UFC 243 is to take place on Sunday 6 October at the Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia. The card is set to excite, with the anticipated return of Whittaker looking like a worthy challenge for the undefeated champion Adesanya, whilst Iaquinta will be looking to prove himself against Hooker. Here is our review of the main card.
Robert Whittaker v Israel Adesanya - Middleweight
Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker returns to the cage in his native home, Australia, to face the fast-rising star Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya in the main event. This is the first time Whittaker has been able to fight since the sudden abdominal injury that forced him to abandon his Middleweight title defence earlier this year. At that point, he hadn’t fought since June 2018, due to further injuries. Despite this, Whittaker remains the more experienced fighter - with 20 wins and 4 losses to his name.
This former undisputed Middleweight champion now faces the current interim champion, Adesanya, who only has 17 victories to his name but remains undefeated and has made a big impact since his UFC debut in February 2018. The fighters are of similar age, with Whittaker slightly younger despite his greater experience. Adesanya does hold the physical advantage, being 3.9-inches taller and with a staggering 6.5-inch greater reach.
Despite Whittaker’s recent bad luck in terms of injuries, he maintains a strong record, with a majority 9 victories via knockout, 5 via submission and 6 decision. Though Whittaker built up his success with varied submission victories at the beginning of his professional career, favouring the Armbar and Rear-Naked choke, he is known for his unconventional and entertaining knockouts.
A prime example of this is his epic knockout of Derek Brunson in the very first round. He landed a risky right roundhouse kick to the head, rocking Brunson before finishing with a barrage of punches. Whittaker manages, throughout his fights, to make excellent use of his reach, launching and landing his strikes from afar with great accuracy. It will be interesting to see how the reach and height advantage of Adesanya will affect his strategy.
Adesanya is also known for his unconventional style and incredible kickboxing technique that makes good use of his often-greater stature. Though he does possess a knowledge of grappling and ground work, he uses this defensively, having developed very strong take-down defence and reversal. Kickboxing is his background and striking his specialism. He is both technical and experimental. It comes as no surprise then that he holds 13 knockout victories and 4 decision wins on his spotless record.
Against Rob Wilkinson, he was able to defend consistent take down attempts, remaining calm to achieve the knockout by knee and punches in the second round. Interestingly, like his opponent, Adesanya also managed to knock out Derek Brunson.
Some would say that Whittaker’s further ranging skillset and experience will give him the edge over Adesanya, who has achieved all his decision wins since joining the UFC. However, some would argue that Whittaker is likely to be physically overwhelmed by Adesanya. His injuries and time outside the cage may cost him in this match up, securing yet another victory for Adesanya.
Adesanya to win at 1.95*
Al Iaquinta v Dan Hooker - Lightweight
In this co-main event Dan “The Hangman” Hooker, the home crowd hero, battles it out against the American Al Iaquinta. Hooker is coming off strong from his recent, first round knockout victory against James Vick, whilst Iaquinta is looking for a comeback after his decision loss to Donald Cerone.
Hooker called out for someone “on his level” after his victory and Iaquinta was the UFC’s answer. These two fighters have a similar record, with Hooker carrying more victories (18 to Iaquinta’s 14), but also more losses (8 to his 5). Hooker is 3 years Iaquinta’s junior with a 2-inch height advantage and 5-inch greater reach. It would seem that in this fight Hooker holds the physical advantage.
Hooker also has an impressively strong finish record amongst his victories, with only one by decision, 7 via submission and a majority 10 via knockout. Overall, his finishes appear to be balanced. Hooker favours the Guillotine and Rear-Naked Choke in terms of submissions and holds a variety of crowd-pleasing knockout finishes. He has a good hold of his wrestling and a strong counter attacking strategy that makes use of his excellent timing. This is how he was able to land the unconventional knee knockouts he is famous for, catching opponents as they launched inwards. This strategy is exemplified in the knee knockout of Ross Pearson, perfectly countering off of Ross Pearson’s left hook.
Iaquinta is arguably less well rounded than Hooker in terms of finishes with 6 decision victories, 1 via submission and a majority 7 wins via knockout. Iaquinta makes good use of fierce and unconventional overhand strikes. Like Hooker, he also makes good use of his timing, at points even landing his strike simultaneously to his opponent, catching them off guard. His comeback victory against Diego Sanchez via knockout demonstrated this well. Interestingly he actually has a wrestling background which may aid him in defending against the more balanced Hooker.
Two talented fighters will likely be looking to make a statement in this event. Both with unconventional striking styles. Though they both have clear finishing power, some would argue that Hooker, with his proven technical range and physical advantages, will likely take this victory.
Hooker to win at 1.61*
Luke Jumeau v Dhiego Lima - Welterweight
The more local New Zealander Luke Jumeau faces the Brazilian Dhiego Lima on this main event card. Both have similar records, though Lima has suffered 3 more losses. And despite being close in age, Lima has a distinct 3.1-inch height advantage and 2.5-inch reach advantage.
Jumeau is relatively early on in his UFC career having joined in 2017. He has a very balanced professional record with 4 victories by decision, 4 by submission and majority 5 via knockout. His background is boxing and Tae Kwon Do which comes through in his skilled striking ability.
Lima joined the UFC at around the same time and similarly has a record with 4 submission and 4 knockout out victories, though a majority 6 decision wins. His background was in the mixed style of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) as opposed to specialised. He’s coming into this fight strong off a two-fight winning streak, coming back from 3 consecutive losses.
Many feel that despite Jumeau’s balanced record, Lima, with his physical advantages and mixed fighting style may be more likely to secure the victory, if only by decision.
Lima to win at 1.62*
*Odds are subject to change