Middleweight title action coming up this month when newly crowned UFC champion Robert Whittaker takes on number two contender Luke Rockhold. This fight is the main card for UFC 221 and is scheduled for 11th February, 2018 in Perth, Australia. This is the first official title defence for Robert The Reaper Whittaker, who is privileged with headlining a local mixed martial arts event, which also features fellow compatriot and heavyweight bruiser Mark Hunt, also known as The Super Samoan.
Eight wins on the bounce. That’s an astonishing record for a middleweight in 2018. Robert Whittaker has steamed through the 185-pound division with conviction to earn the title. Although not a conventional route, the New Zealander smashed Yoel Romero in five rounds for the interim belt. Shame he didn’t have the opportunity to pummel Bisping (which is what clearly would have happened) before the former champion rolled over to GSP. Whittaker utilises a smart stand-up game and excels in grappling. At 27 years of age, he is coming into the prime of his career as a UFC middleweight.
Luke Rockhold is well versed in kickboxing, jiu jitsu, wrestling, which makes him such an exciting prospect at 185 pounds. Sad to see him lose to Bisping otherwise Rockhold could have potentially cleared out the entire division and extended his impressive winning streak. The American fighter certainly has presence in the Octagon – he will tower over Whittaker and have reach on his side, although giving away six years to a hungry prospect on home turf is a challenge that will test him to the very limits.
Robert Whittaker Form and Fight Record
It took The Reaper five round to shake off man mountain Romero, some say this was his hardest fight to date. Having earned the interim title that night he made it eight wins straight. Whittaker’s record marries up knockouts and unanimous decisions, his three most recent wins have been awarded fight or performance of the night. It seems like Whittaker is upping the ante each time he steps into the ring. And he’s not troubled by getting the job done early, just as Souza or Brunson.
Robert Whittaker Last Five Boxing Fights
Win via unanimous decision – Yoel Romero
Win via KO/TKO – Ronaldo Souza
Win via KO/TKO – Derek Brunson
Win via unanimous decision – Rafael Natal
Win via unanimous decision – Uriah Hall
Watch video highlights of Robert Whittaker against Yoel Romero
Luke Rockhold Form and Fight Record
It was back to business as usual for Rockhold when he swept aside David Branch, some called this a mismatch at best. Having bounced back from an unsuspecting Bisping knockout, Rockhold needed to rebuild his confidence and that fight was the ideal stepping stone. On his day, the Californian fighter can out wrestle and outmanoeuvre any man at 185 pounds. He showed this to be true by taking both Machida to the mat and stopping current champ Wiedman with brute force.
Luke Rockhold Last Five Fights
Win via KO/TKO – David Branch
Loss via KO/TKO – Michael Bisping
Win via KO/TKO – Chris Weidman
Win via submission – Lyoto Machida
Win via submission – Michael Bisping
Watch video highlights of Luke Rockhold against David Branch
Robert Whittaker vs. Luke Rockhold Prediction
Could this be nine wins back to back for New Zealander Whittaker? No fighter has dominated the middleweight division to this extent since the days of Anderson Silva. Fighting close to home in Perth offers a local fan base to motivate him to another victory. At 27 and relatively injury-free, Whittaker is primed for this first title defence. He is tipped by many to retain his status as middleweight top dog.
Conversely, Rockhold has been out of the limelight due to a number of reasons – injury setbacks being a main concern. After a short-lived campaign as champ he came up short against Bisping, which he openly admits to not being prepared for. Arrogance cost him that fight. Rockhold has stated he won’t repeat that mistake again. Of the two men, has taken a harder route to reach this fight having faced stiffer opposition of greater skill. That experience alone should account to him holding his own in Perth UFC 221.
Our prediction is for the fight to go more than 2.5 rounds. We anticipate a stoppage late on, either through a takedown and submission from Rockhold or a series of heavy blows from Whittaker.