The Ultimate Fighting Championship heads to Houston, Texas this weekend for UFC 271, headlined by the rematch of trans-Tasman rivals Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker.
Whittaker lost his middleweight belt to Adesanya in 2019, but has earned the right for a shot at redemption following three straight victories.
In the co-main event, another Aussie in Tai Tuivasa shapes up against the UFC knockout king Derrick Lewis who will be fighting in front of his home crowd.
This card shapes as a beauty and bet365 has taken a look at some of the highlights.
Here we go!
The undisputed middleweight championship is at stake when Israel Adesanya looks to defend his title against Australia’s Robert Whittaker – the man he took the belt from at UFC 243.
“The Last Stylebender” is in the conversation for one of the greatest in the middleweight division having remained undefeated in the weight class. The only blemish on his record came a year ago when he had a crack at the light heavyweight championship.
Whittaker, on the other hand, has been mounting a case for another shot at the middleweight title after wins over ranked opponents in Darren Till, Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum.
The last time these two fought was at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, with Adesanya ending Whittaker’s 20-month stint at the top of the division with a second-round knockout.
While “Bobby Knuckles” has admitted he was caught up in the pre-fight build-up last time around, he’s taken a quieter approach, letting Adesanya do much of the trash talking.
Without the pressure of a title to defend and holding onto that underdog tag, Whittaker looms as one of the biggest threats to Adesanya’s reign making this one of the most intriguing fights of the year to date.
This is a rematch two years in the making and it should be an absolute cracker.
bet365 has Adesanya has the $1.36 favourite, with Whittaker at $3.25.
Could we see a trilogy fight if Whittaker pulls off an upset? Only time will tell.
Bring it on.
Derrick Lewis is searching for a win in his hometown, but he’ll have to go through big-talking, shoey-drinking, Spice Girls-singing Aussie Tai Tuivasa to get it.
Tuivasa heads into the biggest clash of his UFC career off the back of four straight wins over the likes of Stefan Struve, Greg Hardy and Augusto Sakai featuring two knockouts in under 50 seconds.
But “The Black Beast” appears as Tuivasa’s toughest challenge, with Lewis ranked third in the heavyweight division and noted for his striking ability having won 21 of his 26 career fights by way of knockout. In fact, he now own the record for the most knockouts in UFC history with 13.
The hometown favourite won’t be lacking any motivation either, having lost his last fight in Houston for the interim heavyweight title to Ciryl Gane.
Despite Lewis’ impressive resume, it won’t rattle the cage of “Bam Bam” who will no doubt continue his cult hero ways as he looks to emerge as a genuine title contender.
This fight’s deserving of a co-main event and a knockout seems like the likely ending, with bet365 offering $1.72 for Lewis to win by KO, TKO, DQ or Submission, while Tuivasa is at $3.25.
This bout pits the third and fourth ranked middleweight fights together, with the winner likely to challenge the victor of the main event between Adesanya and Whittaker.
Since making his middleweight debut, Jared Cannonier has won four of five fights over David Branch, Anderson Silva, Jack Hermansson and Kelvin Gastelum. His only loss coming against Whittaker in October 2020.
Interestingly, Cannonier, aka “The Killa Gorilla”, has previously been dubbed by Adesanya as the most dangerous fighter in the division, ahead of the likes of Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa.
While those comments came back in 2019, Brunson will have to be on his game.
Brunson is now entering his 10th year in the middleweight division and is enjoying the second-best win streak of his career after five consecutive victories featuring a TKO and submission.
Should Whittaker take out the main event, a crack at the title for one of these enforcers may have to wait, but they’ll be right in contention.
bet365 has Cannonier as the $1.58 favourite, with Brunson at $2.40.
Israel Adesanya (c) vs Robert Whittaker
Derrick Lewis vs Tai Tuivasa
Jared Cannonier vs Derek Brunson
Kyler Phillips vs Marcelo Rojo
Bobby Green vs Nasrat Haqparast
Andrei Arlovski vs Jared Vanderaa
Roxanne Modafferi vs Casey O’Neill
Alex Perez vs Matt Schnell
William Knight vs Maxim Grishin
EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD
Leomana Martinez vs Ronnie Lawrence
Alexander Hernandez vs Renato Moicano
Carlos Ulberg vs Fabio Cherant
AJ Dobson vs Jacob Malkoun
Douglas Silva de Andrade vs Sergey Morozov
Jeremiah Wells vs Mike Mathetha