Robert Whittaker (17-4)
- Height: 5’11” Age: 25 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 73.5″
- Last Fight: Decision win / Rafael Natal (4-23-16)
- Camp: PMA Martial Arts (Australia)
- Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
- Risk Management: Moderate
+ TUF Smashes Winner
+ Black Belt Karate/Hapkido
+ Purple Belt BJJ
+ 8 KO victories
+ 5 Submission wins
+ 5 first round finishes
+ KO Power
+ Quickly & deceptively blitzes
+ Unique angles & off-beat attacks
^ Disrupts opponent’s rhythm
+ Good head movement & footwork
+ Underrated wrestling
^ 93% takedown defense
+ Improved grappling
Derek Brunson (16-3)
- Height: 6’1″ Age: 32 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 78″
- Last Fight: TKO win / Uriah Hall (9-17-16)
- Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
- Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
- Risk Management: Moderate
+ 3x Div.2 All-American Wrestler
+ Regional MMA Titles
+ Blue Belt BJJ
+ 9 KO victories
+ 3 Submission wins
+ 12 first round finishes
+ KO power
+ Deadly left kicks & crosses
+ Subtle shuffle-step entries
^ Closes distance & sets up strikes
+ Strong pressure against fence
^ Strikes well off breaks
+ Good power double takedowns
+ Solid top pressure & positional rides
The main event in Melbourne is an important middleweight affair as Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker takes on Derek Brunson. Winning his last five fights, Robert Whittaker has been looking great since moving up to middleweight as he has steadily become one of the division’s dark horses. The same, however, can be said about Derek Brunson who is also on a five-fight winning streak as he will be looking to crack the top-5 with a big win here.
Starting off on the feet, Whittaker should have the on-paper edge standing, but Brunson is not far behind as the former All-American poses threats of his own. Subtly stalking as he uses a shuffle-step variation to come forward, Derek will put himself in prime position to land shots from the power side of his southpaw stance. Although he is known for his devastating left high kick, I feel that Brunson’s left cross will serve him well in this fight. An accurate strike in his repertoire, Derek could find success against a fighter who is reliant on his speed as The Reaper tends to keep a low-guard.
Even though Whittaker keeps his hands low, he truly does have impressive reaction timing and techniques. Coming from a traditional martial arts base, Robert Whittaker has developed into one of the most dangerous strikers in the division. Using a combination of speed, accuracy, and a fluid economy of movement, The Reaper will deceptively blitz off different angles. Like many Karate based strikers, Whitaker will show a certain speed to draw his opponent into a false sense of security, only to disrupt the perceived timing with off-beat strikes.
Where I see this fun road on the feet beginning to split, is when looking at the counter-striking games of each fighter. Whittaker, of course, has a competent sense for the counter as he throws a dangerous check hook that I see being effective anytime his opponent comes forward in this fight. Whereas Brunson surprisingly lacked a countering presence in his bouts from past to present, as he usually elects to defend and reset until he is ready to retaliate. Should Whitaker show his usual trend of pressure-fighting, we could see Derek start to shell up defensively, which would only allow Whittaker to open up further.
However, Robert’s success in coming forward or going backward will be predicated on his ability to thwart a power-double takedown. Although Brunson does not typically counter with strikes, he is not shy about using a reactive shot to disrupt his opponent’s forward pressure. Despite not always having the cleanest entries, Brunson will use his initial grasps to push his opposition to the fence or re-wrestle in for a better takedown. If he can ground the Reaper, we could see Brunson possibly wear Whittaker down as he possesses excellent top pressure.
Knowing when to strike and when to pass, Derek can especially be a nightmare when able to put a hook in and establish a ride position. That said, I feel the Reaper’s takedown defense is even more promising than the listed 93% success rate would suggest. Aside from the fact that his footwork makes it difficult for his opponents to set up their shots, Whittaker also shows to be hard to ground and hold down even when grasped. Working diligently on his wrestling over the past few years, we have seen Whittaker show the small signs of improvements a young fighter should be making from fight to fight.
