This week, UFC 243 is in the weight-cutting spotlight, as Robert Whittaker returns to defend his title against Israel Adesanya.
Like it or not, weight-cutting is deeply rooted in mixed martial arts. MMA adopted its weight-cutting from the sport of wrestling, where it is presumed to be very advantageous to be the biggest and strongest in your weight class. Known as the ‘fight before the fight,’ most UFC fighters cut anywhere from 5-25 pounds, with some fighters even in excess of 30 pounds.
Weight-cutting is the ultimate test of discipline and willpower. Many fighters in the sport consider it very unprofessional to miss weight. In this series, we will shine a light on fighters who cut a massive amount of weight, who have missed weight multiple times in the past, who have made weight-class changes, along with how the weight-cut and weigh-in could affect possible upcoming match-ups. Basically, every aspect of weight-cutting and how it affects the fight game.
Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker ( 20-4 MMA, 11-2 UFC)
Welterweight(170lbs.): 3-2 (UFC) The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes Winner
Middleweight (185lbs.): 8-0 (UFC) Current UFC Middleweight Champion
Robert Whittaker has beaten Yoel Romero, twice becoming the first Australian to win and defend a UFC title. A pretty amazing feat especially considering that Robert sustained severe, limiting injuries at the beginning of both of his bouts with the gigantic Cuban. But that’s not how this New Zeland born, Australian’s very successful UFC career began, it was actually a weight class bellow. Robert began his UFC career on the Ultimate Fighter at 170lbs., and won the show at just days shy of his 22nd birthday.
Even though Robert was doing well at 170lbs. and pulling together a small win streak, he decided to move up to middleweight as he likely began to feel his body change from a young adult who could drop weight easily to a seasoned fighter that needs maximum performance from every ounce of weight. From there his first fight at the new weight class against Clint Hester earned him a cool 50K performance bonus. Since then it’s been smooth sailing for the Aussie, 7 wins with 3 finishes, all against very game opponents in the top 10, on his way to grabbing the interim belt and defending it from Yoel Romero (technically, with Romero missing weight the second fight, this was deemed a non-title bout).
Robert really has a style that benefits from his weight cut-elimination and him being in the middleweight weight class. At 185lbs Whittaker’s output, especially with his hands, is just on a whole different level. Robert overwhelms opponents with not just a flurry of punches, but well-timed and well-placed strikes too. Whittaker also has an excellent shot selection and has some of the best kicks in the division (in particular with the exit of Luke Rockhold). Just watch his Jacare Souza fight for perfect examples of making his opponents move into his kicks and other techniques. Which brings us to our last point of why eliminating the weight cut was such a good idea for Whittaker, his movement. Whittaker has some of the best movement in the UFC especially compared to the rest of the division. This movement will really be put under a microscope when he takes on Israel Adesanya at UFC 243.
UFC 243 takes place on Saturday, October 5 (Sunday, October 6 locally) at the Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia.