‘Predator’ Whittaker makes short work of Russian rival

Adrian Warren |

Robert Whittaker (l) is up for a rematch with Dricus Du Plessis (r) after his resounding Riyadh win.
Robert Whittaker (l) is up for a rematch with Dricus Du Plessis (r) after his resounding Riyadh win.

Former champion Robert Whittaker has declared himself the most dangerous UFC middleweight on the planet after a stunning first-round stoppage of the highly touted Ikram Aliskerov in Saudi Arabia.

The third-ranked Whittaker wobbled his Russian rival with a right hand early in the Riyadh showdown, and a few seconds later dropped his opponent with a massive uppercut.

A few more blows prompted referee Marc Goddard to stop the bout after one minute 49 seconds in front of 12,000 fans at the main event on the UFC’s debut card in the Gulf state.

It was a first stoppage win in 11 fights and seven years for Whittaker, who earned a $US50,000 ($A75,000) performance-of-the-night bonus for his efforts.

Aliskerov, who won his first two MMA bouts by opening-round knockout, had a 15-1 record and was on a seven-fight winning streak stretching back five years.

He was a late replacement for the unwell Khamzat Chimaev who pulled out less than a fortnight ago.

The change of opponent did not faze 33-year-old Sydneysider Whittaker, who barely took a shot in the brief bout.

“I told every everyone I’m the bogeyman,” Whitaker said. 

“I was prepared for an absolute 25-minute slugfest, for a war and a dogfight.

“I have the mentality of being the hunter, I want to get in there and stalk my prey. I want to be the predator, and I feel like I accomplished that.

“My goal in mixed martial arts, in combat sports, is to live up to my own potential. 

“That’s the only thing I want to achieve, because I know how good I am.

“I’m the most dangerous middleweight on the planet, everyone knows that.”

Whittaker praised his team for ensuring he adjusted successfully to the late change of opponent.

“They understood how dangerous Ikram was,” he said. 

“I just stayed focused like a dog on a bone.”

UFC boss Dana White described Whittaker as a “stud” and one of the best in the division’s history as he praised the Australian for taking on an opponent other ranked fighters wanted to avoid.

“Nobody in the top 15  wanted to fight that kid, Whittaker took him on short notice and went in there and did what he did,” White said. 

“He looked incredible tonight.”

White welcomed Whittaker’s offer to be the backup fighter for the August 18 headliner on UFC 305 in Perth – a middleweight title-fight between champion Dricus du Plessis, from South Africa, and New Zealand’s Israel Adesanya. 

That pair are the only fighters to have beaten Whittaker in the last 10 years.

In the co-main even in Riyadh, world No.5 heavyweight Alexander Volkov scored a unanimous points win over his third-ranked Russian compatriot Sergei Pavlovich.