Already possessing a strong base and balance, Robert’s hip and grip awareness have also improved. Not only has Whittaker shown the ability to defend shots while hopping on one leg, but he also emphasizes a wrestling fundamental that is overlooked often–as Robert does a good job at circling his hips out and away from takedown attempts. Considering that Brunson often shoots naked(lacking strikes for disguise), I like Whittaker’s chances of defending his shots on paper. However, it is the re-wrestling efforts that Robert will have to worry about as that is what Derek likes to use to initiate the clinch.
Although both men are exceptional when striking off of the breaks, I feel that the fighting that takes place inside the clinching realm will belong to Brunson as I see him having his biggest advantage here. However, If Whittaker can consistently break clinches and defend shots, then we may see him start to take over the fight. Even though Brunson has the skills to stop Robert standing, his best chances will likely be early on in the bout. Due to Robert’s reliance on range-finding and rhythm, he is often more hittable in the early going as he is still trying to establish his distance.
Like many matchups, this is one where I came in leaning one way and ended up leaving my analysis leaning toward the other. That said, I still agree with Brunson being slightly favored here as he is the one with more ways to win on paper. He has shown the ability to finish quality opponents on the feet and has the wrestling pressure that typically gives nightmares to dynamic strikers. However, Brunson’s lack of counter fighting options worry me as I see him potentially being shut down by the blitzes of Whittaker, especially should his initial offense fail. Although Brunson has a bit more checkmarks on paper, I see those advantages unraveling if the Reaper finds his rhythm.
Official Pick: Whittaker – Inside the distance
Main Card Predictions:
- Whittaker def. Brunson
- Matthews def. Holbrook
- Akhmedov def. Noke
- Volkanovski def. Kasuya
- Roundtree def. Pedro
- Ham def. Taylor
Preliminary Card Predictions:
- Camozzi def. Kelly
- Tuck def. Brown
- Meunier def. Walsh
- Herrera def. Nguyen
- Hooker def. Knight
- Guangyou def. Vera
- Lausa def. ZhiKui
GLORY: Redemption – Breakdown and Predictions
Glory returns to pay-per-view today with a stacked card, featuring some of their greatest fighters. Among them are reigning champions Rico Verhoeven and Alex Pereira, as well as the return of former title holder Nieky Holzken.
In the main event, Rico puts his heavyweight title on the line against the very dangerous Jamal Ben Saddik, who defeated him 6 years ago. Rico comes into the fight riding an impressive 14-fight Glory winning streak.
The co-main event features a rematch of the 2016 Fight of the Year between light heavyweight veterans Michael ‘The Dreamcrusher’ Duut and Danyo ‘Dibuba’ Ilunga. The card is a must-see for kickboxing fans, as well as those who just love a good scrap. And with that out of the way, here’s a breakdown of some of the more interesting fight’s on Saturday’s super-card. Enjoy.
Nieky Holzken vs Alim Nabiyev
Nabiyev came into Glory with a decent amount of steam behind him, but following his bout against short-notice opponent Jimmy Veinot, I honestly don’t see it. Nieky’s reign as champion was one of the best, and despite two close losses to the equally talented Cédric Doumbé, he’s still one of the best welterweights in the world today. With wins over Raymond Daniels, Joseph Valtellini, and current champion Murthel Groenhart, it’s hard to imagine Nieky having much of a problem with Nabiyev.
Expect plenty of pressure from Holzken early on. Coming off two straight losses Nieky will want to make a statement, and prove that he’s still the man to beat at 170. The liver shot will do it. Holzken will just be too much for Alim. Nabiyev has potential and could be a contender in the future, but right now Holzken is on a whole ‘nother level. Nieky is back, and he wants that title.
Prediction: Nieky Holzken by 1st Round TKO
Alex Pereira vs Yousri Belgaroui
Pereira’s win back at Glory 46 came as a shock to me. Simon Marcus has proven himself to be one of the best fighters in the division, and while Pereira is a solid kickboxer in his own right, I fully expected Marcus to win that one pretty easy. I was wrong. Pereira was the better man, and is now the Glory middleweight champion. But don’t expect it to last. Yousri completely shut Pereira down in there last meeting at Glory 40. And based on his last performance, a first round TKO over former champ Jason Wilnis, he’s only getting better.
Pereira’s path to victory is pretty simple, strike hard and strike early. The deep waters are not a place where Alex thrives. His cardio has been questionable in the past and his vaunted knockout power diminishes as the fight goes on. If Pereira can’t put Yousri on the back foot early it’s hard to see him taking this one.
