Saturday, November 26th, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia for UFC Fight Night 101: “Whittaker vs Brunson” by Daniel Tom
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Robert Whittaker (17-4)
- Height: 5’11” Age: 25 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 73.5″
- Last Fight: Decision win / Rafael Natal (4-23-16)
- Camp: PMA Martial Arts (Australia)
- Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
- Risk Management: Moderate
+ TUF Smashes Winner
+ Black Belt Karate/Hapkido
+ Purple Belt BJJ
+ 8 KO victories
+ 5 Submission wins
+ 5 first round finishes
+ KO Power
+ Quickly & deceptively blitzes
+ Unique angles & off-beat attacks
^ Disrupts opponent’s rhythm
+ Good head movement & footwork
+ Underrated wrestling
^ 93% takedown defense
+ Improved grappling
Derek Brunson (16-3)
- Height: 6’1″ Age: 32 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 78″
- Last Fight: TKO win / Uriah Hall (9-17-16)
- Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
- Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
- Risk Management: Moderate
+ 3x Div.2 All-American Wrestler
+ Regional MMA Titles
+ Blue Belt BJJ
+ 9 KO victories
+ 3 Submission wins
+ 12 first round finishes
+ KO power
+ Deadly left kicks & crosses
+ Subtle shuffle-step entries
^ Closes distance & sets up strikes
+ Strong pressure against fence
^ Strikes well off breaks
+ Good power double takedowns
+ Solid top pressure & positional rides
The main event in Melbourne is an important middleweight affair as Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker takes on Derek Brunson. Winning his last five fights, Robert Whittaker has been looking great since moving up to middleweight as he has steadily become one of the division’s dark horses. The same, however, can be said about Derek Brunson who is also on a five-fight winning streak as he will be looking to crack the top-5 with a big win here.
Starting off on the feet, Whittaker should have the on-paper edge standing, but Brunson is not far behind as the former All-American poses threats of his own. Subtly stalking as he uses a shuffle-step variation to come forward, Derek will put himself in prime position to land shots from the power side of his southpaw stance. Although he is known for his devastating left high kick, I feel that Brunson’s left cross will serve him well in this fight. An accurate strike in his repertoire, Derek could find success against a fighter who is reliant on his speed as The Reaper tends to keep a low-guard.
Even though Whittaker keeps his hands low, he truly does have impressive reaction timing and techniques. Coming from a traditional martial arts base, Robert Whittaker has developed into one of the most dangerous strikers in the division. Using a combination of speed, accuracy, and a fluid economy of movement, The Reaper will deceptively blitz off different angles. Like many Karate based strikers, Whitaker will show a certain speed to draw his opponent into a false sense of security, only to disrupt the perceived timing with off-beat strikes.
Where I see this fun road on the feet beginning to split, is when looking at the counter-striking games of each fighter. Whittaker, of course, has a competent sense for the counter as he throws a dangerous check hook that I see being effective anytime his opponent comes forward in this fight. Whereas Brunson surprisingly lacked a countering presence in his bouts from past to present, as he usually elects to defend and reset until he is ready to retaliate. Should Whitaker show his usual trend of pressure-fighting, we could see Derek start to shell up defensively, which would only allow Whittaker to open up further.
However, Robert’s success in coming forward or going backward will be predicated on his ability to thwart a power-double takedown. Although Brunson does not typically counter with strikes, he is not shy about using a reactive shot to disrupt his opponent’s forward pressure. Despite not always having the cleanest entries, Brunson will use his initial grasps to push his opposition to the fence or re-wrestle in for a better takedown. If he can ground the Reaper, we could see Brunson possibly wear Whittaker down as he possesses excellent top pressure.
Knowing when to strike and when to pass, Derek can especially be a nightmare when able to put a hook in and establish a ride position. That said, I feel the Reaper’s takedown defense is even more promising than the listed 93% success rate would suggest. Aside from the fact that his footwork makes it difficult for his opponents to set up their shots, Whittaker also shows to be hard to ground and hold down even when grasped. Working diligently on his wrestling over the past few years, we have seen Whittaker show the small signs of improvements a young fighter should be making from fight to fight.
Already possessing a strong base and balance, Robert’s hip and grip awareness have also improved. Not only has Whittaker shown the ability to defend shots while hopping on one leg, but he also emphasizes a wrestling fundamental that is overlooked often–as Robert does a good job at circling his hips out and away from takedown attempts. Considering that Brunson often shoots naked(lacking strikes for disguise), I like Whittaker’s chances of defending his shots on paper. However, it is the re-wrestling efforts that Robert will have to worry about as that is what Derek likes to use to initiate the clinch.
