Everything you need to know about UFC 271: Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2

Publish Date
Friday, 11 February 2022, 6:23AM

ACC UFC contributor Felix Heath-Collins with everything you need to know ahead of UFC 271: Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2.

It's finally here! This weekend's UFC 271 card is headlined by the rematch over two years in the making between the best Oceanic fighters in MMA history.

In the main event Nigerian-Kiwi champion Israel "The Last Stylebender" Adesanya defends his middleweight belt against the man he took it from, Australian former champion Robert "The Reaper" Whittaker. If "what's past is prologue" then Adesanya should annihilate Whittaker within the first couple rounds. But, in reality, Adesanya has everything to lose, and Whittaker has everything to gain in this rematch. Adesanya has the middleweight title, an undefeated middleweight record, a freshly-signed, massively lucrative contract with the UFC, and a palpable air of invincibility in his natural weight class. Whittaker, on the other hand, is expected to lose again, perhaps even more dominantly than the first time. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, Robert Whittaker is a deadly underdog.

Stylistically, Israel "The Last Stylebender Adesanya (21-1) (wins-losses) is the greatest kickboxer in MMA history. He blends a sublime combination of punches, kicks, knees, and elbows to either eliminate or thoroughly outclass his competition. With the tactical forethought of a chess grandmaster along with the lightning-fast footwork and defensive flexibility of Muhammad Ali or Anderson Silva, Adesanya is such a kickboxing phenom that he redefines what elite MMA striking can truly be.

Robert "The Reaper" Whittaker (24-5) is the bull to Adesanya's matador. And, much alike to a bull's charge, Whittaker is famed for his devastating karate-style "blitz" of sudden, forward aggression. Last time that exact technique of blindly rushing forward cost Whittaker the belt as Adesanya redirected that energy into his own offence, finishing the Aussie in the second round. Whittaker's wins since losing his belt (beating Darren "The Gorilla" Till, Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum - all by unanimous decision) have showcased a new ace in his deck: offensive wrestling. If Whittaker can combine his full-force blitz with well-timed takedowns, Adesanya could be in serious trouble (as evidenced by Jan Blachowicz's grappling-focused light-heavyweight win over Adesanya).

So who wins? The obvious choice is obvious for a reason. Isreal Adesanya should be able to overcome any improvements or adjustments Robert Whittaker has made since their first fight. In the striking domain, Whittaker would have a better chance of shooting Neo in the Matrix than striking Adesanya in the cage. In the grappling domain, it's not much likelier. Because, despite recent improvements, Whittaker's takedown accuracy of 34% pales in comparison to Adesanya's takedown defence of 80%. Whittaker's best chance of winning is either in focusing almost entirely on takedowns and ground-control time or in throwing caution to the wind and swinging his fists wildly - a tactic that cost him in the first fight. Whoever wins, the middleweight division is at an all-time peak of talent.

In the co-main event, the man with the most knockouts in the history of the UFC (13 KO's) Derrick "The Black Beast" Lewis (26-8) faces off against Australia's most popular export Tai "Bam Bam" Tuivasa (14-3). Lewis's insane record includes UFC knockouts of Gabriel "NapĆ£o" Gonzaga, Alexander "Drago" Volkov, Aleksei "The Boa Constrictor" Oleinik, Curtis "Razor" Blaydes, and Chris Daukaus. "Bam Bam" Tuivasa, on the other hand, is currently on a four-fight knockout streak with the victims being Stefan "The Skyscraper" Struve, Harry "The Hurricane" Hunsucker, Greg "The Prince of War" Hardy, and Augusto Sakai. When these two savages enter the Octagon, one of them will leave on a stretcher. I can't wait.

And finally, way back in the early prelims, Kiwi kickboxer Carlos "Black Jag" Ulberg (3-1) rebounds off a second-round KO loss in his official UFC debut against Fabio "Water Buffalo" Cherant (7-3), who's lost both of his UFC appearances - one via Von Flue Choke against "Atomic" Alonzo Menifield and another via counter left hook KO against William "Knightmare" Knight. Of the many talented prospects coming out of Adesanya's home-base City Kickboxing in Auckland Carlos Ulberg has some of the best offence, and easily the worst defence. Ulberg is insaley fun and nerve-wracking to watch. He marches forward where either he knocks his opponent out or gets knockout out himself. In stark contrast is Fabio Cherant whose only stoppage wins have come via chokes (two guillotine chokes, two rear-naked chokes, and one anaconda choke). Cherant will undoubtedly look to floor the Kiwi kickboxer and attempt to break him with grappling. And we simply don't have enough data to know how competent Ulberg truly is at defending takedowns and punishing wrestlers. It's about time we found out.

UFC 271 is shaping up to be a fantastic PPV (Pay-Per-View). The first time Adesanya and Whittaker fought at UFC 243 in Melbourne saw all three Kiwi competitors (Brad "Quake" Riddell, Dan "The Hangman" Hooker, and Israel "The Last Stylebender" Adesanya) come away with victories. Hopefully, UFC 271 is another night of the Kiwis.

The main card of UFC 271 begins at 4:00 PM this Sunday for us here in New Zealand, with the earliest prelims beginning a few hours earlier at 12:00 PM (midday). Enjoy, because I sure will!

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