Daniel Cormier expects Robert Whittaker to put up a much better fight in his rematch with UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.
Adesanya dethroned Whittaker to win the middleweight title at UFC 243 in one of his most flawless performances to date. Whittaker hasn’t lost since, defeating Darren Till, Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum en route to a shot at redemption.
Whittaker (23-5 MMA, 14-3 UFC) acknowledged that his ego got in the way in the first fight, which caused him to be reckless in his stoppage loss to the Adesanya (21-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC). But with Whittaker rebounding in impressive fashion, Cormier expects a much more calculated approach from him when they run things back in the main event of UFC 271 on Feb. 12.
“I think it’ll be much more competitive,” Cormier said in an interview with Helen Yee. “I think Robert Whittaker took time away and in the fights that he’s shown improvement. I don’t know how you improve when you’re Robert Whittaker and you defended the belt so many times and you were the champion and you were all these great things, but you’re still getting better, and he showed that in his last couple fights.
“He is really improving, he’s still getting better, and I think being in there with Adesanya, I think a lot of that nervous energy that he may have felt in that fight is not going to be as prevalent, you know. He won’t feel like he needs to rush. He’ll be more patient. He’ll be more willing to take his time in his approach.”
The only man to push Adesanya to the brink at middleweight is Gastelum, who engaged in a 2019 “Fight of the Year” war with Adesanya in an interim middleweight title fight at UFC 236. Although Gastelum was able to press and hurt Adesanya, “The Last Stylebender” outlasted him in a thrilling battle.
Cormier thinks Whittaker made the mistake of using Gastelum’s approach as a blueprint, which ultimately cost him when he was continuously blasted on the counter.
“I think there was some comfort in watching Adesanya fight against Kelvin Gastelum that was unwarranted,” Cormier said. “Seeing Gastelum have success in the areas that he did maybe gave Rob a false sense of what he could do. But you’re not the next man. You’re your own man, and you have to fight in that way. I think Whittaker made some mistakes, and I don’t think he’ll do it again.”