Weekend Warrior: UFC 243 to Unify Middleweight Crown

The fate of the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight crown will hang in the balance when reigning champion Robert Whittaker meets interim titleholder Israel Adesanya in the UFC 243 headliner on Saturday at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia.

Whittaker has rattled off nine consecutive victories since his technical knockout loss to Stephen Thompson nearly six years ago. The talented but oft-injured 28-year-old last competed at UFC 225, where he took a split decision from an overweight Yoel Romero in June 2018. Whittaker has delivered 14 of his 20 wins by knockout, technical knockout or submission. He burst on the scene in 2012, when he won The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes and has since gone on to compile a stellar 11-2 record in the UFC, with his only two losses coming as a welterweight.

Cover Photo: Carmen Mandato/Zuffa LLC (Getty Images)

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Robert Whittaker punches Yoel Romero. Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC (Getty Images)

The Nigeria-born Adesanya trains out of City Kickboxing in Auckland, New Zealand, and finds himself in possession of a perfect 17-0 record with 13 finishes, seven of them inside one round. Adesanya, 30, last fought at UFC 236 in April, when he laid claim to a unanimous decision over Kelvin Gastelum and captured the interim middleweight title in a “Fight of the Year” frontrunner. His list of victims includes former champion Anderson Silva, Derek Brunson, and Brad Tavares.

UFC 243 “Whittaker vs. Adesanya”—which streams to ESPN+ pay-per-view at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT—will also feature a lightweight co-main event matching Al Iaquinta with Dan Hooker, a welterweight clash pitting Dhiego Lima against Luke Jumeau and a pair of heavyweight battles, as Tai Tuivasa faces Sergey Spivak and Justin Tafa confronts Yorgan De Castro. ESPN (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) and UFC Fight Pass (6:15 p.m. ET/3:15 p.m. PT) are scheduled to share coverage of the six-fight undercard.

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Israel Adesanya

Israel Adesanya punches Kelvin Gastelum. Photo: Logan Riely (Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Bellator MMA continues to rev its engines with Bellator 229 on Friday at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California, where former welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov will collide with Lorenz Larkin in the three-round headliner. Bellator 229 “Koreshkov vs. Larkin”—which airs live on Paramount Network at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT—will also see Saad Awad tackle Goiti Yamauchi in a lightweight tilt, Joe Schilling toe the line against Tony Johnson in a middleweight scrap, Keri Melendez takes on Mandy Polk in a catchweight affair at 118 pounds and Derek Anderson duke it out with Guilherme Vasconcelos in a welterweight showcase.

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