Robert Whittaker's Last Chance for Middleweight Redemption

Robert Whittaker’s last chance for middleweight redemption

As Whittaker prepares to face Paulo Costa, Aussie fight fans are on the edge of their seats, wondering if he can reclaim his former glory.

ROBERT WHITTAKER HOLDS a special place in the hearts of Aussie fight fans. Our first homegrown champ, he’s the main reason many of us became interested in UFC in the first place. 

Known as one of the most destructive, well-rounded, and frightening fighters in the UFC, Whittaker has proven himself to be one of the guys in arguably the most competitive weight division in the organisation. But his fight against Brazilian Paulo Costa at UFC 298 in California this Sunday shapes as a potential last grasp at glory for ‘the Reaper’. The question is, can he add to his storied legacy? 

Robert Whittaker’s fight history

With an impressive record of 25 wins and 7 losses, Whittaker has stood the test of time, defeating some of the most formidable opponents in MMA, including Uriah Hall, Derek Brunson, Kevin Gastelum, Jarred Cannonier, and Yoel Romero, in two epic five-round wars. 

Whittaker last had his hands on the middleweight title back in 2017. He made a successful title defence against Romero, but before Whittaker could defend his belt a second time against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236, a shocking emergency duel surgery ruled him out of the fight. Ultimately, this precipitated a career slump, with Whittaker losing the belt to a hot Israel Adesanya at UFC 243 in 2019. 

But our man didn’t lie down and quit, instead putting together a handful of fine wins against many challengers, including Darren Till and a scary-looking Jarred Cannonier. Whittaker earned himself a fight to reclaim the belt against Adesanya at UFC 271 in 2022 but lost by unanimous decision. 

Whittaker’s most recent fight saw him lose to the current middleweight champion, Dricus Du Plessis. After what can only be described as a rough build-up, Whittaker still refuses to reveal exactly what went wrong during his camp before that loss. 

Who is Whittaker’s opponent at UFC 298? 

This Sunday, Whittaker faces another tough opponent, Paulo Costa, on the undercard of fellow countryman Alexander Volkanovski


Instagram | @borrachinhamma


Costa is no Adesanya, and he’s no Dricuss Du Plessis, either, but he’s certainly no walkover. Whittaker never gets easy fights, but that’s the way he likes it. All great fighters want to take on the best.

Paulo Costa hasn’t fought since his win over Luke Rockhold in 2022. Costa was, however, supposed to fight Khamzat Chimaev late last year, before a sudden elbow injury followed by a staph infection ruled the Brazilian out, with Kamaru Usman stepping into the cage in his place.

Months have passed, and the fighter is now prepping to face the Reaper. 

Why is this fight so important for Whittaker? 

The UFC middleweight rule of thumb is that you must go through Robert Whittaker if you want a shot at the belt. Many UFC fans are now fixated on what happens if Whittaker loses against Costa? 

Does a loss this weekend lay to bed any possibility of the former champ getting his hands on the hardware again? 

At 33, Whittaker should be in the prime fighting years of his life, but the middleweight division is so stacked and injuries have taken their toll on the former champion. One or two losses in a row might be all it takes to drown among the talent. 

I’m sure I’m not alone in being nervous about this fight. It’s a must-win; either a final run at the belt begins or a loss on Sunday marks the beginning of the end for the Aussie. The fight shapes as Whittakers’s final chance to get back to the top. 

If you follow Whittaker’s social media, you’ll see he’s adapted his training. Training at the Bulldog Gym, a Muay Thai gym with high-calibre coaches and seasoned sparring partners, Whittaker must focus on dismantling Costa’s weapons, namely his heavy punch and attacking style. This recent training change-up might be the recipe to do just that. 

In a recent interview, Whittaker put his cards on the table. “Every fight to me is do or die… that’s why losing sucks so much.”

“He (Costa) is a great fighter. He’s a good fighter, a power puncher, and he pushes forward. He likes controlling and dictating fights that way, but I don’t think he’s encountered anyone like me, and I don’t think anyone has until they come up against me.” 

“I’m going into this fight cocked and ready.”  

How does Whittaker beat Costa? 

When looking for similar opponents to Costa, fans only have to go back to Whittaker’s fight against Marvin Vettori. The Aussie pieced him up quite convincingly when the two met in 2022. Whittaker landed back-to-back head kicks and threw in multiple takedowns to put on an all-time master class. This fight could potentially follow the same script.

Costa also stands relatively flat, particularly as the fight progresses. Now, this only being a three-round fight, both fighters will only have to worry about fatigue issues if someone takes early damage. Whittaker needs to utilise his explosiveness to catch a flat-footed Costa in the opening round, hopefully rattling the Brazilian and setting up a possible stoppage in the second round. 

Given that we know Whittaker has worked on his Muay Thai throughout his camp, look for more changes to his stance. This allows different entries and angles we aren’t used to seeing from him. Muay Thai fighters are incredibly good at changing angles, capitalising in the clinch, and working around a personal guard, which is a significant gap in Costa’s game. 

Whittaker could also focus on his decisive counter-striking in the early rounds, possibly catching an aggressive Costa off guard. That said, Costa is strong, physically gifted, and known to have knockout power; caution must prevail for the former Aussie champ if he goes for the KO. 


Instagram | @robwhittakermma


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