Two middleweight champions will square off in Melbourne on Saturday at UFC 243 when native son Robert Whittaker (20-4) faces unbeaten Israel Adesanya (17-0) to unify the title belts in the main event. Whittaker – who now lives in Sydney and was born in New Zealand – will be entering the Octagon for the first time since June 9 of last year in a bout most sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com have as a pick’em on the UFC odds.
The champion Whittaker’s last two fights came against top challenger Yoel Romero, and both resulted in decisions where the judges scored it his way to extend his winning streak to nine. He has not lost since suffering a first-round TKO at the hands of Stephen Thompson at UFC 170 on February 22, 2014. Five of his last nine wins have come in Australia or New Zealand, with three of those resulting in knockouts of his opponent.
Adesanya has gone a perfect 6-0 in the UFC en route to taking home the interim title belt due to Whittaker’s inactivity, as he defeated Kelvin Gastelum by unanimous decision at UFC 236 on April 13 in Atlanta. Much like Whittaker, Adesanya has been an entertaining fighter for the promotion, earning post-fight performance bonuses five times. Whittaker has picked up a post-fight bonus in each of his last four as well.
In the co-main event, another New Zealander Dan Hooker (18-8) will meet American Al Iaquinta (14-5) in a key lightweight bout. Hooker is listed as a -165 favorite (bet $165 to win $100) at sports betting sites and has won five of his past six bouts, with the lone loss coming via knockout versus Brazilian Edson Barboza at UFC on FOX 31 last December 15 in Milwaukee.
Iaquinta is a +145 underdog (bet $100 to win $145) and headlined that UFC on FOX 31 card, beating Kevin Lee by unanimous decision to bounce back from a loss to lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov in his previous fight. However, Iaquinta did suffer a setback in his last bout, falling to Donald Cerrone via UD at UFC Fight Night 151 on May 4 in Ottawa. The winner of this fight will move one step closer to a title shot.
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