Following his dominant victory over Marvin Vettori at UFC 263, Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya has all but cleared out the Middleweight division.
Much like Anderson Silva before him, Adesanya has proven that there are levels to MMA, and he is a level above all of his challengers.
This presents an interesting scenario for the UFC. Much like the Anderson Silva years, the UFC is eager to create new stars to present at challengers for the Middleweight Champion.
As it currently stands, there is no legitimate contender for the Middleweight Championship that Adesanya has not recently beaten that also put together a long enough run to warrant a title shot aside from one man.
The only legitimate option for Izzy currently is the man he took the title from in the first place: Robert Whittaker.
In their first encounter, Izzy was controlling the striking, an area of MMA that both men find themselves most comfortable in. Because Adesanya had the significant reach advantage, Whittaker was forced to use awkward and unorthodox methods of closing the distance and landing strikes on Izzy. This proved to be his downfall, however, when late in the first round, Izzy began to out-strike Whittaker and nearly finished the fight.
In the second round, Whittaker was clearly not fully recovered and was finished on the feet just over two minutes into crown Adesanya the new Middleweight Champion.
Having put such a definitive stamp on the fight would definitely ensure that Whittaker did not warrant an immediate rematch, which he was not granted. The Reaper instead took some time off while still maintaining his number one position in the UFC’s official rankings. After almost 10 full months away from the octagon, Whittaker returned to defeat Darren Till and has not looked back since.
Whittaker has since defeated number three ranked Jared Cannonier, effectively removing him from immediate title contention and Kelvin Gastelum who is currently ranked ninth which would also not make sense for a title shot.
Legitimately, Whittaker is the only fighter currently in the UFC’s top ten Middleweight rankings that has a legitimate winning streak currently going aside from Derek Brunson who is himself, another definitive win away from earning another shot at Adesanya.
The Whittaker fight is the only fight that makes sense for Adesanya right now, and what a rematch it will be.
Fireworks are to be expected when these two meet again inside the octagon.
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