In previewing Robert Whittaker vs Jacare Souza, the theme was all about clarity of a plan and execution of that play from Whittaker. Every fighter goes into a fight with a game-plan and they all know the strengths/weaknesses of their opposition, however the clinical nature of Whittaker's previous win over Derek Brunson planted the seed of a calculated killer.
Against Brunson, Whittaker was fighting another striker and he absorbed an early onslaught, pouncing on an opening that he knew Brunson would provide. Souza was a level-up and Whittaker knew that he didn't want to engage Souza on the ground as that's where Souza had earned most of his victories. As Souza took Whittaker down in the first round, things weren't looking good and the ease at which Souza executed this takedown almost had alarm bells ringing.
While Souza was trying to manipulate Whittaker, even spending a few seconds on top of Whittaker, the commentators highlighted Whittaker's belief that Souza's previous opponents tended to panic when Souza got into his favoured positions. Despite Souza doing exactly what he wanted and exactly what Whittaker didn't want, Whittaker stayed calm and went with the flow of Souza's grappling before wriggling free on the fence.
Pretty much a worst-case start for Whittaker but he snuffed it and moved into the middle of the octagon with confidence. From there Whittaker could rely on his striking to bully Souza - crazy, but that's what he did - with the rest of the first round featuring many left jabs, a few right upper-cuts when Souza got in close and left hooks when Whittaker was scrambling with a change in angle. That's where watching Whittaker gets fun because Whittaker kinda lazily threw those left jabs in the first round and did damage with the upper-cuts and left hooks.
The second round then saw Whittaker follow the left jab with a right hook. Combinations are lethal when you've got the speed and power that Whittaker has and after ensuring that Souza kept sliding to Whittaker's right when he threw the left jab, Whittaker had his right hand there waiting. A right hook early in the second round dropped Souza to the canvas and Whittaker allowed him to get back up, for more punishment.
A right uppercut then followed another left jab. Post-fight Whittaker said how he always knew when he had done damage to his opponent and while it's obvious when you knock your opponent down, Whittaker didn't over-extend himself when he knocked Souza down. Nor did he get crazy when he landed that uppercut, he knew he had Souza on the ropes but he stuck to his plan with freakish execution.
Whittaker dropped Souza early in the second round and then caught him with a high kick as Souza circled to Whittaker's right. Not once did Whittaker panic or get excited, he just waited for his chance, threw a heavy left hook, then a left jab and whammo, that right kick connected with Souza's melon. Game over.
Everything Whittaker did in this fight forced Souza to Whittaker's right. Whittaker dropped Souza with a left jab/right hook and he then dropped Souza to win the fight with a left jab/right kick.
Most fighters would have felt the pressure after Souza got that early grappling in and most fighters would then get way too excited when they dropped a guy like Souza, after Souza had given Whittaker a taste of his grappling. Whittaker calmly got free of Souza's grapple and then he picked Souza apart with his striking.
Every shot Whittaker lands, does damage. It's that simple and punches like his funky over-hand left didn't stand out, but they definitely rocked Souza a little bit and at the very least, in combination with Whittaker's constant left jab, they kept Souza sliding to Whittaker's right. Right hook, right uppercut or right kick and you're going to struggle to withstand the assault.
Whittaker knows that he his off the radar thanks to being based in Australia and he's been the underdog in most of his recent wins. Now everyone knows that Whittaker is for real and that there's legit potential in Whittaker as he tries to get a title shot. Michael Bisping has that belt and Whittaker will need to notch another win before he can demand a title shot, which could come against Luke Rockhold in July.
Regardless of who is next, you can be sure that Whittaker will have every aspect of their style sussed. Whittaker has shown that he can pick apart strikers and jiu-jitsu masters and that my friends is a recipe for success.
If you like our thoughts then donate (only costs a second of your time) to the cause by hitting one of the ads yo.