UFC 243 (TV: Early Prelims ESPN +, Prelims ESPN2, Main Card ESPN + PPV)
Saturday, October 5th 6:45 PM ET Marvel Stadium (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
Lightweight Fight: Dan Hooker (19-8) vs. Al Iaqunita (14-5-1)
Fight odds: Dan Hooker -175 Al Iaquinta +145
Middleweight Title Fight: Robert Whittaker (21-4) vs. Israel Adesanya (17-0)
Fight odds: Robert Whittaker +100 Israel Adesanya -130
UFC 243 Pick Robert Whittaker vs. Israel Adesanya
Melbourne will host one of the biggest sporting events in the country’s history. With Australians and/or New Zealanders featured in every fight, UFC 243 is the biggest night of fights in the continent’s history. The Co-Main Event features Dan Hooker against Al Iaquinta. This is a big fight for both lightweights. Hooker is 29, 6’0 and 155 lbs with a 75 inch reach. Iaquinta is 32, 5’9 and 155 lbs with a 70 inch reach. Hooker is more of a striker and will want to utilize his kicks to keep the pressure of Iaquinta on the outside. Iaquinta is not a great striker or wrestler, but is decent in both aspects and doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. Iaquinta should look to mix in take downs with strikes because he will have a hard time matching a skilled boxer like Hooker on the feet.
The reach advantage and chin of Hooker should allow him to win the fight. Hooker has shown tremendous heart in past fights and often puts on exciting performances. Hooker won his last fight by 1st Round KO over James Vick by using his kicks to control the distance. The kicks ended up setting up the left hook that ended the fight. With 10 of his 18 wins coming by knockout, Hooker has decent power and Iaquinta will need to be wary of his strikes. Al Iaquinta is coming off a unanimous decision loss to Donald Cerrone. Iaquinta struggled to close the distance against the bigger Cerrone and was unable to make up the physical difference with skill. Hooker will have the home crowd advantage in Melbourne as a native New Zealander. Iaquinta will need to close the distance to negate Hooker’s kicks and reach advantage. Hooker should win this fight because of his superior striking ability and his decent take down defense.
In the Main Event, Israel Adesanya will face Robert Whittaker for the undisputed Middleweight Title. Whittaker is 28, 6’0 and 185 lbs with a 73.5 inch reach. Adesanya is 30, 6’4 and 185 lbs with a 80 inch reach. Whittaker, a native New Zealander is the current UFC Middleweight champion but hasn’t fought for 484 days, having last defeated Yoel Romero by split decision in June of 2018. Since that win, Whittaker has battled his share of leg injuries and a hernia that have kept him out of the octagon for over a year. Adesanya was born in Nigeria, but grew up in New Zealand, moving there when he was 13. Adesanya has seen a swift rise in the sport and looks poised to be one of the greatest and most unique athletes to compete in the UFC. Adesanya’s combination of dynamic striking versatility and defensive instincts make him difficult for any opponent to defeat.
Adesanya is undefeated and has most recently beat Anderson Silva and Kelvin Gastelum by decision. Adesanya fought his idol in Anderson Silva and won to establish himself as a force at 185 lbs. Silva is now past his prime, but Adesanya looks up to the legend and now carries on his legacy fighting in a similar style to Silva. Adesanya out maneuvered Silva and beat him in the exchanges utilizing his speed and age advantage to get the better of Silva. Gastelum was the tougher challenge and was able to hurt Adesanya more than any other opponent. Adesanya’s ability to control the distance and complete his combinations helped him get the decision against Gastelum.
Adesanya is great at getting in the pocket and landing shots while simultaneously slipping out of the way of his opponent’s strikes. Adesanya also moves in unorthodox patterns making him difficult to predict or hit. Coming from a kickboxing and boxing background, Adesanya is a stand up fighter that breaks his opponents down with relentless and accurate striking attacks. Adesanya can also dodge out of the way of his opponent’s strikes with great head movement and balance and catch them with a swift counterpunch or kick. Adesanya’s ability to turn his defense into offense will be key to winning the Title.
UFC 243 Pick Robert Whittaker vs. Israel Adesanya
Whittaker is more of a wrestler, but doesn’t have a submission win since 2011. If Whittaker is losing on the feet he should look to take Adesanya down and tire him out with grappling. If Whittaker is unable to take Adesanya to the ground then it could be a long night on the feet for Whittaker who will likely be picked apart in the striking exchanges. Whittaker also has dealt with leg injuries and will likely have to sustain his share of kicks to the leg from Adesanya that could result in a re-injury. Whittaker has not lost since 2014 and has gone on to win the Middleweight Title. His last 3 fights, a 2nd Round KO of Ronaldo Souza and two decision wins over Yoel Romero have been the best opponents he has faced and those wins should give him confidence going against Adesanya.
The kicks of Adesanya will likely control most of the fight. Whittaker will need to close the distance and use his explosive movements to do damage to the shifty Adesanya. Whittaker won his past fights partly due to heart and determination and will need all that to beat Adesanya, a different type of opponent that he hasn’t faced before. Whittaker can’t just throw one punch because Adesanya can easily defend that. Whittaker will need to throw combinations because most of his strikes will miss. Combination striking will give Whittaker a larger margin for error and allow for a better chance at connecting with Adesanya. Whittaker also needs to keep Adesanya guessing by giving him different looks in order to keep him out of rhythm both offensively and defensively. This should be a competitive fight, but Adesanya’s next level striking should be the difference over the course of 5 Rounds.