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UFC 271 Main Event Preview & Breakdown

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Israel Adesanya & Robert Whittaker will rematch this Saturday for the UFC middleweight championship in the main event of UFC 271 in Houston, Texas. Adesanya won the title from Whittaker in 2019 and has made 3 successful defenses of the belt since. In this time, Whittaker has bounced back from the stoppage defeat and won three straight to re-earn his opportunity at what he lost.

Adesanya’s Keys to Victory

As we are all aware, Israel Adesanya (21-1-0 MMA, 10-1-0 UFC) is one of, if not the most elite strikers in the division, potentially up there as being one of the best in the UFC as a whole. His game revolves massively around setting up his shots with feints and even utilizing weaker movement patterns to allow for his more powerful explosions. This worked a treat against Paulo Costa, as Adesanya used his movement to force the Brazilian into putting his weight onto his lead leg, allowing for a more devastating connection when Adesanya’s legs connected with Costa’s.

The impact from the leg kicks weakened Costa’s movement as a whole, allowing for Adesanya to pick him apart from a distance and begin to let his hands fly which led to the eventual finish. Adesanya also used his distance and setups in the first Whittaker fight, where his speed allowed him to make the more important connections and drop “The Reaper” more than once to claim the belt in the second round.

Realistically speaking, “Stylebender” isn’t just a kickboxer. His wrestling defense is extremely impressive at middleweight. This didn’t show as much in his temporary move to light heavyweight, but one can attribute the weight and strength difference to that. Adesanya is a purple belt under accomplished BJJ legend André Galvão, and for good reason. His rematch with Marvin Vettori showed that he is capable of defending fence pressure and overcoming the takedown threat against a high-level opponent. Whittaker is elite on this front, so seeing these two factors counteract each other will be interesting to see, to say the least.

Breaking it down like this, you can clearly see how Adesanya holds the gold. The UFC is the home of the best fighters in the world especially when it comes to MMA, and he has adapted his skill set to be the most efficient under the circumstances. Taking the belt from “Stylebender” will prove to be tough work, but Whittaker is a deserving challenger.

Whittaker’s Keys to Victory

Robert Whittaker (23-5-0 MMA, 14-3-0 UFC) has rightfully worked his way back to the belt and is arguably the best fighter in the division outside of Adesanya. A very well-rounded athlete with skills all over the cage, “The Reaper” will ironically be Adesanya’s toughest test to date, ironic in the sense that Whittaker was the man “Stylebender” defeated to win the gold in the first place.

Robert’s striking is very impressive upon a breakdown. His 1-2 high kick has a very high success rate at the elite levels of the sport, and his distance jab is brutal in excess. He gives his reach away to Adesanya, so when it comes to the standup department, chopping the tree is the way forward. He must prioritize his attacks on the legs and body, and wait patiently for the head and chin to present themselves.

That is a lot easier said than done with the champion, though. If Whittaker can somehow combine his leg kicks into a combination with his hands or even switch kicks at a controlled distance, the possibility is there that he can land crucial strikes on Adesanya that nobody has really seen landed on him in the world of MMA. Robert’s key with the striking is to make sure that Adesanya works with his distance, and not the opposite.

Onto the grappling. Whittaker’s wrestling and grappling as a whole are both extremely underrated and equally among the best in the division. Using his previously mentioned striking to get into the perfect wrestling range, Whittaker loves to take his opponents to the mat and suffocate them under his pressure.

A Gracie BJJ Black Belt, which should indicate his level instantly to anybody with awareness of the grappling world, Whittaker has potentially the most dangerous ground game in the middleweight top 5 and presents an extreme threat to Adesanya if he can get past his takedown defense and work him to the mat for an advantageous position. However, MMA isn’t BJJ. In MMA, White Belts can outwork Black Belts, and the gi doesn’t help when the cage doors close. That said, Whittaker has put his pedigree to the test time and time again and could possibly look to employ that method against the champion.

In Conclusion

To sum it up, both are the absolute cream of the crop. Adesanya holds the mental advantage, already holding one victory over Whittaker, and each has a specific method that stands out to win them the fight. Both possess extreme heart and grit and will refuse to go away lightly. One can almost guarantee they’d willingly do everything in their power to leave with the belt. It’s really a 50/50 coin toss, and we will see which side it lands on come Saturday.

Will we see “and still”, or “and new” this weekend? Tune in to UFC 271 to watch these two middleweight greats duke it out for the right to leave as the consensus best middleweight in the world.

Follow my Twitter @lucky13mma and @OvertimeHeroicsMMA for all your mixed martial arts news and needs!

Featured Image Credits to Embed from Getty Images

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