Robert Whittaker is currently on one of the most impressive runs in all of mixed-martial-arts, and yet, most would likely agree “Bobby Knuckles” doesn’t get the praise he deserves. Could that change with a victory tonight?
The Australian fighter is taking on Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 234, and as the bout approaches, Whittaker is riding a nine-fight winning streak. Now, a winning streak of that length in the UFC is a very impressive feat to begin with. But, when you consider who Whittaker has defeated during that time, the run becomes that much more special.
After all, during this stint Whittaker has taken out established middleweight contenders like Brad Tavares, Derek Brunson and “Jacare” Souza. In his last two bouts, the middleweight champ has defeated Yoel Romero by decision, who is one of the most explosive and dangerous fighters on the planet.
But, despite all this, chances are if you asked most fans to name a few of the UFC’s greatest fighters, Whittaker wouldn’t get mentioned. Recently the 28-year-old acknowledged as much during an interview with ESPN’s Ariel Helwani (quotes via MMA Mania):
“I don’t (get respect of most champs) but it makes all the more fun for me to go out there and convince them that I’m the real deal,” said Whittaker.
“I’ve said it before but the division should be dissuaded by the fact that I took Romero’s best shots, fought him for 10 rounds, 50 minutes of fighting and came away with a win twice and injured in both fights.”
“I’m not to be underestimated and I’m not going anywhere. You need to come in there with your best game to take me out.”
Fair enough, but if Whittaker defeats Gastelum tonight, will he finally get the respect he deserves. Maybe?
While most hardcore fans and observers understand that Gastelum is a very dangerous opponent, at the end of the day, he isn’t one of the UFC’s biggest names. So, the reality is that if Whittaker wins tonight, it may not have that big of an impact on his mainstream status.
Further, some would likely note that Gastelum isn’t that far removed from a submission loss to Chris Weidman, and that he narrowly got by Souza. So, in other words, a victory might not pop on Whittaker’s record like say, his wins over Romero do.
But, if Whittaker goes out and say, finishes Gastelum via TKO or knockout, which is something no one’s ever done, there’s no question his stock will rise. If Whittaker can jump from that to say a win over Israel Adesanya or Anderson Silva later this year, then perhaps the question above will no longer get asked.