After Israel Adesanya defeated Paulo Costa at UFC 253, he made it clear on who he had his eyes on. In the middleweight division, he openly told Jared Cannonier that if he destroyed Robert Whittaker, he would get the next UFC title shot.
Those two men faced off yesterday at UFC 254. The former champion, Whittaker, was trying to get back to the title after losing it to Adesanya last year. Cannonier had been a destroyer at middleweight and he was also looking to challenge Adesanya.
Cannonier did have moments yesterday, but in the end, it was all Robert Whittaker. To me, Robert Whittaker proved he was the class of the division yesterday outside of Israel Adesanya. Whittaker clearly won the fight from the opening bell to the closing bell at UFC 254.
Cannonier did have his moments, but Whittaker’s speed and accuracy flustered him all night. Whittaker even was seconds away from finishing the fight in the third round. With the win yesterday, Whittaker cemented himself as the top contender in the middleweight division.
Adesanya hasn’t seemed interested in a rematch with Whittaker. This year he had his eyes on new blood like Darren Till and Jared Cannonier. However, Whittaker has taken both of those contenders out to show the world he’s ready for another UFC title shot.
What should the UFC do?
I still think that the UFC should try to make the fight between Adesanya and Jon Jones. It’s the biggest fight they could make at the moment, however, it appears that the promotion is heading in a different direction as of right now.
Dana White said yesterday after UFC 254 that Whittaker would be getting the next shot. Outside of the loss to Adesanya, Whittaker has never lost in the middleweight division. In fact, before Adesanya took over, many thought Whittaker would control the division for years to come.
Whittaker didn’t seem to fight like himself when the two fought at UFC 243. He fought to Adesanya’s strengths and got picked apart for it. The Whittaker we’ve seen in 2020 looks like a guy who could give Adesanya a real challenge.
Adesanya said he wanted to get back into the cage quickly while Whittaker wants to take some time given the fact that his wife is about to have a baby. Maybe the UFC tries to get a fight for Adesanya at light heavyweight in the mean time. However, Whittaker is clearly next for the middleweight crown.