This Saturday’s UFC 243 event will provide clarity to the middleweight division, pitting champion Robert Whittaker against interim champ Israel Adesanya in a title unification bout.
The card is top-heavy and does not feature the depth that was on display at 241 or 242, but it should still offer enough fireworks to please the crowd in Melbourne, Australia, at Marvel Stadium.
Whittaker and Adesanya are two very different fighters and promoters. While Whittaker is uncomfortable promoting a fight, Adesanya thrives in his ability to self-promote. That actually plays into Whittaker’s favor, as he is far better suited to be the quieter of the two—and the one who ultimately lets his actions do the speaking.
UFC 243 also includes a lightweight fight between Al Iaquinta and Dan Hooker, as well as a heavyweight bout featuring Tai Tuivasa and Sergey Spivak. A sleeper on the card is the welterweight fight between Luke Jumeau and Dhiego Lima, and an interesting backstory is a likely end to the women’s featherweight division following the Megan Anderson-Zarah Fairn dos Santos fight.
Here are the top questions entering UFC 243:
1. How does Whittaker-Adesanya play out?
This fight is unlikely to go the distance. If it does, that is certainly a benefit to Adesanya, but I think we are getting a KO/TKO from either man. Adesanya’s key is opening it up and playing the reach advantage and working Whittaker with kicks.
Whittaker needs to get in close and trade punches. He has more power and can get a knockout. Either way, we are getting a finish.
2. Is UFC counting out Whittaker by focusing so much of its promotion on Adesanya?
The build to this fight has played out in the exact manner in which Whittaker wanted.
Whittaker hates press and traveling, and has little time for promoting. He wants to fight and then go home to his family.
Adesanya is one of the few who really get the power of “stardom” in the UFC. He wants to do every interview, remembers everyone’s name, and is incredibly aware of pop culture. He is completely comfortable under the hot UFC spotlight.
In reality, both guys are getting what they want here. There are times to ask whether UFC marketing is pushing for one fighter to win, but that does not apply in this match.
3. Does Tai get back in the win column?
Heavyweight Tai Tuivasa is going to be “always on the cusp.”
Heavyweight is a light division and he is a beloved fighter by the fans and the UFC, so his presence is always there—but never in a starring role. But the Sydney, Australia, native should come out swangin’ and bangin’, and put on a show for his countrymen.
This fight, against a punching bag in Sergey Spivak, is tailored for him to get a big knockout.
4. What stands out in the Al Iaquinta-Dan Hooker and Luke Jumeau-Dhiego Lima fights?
Both of these fights are incredibly exciting.
Jumeau-Lima is going to be fun. Hooker-Iaquinta even more, as it is a contender fight. Hooker can make a statement and jump into the mix at 155 with an emphatic statement. Iaquinta actually gave Khabib Nurmagomedov a great fight on short notice, and he would love to get another shot at him.
5. Following 243, is this the end of the women’s featherweight division?
I’m very surprised that there is still a women’s featherweight division. My guess is they want to give division champ Amanda Nunes (who is also Bantamweight champ) one more fight before they close down the division.
The featherweight division was created for Cris Cyborg. Over time, there has not been enough depth to make it a meaningful division. Most of the women fighting as featherweights could fight at 135—meaning the closure of 145 would hopefully strengthen the 135 division.
Plus, one other fight to watch takes place on the preliminaries between women’s flyweight fighters Nadia Kassem and Ji Yeon Kim. Kassem is a scrapper and really fun to watch.