Robert Whittaker will get his chance at revenge on Saturday night when he tries to win back the middleweight championship from Israel Adesanya. The clash between the two best middleweights in the UFC serves as the main event for UFC 271 from Houston's Toyota Center.
Adesanya scored a thunderous second-round knockout of Whittaker in Melbourne, Australia to claim the title in October 2019 to cap an amazing run in just his seventh fight with the promotion. Whittaker rebounded with three straight victories to earn a second shot against Adesanya after his brief stay atop the division. Adesanya is 3-1 since their first meeting with the lone defeat coming in a failed attempt to earn a second title at light heavyweight against Jan Blachowicz.
Also on the card is an expected fireworks show between Derrick Lewis and Tai Tuivasa in the heavyweight division. Lewis, the former title challenger, has made a living as a de facto gatekeeper among the giants with a habit of turning away rising contenders. He's 5-1 over his last six with only two of those fights reaching the scorecards. Tuivasa, meanwhile, has ripped off four straight wins since enduring a three-fight skid and could elevate himself into the muddled title picture with another victory on Saturday night.
Plus, a critical middleweight contest gets a featured slot on the PPV when Jared Cannonier meets Derek Brunson. The veterans have rallied late in their careers to get this close to a title opportunity. Cannonier has won four of his last five since debuting at 185 pounds in November 2018. Brunson, meanwhile, has ripped off five straight wins since his last defeat at the hands of Adesanya.
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With so much happening on Saturday night, let's take a closer look at the full fight card with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook before we get to our staff predictions and picks for the PPV portion of the festivities.
UFC 271 fight card, odds
- Israel Adesanya (c) -280 vs. Robert Whittaker +230, middleweight championship
- Derrick Lewis -190 vs. Tai Tuivasa +160, heavyweight
- Jared Cannonier -160 vs. Derek Brunson +135, middleweight
- Renato Moicano -165 vs. Alexander Hernandez +140, lightweight
- Bobby Green -150 vs. Nasrat Haqparast +125, lightweight
- Andrei Arlovski -150 vs. Jared Vanderaa +125, heavyweight
- Casey O'Neill -400 vs. Roxanne Modafferi +310, women's flyweight
- Kyler Phillips -420 vs. Marcelo Rojo +330, bantamweight
- Ronnie Lawrence -300 vs. Mana Martinez +240, bantamweight
- Carlos Ulberg -260 vs. Fabio Cherant +210, light heavyweight
- AJ Dobson -110 vs. Jacob Malkoun -110, middleweight
- Sergey Morozov -220 vs. Douglas Silva De Andrade +180, bantamweight
- Jeremiah Wells -230 vs. Mike Diamond +190, welterweight
- Maxim Grishin -165 vs. William Knight +140, light heavyweight
With such a massive main event on tap, the crew at CBS Sports went ahead with predictions and picks for the main card. Here are your pick makers: Brent Brookhouse (Combat sports writer), Brian Campbell (Combat sports writer, co-host of "Morning Kombat"), Shakiel Mahjouri (writer), Michael Mormile (producer) and Brandon Wise (senior editor).
UFC 271 picks, predictions
|Adesanya (c) vs. Whittaker||Whittaker||Adesanya||Adesanya||Adesanya||Whittaker|
|Lewis vs. Tuivasa||Lewis||Lewis||Lewis||Lewis||Tuivasa|
|Cannonier vs. Brunson||Cannonier||Brunson||Brunson||Cannonier||Brunson|
|Moicano vs. Hernandez||Moicano||Hernandez||Hernandez||Moicano||Moicano|
|Green vs. Haqparast||Haqparast||Green||Green||Haqparast||Haqparast|
|Records to date (2022)||2-3||2-3||1-4||3-2||4-1|
Adesanya vs. Whittaker
Campbell: Nearly three years removed from his disastrous knockout title loss at UFC 243, Whittaker still remains the most well-rounded challenge to Adesanya's middleweight crown. And it's that diversity of skills -- from wrestling to kickboxing and all of his dynamic intangibles in between -- that will ultimately be needed for any 185-pound fighter to end Adesanya's dominant reign. It's not that the results of their first fight should be overlooked, either. But Whittaker has passed every test since that point and appears to have put both the mental and physical fatigue that dominated his short title reign behind him.
