It’s been more than two years since Robert Whittaker lost his belt to current middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. The ‘Reaper’ found himself on the wrong end of a stunning second round KO, failing to get his hand raised for the first time in half a decade back at UFC 243 in October of 2019.
But, if his outing against the ‘Last Stylebender’ went especially poorly, the time since has been nothing but success. The now 31-year-old has stepped into the Octagon three times since dropping his belt, and walked away with three commanding victories over top-ranked talent in the 185lb division.
Whether that’s just a measure of the skill that once made him king or a display of true evolution in his game, however, remains to be seen. And heading into his rematch with Adesanya on February 12th in Houston, TX, it seems at least one person isn’t really buying that the Aussie is new and improved.
In an interview uploaded to his YouTube channel, Adesanya gave his thoughts on Whittaker’s recent success. Notably, that while the former champ has gotten better, the changes haven’t been all that dramatic (transcript via MMA Fighting).
“Yes. Way too much,” Adesanya said when asked if Whittaker was getting too much credit for his latest victories. “To the point where I’m like, did he invent a new move or something? Did he reinvent the jab or I don’t know what. He improved, yes, but not to the point where people have blown it up to be. The proportion. I think maybe people just have low standards, that’s all. I just have high standards....
“He played the game very well against all three opponents, I feel. At the same time, you put those three guys together, they don’t amount to me. The way they play the game, it’s not the same. So like I said, [GSP voice] ‘I was not impressed by your performance.’”
UFC 271 takes place this coming Saturday on ESPN+ PPV. Outside of the middleweight main event, the card is expected to feature a top-ranked heavyweight bout between Derrick Lewis and Tai Tuivasa. A fight between 185 lb contenders Derrick Brunson and Jarred Cannonier is also set for the top of the card.