Hot Tweets: Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker 2 and the future of the middleweight division


The second pay-per-view event of 2022 goes down tonight when UFC 271 takes place in Houston. Main event: Israel Adesanya takes on Robert Whittaker for the middleweight title. The rest of the card features interesting matchups as well as exciting storylines. As such, we got a ton of questions this week so let’s try to get to as many as we can.

Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker

*I don’t think Robert Whittaker should be overrated, but this line seems close to perfect. In fact, I think you could probably move it even further towards Adesanya and it would be alright. It’s not an attack on Rob. Adesanya may be even better. But it is the truth of this matchup. I believe Whittaker will lose.

I did a big breakdown on the rematch here which I’d recommend if you want my full thoughts, but in summary, it all boils down to Whittaker not being able to consistently generate effective offense. Adesanya is able to stay at a greater distance, which allows him to attack with kicks. Whittaker has trouble defending. Whittaker needs a way to navigate inside against Adesanya and he doesn’t really have the best pressuring footwork so that’s a tough ask from him. Whittaker can have moments of success, but I don’t see a path for him to build a winning game plan out of those moments. Adesanya is too good at adjusting and has too many things in his favor in this matchup.

Bobby Knuckles, who is as game and eager to win the fight, may not make it to their final bell. But this feeling to me is a fight in which Adesanya simply leads him from pillar-to-post. Adesanya by Unanimous Decision.

What happens if Whittaker loses?

*If Whittaker loses tonight convincingly, I don’t know what his next move will be. This is not the first time we’ve witnessed this. In these cases, one fighter loses two straight to the champion. However, in most instances, that fighter has the option to change his weight or has several “legend” fights. Whittaker is not likely to have either one of these options.

Whittaker is a former welterweight and so the inclination will be for him to cut down to 170 again, but I’m not entirely sure he can make the weight again, or that he’d want to. He’s not a big middleweight but he’s also not tiny and dropping to 170 would likely require serious effort. He doesn’t seem to think that is an option. Whittaker is small in the weight class, and it’s hard to see him beating Magomed Anklaev and Jiri Prochazka.

Whittaker’s best bet may be to simply wait for Adesanya to move up to light heavyweight. Eugene Bareman said this week that Izzy is not done with 205 yet and that the next time they move up, it will be to do so permanently. Personally, I think 2022 is the last year we see Adesanya compete at middleweight because he won’t really have anyone to face after 2-3 more title defenses, and because he will want to clear the way for his friend Kamaru Usman to chase his own legacy with a second title. My official prediction is that Adesanya competes three times this year (tonight, and then two more) and then announces a return to 205, vacating the title. Whittaker will take on Usman to win the vacant middleweight title.

GOAT status check

Assuming Adesanya defeats Whittaker tonight, he will have four successful middleweight title defenses and have held the belt for 860 days. In contrast, Anderson Silva has 10 middleweight title defenses and held the belt for 2,457 days, the longest title reign in UFC history. Adesanya will need to do much more in order to be considered for the discussion.

This topic is brought up because UFC and its fans lack any sense of history and context.

* The only rational argument Adesanya is considered the middleweight winner over Silva are the two drug tests that Silva failed later in his career. I also have two important answers. The first is that drug testing doesn’t make superhumans. It’s absurd and arbitrary. He never failed any test in his reign or as a titleholder. People also didn’t talk much about him getting juiced. He began failing tests only when he was 40 years old and coming off a traumatic leg break. It is not clear that he was being gassed during this incredible run. In fact, there are four other people that failed to pass drug tests (two of them for non-PEDs).

Look, it’s fine for people to be stoked on Adesanya. He’s a great fighter and he’s probably already locked down number two on the all-time middleweight list (which really is a testament to Anderson who held the title for so long it prevented a number of other incredible fighters from making a stronger claim to the position) but Adesanya has a LONG way to go before he’s in the conversation. He’s in literally the same position Chris Weidman was in before Weidman got rinsed by Luke Rockhold! Three title defenses and 889 days as a champion, and we weren’t talking about GOAT for Weidman then. Let’s just enjoy Adesanya and circle back on the GOAT talk in a few years.

Derrick Lewis vs. Tai Tuivasa

Probably the winner of the Alexander Volkov-Tom Aspinall fight in March, but you never know and that’s why this fight is so important. The heavyweight division may be as open now as in many years. Francis Ngannou is about to undergo surgery and won’t return to action until the fall or winter, if he ever returns at all. There is already talk about an interim title fight between Stipe Miocic and Jon Jones, and while that does seem like the most obvious next step, betting on Jon Jones to sign a fight contract and to not do something idiotic/horrible before then that will remove him from the fight is never a safe bet.

If Tuivasa wins, he becomes a top-5 guy in the division, on a five-fight win streak and could find himself sneaking into an interim title shot if things break right, and the same is true for Lewis. They will still be eligible to fight for the Volkov/Aspinall title, even if they have less luck.

