It's fight day! UFC 290 is coming to you live from Las Vegas, Nevada, headlined by an epic featherweight title fight between Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski and Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez. But we're here to offer our prediction for another brilliant fight on this card – a massive middleweight showdown between Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker and Dricus “Stillknocks” Du Plessis. Read on to find our prediction for this mammoth matchup below!
Robert Whittaker: Do(n't) Fear the Reaper
Aside from the current middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya, you are looking at the best fighter on Planet Earth at 185 lbs.
Robert Whittaker is perhaps, unsurprisingly, on another excellent run of form. Aside from losses to Israel Adesanya, Robert Whittaker has won every fight he has had in the UFC since 2014. 20.14. That is absolutely mental. Whittaker comes into this fight against DDP off of the back of a dominant decision victory over fellow middleweight star Marvin Vettori. Before his most recent loss against Adesanya, Whittaker was on an equally dominant three fight win streak that included Darren Till, Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum.
It probably doesn't take a genius or expert to make the prediction that Robert Whittaker is going to come into this fight with a lot of confidence and momentum. His skillset (which we'll get on to later) will also give him a lot of belief and confidence that he will be able to deal with anything and everything that Du Plessis throws at him. Whether he will or not remains to be seen…
Dricus Du Plessis: “Stillknocks” Knocking on Middleweight Door
Dricus Du Plessis does not have boring fights. That is about the only incontrovertible statement one can make about him.
Du Plessis has to be one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC, period. This man does not have the word “conservative” in his fighting vocabulary. He is unbeaten in his UFC career, and every single one of those fights has been utter madness. Even his one decision victory (over Brad Tavares) was a brilliant back-and-forth affair. His win over Darren Till at UFC 282 was one of the wildest fights that I have ever seen, and his knockout win over Derek Brunson has put him in a fantastic position.
Like his opponent, Dricus Du Plessis will be entering this fight with a lot of self-belief in his own right. Many have written him off and discredited him as being an unskilled brawler. But Du Plessis has, to his credit, proven a lot of people wrong. But be under no illusion – this fight is going to be the toughest test not just of his UFC career, but of his entire MMA career, and one of the toughest fights he will ever have.
So, both fighters are on serious runs of form at the moment, but how can both win this fight? Here are our predictions for both fighters' path to victory in this fight.
Robert Whittaker: Path to Victory – Use the Skill Armory
Robert Whittaker is one of the best fighters in the world for a very good reason; he is one of the most well-rounded and skilled, by far.
There really isn't a skill that Whittaker can't rely on or a weapon that he can't call upon. His wrestling is absolutely outstanding. His boxing is second to none. His cardio is some of the best in the entire UFC. His gas tank is surely the envy of many – he makes 25 mins look like an absolute breeze. All this is to say is that Whittaker's path to victory in this fight is relatively simple – use everything in combination.
Robert Whittaker has proven time and again that he can beat his opponent in a variety of ways. He can outwrestle opponents and break their spirit. He can out-strike his opponents with excellent combinations. Often the case is that he bests his opponents by combining all of these abilities. And that makes him a nightmare for Dricus Du Plessis; he has so many paths to victory that he essentially has a Plan A through Plan E.
The most likely route for Whittaker to win this fight is to aggressively outwrestle Dricus. Dricus' wrestling issues have been very well-covered since he has been part of the middleweight division, as have his cardio issues. In his fight against Darren Till, Dricus completely emptied the tank within a round, and his gas tank has been suspect in all of his fights. With Whittaker having one of the best gas tanks in all of MMA, this spells a tough night for Dricus Du Plessis. Expect Bobby Knuckles to outwrestle Dricus and to deplete his stamina the further this fight goes on.
Dricus Du Plessis: Path to Victory – Make This Fight as Quick as Possible
Dricus Du Plessis' only path to victory is to get this fight over with FAST.
The longer this fight goes on, the more it exponentially moves in Robert Whittaker's favour. The only thing that Dricus Du Plessis has working in his favour is his sheer unpredictability. As I outlined at the very beginning, every fight DDP has had in the UFC has been crazy. He's actually somewhat fortunate that someone has not been able to capitalise on his stamina issues and wild approach. But hey – if it works, it works, right?
Realistically, the only way I can predict Dricus having a chance of winning this fight is by flying out of the blocks early on and absolutely nuking Robert Whittaker with something completely unexpected (Jorge Masvidal, anyone?). Outside of this, I think the fight could very well be Robert Whittaker's to lose. But, BUT – Dricus has upset the odds before. He has proven that he has the capacity to repeatedly defy the odds. Could he pull off a major upset?
Official Prediction – The Reaper to Claim Another Victim
Truthfully, I think this is one of the most one-sided matchups on the entire card (outside of Bo Nickal, of course).
Robert Whittaker is just such a complete, well-rounded fighter. As I think I've made pretty clear, Robert can win a fight in pretty much any way he needs/wants to. As long as he avoids anything crazy that Dricus attacks him with out of the traps, then I think this fight becomes Whittaker's to lose. Furthermore, Whittaker's insane cardio is built for five round fights. This only being a three round fight means that Dricus is more inclined to step on the accelerator and empty his gas tank early, whereas Whittaker can just move through the gears and dictate the pace of the fight with ease.
My official prediction is that Robert Whittaker picks up another huge win, and takes this fight via a third round TKO.