The last fight was a fairly decisive win for Belgaroui. Alex was unable to score on Yousri and was picked apart after gassing out late into the fight. Pereira is a talented striker with some serious power, but Belgaroui’s well-rounded game and superior cardio should be enough to win him the championship.
Prediction: Yousri Belgaroui by Unanimous Decision
Michael Duut vs Danyo Ilunga
Last year these two stole the show, putting on one of the greatest fights of the year, maybe of all-time. But can they do it again? It’s hard to say. Consistency is not a strong suit for either of these men. Following his thriller with Ilunga, Duut went on to lose his next Glory contest by disqualification due to excessive clinching, then later won a contender tournament in less than a minute (48 seconds to be exact).
Duut’s incredible power and brawler style make him a dangerous fight for just about anyone in the light heavyweight division, but his lack of defence make him an easy target. Unfortunately, Ilunga hasn’t hit a bullsye in quite some time.
Danyo comes into this fight on a whopping 7 fight losing streak, and hasn’t won a fight in Glory since 2014. On the bright side, all 7 losses have come by decision so his chin has held up. Plus Duut isn’t the most durable guy in the world, so it’s possible that Ilunga could knock him out. But I don’t see that happening. Duut is just too powerful and Ilunga isn’t the same fighter he used to be. Hopefully the fight is as great as the last one was, but don’t expect it to go to a 4th round this time. Ilunga’s on a slippery slope, and Duut’s about to cause an avalanche.
Prediciton: Michael Duut by 3rd Round KO
Rico Verhoeven vs Jamal Ben Saddik
Despite being the main event this was one of the easier fights to pick. Rico has looked unstoppable lately, and as much as people hate to give him credit for anything, he really is the best heavyweight in the world right now. That doesn’t mean a whole lot considering how weak the division is at the moment, but Rico is champion for a reason.
The rest of the heavyweights just aren’t on his level. ‘Big Ben’ included. Jamal’s last fight against Guto Inocente was a total snoozefest, and if not for his rivalry with Rico he probably wouldn’t even be in the title picture. Badr Hari better get his act together cause Rico’s running out of opponents.
The only advantage I see Jamal having is his power. Rico is faster, more precise, and his striking is more diverse. Again, this is a heavyweight contest so anything can happen, but Jamal hasn’t KO’d a world-class opponent since he fought ‘Braddock’ 2 years ago. Since then, Rico has knocked-out Benjamin Adegbuyi, ‘Braddock’, Bigfoot Silva, and broke Badr’s arm earning him a TKO victory. Rico’s the better fighter, simple as that. And no amount of chest hair is going to change that.
Prediction: Rico Verhoeven by 5th Round KO
All images used in this article are accredited to GLORY Kickboxing
UFC 218: Holloway vs Aldo 2 Main Card Predictions and Analysis
The passing of the torch. A usual occurrence in combat sports. There comes a time when the old guard has to step down and let the new generation take its place. UFC 218 is all about the passing of the torch. Holloway-Aldo 2, Overeem-Ngannou, Alvarez-Gaethje, the card is chock full of young hungry fighters looking to make a statement against their aging counterparts. But don’t expect the old lions to give up without a fight. Aldo is still a world-class striker and Eddie’s still got some tread on the tires. And at the age of 37, Overeem is still one of the most dangerous heavyweights in the world today.
Max Holloway is a perfect representative of the new generation. He’s scrappy, well-rounded, and will fight whoever you put in front of him. He’s got the fire. So do Ngannou, Gaethje, and the rest of the young guys. Aldo hasn’t had that fire in a long time. Sure he’s still a great fighter, but in his last few fights, he’s lacked that burning passion he used to have. Aldo has all the tools to beat Holloway, but does he have the drive? Does the fire still burn, or was it put out long ago? That’s what we’re going to find out come Saturday.
Tecia Torres vs Michelle Waterson
This is such a weird fight. Torres’ climb to the top has been impressively mediocre. She has wins over quality opponents like Angela Hill, Felice Herrig, and Paige VanZant. However, with just a single finish to her credit, Tecia hasn’t given the fans a reason to pay attention to her. Waterson is the complete opposite. She has only gone to decision twice and is one of the more popular fighters in the division. However, injuries and losses have prevented Waterson from gaining any real momentum.