Jared Cannonier vs. Derek Brunson

Adesanya is determined to be the victor. Adesanya is openly interested in a fight with Cannonier since a while (I don’t really know why, but it’s what he wants to do). He has also stated that he would be willing to rematch Brunson and stop the Blond Brunson losing streak. Given that, plus the fact that there aren’t a lot of other good contenders available for Adesanya at 185, and a win for either man tonight should lock up a title shot for them. The only thing I could see getting in the way of that is if Whittaker wins, in which case the UFC will certainly go for a trilogy fight. There’s another twist. . .

Derek Brunson needs a publicist

*]Brunson will win tonight because of the UFC’s lack of middleweight options. Adesanya and Brunson both want to fight, however it is questionable that he would say such a thing. Seriously, I have no idea what prompted him to throw that out there but it’s about the worst possible thing he could’ve said. Brunson, despite his assurances that he was only joking around, is not happy with the UFC giving title shots to retiring fighters. Although it is unlikely that it will come back to bite Brunson in the stomach, given the facts, it’s not impossible. It will happen in which case it would be Derek Brunson’s most embarrassing moment: shooting himself in his foot completely unprompted, and at the worst possible time. He is a brand expert.

Alexander Hernandez vs. Renato Moicano

Yes, probably. Hernandez was a UFC fan and had a valid complaint. He was not allowed to be on the prelims for Kyler Phillips against Marcelo Rojo, which was a great fight, but it was absurd. He let it be known that he that it was garbo (again, it was), and when the Alex Perez-Matt Schnell fight got cancelled, the UFC shifted some stuff around and get us to the outcome we should have been at all a long. Hernandez now eats, as they say.

Bobby Green vs. Nasrat Haqparast

I think it could be an excellent fight, but this is a Bobby Green fight. There are many chances that Green will keep things close enough to lose a split decision. If Jorge Masvidal didn’t go on the reality TV show, and never had that epiphany about baptismal people, he would be like him.

As far as getting ranked with a win, I doubt it. There is almost no way that either Green or Haqparast will get ranked in the true rankings, the MMA Fighting Global Rankings, and I doubt they even squeak into the top-15 of the UFC rankings given how stacked the division is and the recent losses both men have suffered. However, if either man goes to Bellator in the near future, they will immediately be top-5 Bellator lightweights. However, the big-name part wouldn’t be an option.

Alex Perez vs. Matt Schnell

Yes, because it’s the choice he felt was best. There is no right or wrong answer in situations such as these. It’s all about how you feel comfortable with your choices. It’s true that Schnell, regardless of his blown weight was likely to lose the fight due to Alex Perez being better than him. He doesn’t believe that. In his last fight, Schnell fought another man who lost weight but was able to defeat him. However, the No Contest decision was made after Rogerio Bontorin failed an anti-drug test. Being functionally 1-2 in his last two fights, and with that lone win being a split decision, it’s probable that a loss tonight, regardless of the circumstances, would have gotten Schnell his walking papers. Now Schnell will get another chance to have his day and do so in a manner he considers even. This is all that really matters.

UFC 271 Gambling

If you’re looking for some bets for UFC 271, well you are in luck! This Friday, MMA Fighting launched a new gambling guide. It will be available every Friday. Give that a read for some inspiration. Let me share a few thoughts about parlays in an effort to encourage friendship and unity.

Parlays can be a bad idea. Parlays are a popular choice for casinos, and not just because it is fun to see their customers win. While parlays may offer the promise of big winnings, the truth is that they have lower payouts than straight lines. They are just bundled together which gives them a higher risk profile and a greater payoff. That means the house is keeping their same odds and the same vig. The only benefit of a parlay, therefore, is its convenience. If a bet looks good enough for a parlay to make it worthwhile, then you should just bet right up.

Parlays are a popular choice, and it’s not hard to see why. Parlays are fun, and if used correctly, aren’t any worse than other types of bets. Personally, I mostly use parlays as a tool of convenience, meaning that I fill parlays with wagers that I think are still mathematically valuable but that would ultimate pay out a relatively small sum. For instance, when Valentina Shevchenko fought Lauren Murphy she was a -700 favorite which implies an 87. 5% win probability for her. In reality, Shevchenko was like 98% to win that fight, meaning that Shevchenko’s line had value, but it would only pay a pittance. So instead parlaying that bet with other positive value, low yield bets saves time and doesn’t drop my own odds any.

Similarly, if I’m just looking for more action on a card, I may parlay together lines that I think are appropriately set, because it’s a break-even bet statistically but allows me to be engaged with fights I may otherwise not have any vested interest in. I also never parlay underdogs (they already have high yield) and I usually restrict it to two or three teamers, unless I’m just trying to light some money on fire.

Anyway, that’s my spiel on parlays. You can do with this what you like. But if I was putting together a main card parlay (again, not something I would advise) I’d have Adesanya and the Over on the round total for the Green-Haqparast fight. The odds of winning are very tight so if I was a gambler, I would bet straight on them.

Thank you for reading, and for all the tweets. Do you have any burning questions about things at least somewhat related to combat sports? Then you’re in luck, because you can send your Hot Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew, and I will answer them! It doesn’t matter what they are, it doesn’t really matter. Send them to me and I’ll answer the ones I like the most. Let’s have fun.