Can Robert Whittaker become just the second man to defeat Israel Adesanya in the UFC?
According to the first fighter to get it done, the answer is ‘no’.
Speaking from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi this week, UFC light heavyweight champ Jan Blachowicz has backed New Zealand megastar Adesanya to defend his middleweight strap against Whittaker in their hyped rematch slated for early 2022.
Headlining UFC 267 against Glover Teixeira on Sunday, Blachowicz has not only backed Adesanya to again defeat the Sydneysider dubbed ‘Bobby Knuckles’, but predicts it will go much the same way as their first encounter, in 2019.
On that afternoon at Melbourne’s Marvel Arena, the Kiwi dropped Whittaker at the end of the opening round, then finished him in the second to steal the Australian’s belt in front of some 60,000 fans.
Since claiming UFC gold, Adesanya has defended three times against Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettori — however lost when moving up in weight to challenge Blachowicz for the light heavyweight crown in March.
Quizzed on who wins Adesanya-Whittaker II, the champ told News Corp: “We will see but I think Israel wins again.
“We see how first fight looks. I think it’s going to be a similar way.”
Blachowicz also suggested his win over Adesanya would make the Kiwi a more dangerous proposition for Whittaker the second time around.
“I show him (Adesanya) where he needs to work,” the champ continued. “Which part of his game.
“So now he will be a little bit better fighter.”.
Pushed on how much Adesanya will have learned from the loss, Blachowicz continued: “I think he’s a pro, one of the best fighters in the world, so he has to learn something because this was really good lesson
“If not, then he’s going to lose again in the same way. But he’s smart and I believe he will take a lot of experience from this fight.”
While the Polish powerhouse admits he may face Adesanya again, he says the UFC middleweight king would have to beat “at least one or two top 10 guys” in the light heavyweight division before being gifted a second shot.
Asked how it feels being the first man to have stopped the Adesanya hype train, he said: “It’s good but I don’t think about this anymore.
“I don’t go to the street and say ‘hey I am the one who beat Adesanya’.
“I’m happy to be first one to beat him in MMA because people remember this for the end of time. But I won’t go everywhere and scream ‘I am the one who beat Adesanya’, I’m not this kind of person.
“But (because of that win) people treat me as a true champion. I show the world I am true champion and deserve this belt.”
Elsewhere, Blachowicz is now looking to defend his UFC title for a second time this weekend against Teixeira, who arrives at his second title shot on a run of five straight wins.
At 42, this will almost surely be the challenger’s last shot at UFC gold, too.
“And I have to be ready for that,” the champ said.
“I think he is going to (try) everything.
“Like you say, this could be his last chance for title shot, maybe one of his last fights in UFC. So he will do everything and I have to be ready for that.
“And I am.
“I’m going to stop him.
“I will not do the same mistakes as his opponents. They do a couple of mistakes when they fight against him.”
“When somebody hits Glover very hard,” the champ continues, “he goes on the ground and his opponent tries to finish him very quick.
“And in some ways he knows how to survive that.
“Make them tired, then start to do his game.
“But I’m not going to make the same mistake. I’m not going in too fast.
“If I hit him so hard in the second or third round that he goes out – perfect.
“But if he just goes on his back and says ‘OK, come on fight me on the ground’ … no, no, no … stand up, let’s go. I will do this my way.”