April 19, 2017

UFC on FOX 24: Robert Whittaker Put the Rest of the Middleweight Division On Notice With 'Jacare' Win

By Raphael Garcia

UFC on Fox 24 may be looked back upon as the night some major stars were born. Demetrious Johnson and Rose Namajunas did what they needed to do to push their careers in the right direction. Robert Whittaker is right behind them, as his fist snatched away a spot from former Strikeforce champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. This is easily the biggest win of Whittaker’s career, and at a perfect time for the middleweight division.

Middleweight has become an exciting division simply because no one has any idea what is coming next. Since Michael Bisping stepped in on short notice to take the title from Luke Rockhold at UFC 199, there’s been no telling who is next in line for a shot. It started with Dan Henderson somehow jumping the entire line and almost winning the belt at UFC 204. But Bisping avenged his brutal UFC 100 loss, leaving an opening for a true middleweight contender to get the next shot. However, Georges St. Pierre is the name that the UFC has mentioned. But what’s to come for Yoel Romero, Gegard Mousasi, and now Whittaker? No one knows the answer to that question for sure, but after his win on Saturday night, “The Reaper” is that much more compelling of an option.

Since moving up to middleweight in 2014 he’s put together a six-fight win streak that culminated with a brutal stoppage win over Jacare. And in the post-fight interview, Whittaker did the right thing by immediately turning his attention to Bisping and a potential championship fight.

“Bobby Knuckles” has the combination of abilities, looks, and personality that the UFC continues to place a premium on. Since joining the UFC back in 2012 he’s stopped five opponents and won nine overall. His quickness and highly technical striking make him a compelling opponent for Bisping. Bisping’s a fighter that’s more known for his boxing abilities, combined with the right mix of wrestling and grappling to keep himself where he likes to do battle. That is what makes a potential bout with Whittaker interesting. The question for their matchup becomes whether or not Bisping will be able to overcome a fighter with a style that is very similar to his own.

At 26 years old with a record of 18-4, Whittaker still has a lot of room for growth. He isn’t carrying a lot of the kind of damage that will hinder the long-term viability of his career. He’s only been stopped once by TKO, a welterweight loss to Stephen Thompson back at UFC 170. The move up to middleweight has served him particularly well, as he’s yet another example that proves extreme weight cutting is becoming an antiquated component to MMA.

Robert Whittaker picked the perfect night to let the world know he’s a dangerous threat in the middleweight division. Stopping Jacare inside two rounds helps him get on the short list of future contenders to the middleweight title. There’s a lot of time left in 2017, so no one should be surprised if Whittaker finds himself in a main event before the year is up.

UFC on FOX 24: Johnson vs. Reis took place April 15, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

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