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UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker thinks Israel Adesanya will beat Kelvin Gastelum, but he doesn’t think the Nigerian-born New Zealander is all he is cracked up to be. His criticisms have some depth, too. Via BloodyElbow.com:
“I think that Adesanya isn’t as good as he thinks he is,” Whittaker said on his own podcast, Grange TV (h/t Jed Meshew of MMA Fighting). “I think he’s very good – very, very good – and I have a lot of respect for his skillset, 100 percent. He’s a dangerous guy. But I don’t think the pedestal that he’s on is as high as everyone else thinks it is, as he thinks it is. I think his fight with Anderson Silva was the first time his stand-up capabilities were put to the test with someone with similar stand-up capabilities. . .
“I don’t think Adesanya’s striking is as good as he believes. it is. It’s very good. I’m not saying his striking is bad, it’s very, very good – but I just don’t think it’s as good as he thinks it is. The times Adesanya’s looked very good is against people that don’t have the greatest striking.”
Adesanya beat Anderson Silva over three rounds in the main event of UFC 234, after Whittaker was forced into emergency surgery on the day of his scheduled headliner against Kelvin Gastelum. Silva had some moments of success in the fight, particularly with his left hook, though overall Adesanya won comfortably.
While “The Last Stylebender” has a legitimately world-class kickboxing resume, perhaps the best in MMA right now, Whittaker was quick to note there are significant differences between kickboxing and striking in MMA.
“We’re not kickboxing,” Whittaker said. “The difference in striking in the Octagon as opposed to the ring is night and day. Comparing the two isn’t applicable. Yes, he can take a lot of the skillsets over and they’re very transferable, but it’s not the same. It’s not the same.
He used his own most dangerous opponent, Yoel Romero, in contrast to the challenge Adesanya presents.
“Having very high technical skills in striking, isn’t the same as being a very dangerous striker. If you were to look at Romero, he is not technically great at stand-up. He’s not known for his technical grace with his standup, [but] most of his wins have been knockouts. He hits very hard. He hits like a truck. He’s a dangerous striker. He would have to be one of the most dangerous strikers in the world. Most of his wins come by knockout standing up – punches, flying knees – he’s a very, very dangerous striker but you can’t say he’s super technical, because he’s not.
“Adesanya is dangerous and technical, but he’s not the same as Romero. He’s not super, super dangerous.”
After his abdominal surgery, Whittaker is looking to face the winner of Adesanya’s clash with Gastelum at UFC 236, who will be the interim champion, relatively quickly.
“I’m looking to fight the winner of that,” he said. ”I guess, in terms of timelines and dates, it will be a month – two or three months after that. Three months maximum, one month minimum. That’s the kind of timeline I’m looking for.”
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