UFC Saudi Arabia Preview and Prediction: Robert Whittaker – Ikram Aliskerov

MMA: UFC 298-Whittaker vs Costa
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Tomorrow in the main event of the UFC’s first trip to Saudi Arabia, we are going to see a big time middleweight matchup. Former champion Robert Whittaker (25-7) returns as he takes on the incredibly dangerous Ikram Aliskerov (15-1). Of course, this is not the fight that was originally supposed to headline the card.

Whittaker was supposed to take on superstar Khamzat Chimaev in the main event. However, Chimaev was dealing with an illness throughout his training camp and was ultimately hospitalized. With that, his team made the decision to pull the plug on the fight and Aliskerov stepped up. Aliskerov was supposed to fight at UFC Vegas 93 last weekend, but was moved to the Saudi Arabia card to face Whittaker.

Aliskerov is currently not ranked, but he’s considered one of the most dangerous guys in the division. His only career loss was to Khamzat Chimaev. After winning a contract on The Contender Series back in 2022, he’s fought twice and scored two first round finishes. It’s been hard to get him fights, but now he’s looking at a golden opportunity to jump to the top of the middleweight rankings.

To do so, he’ll have to beat a former UFC champion. Since making the jump to 185 ten years ago, Robert Whittaker has fought 16 times to a record of 13-3. His only three losses have come against Israel Adesanya (Twice) and current champion Dricus Du Plessis. The last time we saw him was at UFC 298 where he defeated Paulo Costa.

UFC Saudi Arabia Prediction

This is a very dangerous fight for Robert Whittaker. Bobby Knuckles has incredible striking and he does a tremendous job of using his speed to dart in and out of attacks. His technique is incredible and he can frustrate opponents all day with his fighting style. He also has very good ground skills. He’s the total package and that’s why his resume is what it is.

However, we have seen his chin checked recently. Paulo Costa wobbled him badly in their fight and Dricus Du Plessis finished him in their fight. That concerns me a little with this matchup. Aliskerov has a ton of power and he’s the bigger fighter. If he catches Whittaker clean while Whittaker is coming in, he can hurt him. If Aliskerov hurts him, I think he’ll be all over him to get the finish.

Aliskerov has incredible wrestling as well which is normal for fighters from this region. However, I do have some concerns on his end ahead of UFC Saudi Arabia. I’m concerned that he was just training for a three-round fight against Antonio Trocoli. Let’s be honest, he was likely going to finish Trocoli in that fight.

If he was training with the mentality that he would run through Trocoli quickly, how is he going to adjust to a five-round fight against the former champion? Also, when he got the call to fight Whittaker, it was during the fight week last week. He was likely trimming himself down for the 185 limit. Having to keep the weight and then do another cut a week later might really hinder him.

It’s a golden opportunity for him, but I think it might be too much to ask on such short notice. I think you see him have moments early, but the former UFC champion will weather the storm. I expect Whittaker to really take over in the middle rounds and get a finish over a tired Aliskerov in this one.

Prediction: Robert Whittaker by TKO – Round 3

Mentioned in this article:

More about: