One of the UFC’s biggest middleweight fights goes down Saturday from Melbourne, Australia.
Champion Robert Whittaker and interim titleholder Israel Adesanya will unify the belts in the main event of UFC 243 at Marvel Stadium in front of what is expected to be one of the biggest crowds in MMA history. Whittaker calls Australia home, while Adesanya lives in New Zealand, adding more to the Oceania flavor of the event. Whittaker and Adesanya are also Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, among MMA middleweights in ESPN’s rankings.
Whittaker (20-4) has won nine straight and has not lost since 2014 when he was a welterweight. “The Reaper” is coming off back-to-back victories over Yoel Romero in 2017 and 2018. Whittaker, 28, has not fought since June 2018 and oddly doesn’t have a single title defense due to injuries, illnesses and Romero’s weight miss. He has held the middleweight title since late 2017. Whittaker is tied for No. 8 on ESPN’s pound-for-pound MMA list.
Adesanya (17-0) has won all six of his fights in the UFC and is one of the hottest up-and-coming MMA athletes in the world. The Nigerian-born “Last Style Bender” is coming off a Fight of the Year-candidate victory over Kelvin Gastelum for the interim title at UFC 236 in April. Adesanya, 30, is behind only Khabib Nurmagomedov in most victories for a fighter with an undefeated record.
The co-main event will pit exciting lightweight knockout artists Al Iaquinta (14-5-1) and Dan Hooker (18-8) against one another. Also on the card, Tai Tuivasa faces Serghei Spivac in a heavyweight bout and Megan Anderson takes on Zarah Fairn at women’s featherweight.
Stay here for undercard results and analysis.
UFC 243 schedule
ESPN+, 6:45 p.m.
Betting lines provided by Caesars Sportsbook
Khalif Taha nails Bruno Silva with a right and left combo that sends Silva to the mat briefly in Round 1. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
From ESPN Sports & Information Group: It was the third-career submission win for Taha, extending his win streak to two after losing his UFC debut in July 2018. Silva had a three-fight unbeaten streak snapped in his UFC debut, and it was his second loss by submission. Taha cashed in as a -240 favorite.
Fight in progress
Still to come
ESPN2, 8 p.m.
PPV (via ESPN+), 10 p.m. ET
From ESPN Sports & Information Group: At -125, this is the shortest odds as a favorite Adesanya has been and second-shortest odds in his UFC career. He was a -115 pick ’em against Brad Tavares, a fight he won by unanimous decision.
Whittaker is a betting underdog for the seventh time in his UFC career. He won those previous six bouts.