The Octagon is heading to the land down under for UFC 243 on Oct. 5. In the main event, middleweight champion Robert Whittaker puts his title on the line against the undefeated interim champ Israel Adesanya, with more than 50,000 expected to pack Marvel Stadium. The co-main features rising New Zealand lightweight contender Dan Hooker against former title challenger Al Iaquinta.
Outside of the top two fights, this is not a card filled with name value or many fights that affect the top-10 in any of these divisions. It’s very much a top-heavy show, but the Aussies will provide a great atmosphere inside the stadium, and there is potential for fun fights. Before Saturday night (or Sunday morning, if you’re Australian!) approaches, let’s take a brief look at some of the fighters on UFC 243 who could begin your autumn with high scores for your DraftKings teams.
Israel Adesanya ($8,000) vs. Robert Whittaker ($8,200) – MiddleweightsAdesanya has more than lived up to the hype since his first UFC appearance in February 2018. “The Last Stylebender” was arguably in 2019’s frontrunner for Fight of the Year, edging out Kelvin Gastelum by decision in a real classic. He proved that he can fight through adversity, all while showcasing his excellent striking and his increasingly well-rounded skill set. Whittaker has been out of action since June 2018, when he beat Yoel Romero in an exciting rematch that ultimately wasn’t for the title due to Yoel missing weight. Unfortunately, Whittaker has had to battle injuries and illnesses, with his planned title fight vs. Gastelum at UFC 234 earlier this year falling through at the last minute due to a stomach infection. At his best and healthiest, Whittaker is an outstanding, powerful kickboxer with great wrestling (especially defensively).
It is very hard to pick a winner here. Whittaker’s ailments and latest long layoff are legitimate causes for concern against the potential new superstar on the block. Whittaker’s left hook is lethal, he’s the more powerful puncher, and he can make Adesanya uncomfortable in close quarters. Adesanya prefers to work in space behind a jab and kicks, aggressively attacks the body, and he has devastating accuracy. There’s every reason to think this will be contested almost entirely on the feet, and I believe we’ll hear “and new!” from Bruce Buffer, as Adesanya becomes the undisputed champion in a five-round thriller. It’ll be high-volume, back-and-forth, but Adesanya will get the better of Whittaker in the later rounds.
Number of Note: 182. Adesanya has yet to be outlanded in any of his six UFC fights, racking up an overall advantage of 415-233 in significant strikes. He has also been credited with eight knockdowns, including four against Gastelum.
Dan Hooker ($8,500) vs. Al Iaquinta ($7,700) – LightweightsIt’s hard to believe Hooker used to make featherweight, but he’s certainly found a groove at lightweight. Hooker is 5-1 since returning to 155 lbs, notably knocking out James Vick, Gilbert Burns and Jim Miller, plus he’s also submitted Marc Diakiese. Iaquinta is coming off a unanimous decision loss to Donald Cerrone, although preceding that was an impressive win over Kevin Lee, and a spirited effort in an otherwise one-sided contest against current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (whom Iaquinta fought on literally a day’s notice).
This is a significant step up in competition for Hooker, whose only loss at lightweight during his current run is to Edson Barboza. Iaquinta is a dangerous striker, but not as potent or as versatile as Edson. Hooker will have a significant height and reach advantage, plus he won’t be easy to take to the ground should Iaquinta choose to wrestle. I see Hooker passing his biggest test with flying colors, outstriking Iaquinta on his way to another W.
Number of Note: 17. Hooker has recorded a stoppage in 17 of his 18 pro wins, including all five of his victories in the UFC lightweight division. Iaquinta has never been knocked out, but he has been submitted twice.
Tai Tuivasa ($9,300) vs. Sergey Spivak ($6,900) – HeavyweightsTuivasa had some hype behind him as a protege of the legendary Mark Hunt, but he’s sputtered as of late. After starting his career 8-0, including a win over former UFC champ Andrei Arlovski, he was stopped by Junior dos Santos last year in Australia, then looked a bit lackluster in his decision defeat to Blagoi Ivanov at UFC 238. Spivak entered the UFC with a 9-0 record on the regional scene, but his debut inside the Octagon ended in Walt Harris easily knocking him out.
While Tuivasa hasn’t impressed in recent outings, this fight heavily favors him. He’s a heavy hitter with good athleticism, nasty clinch striking and Spivak just looked way out of his depth against Harris. Expect a knockout and then a customary “shoey” from Tuivasa.
Number of Note: 7. All of Tuivasa’s seven knockouts have come in the opening round, which may spell bad news for Spivak given he’s months removed from losing in 50 seconds.
Maki Pitolo ($9,000) vs. Callan Potter ($7,200) – WelterweightsHawaii’s Pitolo was signed off of Dana White’s Contender Series after his 97-second TKO of Justin Sumter. He comes into his maiden UFC appearance on a three-fight winning streak, all by stoppage. Potter fought on short notice at UFC 234 against prospect Jalin Turner and was walloped in 53 seconds. With a full camp behind him, he’ll look to get his first UFC win, and recapture old form that saw him prevail in eight straight bouts from 2015-2017.
Pitolo has all the physical and athletic advantages here. Potter is tough and capable but he’s far too limited to sustain any success in the UFC. It is unlikely that Potter’s aggressive submission hunting and guard play will fell Pitolo, but it is very likely that Pitolo has the power to shut Potter’s lights off and get the knockout.
Number of Note: 8. Potter is a “feast or famine” type of fighter. Only one of his 25 pro fights have gone the distance, and all eight of his losses have seen him knocked out or submitted.
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