Robert Whittaker suggests Israel Adesanya’s knockout loss to Alex Pereira could ‘free him up’ for rematch



Robert Whittaker
Robert Whittaker | Photo by Paul Kane/Zuffa LLC

Robert Whittaker thinks Israel Adesanya‘s second knockout loss to Alex Pereira could take some pressure off the former champion for their rematch. Or it could add even more.

Pereira and Adesanya have a storied history in combat sports, with Pereira twice beating Adesanya in kickboxing, the second time by devastating knockout. That pair of fights led to Pereira getting fast-tracked to Adesanya in MMA, where at UFC 281, it happened again. Pereira scored a fifth-round comeback TKO over “The Last Stylebender” in one of the best fights of 2022, and even Whittaker, who has his own history with Adesanya, was left impressed.

“They’re phenomenal fighters,” Whittaker told Michael Bisping on his Believe You Me podcast. “Just the skill caliber of that fight. I expected to see that sort of fight, which was more or less a kickboxing match with small gloves, with a little dash of MMA thrown in. Just a dash, not too much. And that’s what we got, of the highest caliber. It truly was a really good fight to watch. You saw Pereira fight through adversity in the first round, you saw the fight drag out, you saw how the fighters themselves started to change when they started landing shots. Honestly, I left the fight after watching it — it was a good fight to watch but I left the fight really understanding these two guys are absolute killers in the division.”

Given Adesanya’s long reign as middleweight champion, the UFC has opted to move forward with an immediate rematch, which is set for UFC 287 on April 8. Now 0-3 against Pereira, Adesanya’s back is against the wall in this fight, and Whittaker wonders how that will affect the former champion, suggesting that it could elevate him to finally defeat Pereira.

“If we look at the fight just from a mental perspective, I believe Adesanya had a better chance last fight,” Whittaker said. “But in saying that, maybe now that the worst has happened again, it frees him up for the next one. You see where it can swing both ways really easily. It can either swing one way where it frees him up: the worst has happened, whatever, he gets in there mentally free. Or, he’s worried about it happening again with the small gloves because it has happened.

“Honestly, skill-wise, he could have beat him skill-wise last time.”

Fans won’t know what, if any, mental advantages either man has in the fight until the two top middleweights in the world collide in April. However, Whittaker does believe Pereira has one substantial physical advantage over Adesanya, and most other middleweights.

“That was the one thing I truly took away from that fight, is that Pereira’s a freaking giant,” Whittaker said, laughing. “I don’t think the cameras do it justice how big Adesanya is. Adesanya’s a big dude, especially when you’re standing face to face. You’re always looking up him because he’s 6’4”, he’s a massive guy. And then Pereira, just like his bone structure! His hands were bigger, his feet were bigger, his head’s bigger. He looked much bigger than Adesanya.”

Giant or not, Whittaker still wants to face him and, like Adesanya, would like another shot to defeat the man who seemingly has his number. Depending on what happens at UFC 287, “Bobby Knuckles” could find himself in position to challenge the winner of the fight, be it Pereira for the first time or Adesanya for the third, and when that happens, Whittaker believes he will finally reclaim the UFC middleweight title.

“I’m chomping at the bit to get at both of them,” Whittaker said. “I truly do feel that I can take myself to a new level. I feel that I can get in there and put on a better performance. I kind of understand where Adesanya was mentally, I guess, going into the rematch after losing twice to the same guy. It was a very similar predicament with me and Adesanya, and I do believe that him getting through the fights the way he did and the way everything has gone, the next fight is the best one. But then, it is what it is. I do want that fight. I do believe that I use mixed martial arts better than both of those guys. I do believe I can utilize my wrestling and grappling to make it a hellish match for both of them.”


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Bellator 290 Post Show.

Reaction to Conor’s return.

UFC 284 Countdown.

Chael Sonnen on hanging out with the legends at Fedor’s final fight.

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Michael Chiesa (18-6) vs. Li Jingliang (19-8); UFC 287, April 8.


Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow!


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