In an already chaotic middleweight division, overflowing with those deserving of a title shot, Robert Whittaker did everything in his power on Saturday to splash the pot.
Unbeaten at 185 pounds, Whittaker recorded his seventh straight victory by dominating Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza via second-round TKO at UFC Kansas City.
Whittaker (19-4) fought off a pair of early takedown attempts from Souza, one of the world's most dangerous grapplers, and showed incredible poise to pick the Brazilian apart via strikes without making any mistakes.
A native of New Zealand, who fights out of Australia, Whittaker brought a violent end to the bout at 3:28 of Round 2 as referee Mario Yamasaki jumped in to save a swollen and bloodied Souza (24-5) from further punishment on the ground.
"As a fan of this sport, I am gutted to see 'Jacare' lose," Whittaker said. "To be matched up against him and to have the honor of fighting him, it blew my mind."
Souza, 37, signed a new eight-fight deal on Friday and appeared to be on the verge of a title shot after winning 10 of his last 11, with the only loss coming to Yoel Romero by disputed split decision. But he wasn't able to match the speed and power of Whittaker, who twice allowed Souza back to his feet in order to avoid playing into the veteran's strengths off his back.
"I have a really good coaching staff and we discussed all the possibilities of what could happen," Whittaker said. "He is so good on the ground that I just said, 'Come back up, we will start again.'"
After a largely tactical opening round, Whittaker landed a huge right hand that dropped Souza early in the second frame. Whittaker continued to show great patience as he connected with a head kick and a left hand to wear Souza down.
A second head kick rocked Souza and a follow up left hook sent him to the ground. A series of short elbows from Whittaker on the ground continued to daze Souza until the stoppage.
"I knew he was hurt in the second round," Whittaker said. "I had a really good start and I knew he was heart. My coaches had drilled it in me to be patient and it will come. That's exactly what I did."
After the fight, Whittaker was all smiles as he called out champion Michael Bisping, who is expected to face a returning Georges St-Pierre later this year. Bisping and Whittaker were originally expected to face off at UFC 193 in 2015 until Bisping pulled out with an elbow injury.
"We were supposed to fight all those weeks ago and he is doing his own thing, but you owe me a fight man," Whittaker said.