As far as the fight goes I really don’t know what to expect. Waterson is fairly inconsistent and Torres is so consistent it hurts. My assumption would be that Waterson has the better ground game, so if anyone’s going to take it to the mat it will be her. Torres has the better overall stand-up game but doesn’t possess the same finishing ability of the Karate Hottie. My guess is that this one stays on the feet with Torres pushing the pace early, then getting caught by a powerful strike from Waterson that puts her down for good.
Prediction: Michelle Waterson by 2nd Round TKO
Eddie Alvarez vs Justin Gaethje
How the hell did Cejudo-Pettis get billed higher than this? Alvarez vs Gaethje has the potential to be the Forrest-Bonnar of the modern era. Both men are aggressive brawlers on the feet and strong wrestlers on the mat. I’d give the submission edge to Eddie, but that’s about it. Gaethje’s striking game is more diverse than Eddie’s is, and his youth is definitely something to consider. With 34 fights to his credit, Alvarez is certainly no spring chicken. He’s not nearly as durable as he used to be, and against a dangerous scrapper like Gaethje, that’s not a great quality.
I really wanted to go with Alvarez on this one, but facts are facts. Gaethje is younger, tougher, and most importantly, better for business. Eddie already lost to the biggest draw in the game. Money-wise he doesn’t have much to offer. Gaethje, however, is a promoters wet dream. He’s durable, dangerous, and damn fun to watch. Basically, everything Eddie used to be. Why does any of this matter? Because the judges work for the UFC. If the UFC brass wants Gaethje to win, then he will. Simple as that. Is it right? No, but business is business. And Justin Gaethje is good for business.
Prediction: Justin Gaethje by Split Decision
Henry Cejudo vs Sergio Pettis
This feels like too big a step up for Sergio, which is weird considering he’s ranked #4 and Cejudo is ranked #2. After Cejudo’s fight with Mighty Mouse, I wrote him off as nothing more than a sacrifice to the flyweight king. But his close fight with perennial #1 contender Joseph Benavidez and his vicious knockout over veteran submission artist Wilson Reis have shown me that Cejudo is more than just a big-headed wrestler. Henry is one of the best. If anyone in the division is taking the belt off Mighty Mouse it’s him.
Sergio is a talented kid, no doubt. Give him a few more years to develop and he could be champion one day. Unfortunately for him, the UFC doesn’t have time for that. They need flyweight contenders. If that means a few prospects have to bite the dust then so be it. I just hope Sergio doesn’t get completely outclassed and is able to make a good showing, but against a guy like Cejudo, I’m not holding my breath.
Prediction: Henry Cejudo by Unanimous Decision
Alistair Overeem vs Francis Ngannou
Call me crazy, but I’m still not completely sold on Cheick Kongo with dreadlocks. His only quality win is a knockout over what’s left of Andrei Arlovski. Overeem, on the other hand, has fought nothing but quality contenders in his climb back to the top, with his only loss coming against reigning champion Stipe Miocic (although some would argue they saw the tap). On paper, this is Overeem’s fight to win. Unfortunately, paper is what Overeem’s chin is made of.
Ngannou may not be as technically sound as Overeem is, but he hits just as hard, maybe harder. One good shot from the Predator and Overeem could drop like a sack of horse meat. Combine that with Overeem’s uber-cockiness and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Picking Overeem is always a gamble, but I’m willing to roll the dice on this one. It’s not gonna be pretty but Overeem’s in-and-out kickboxing and “run like hell” defensive style should be just enough to win this.
Prediction: Alistair Overeem by Unanimous Decision
Max Holloway vs Jose Aldo 2
Holloway TKO’d Aldo about 6 months ago. Max is in the best form of his career. Aldo is taking the fight on short notice. I really can’t think of a good reason to pick Aldo on this one. Sure his striking is still some of the best in the division, but at this point, he’s writing checks his body can’t cash anymore. His chin has degraded significantly and his patented leg kicks are nowhere to be found. It pains me to say this because Aldo is an incredible fighter, but it’s starting to feel as though the sport is passing him by. Aldo is the past, Max is the future.