Although both men are exceptional when striking off of the breaks, I feel that the fighting that takes place inside the clinch will belong to Brunson as I see him having his biggest advantage here. However, If Whittaker can consistently break clinches and defend shots, then we may see him start to take over the fight. Even though Brunson has the skills to stop Robert standing, his best chances will likely be early on in the bout. Due to Robert’s reliance on range-finding and rhythm, he is often more hittable in the early going as he is still trying to establish his distance.
Like many matchups, this is one where I came in leaning one way and ended up leaving my analysis leaning toward the other. That said, I still agree with Brunson being slightly favored here as he is the one with more ways to win on paper. He has shown the ability to finish quality opponents on the feet and has the wrestling pressure that typically gives nightmares to dynamic strikers. However, Brunson’s lack of counter fighting options worry me as I see him potentially being shut down by the blitzes of Whittaker, especially should his initial offense fail. Although Brunson has a bit more checkmarks on paper, I see those advantages unraveling if the Reaper finds his rhythm.
Official Pick: Whittaker – Inside the distance
Official Outcome: Whittaker – TKO (round 1)
Main Card Predictions:
- Whittaker def. Brunson
- Matthews def. Holbrook
- Akhmedov def. Noke
- Volkanovski def. Kasuya
- Roundtree def. Pedro
- Ham def. Taylor
Preliminary Card Predictions:
- Camozzi def. Kelly
- Tuck def. Brown
- Meunier def. Walsh
- Herrera def. Nguyen
- Hooker def. Knight
- Guangyou def. Vera
- Lausa def. ZhiKui
Draft Kings recommended rosters:
Team #1: $48,600.00
-Jon Tuck ($9,00.00)
-Dan Hooker ($8,900.00)
-Khalil Rountree ($8,700.00)
-Geane Herrera ($7,700.00)
-Robert Whitaker ($7,400.00)
-Andrew Holbrook ($6,900.00)
My DraftKings roster recommendations for UFC Melbourne is a group of fighters that I feel is hungry for the finish. For my higher tier favorites, I elected to go with Jon Tuck, Dan Hooker, Khalil Rountree, and Geane Herrera. Jon Tuck is an aggressive fighter as all but one of his wins come via stoppage. Working with Beniel Dariush and Kings MMA for this camp, I only expect his kicks and pressure attacks to improve. Damien Brown is no push over by any means, but the Australian’s do-or-die mentality could help produce a finish.
Secondly, I went with Dan Hooker who comes in at $8,900.00. Jason Knight is scrappy in all areas of the fight, but I feel that Hooker is criminally underrated as he has made measurable improvements to his game in the past few years. Technical everywhere and always looking for the finish, I could see Hooker being able to get things done in this stylistic matchup.
In the spirit of stacking up on heavier weight fighters, I also decided to go with Khalil Rountree. Although Tyson Pedro is 4-0, he hasn’t fought as seasoned of competition as Khalil. Despite having a poor performance in his debut, Rountree carries solid amateur and professional experience. Training hard at Syndicate MMA, I expect Rountree to have a good showing here.
My last favorite is a slight one as I have Geane Herrera. Although I am a big fan of Ben Nguyen as he is good everywhere, I feel that Herrera is very underrated as a fighter and is the more likely to finish. A natural boxing talent with heavy-hands, Herrera can pop on his feet while still posing major problems on the ground. Whether he is on top or bottom, Herrera is always within reach for the finish as he almost caught Ali Bagautinov multiple times in his last match.
For my first lower tier dog pick, I elected to go with Robert Whittaker for the reasons listed in the breakdown above. As a main event participant whose path to victory involves finishing, I feel that Whittaker comes in with value for $7,400.00.
Finally, I went with Andrew Holbrook despite officially siding with Matthews. Although Jake has more paths to victory, his comfort in the grappling department has shown to get him into trouble when facing skilled submission artists. Against a go for broke submission threat like Holbrook, Andrew may only need but one opportunity to score the upset. As the cheapest pick of the card at $6,900.00, I am willing to find out as Holbrook makes a great addition to a high-priced roster.
Props worth looking at(5Dimes.eu):
-Whittaker by TKO: +170 (0.5 Unit)
-Herrera by Submission: +450 (.25 Unit)
-Matthews/Holbrook won’t go 3: -150 (1 Unit)
-*Fun flier* Holbrook by sub: +775 (.25 Unit)
Playable favorites for your parlays:
Fights to avoid:
-ZhiKui vs Lausa
-Guangyou vs Vera
-Ham vs Taylor