with punches and kicks from all angles. When he had Jacare hurt, he smartly took his time instead of rushing in and getting countered. Known for his striking speed and power, the rest of Whittaker's game is vastly improved. He has gone from an inconsistent welterweight to a middleweight title contender in less than three years. Currently riding a seven-fight winning streak (six of which have come at middleweight), Whittaker is going to get a bout that impacts the UFC Middleweight Championship picture his next time out.
Fantasy AnalysisWhittaker has been submitted just once in his 21-fight career, but he'll have to keep up his guard against a dangerous grappler like Souza, even when in top position. After winning six in a row, the Australian certainly deserves a bout against a top contender like Souza, but the 26-year-old will likely enter the octagon an underdog. He needs a few more signature wins before getting into the title conversation, but an opponent like Souza could certainly earn Whittaker some much-deserved recognition.
Fantasy AnalysisBrunson had won four fights in a row by knockout, and he came out looking to stop another opponent. He landed some hard shots early, but Whittaker was able to survive. He eventually landed a hard punch down the pipe that hurt Brunson. From there, Whittaker was working for the finish. He landed a ton of strikes including a devastating head kick. He then unleashed a series of strikes that forced the referee to step in. Whittaker has now won six fights in a row in the UFC.
Fantasy AnalysisFighting with an battered left leg and an injured right hand, Whittaker was still able to cruise past Natal. Whittaker's takedown defense held up early and he easily won what amounted to a 15-minute kickboxing match. Whittaker is now 4-0 since moving up to middleweight in November 2014. It's just another example of a fighter being more effective at his natural body weight. The 25-year-old Whittaker is a great striker who relies on a ton of pressure and that was on full display Saturday. The fact he managed to do it all with just two working limbs was even more impressive. He's a true contender in the middleweight division.
Fantasy AnalysisA winner of four fights in a row and three-straight since moving up to middleweight, the 25-year-old Whittaker is well positioned to make a run at the top-five of the UFC’s 185-pound division. Very aggressive on the feet, Whittaker excels at throwing multiple combinations and constantly pressing his opposition. He has little to gain rankings wise against a fading Natal, but a five-fight winning streak would force the UFC brass to take notice. It’s not out of the question that Whittaker could be involved in title-implicating bouts less than a year from now.
Fantasy AnalysisIt was the aggressive guy vs. the passive guy and the aggressive guy won. Whittaker threw a ton of combinations and had Hall in trouble on numerous occasions. He ate a few big kicks from Hall, but he was in control for the majority of the fight. It was an impressive performance, especially since Whittaker spent the majority of his training camp preparing for Michael Bisping. Just 24-years old, Whittaker is a legitimate threat to the top-10 fighters in the middleweight division.
Fantasy AnalysisWhittaker will certainly face a hot fighter, as Hall is coming off back-to-back knockout wins, including a big upset over Gegard Mousasi on Saturday. Whittaker will have youth and the home crowd in his favor, but Hall has arguably faced better competition during his MMA career. It should be a highly entertaining middleweight bout.
Fantasy AnalysisWhittaker has looked like a stud since moving up to middleweight and this will give him the chance to earn the most memorable win of his career. His most recent fight was a 0:44 second first round KO win over Brad Tavares back in May. Whittaker has a real chance to make himself a household name after this one.
Fantasy AnalysisWhittaker caught Tavares with a couple short left hooks and one big right hand and that was all she wrote. Whittaker has looked much sharper at middleweight as opposed to welterweight and he has openly stated that he feels far more comfortable when he has to cut less weight. Whittaker's ceiling seemed to be somewhat capped at the lower weight class but he certainly has the ability to really be a threat in the middleweight division. It was arguably the most impressive performance of the night.