Joseph Parker is cool and all, but if the silly world of professional boxing ain't your thing, then come onboard the Robert Whittaker band-wagon. As the UFC returned to Melbourne, Whittaker emphatically dispatched Derek Brunson to send a minor shockwave through the UFC's middleweight division.
It's a sign of the times, that Whittaker genuinely reps Australia and Aotearoa so instead of claiming Whittaker as our own we'll instead opt to share Whittaker with Australia; Whittaker was introduced as being born in 'Middlemore, Auckland' #Southside. This is probably a good time to acquaint yourselves to sharing athletes with Australia because there are a fair amount of kiwi-born athletes who compete out of Australia, such has been the wave of migration across the ditch and the UFC allows us the luxury of teaming up with our trans-Tasman homies for the greater good.
That greater good is supporting Whittaker as he looks to storm his way up the middleweight rankings and as he's now on a six-fight win streak, there's a fair chance that he could be fighting Chris Weidman or Jacare Souza some time soon. That's amplified thanks to the way in which Whittaker beat Brunson.
Brunson came out extremely hard and Whittaker was prepared for it. While the power and range of strikes came later in the first round, Whittaker showed off a tough noggin' to absorb Brunson's onslaught of punches that quickly transitioned from a powerful start to recklessness as he was unable to put Whittaker on the canvas. Not only was Whittaker able to eat a few shots, he snuff'd out a takedown attempt from Brunson as he slid his legs back and kept out of Brunson's range.
While the mayhem was coming from Brunson, it felt as though Whittaker could have a chance later in the fight if he was able to withstand this flurry of punches from Brunson. What caught everyone by surprise though was how swiftly Whittaker pounced on an over-eager Brunson; instead of taking advantage of a tired Brunson, Whittaker once again slid back out of Brunson's range as Brunson lunged forward and Whittaker caught him with a left hand.
That left hand stunned Brunson and Whittaker sniffed blood in the water. He kept landing a few heavy shots and then unleashed a high-kick from his right boot, effectively ending the fight as Brunson fell to the canvas with Whittaker raining shots down on him.
Everything about this fight, or sole round, was amazing. Whittaker showed off some toughness, takedown defence and a variety of powerful strikes; he landed a heavy left hand while moving backwards and then finished the fight with a kick. The combination of Whittaker's ability to wear shots and throw a variety of powerful shots is lethal and Whittaker knows it.
We were also treated to a humble Whittaker, who fits the mould of what we love in our kiwi athletes. Whittaker is supremely confident, however it's not in his nature to call specific people out as he instead opted to outline his desire to just fight a top-five ranked middleweight. The middleweight division is super hectic at the moment with Michael Bisping the champion, followed by a cluster of quality fighters featuring Weidman, Souza, Yoel Romero, Luke Rockhold and Gegard Mousasi.
Bisping looks set to defend his belt against Romero, while a Whittaker vs Mousasi fight looks the most likely. Point being, that Whittaker is now part of that group; there's a kiwi-Aussie among the top middleweight UFC fighters in the world. Chur to that.