Five Questions: Whittaker vs. Adesanya, Jared Cannonier, UFC 245

In this week's edition of "Five Questions", Phil Chertok reflects on Jared Cannonier's performance, Robert Whittaker vs. Israel Adesanya, and three title fights at UFC 245.

This weekend, the UFC is back on pay-per-view with one of the biggest championship fights of the year with Robert Whittaker defending the middleweight title against interim titleholder Israel Adesanya.

It also marks the UFC’s returns to the Marvel Stadium, previously known as Etihad Stadium, the site of UFC 193 in November 2015. The significance of that event in Melbourne, Australia was Holly Holm’s stunning defeat of then-bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, who suffered her first career defeat.

Holm was set to fight on this weekend’s card, but an injury prevented her from meeting Raquel Pennington in a rematch from UFC 184 in February 2015.

This week, we chat with POST’s own Phil Chertok about this big championship and the time Whittaker has missed, plus highlights from this past weekend’s card in Denmark and the loaded card at UFC 245 in December with three championship fights announced.

POST Wrestling: Who were the standout fighters from this past Saturday’s card in Denmark?

Phil Chertok: The obvious answer is Jared Cannonier, but we’ll get to him in a second. Outside of the main event winner, we were treated to a thunderous performance from Ion Cuțelaba who steamrolled Khalil Rountree. Rountree had looked great leading up to this fight but Cutelaba showed him no respect, immediately taking him down and pounding him out. Gilbert Burns looked good defeating fellow grappler Gunnar Nelson in another short-notice fight for the Brazilian who deserves a ranked opponent next. Lastly, Danish fighter Nicolas Dalby showed a lot of heart returning to the Octagon after some time in Cage Warriors. He was able to dig deep and turn the tides of the third round in what was another thrilling contest for his opponent Alex ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira.

Who would be an ideal opponent at middleweight for Jared Cannonier to fight next after three wins in a row?

Chertok: Yoel Romero please and thank you! Cannonier has looked fantastic since moving down to middleweight and is knocking on the door of a title shot. With a championship fight this weekend and the #1 contender Paulo Costa as the clear next contender, Cannonier needs to take a fight before getting a crack at gold and a scrap with the Cuban Olympian is perfect. Romero has lost three of his last four but don’t let that record deceive you, he’s still one of the most athletic, dangerous guys in the division and all three of those losses were in razor-close fights that were exhilarating. A win over Romero would leave no doubt that Cannonier deserves a crack at the belt against whoever is holding it at the time.

What is your analysis for this Saturday’s UFC 243 main event between Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya in terms of how this fight goes and any concerns over Whittaker’s inactivity?

Chertok: I’m certainly concerned about Robert Whittaker, who has not stepped foot in the Octagon in over a year. He’s also had a history of injuries so it’s hard to tell what his health is going to be like going into this defense. Hopefully, he’s healthy and we get treated to what looks like it could be an incredible fight. Israel Adesanya has been on a rampage since entering the UFC a little over a year ago. His exciting style, sharp tongue, and Dragon Ball Z flavor have captured the attention of UFC fans, giving him a momentum that could propel “The Last Stylebender” into massive stardom. Of course, that requires defeating the champion Whittaker, which is no small task. When he has been competing, Whittaker has looked phenomenal in his ascent of the middleweight rankings. He’s either won the fight of the night or performance of the night bonuses in six of his eight middleweight contests. If everything goes according to plan, UFC fans should be in for a treat Saturday night.

Give us a fight or two besides the main event that has your interest in Saturday, and is the depth lacking?

Chertok: Outside of the co-main event lightweight fight between Al Iaquinta and Dan Hooker there isn’t all too much that has got me excited. Former bantamweight champion Holly Holm was scheduled to be on this card but had to withdraw last week so fans are unfortunately denied her presence. This card is really focused on the main event and is specifically geared for the Australian and New Zealand markets. Melbourne was not supposed to be a destination for 2019 but when the opportunity presented itself for the UFC to put on such a tremendous fight with local talent, it was a no-brainer to move some things around and secure an Australian venue. The event has the potential to be the largest crowd in UFC history and that’s entirely built on the strength of the main event. The card might lack depth for a typical pay-per-view event but for the hardcore UFC fan, the main event is can’t miss.

This week it was confirmed that Kamaru Usman will defend the welterweight title against Colby Covington at UFC 245 in December. Do you like the idea of three title fights on one card and do you agree with the UFC’s decision to make Usman-Covington the main event?

Chertok: Listeners of our post-fight shows will already know that anything that makes a UFC event go later into a Saturday night, I am vehemently opposed to. This includes 3, 5-round title fights. While it sounds exciting to have multiple title fights on one card, it can often lead to big wins and key performances being overshadowed as fan and media attention gets split amongst the champions. Regarding the main event, if it were solely about star-power, it’s a contest between the notoriety of Amanda Nunes and Max Holloway. Holloway has been an extremely active champion and has grown in popularity over the last year even after losing a lightweight interim-title bout against Dustin Poirier. Nunes has had several star-making performances knocking out the 3 most famous female fighters of the past few years. Her ascent to the top of the Bantamweight and Featherweight divisions has garnered her a legion of fans so it will be interesting to see how much attention she’s able to garner without a star opponent to help drive interest in her fight.

Phil Chertok can be heard each month on our UFC POST Shows with the next one scheduled for this Saturday following UFC 243.