By Raphael Garcia
In mixed martial arts, the emergence of a new contender is an exciting development for fans and promotions alike. As a welcome addition to any weight division pushes his or her way up the rankings, speculation as to that fighter’s ceiling continues to mount. Robert Whittaker is one such individual, as his win at UFC Fight Night 101 informed the rest of the middleweight division that he is a viable threat to all his future opponents.
In a flurry of punches and kicks, Whittaker dispatched Derek Brunson to take home his most important win to date. While Brunson isn’t necessarily the biggest name on his resume, Whittaker’s performance comes at a time in which the middleweight division is in a state of flux. Michael Bisping is the champion and seems to be on track to face Yoel Romero. But there’s no telling what’s going to happen to the rest of the lot.
Luke Rockhold is out until early 2017 and his highly-anticipated rematch with Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza is off the books. Gegard Mousasi is surging and talking his way into the attention spans of the MMA fan base. Plus the still dangerous Chris Weidman is waiting around for another opportunity to continue his push towards the title again. Whittaker fits nicely into that group, and getting a win in front of the home crowd helped increase his value to the promotion. His run has been very quiet, but has come at a time when he can find himself on the short list of men to make a statement in 2016.
Since moving up to middleweight, Whittaker has continued to improve with each outing. His crisp striking was on display once again in Melbourne, but that’s not the only way in which he’s improved. Whittaker has never struggled with stopping takedowns, but it’s easy to forget how adept he is at that aspect of MMA. According to FightMetric, Whittaker has defended 93 percent of all takedown attempts that were thrown his way since debuting in the UFC against Brad Scott in 2012 at UFC on FX 6.
The middleweight division seems to be experiencing an uptick in excitement after years of being behind the other weight classes. Robert Whittaker isn’t a name that’s going to put a lot of eyes on the television at this very moment, but his win at UFC Fight Night 101 is the type of performance that will start to get people looking forward to his next Octagon appearances.