“Poatan” earned the title by ending the reign of Israel Adesanya during UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 12. Although “The Last Stylebender” was up on the scorecards heading into the fifth and final round, Pereira channeled his kickboxing prowess and caught Adesanya along the fence line, finishing him via strikes.
Whittaker, who lost his belt to Adesanya in 2019, is currently ranked No. 2 in the division. He’s scheduled to fight Paulo Costa during the promotion’s return to Australia on February 12 at UFC 284.
Should he beat the Brazilian bruiser, Whittaker would be in a prime position for the UFC to offer him a title fight against Pereira should they not elect to grant The Last Stylebender an instant rematch.
Whittaker Pointed Out Pereira’s Size, Said He Could Still Beat the Brazilian
And if the promotion comes with a bout agreement, expect “The Reaper” to sign it despite the size of Pereira.
“As I’ve said before, I’m not planning past Costa,” Whittaker said during the UFC 284 press conference on November 15. “But, I can say that I think Pereira’s a better matchup for me than Israel, just because of the way he stands and the way he likes to push forward. The way he likes to fight I feel [it] gives me a better edge.”
“But in saying that, did you see the size of the fellow?” Whittaker laughed. “I’m like, why is nobody mentioning that? Dude’s a giant. He’s an absolute giant. I’ve been face-to-face with Israel and it’s surprising to see, Israel’s pretty big. He looks tall and lanky but he’s actually a big dude.
“And you see Pereira up against him and just his facial features are bigger. His feet and hands and forearms are massive. I’m just thinking, like, who let this guy in?”
“But, still I think I can take him.”
Pereira and Adesanya are both listed as 6’4″ but Poatan looked like the bigger — and taller — man on fight night. In contrast, Whittaker stands at 5’11”.
Whittaker Has Only Lost to Adesanya at Middleweight
The Reaper became the interim 185-pound champion in July 2017 when he defeated Yoel Romero at UFC 213. He was then promoted to the undisputed king after Georges St-Pierre vacated the belt a few months later.
Whittaker’s first defense was supposed to be against Romero. But, after the Cuban missed weight for their tilt in June 2018, the UFC 225 match became a non-title affair. The Reaper won the rematch by split decision.
Unfortunately for Whittaker, he wouldn’t notch a title defense as Adesanya took the belt from him in October 2019 via KO. The Australian would bounce back after the loss by building a three-fight win streak, which earned him another crack at The Last Stylebender.
They rematched in February 2022 and the closely contested fight went to the judges’ scorecards. And as history has it, Adesanya received the unanimous decision nod.
Whittaker has competed once since then. He drew Marvin Vettori during the UFC’s debut in France in September and was victorious via unanimous decision.