At UFC 276, Adesanya headlined the International Fight Week festivities with the fifth retention of his 185-pound gold. Having previously brushed past the challenges of Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa, Marvin Vettori, and Whittaker, the Nigerian-New Zealander faced the threat of powerhouse Cannonier.
After five rounds of action, Adesanya was awarded a comfortable unanimous decision nod, adding “The Killa Gorilla” as the latest fallen victim of his dominant middleweight reign.
But while Adesanya wasn’t in much trouble during 25 minutes in the cage with Cannonier, the champ’s performance certainly wasn’t a people-pleaser. As well as chorus of boos from fans in attendance in Las Vegas, a number of fighters, fans, and pundits have given less than positive takes on Adesanya’s performance.
Now, during a recent appearance on Submission Radio, Whittaker, a two-time opponent of “The Last Stylebender,” has given his thoughts on the July 2 main event.
Sharing a similar sentiment to that of light heavyweight contender Anthony Smith, “The Reaper” noted that the UFC 276 headliner didn’t play out as either Adesanya or Cannonier had suggested it would.
“It wasn’t what he sold it to be. They set that there was gonna be this and that, and this and that, and this and that — none of that came through,” Whittaker said. “That’s always the problem, the risk of talking it up like that. But I think Adesanya is the best defensive striker in the game. His body was built for it and he knows how to utilize that skillset to the absolute highest ability.
“Adesanya just fought defensively safe. Did what he needed to do to win… I think people are gonna find it very hard to dethrone him just ’cause of the way he fights, and the style.”
Whittaker: The Backlash Is From Adesanya Talking It Up
Whittaker did, however, admit that some of the backlash to Adesanya’s performance derives from an element of under-appreciation for the striking arts from many in the MMA community.
But when asked about the widespread criticism Adesanya has received online since the bout, which he’s responded to with clips from the fight, Whittaker questioned why the champ is surprised at the reaction given that it’s down to his own doing.
“There is definitely an element of under-appreciation there. Nobody bar the fighters, nobody bar him, can truly understand what was going on,” Whittaker said. “The thing is, though, the backlash is from him talking it up. What do you want? They were both speaking on it and they both just didn’t deliver that, which is fine.
“It’s much easier to handle criticism with a W rather than an L. At the end of the day, winning is what matters. But, you did this to yourself?” Whittaker added with a laugh. “Yeah, you did it to your yourself,” Whittaker concluded.
Do you agree with Robert Whittaker’s take on Israel Adesanya’s UFC 276 performance?