By: Rich Plunkett 29/05/2018
In less than two weeks time, The UFC makes its way to Chicago, where it will host its next pay-per-view at UFC 225. The main event features a middleweight championship bout between Australian champion, Robert Whittaker and Cuban knockout king, Yoel Romero. It is the second time the two have faced each other. The first installment saw Whittaker battle through a knee injury to out point Romero, who had never lost in The UFC prior to that fight. Down two rounds and on only one leg, “Bobby Knuckles” showed tremendous heart and courage to keep the fight standing and out box Romero on the way to winning the interim version of the middleweight title. Halfway through the fight, Whittaker was dead and buried, and everyone had written him off. Everyone apart from his coaches and his fellow Australians.
Athletes from Australia have a remarkable never-say-die attitude when it comes to sport. When the chips are down and with their backs against the wall, Aussies often prove to fight back stronger than ever. We love being the underdog. Think of Lleyton Hewitt in the tennis, the swimmers that have won medals when no one gave them a chance, the national football team in world cup campaigns against Uruguay, Italy, The Netherlands and Chile, the “Boomers” narrow loss to the USA’s men’s basketball team in the 2016 Rio Olympics. The list goes on.
Showing guts and determination are great traits for a fighter’s temperament and it is really starting to show with the Australians in The UFC. Whittaker has been promoted to undisputed status and it won’t be long before another Aussie fights their way into title contention.
The Chicago card features two other Australians, both young up and comers, both exciting fighters who look to finish their opponents. Megan Anderson has won her last four fights, all via TKO, on route to being crowned the Invicta FC Featherweight Champion. Her UFC debut will be a tough test against Holly Holm, but she is in great form, which you can’t say the same about the latter. Many people have floated the idea of Anderson fighting Cris Cyborg for The UFC strap. Is Holm just a tune up fight for Anderson as she prepares to climb the Mount Everest of MMA in taking the title from Cyborg?
The other Aussie on the card is indigenous Australian, Tai Tuivasa. Nicknamed “Bam Bam” for his willingness to throwdown, Tuivasa has certainly lived up to his name. All seven of his professional fights have ended by way of knockout, all in the first round. Matched up against former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski, I see this fight as a classic case of passing of the torch. Arlovski’s chin is made of glass these days and Tuivasa hits like a truck. Expect another top 10 opponent for Tuivasa next, and as long as he keeps his distance from the world class wrestlers, I see him causing a lot of trouble for fighters in this division. There is a bit of Mark Hunt about this guy.
In a months time, when The UFC heads to Singapore, Australia will again be well represented by another couple of budding young challengers. Jessica-Rose Clark is ranked number nine in The UFC’s Flyweight division. She is 2 and 0 in The UFC and has never been stopped throughout her career. She made light work of fellow Aussie, Bec Rawlings and showed great promise in her fight against Paige VanZant, where she won by unanimous decision. Another victory in Singapore should see her matched up next with a top five opponent.
Tyson Pedro is a black belt in Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Kempo Karate, and a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He has finished all of his seven professional victories in the first round, with five submissions and two KOs. His only loss came to Ilir Latifi, at UFC 215, by way of decision. His next opponent is another well rounded fighter in Ovince Saint Preux. This fight will be a banger and a great opportunity for Pedro to move up the rankings.
Australia is a proud sporting nation and the fastest growing sport in the world today is MMA. Along with The UFC, another thing Australians love is ice cold beer. Luckily for us, with the time difference between here and The United States, the two match up perfectly for Sunday sessions at the pub. With massive stadiums and enthusiastic support for all things sport, Australia has great marketability and the fighters it’s producing now have every chance of becoming real stars of the sport.
It should be noted that some of the Australians mentioned above were actually born in New Zealand. Just like Keith Urban, Phar Lap and pavlova, we’ve claimed them as our own, but you can keep Russell Crowe, New Zealand.