103°F
weather icon Clear

UFC contender Robert Whittaker takes another big step up in middleweight division

Australian Robert Whittaker bucked the trend of fighters dropping in weight and moved up from welterweight to middleweight two years ago as he continued to grow into his body.

It proved to be a wise decision.

The 25-year-old rising star knocked out Derek Brunson at 4:07 of the first round in the main event of UFC Fight Night 101 in Melbourne, Australia, on Saturday night to win his fifth straight fight since moving up to 185 pounds in 2014.

“I’m ready for those top five contenders,” he said. “I’m ready for my shot.”

Whittaker almost certainly earned another big opportunity by ending Brunson’s five-fight winning streak.

What the fight lacked in technical beauty, it made up for in pure chaos.

Brunson landed several big shots and appeared to be nearing his fifth consecutive first-round knockout win as both fighters swung wildly over the first several minutes. At one point, Brunson chased Whittaker across the cage only to have his pursuit halted by a big left hook from Whittaker.

The blow changed the momentum. Whittaker followed with a head kick and then landed a series of short left hands to drop Brunson and eventually finish the fight on the ground.

“He hits very hard,” Whittaker said. “His other opponents would testify to that. But I hit hard too. I’m just as fast, just as strong. You don’t come at me like that.

“I knew I had to weather the storm. He’s a heavy hitter. I had to duck and weave as much as I could. I stuck to the game plan, circled out and found a weakness.”

Whittaker went 3-2 in his first five fights in the UFC as a welterweight before moving up in weight. Brunson had been on a tear of his own in the division.

Also on the card, lightweight prospect Jake Matthews dropped his second straight fight with a split-decision loss to Andrew Holbrook.

Las Vegan Khalil Rountree fell to 0-2 in the UFC when he was submitted by Tyson Pedro in the first round of a middleweight bout.

Veteran Kyle Noke dropped a unanimous decision to welterweight Omari Akhmedov and then announced his retirement from the sport.

Thank you to the UFC and all the fans,” Noke posted on Twitter after his fight. “It’s time to hang up the gloves. I’ve had a blessed life doing what I love. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

The 36-year-old Australian, who competed on Season 11 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” finishes his career with a 6-6 mark in the UFC and an overall record of 22-10-1. He lost his last three fights.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @adamhilllvrj on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Covering The Cage Videos
Dana White on Contender Series contracts: "I'm looking for killers." - Video
On opening night at the UFC's newest facility, the UFC Apex, the promotion signed Punahele Soriano and Yorgan De Castro to contracts after their performances on Dana White's Contender Series. UFC president Dana White explains why he signed the fighters he did.
UFC Apex is the promotion's newest cutting-edge facility - VIDEO
The UFC Apex will officially open as Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series kicks off on June 19. Here's a look at what the promotion's newest facility in Las Vegas has to offer.
UFC President Dana White on the UFC Apex, ESPN deal, when Conor McGregor could return and more - Video
UFC President Dana White gave the Review-Journal an exclusive interview where he spoke about the promotion's new facility, the UFC Apex, their new deal with ESPN, when Conor McGregor may return to the octagon and more.
Shevchenko says defending the UFC flyweight belt is her number one challenge
UFC women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko claimed the vacant title when she defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 231 last December. She will put the belt on the line for the first time in Chicago, Ill., when she faces Jessica Eye at UFC 238 on June 8.
UFC title contender Jessica Eye says her move to Las Vegas gives her an edge
Ohio native Jessica Eye says she moved to Las Vegas to get an edge in performance ahead of facing UFC women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 238 in Chicago, Ill., on June 8.
Greg Hardy, former NFL star, on MMA knockout
The former NFL star needed just 17 seconds to score a knockout on Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series (Adam Hill/Review-Journal)
Marlon Moraes says Henry Cejudo will regret stepping up to bantamweight - VIDEO
UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo is coming up to the bantamweight division to battle Marlon Moraes for the vacant belt on June 8 at UFC 238. Moraes said Cejudo will regret going after a second title in a new division and added that he thinks his path will cross with former champion TJ Dillashaw in the future.
Paige VanZant details her arm injury, when she can return - VIDEO
UFC strawweight Paige VanZant was briefly linked to fight at UFC 236, but had to withdraw from the bout due to a broken arm. As a guest on the RJ Ringside Podcast, she detailed the injury and also spoke about joining the M-1 Global booth as a color commentator.
THE LATEST
Tony Ferguson beats Donald Cerrone by TKO at UFC 238

Tony Ferguson’s path to the lightweight title is becoming clear. Ferguson won by technical knockout after a medical stoppage in a lightweight fight against Donald Cerrone at UFC 238 on Saturday night.