Despite just winning the title this summer, Holloway has effectively cleaned out the division. Swanson, Lamas, Stephens, Pettis, all fell to the young Hawaiian. Hell, since his loss to McGregor nobody’s even come close to beating Holloway. This doesn’t mean Max is invincible though. Frankie is still a huge threat to Max’s title, and those who sleep on Aldo are often put to sleep themselves. The road ahead of him is not an easy one, but something tells me Max is going to do just fine. It is what it is.
Prediction: Max Holloway by 2nd Round TKO
GSP vs Robert Whittaker is Easily the Best Fight to Make at Middleweight
GSP became the new middleweight champion of the UFC this past weekend, and many questions have been asked his way. Is he officially the greatest of all time? Who does he fight next? Does he stay at middleweight?
The G.O.A.T. conversation will never be settled completely. There will always be separation in opinions between Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, GSP, Demetrious Johnson, Fedor Emelianenko, and some even say Conor McGregor is the greatest, simply due to the fact that he is the first ever UFC champion to hold two belts simultaneously. Regardless of how that conversation is driven, the biggest question that should be the only concern at this point is the immediate plans for the new middleweight champion.
Where does GSP go next, and who does he fight?
Well, the fact of the matter is, it would not make sense for GSP to go down to the welterweight division again. 170-pounds is alive and kicking at the moment, with new stars emerging such as Darren Till and Mike Perry, to return of veterans like Carlos Condit, and also new additions to the division like Rafael dos Anjos. St-Pierre would have to stay extremely active in order to keep the division flowing.
At the age of 36 and having just returned to MMA last weekend, St-Pierre is unlikely to stay as active as he used to be when he was the king of the welterweight division. Plus, would it really make much sense for him to get on his old diet again in order to make the welterweight weight limit? He looked massive last night, all bulked up, and even seemed like the bigger fighter against Bisping, who used to fight at 205-pounds.
On the other hand, if he decides to stay at middleweight, which is what UFC president Dana White stated would happen yesterday, then there is one clear path for him to take and based on his statements on his contract, will be forced to take: Robert Whittaker.
Whittaker won the interim middleweight belt earlier this year against Yoel Romero at UFC 213, which was a razor close fight that went to Whittaker at the end of 5 rounds. Since then, Whittaker has been sidelined due to the injury he suffered during the fight, damaging his ligament in the left knee.
4 months later, he has seemed to have healed up perfectly, as he was in the arena for the madness last night and even answered a few questions from the media, stating that he is healthy now. The fight against Whittaker would be the best that the UFC could put on at this point in 185-pounds division on a few different levels.
GSP and Whittaker have a lot in common. Starting with the most obvious, they both used to fight at welterweight. Which means that neither fighter will have a massive size advantage. This brings the match up nearly even as far as physicality is concerned.
Then comes the match up itself. St-Pierre and Whittaker both represent the very definition of being ‘well-rounded’. Whittaker, although not an offensive wrestler, proved that his defensive wrestling was second to none in his fight against Romero, a former Olympic wrestler. And while GSP is not necessarily the best wrestler in pure wrestling, his ability to wrestle in MMA is phenomenal due to his timing and fight IQ, which makes this fight even more intriguing to find out whether Whittaker can defend GSP’s takedown attempts.
This fight also represents the UFC an opportunity to see a birth of a superstar. Whittaker, while not a huge talker, is a very marketable fighter especially over in Australia and New Zealand. If he is able to defeat GSP, who’s arguably the biggest draw in the history of the company, it would boost Whittaker’s popularity up an extraordinary amount. And being only 26 years old, Whittaker has the tools and potential to be a dominant champion, much like St-Pierre in his “prime”.
Booking this fight would also clear up the confusing state of the middleweight division. With Bisping’s reign as the champion coming to an end, some hope was born for other contenders in the division. Fighters like Luke Rockhold, Chris Weidman, Yoel Romero, Jacare Souza were having an extremely hard time getting a hold of Michael Bisping during his reign, and with a new champion now and possible unification of the belts soon, the contenders will have a goal to work for again.
The fight is one of the best fights that UFC could put on for the fans right now and one that can happen as early as February of 2018, which is when the UFC returns to Australia with a PPV. If it can come to fruition, then it will easily be one of the best fights of the year and one that all the fans can count the days down to.
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