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The co-main event comes in the Middleweight division, as the former Champion Robert Whittaker takes on Marvin Vettori. Coming off a close defeat to Champion Israel Adesanya, Whittaker will begin to rebuild once again. While this past fight was close enough to potentially warrant a third crack in the future, Whittaker realistically is going to need Adesanya to lose or to knock off contender after contender until he’s the last man standing. At only 31 years of age and as talented as Whittaker is, neither option aren’t out of the realm of possibility. Meanwhile, Vettori will look to knock off a former Champion and stake his case for a third crack at Adesanya (pending he wins of course). Coming off a win over Paulo Costa, up a weight class due to the Brazilians weight cut shenanigans, Vettori proved that he is truly an exceptional fighter. The victory was his sixth in the past seven fights.
Undoubtedly a pivotal fight in not only the division, but within both men’s career, I expect this fight to be an entertaining chess match. A polished striker, with good grappling and excellent takedown defense, Whittaker is one of the toughest fighters to prepare for in the Middleweight division. Willing to brawl, but at the same time effectively staying at range, Whittaker does good job never letting his opponents be comfortable. Extremely durable, and having spent 50 minutes in the cage with Yoel Romero, it’s almost a shock to see the Aussie get finished. Looking to change that notion is Vettori. Well rounded and having fought in four straight five round fights, Vettori is battle tested and has proven that is cardio is exceptional. With power and volume on the feet, as well as good wrestling abilities, Vettori is one of the toughest outs at 185 pounds.
As for a prediction, I’m going with the underdog Vettori. While I do believe that Whittaker is the overall better fighter, styles make fights. Known to press forward and land with volume, I could see Vettori visually look like the aggressor in the striking exchanges. I could also see Whittaker, who is one of the best strikers going backwards, frustrate the Italian by backpedaling and landing counter blows. However, despite both men boasting excellent cardio, I feel that if Vettori constantly presses forward and cuts off the cage, that he could present himself as the fresher fighter in the later rounds. Which in what I believe to be a close fight regardless, will be key. With that said, give me the aggressor Vettori to edge out Whittaker via decision.