Adesanya vs Whittaker 2 may be the most highly anticipated rematch in UFC middleweight history. These two have been far and away the best 185-pound fighters competing in the Octagon over the last five years. On Feb. 12, the world will either find out once and for all that Israel Adesanya is the undisputed best in the weight class, or this fight just set up a legendary trilogy matchup.
Adesanya vs Whittaker 2: What you need to know
- Time:UFC 271 kicks of with the prelims at 6 pm ET on ESPN and streaming service ESPN+
- Cost: The main card pay-per-view, which costs US $74.99, begins at 10 pm ET exclusively on ESPN+
- Odds: The current betting odds have Adesanya as the favorite at -260 to Whittaker being a +220 underdog (via BestFightOdds)
- Tickets: You can purchase tickets to the event inside Houston's Toyota Center here.
Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker have only gotten better since the first fight
"Reaper" and "The Last Stylebender" were already elite middleweights when they faced off in October of 2019, however, both have only gotten better since then. As they turned into a two-man cleaning crew that has taken out much of the best talent in the top-10 of the division. The question is, who had the better trio of wins since UFC 243?
- Izzy's Excellene: Defeating Whittaker (23-5) by technical knockout was a signature moment in the career of former kickboxing star Adesanya (21-1). Yet, in following up his championship win with title defense over Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa, and Marvin Vettori he has show even more of the depth to his all-around MMA game. In definitively beating three very different and very talented fighters, he revealed that his win over Whittaker was just a test of the heights his talent could reach.
- The Reaper's Reclimb: In a time where automatic rematches for defeated champions are almost a given in the UFC, "Bobby Knuckles" was the rare exception, and the Australian was forced to reclimb the middleweight ladder back into contention. Over his next three fights, he headlined UFC Vegas cards and beat top-10 fighters Kelvin Gastelum, Darren Till, and Jared Cannonier. Like Adesanya, they were three very different competitors and the victories put an emphatic stamp on Whittaker's claim as the undisputed top contender in the weight class.
Two technically proficient fighters from different sides of the spectrum
Both the Australian and his New Zealand counterpart are arguably the most technically proficient strikers in the weight class. Yet, both go about dismantling opponents with their feet in fists in different ways. Finding out which style is more effective will be a delight for fight fans in February.
- Sniper Speed Kills: What makes Adesanya such an uncanny talent is his speed and accuracy. Many fighters are referred to as a sniper in how they can deliver on the button punches and kicks. However, the Nigerian superstar is the thesis of a pinpoint sniper. That, combined with the speed in which the champion can score on opponents makes him one of the deadliest strikers in the sport. And it proved true in the pairs first fight.
- The Gambler: Whittaker's striking style is very workman like. In the vein of former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. It's sound, technical, and effective. Yet he does not have the sort of physical gifts that take those skills to another level, so he has to gamble a bit to score points and set up other attack later in a fight. He has nine decision wins in his career and more than half of those have come in his last five Octagon wins.
Is there an x-factor that could decide the rematch?
Whittaker and Adesanya have reached the pinnacle of the sport for various reasons linked to their elite fighting skills. But, certain characteristics they have do make them stand apart from their 185-pound counterparts. And those attributes could play a major role in this title fight rematch.
- Adesanya's Fight IQ: Adesanya's understanding of the finer nuances of the fight game are second to none. Few former kickboxers have entered the sport and not eventually been exposed several times for weaknesses in their grappling. However, outside a razor thin decision loss at light heavyweight to former division king Jan Blachowicz, Adesanya has shown a complete understanding of the sport from a technique and strategy level. He is a true Octagon general.
- Whittaker's Durability: Part of Whittaker's legacy in the UFC will be based around having taken part in some high level wars inside the Octagon. His combo of fights with Romero will go down as two of the best in division history, and his July 2020 battle against Till was a damaging high stakes chess match. He is as tough and gutsy a fighter as the division has ever seen. And heart is a game changer quality that can't be taught.
The bottom line: Although Adesanya will be a sizable favorite over Whittaker on fight night, "Reaper" is just two talented and experienced a fighter to underestimate. If there was one fighter in the division who could bring the skill, strategy, and toughness to push Adesanya to his limits -- just like Gastelum once did -- Whittaker is the man that could do it.