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The Journey Back To The Top For Robert Whittaker

The Path That Led "The Reaper" Back To The Doorstep Of The Middleweight Title At UFC 271

At UFC 243, Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya met in a clash to determine which fighter would be the undisputed UFC middleweight champion.

The epic showdown would go down as the most attended UFC event in history, with over 57,000 fans packed into Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia. It was perfect setting for something spectacular to happen, and Adesanya delivered.

It was the night when “The Last Stylebender” made the leap from star to superstar, wowing the audience with his walkout and capturing the respect of fight fans everywhere with his brilliant knockout of Whittaker.

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Since defeating “The Reaper,” Adesanya has gone on to defend his belt against Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettori. In that same time span, Whittaker set out on a mission to reclaim what was once his, taking on a gauntlet of high-profile number one contender fights.

The first step in this series of bouts was a battle with Darren Till. The next was a showdown with Jared Cannonier and then a much-anticipated fight with Kelvin Gastelum.

Those three victories made it clear that Whittaker is more than deserving of another crack at Adesanya. After each of the wins, he made it clear that he wouldn’t campaign for a title shot; he would just keep racking up wins until there wouldn’t be a way that Adesanya could deny a second matchup.

And finally, over two years since their first fight, Whittaker will get a chance to settle the score at UFC 271.

Take look back at each of Whittaker’s victories on his path back to a shot at the UFC middleweight title:

Main Event Preview | UFC 271: Adesanya vs Whittaker 2
Main Event Preview | UFC 271: Adesanya vs Whittaker 2
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UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs Till

July 25, 2020 – Abu Dhabi

Robert Whittaker’s first fight since the loss of his middleweight title last October was a victorious one, as he earned a close, but unanimous, decision over Darren Till in the Fight Island 3 main event.
 
Scores were 48-47 across the board for the No. 1-ranked Whittaker. The No. 6-ranked Till falls to 18-3-1.
 
Whittaker’s jab stopped Till in his tracks twice in the opening moments, forcing the Liverpool native to take a more patient approach. Till put Whittaker on the deck with an elbow in the second minute, but the Aussie quickly recovered and got back to his feet. A clinch ensued, but the two separated quickly, Till remaining in control as he kept the pressure on. Whittaker finished the stronger of the two, though.
 
A minute into the second round, Whittaker got even with Till, knocking “The Gorilla” down with a right hand. Whittaker followed Till to the mat and got in several hard shots from the top position. With a little over two minutes left, Till, his face bruised up, but he kept marching forward. He wasn’t as busy, and it looked like the fight was now dead even.
 
Till’s defense was airtight in the third, but as the two looked for offensive openings, it was Whittaker doing more from that end, and when the former champ did land with his kicks to the leg, it was having an impact on Till.

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In the fourth, Till landed his best shots since the first round, rattling Whittaker briefly, but he didn’t press his advantage, letting “The Reaper” off the hook. Yet in a tactical round, it may have been enough for him to take it.
 
Till started fast in the fifth and landed some good shots, only to slow down and let Whittaker get his own offensive charges off, with it clear that Till’s leg was giving him issues. With a minute left, Till drew blood with a shot upstairs but Whittaker responded with a series of quick takedowns that likely cemented his victory.

Official Result: Robert Whittaker def. Darren Till by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)

UFC 254 – Whittaker vs Cannonier

October 24, 2020 – Abu Dhabi

Robert Whittaker of Australia reacts after the conclusion of his middleweight bout against Jared Cannonier during the UFC 254 event on October 25, 2020 on UFC Fight Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
Robert Whittaker of Australia reacts after the conclusion of his middleweight bout against Jared Cannonier during the UFC 254 event on October 25, 2020 on UFC Fight Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Robert Whittaker logged a disciplined and effective performance in winning a close, but unanimous, decision over Jared Cannonier in the UFC 254 co-main event.
 
Scores were 29-28 across the board for the No. 1-ranked Whittaker, now 23-5. The No. 2-ranked Cannonier falls to 13-5.
 
Both fighters had positive moments in an interesting first round, Whittaker using his movement while mixing up his attacks, while Cannonier chopped at his foe’s leg with frightening efficiency.

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Cannonier stuck to the game plan in the second, as he battered Whittaker’s leg, but the former champion largely controlled the action with a stiff jab and the occasional right hand, setting the stage for a pivotal third round.
 
Things went south quickly for Cannonier in the third when a combination capped off by a kick rocked the Arizonan, who was soon on the deck with Whittaker seeking a finish. With a little less than three minutes left, the battered Cannonier rose to his feet and tried to turn things around, and he nearly did when he rocked Whittaker with less than a minute to go. Whittaker smartly sought to grapple with his foe, allowing him to make it to the end of the bout.
 
Official Result: Robert Whittaker def. Jared Cannonier by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs Gastelum

April 17, 2021 – Las Vegas

Robert Whittaker was in prime form in his UFC Fight Night main event, as he held off a spirited effort from Kelvin Gastelum to win a shutout five-round unanimous decision.

All three judges saw it 50-45 for the No.1-ranked Whittaker, now 24-5. The No.8-ranked Gastelum, who replaced Paulo Costa, fell to 17-7, 1 NC.

Gastelum was the aggressor as the fight began, but Whittaker countered his foe’s rushes effectively, and when the former champ led, he landed a right head kick in the second minute that wobbled the Arizonan. Later in the round, Whittaker surprised Gastelum with a takedown and kept the fight grounded until the closing moments of the frame.

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Whittaker got another takedown in round two, and when he wasn’t on the mat, he was looking as sharp as he ever has on the feet. Gastelum took all the shots in stride and kept moving forward, but he was showing the wear on his face as Whittaker extended his lead. 

Gastelum began to get closer with his shots in the third, briefly rattling Whittaker early in the frame, but the Aussie refused to slow down as he continued to tag the steel-chinned Gastelum, and this pattern continued throughout the fourth round.

Knowing that he was likely behind on the scorecards, Gastelum continued to take the fight to Whittaker in the fifth round, but a takedown by “The Reaper” with two minutes left sealed the deal, and while this version of Gastelum would give any middleweight fits, this version of Whittaker looked to have what it takes to regain the world title.

Official result – Robert Whittaker def. Kelvin Gastelum via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)

UFC 271: Adesanya vs Whittaker 2 took place on Saturday, February 12, 2022, live from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. See the Final ResultsOfficial Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive all of the action on UFC Fight Pass.