With his two-and-a-half year journey through the wilderness behind him in the aftermath of his 2019 middleweight title loss to rival Israel Adesanya, Robert Whittaker believes he is better off for having endured such intense tribulation entering Saturday’s much-anticipated rematch at UFC 271.
Riding an impressive three-fight win streak, Whittaker (23-5) returns to a neutral location this time at the Toyota Center in Houston, which is a far cry from the setting of his UFC 243 mishap in Australia when a UFC-record 57,127 fans watched a star-making performance from Adesanya (21-1) in their All-Oceanic superfight.
Whittaker (23-5) has won three straight after dropping the title to Adesanya three years ago. The New Zealand-born Australian has won 12 of his past 13 fights overall. Whittaker, 31, held the interim or undisputed UFC middleweight title from 2017 to 2019. “The Reaper,” an Ultimate Fighter winner a decade ago, was the UFC’s first-ever Australian champion.
Both co-main event fighters also made weight Friday morning. Derrick Lewis, fighting in his adopted hometown, weighed in right at the non-title heavyweight limit of 266 pounds, and opponent Tai Tuivasa was 265 pounds. Lewis ranked No. 4 in the world at heavyweight.
Lewis (26-8, 1 NC) has won five out of six, with the lone loss coming to Ciryl Gane in an interim heavyweight title fight last August at UFC 265. Tuivasa (13-3) has won four straight, all by KO/TKO, after a three-fight losing streak.
William Knight missed weight by 12 pounds, coming in at 218 pounds for a light heavyweight bout. Knight will be fined 40% of his purse, and his bout with Maxim Grishin will go on as a heavyweight fight. Grishin weighed in at 206 pounds.
Alex Perez missed weight at 128 pounds — 2 pounds over the non-title flyweight limit — on his first attempt. His bout with Matt Schnell, who weighed 126 pounds, was canceled because of Perez’s weight management issues, per the UFC. Schnell did not accept the fight after Perez missed weight, UFC officials said.
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