Brookhouse: There's likely some truth to Whittaker's talk that he was in his own head in the first fight with Adesanya but he was also badly outclassed. Whittaker's attack is dynamic enough that he could give Adesanya fits if he can get the fight to the ground repeatedly, but a head-first charge trying to put the fight on the ground won't work -- as Adesanya showed in the Vettori rematch. Whittaker is going to have to mix it up on the feet and for as solid as his striking is, we have plenty of evidence it isn't on Adesanya's level. It's not impossible Whittaker gets the win, but for all the talk of how great Whittaker has looked since their first fight, there were still some big red flags against Cannonier, where Whittaker ate plenty of clean strikes and was even wobbled. Until proven otherwise, you have to lean toward the man who has been more dominant and who won the first meeting.
Mahjouri: Adesanya has been sublime at middleweight. The defending champion is a perfect 10-0 in the weight class. He knocked out Whittaker and Costa, swept Vettori on the scorecards and beat consistently tough-out Yoel Romero, albeit not by the largest of margins. I am confident that Whittaker is renewed and will put forth a much better effort against Adesanya the second time around. A clean sweep over a plummeting Kelvin Gastelum, 48-47 scorecards against Darren Till, and a 29-28 decision win over Jared Cannonier should not make him the favorite against "Stylebender". Adesanya is deservingly the favorite and should win more often than not.
Wise: This has all the makings of being a great rematch. Whittaker admitting to the head games playing a factor in their first fight gives some pause in backing him to reclaim the title, but it's hard to argue with the other factors behind him. He's not fighting at home in front of a record crowd this week. He has limited distractions with family and friends on the other side of the globe. And he's changed all his preparation methods to not burn himself out of the grind. He retooled himself in the three fights in between to get here and a reshaped and revitalized fighter can make this bout look a lot different the second time around.
Lewis vs. Tuivasa
Campbell: Everything about Tuivasa's UFC journey has been fun to watch -- from his celebratory beer drinking from a shoe to the legitimate growth he has undergone amid his four-fight win streak. Tuivasa has gotten into better shape and brings a puncher's chance into every one of his fights. The problem for him this weekend is that Lewis is bigger, has a stronger chin and likely an even bigger knockout punch. Lewis also has title-level experience against the division's best in recent years. Consider this a heat check for Tuivasa and expect a hard lesson to be dealt.
Wise: Sometimes, the MMA gods just enjoy some anarchy. Tuivasa really isn't near the elite level at heavyweight in terms of skills, as evidenced by his three-fight losing skid that preceded his current four-fight win streak. None of the guys he has beaten are as tough or as skilled as Lewis. But the native of Australia has grown up a lot since his first fights in UFC and seems to be taking things a lot more seriously despite all of the shoey celebrations. Lewis has a tendency to go all or nothing -- similar to Tuivasa -- and that pursuit of the perfect punch could put him in danger to the counter shots that Tuivasa likes to throw. Look for something lethal to land before too long.
Cannonier vs. Brunson
Campbell: So much of Brunson's surprising five-fight win streak has been predicated upon his ability to take down and outwork younger fighters with holes in their game. Consider Cannonier the final boss at the end of the video game as it pertains to Brunson's hope of advancing on to a title shot. Cannonier has huge advantages in both power and boxing technique in this one and appears to have benefitted from the lessons learned in his close loss to Robert Whittaker in 2020. Like Brunson, Cannonier might be up there in age but he looks to be ready to take that next step to the title.
Mahjouri: This is the best Derek Brunson we have ever seen. He is not a completely reinvented fighter. Brunson still excels with his wrestling and can be compromised at striking range. Fortunately, Brunson has done a great job of extenuating his strengths and limiting dangerous exchanges in the pocket. Cannonier can still sleep Brunson -- Cannonier has improved on his takedown defense tremendously -- but something tells me Brunson (who averages 3.15 takedowns per 15 minutes) can get it to the ground.
Who wins Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2? And what other picks do you need to see? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed top picks on UFC 271, all from the insider who's up more than $10,000 on MMA picks the past two years, and find out.