KANSAS CITY, Mo. – made sure a pivotal fight with wasn’t a grappling match.
Whittaker (18-4 MMA, 9-2 UFC) shut down Souza’s (23-5 MMA, 6-2 UFC) takedowns and then punished him with fast hands and feet, twice dropping the Brazilian before a second-round finish.
The middleweight bout was part of the main card of today’s UFC on FOX 24 event at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. It aired on FOX following prelims on FOX and UFC Fight Pass.
Referee Mario Yamasaki moved in to save a bloodied Souza as he tried to roll to his knees, the result of a fearsome head kick that sent him to the canvas for the second time in the fight’s middle frame. The stoppage came at the 3:28 mark of the round.
It was a huge upset for Whittaker, who came into the bout as a 2-1 underdog against Souza, a possible title contender. In the weeks leading up to the bout, the stakes of the bout were raised by Souza’s potential free agency, with Saturday’s fight marking the last bout on his current contract. The possibility of defection was averted when he signed a new eight-fight deal.
“I think a lot of people let the hype get in their heads given he’s a legend of jiu jitsu and MMA,” Whittaker said. “I have great coaches, and I train to fight. I know that it’s a fight at the end of the day. It’s not a grappling match, it’s not a jiu jitsu match; all I have to do is get back up and punch him.
“I think (Michael) Bisping owes me a fight. All the best to him, doing his own thing, but here’s the thing: He owes me a fight, and I just proved that I’m deserving of it.”
Souza didn’t appear overly desperate to get the win in the octagon against Whittaker. But it was clear he wanted to get the fight to the mat, where his opponent was no match. The only problem was that Whittaker wasn’t an easy mark for a takedown, and even when he dragged the fight to the mat, Whittaker simply rolled through and got back to his feet.
There, Whittaker’s speed began to show itself. He popped in and out of range with fast punches, tagging Souza with a pesky jab and following with power punches. By the end of the first round, the fight looked a lot more competitive.
In the second frame, Whittaker took the lead early with a huge right hand that put Souza on the mat. Unsuccessful in getting Whittaker to come into his guard, Souza was forced to his feet. And there, things went quickly downhill as Whittaker began to light him up. As he began to circle away, a head kick met his exit, and the end started to look like a forgone conclusion.
After Whittaker stung him a few more times with punches, he timed another head kick that knocked down Souza. Follow-up elbows and punches sealed the deal, and a new contender was born.
Whittaker has now won seven straight fights, including six in the middleweight division, while Souza sees a two-fight streak snapped.
Up-to-the-minute UFC on FOX 24 results include:
- Robert Whittaker def. Ronaldo Souza via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 3:28
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(MMAjunkie’s Matt Erickson and Simon Samano contributed to this report .)