Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker took on rising South African contender Dricus du Plessis at UFC 290.
Dricus came into the UFC in 2020 and has reeled off five straight wins since, four of them coming by finish. This has made him the fifth-ranked middleweight in the UFC and put him in pole position for a title shot if he can get through Whittaker, the number two contender. Rob has only lost to champion Israel Adesanya and no one else since 2014. Rob has consistently dismantled contenders such as Till, Vettori, and Cannonier on their way to a title shot and looked to do the same to Dricus in this fight.
The fight started with Rob light on his feet on the outside while Dricus switched stances but mainly fought out of southpaw. Du Plessis had trouble landing with his wilder swings early in the fight, while Rob was able to split his guard with punches as well as land kicks to the body. The Whittaker jab was a great distance-keeper, stabbing out at Dricus with frequency. Rob shot a double leg takedown two minutes into the fight and landed it. Du Plessis tried to lock up a guillotine but Rob defended it easily. However, Dricus was able to stand back up by wall-walking; they then returned to striking.
Du Plessis found his range and timing more in the latter stages of the round. In the last minute of the round Dricus took down Whittaker, cut him with a ground elbow, and looked for a d’Arce choke as he controlled Robert to the bell.
Round two began with Robert going forward more to start and attempting his signature 1-2-head kick early on. The defensive guard of du Plessis stayed sharp and he was able to at least partially block most of Rob’s offense, but he had trouble landing clean himself too. Suddenly a lead right hand from Dricus got through the guard and hurt Robert Whittaker. Whittaker dropped to a knee; he got back up but was clearly hurt. Du Plessis pressed the action, blitzing forward and overwhelming the former champion. Whittaker fell down from a body shot against the fence and Mark Goddard stepped in.
This performance silenced all doubts, sealing Dricus’ ticket to a title fight against Israel Adesanya. After du Plessis’ post-fight interview, Israel Adesanya stepped in the cage to face off with his next challenger. Tension was high given words exchanged between the two in the past. They got right in each other’s faces, with Israel cursing repeatedly at Dricus and claiming this will be an easy fight for him. Clearly their fight will have an interesting build-up.
Official Result: Dricus Du Plessis def. Robert Whittaker by TKO (punches), Round 2, 2:23