Whittaker Masterclass Stakes His Claim For Title Shot
By Harry Jensen
Robert Whittaker put on an offensive masterclass against #8-ranked Kelvin Gastelum in the middleweight division last night to earn a lopsided x3 50-45 unanimous decision victory in the ‘Fight of the Night.’
Whittaker started as he meant to go on, landing solid crosses and catching Gastelum cleanly with his trademark ‘1-2-headkick.’ A takedown resulted in him staying in the half-guard of his opponent, convincingly winning the round.
Round 2 had Gastelum stepping up the pace, but Whittaker kept his striking advantage and leading the dance. Throughout the fight, ‘Bobby Knuckles’ mixed in uppercuts and takedowns beautifully, constantly providing different angles for Gastelum to think about and bite on.
The most impressive part of the fight had to be round 5, where Whittaker could have chosen to coast to a 49-46 decision and give away the last round, but he instead chose to seek the finish, and advanced positions on the ground after securing yet another takedown, taking Gastelum’s back twice in an attempt to secure a rear naked choke.
Whittaker sent a clear message to the division’s title contenders who are chasing Israel Adesanya’s throne, as the former champ undoubtedly has the most impressive recent performance, and win streak, amongst them all.
In the new co-main event (since Stephens vs Klose was cancelled on the day of the fight, Andrei Arlovski grabbed himself his third win in his last four against Chase Sherman, as he took home a unanimous decision win in a very competitive kickboxing-esque fight.
Sherman controlled the ring generalship in the first round over the former champ, and even caught him with a cross near the end of the round, leaving him visibly hurt.
Arlovski turned up the heat in the second, establishing his jab and circling away from Sherman to keep his back off the cage. This coupled with his strong jabs and low kicks were enough to take round 2 on my card. ‘The Pitbull’ came out into round 3, incredibly fresh for a 42-year-old, 52-fight deep veteran. Despite ‘The Vanilla Gorilla’ walking him down for most of the round, Arlovski offered solid kickboxing to steal the round and the fight, out-landing him in total strikes and significant strikes.
Jacob Malkoun from Australia put on a wrestling clinic against the Ghanaian Abdul Razak Alhassan in a unanimous decision win in the middleweight division. ‘Mamba’ Malkoun had clearly done his homework, as Alhassan has all 10 of his wins come by first round knockout, and Malkoun immediately shot for a takedown and kept him controlled for the entire first round.
Rounds 2 and 3 went very similarly, as Malkoun restricted Alhassan to only 21 significant strikes the entire fight, as Malkoun now goes 1-1 in the UFC. He landed 8 takedowns, with a control time upwards of 11 minutes out of a possible 15.
Tracy Cortez beat Justine Kish in a women’s flyweight bout in a split-decision, with every judges’ scorecard being different (30-27, 29-28, 28-29). The nature of this scorecard perfectly reflects the nature of the fight, that being a very close and ambiguously-scored affair. Cortez had a significant amount of ground control in round 1 to take the round, whilst Kish out-landed Cortez in the second to, seemingly, make it an even fight heading into the final round.
Round 3 saw Justine Kish land a knockdown, whilst Cortez remained competitive by scoring a takedown along with considerably more significant strikes. Cortez’s control time of six and a half minutes combined with her higher number of total and significant strikes landed gives Cortez her first win in the UFC 125lbs division.
Luis Peña fought Alexander Munoz to another split-decision win to open up the main card, which many thought Munoz had edged. The betting-favourite Peña found himself pressured and out-struck by Munoz in the first round. Round 2 saw ‘Violent Bob Ross’ (yes, that’s Peña’s nickname) intelligently use his 6’3 frame to pick apart Munoz from distance.
Munoz connected with a clean punch to wobble Peña, but after a brief grappling exchange Peña saw himself go back to striking from distance.
Round 3 involved only one takedown attempt from Munoz, giving Peña a lucky break from giving away any ground control time. Whilst he managed to take the win home, it is clear that Peña will need to finetune his showboating and no-look feints if he wishes to effectively implement his relaxed fighting style in the shark-infested waters of the UFC lightweight division.
Photo Credit: Zuffa/UFC