UFC on Fox 24 showcased once again why Demetrious Johnson has clearly earned the right of being dubbed the greatest pound for pound fighter in the world. His victory over Wilson Reis may not have shocked many in terms of the ultimate result, but the manner in which Johnson got the job done was nothing short of eye opening. Reis, while competitive in the opening frame, was ultimately dominated in the second and third rounds. I’ve got more to say about Johnson in a future article, but for now let’s focus on the other stars of UFC on Fox 24, namely Rose Namajunas and Robert Whittaker.
What Rose Namajunas was able to pull off in her victory over Michelle Waterson was nothing short of amazing. Both women were competitive in the co-main event, but it was Namajunas that would make the necessary adjustments to pull off the victory. Waterson utilized her side kick brilliantly but found herself in trouble after executed a head and arm throw, the most overused and dangerous technique in women’s MMA, and eventually found herself on the bottom of Namajunas. Rose would win the first frame handily but it’s what happened in the second round that had me most impressed.
Waterson’s side kicks were landing to Namajunas’ knee with continual thudding impact. Understanding this, Rose made a slight adjustment. Waterson was firing her kicks from a southpaw side stance. ‘The Karate Hottie’ made a fatal mistake by faking the kick with a chambered right leg but not resetting quickly. As Waterson lazily placed her right foot down to the mat, Namajunas shifted to her left, obtaining a strong outside angle, and launching a right high kick that floored her foe. From there it was a matter of some strong ground and pound, superior positioning and a deep rear naked choke. You’ve gotta think that Rose Namajunas is most likely going to be the next challenger for the strawweight belt.
Robert Whittaker also made a huge impression with his victory over Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza. What was perhaps most impressive about this one was how patient Robert Whittaker has become. No longer the slugging, overly aggressive striker that he once was, Whittaker has been able to adopt a far more strategic approach to his striking as of late. His karate background showed in this bout as he bounced on his toes, light on his feet, and shifting in and out with punches. But what was most impressive was his ability to feint and keep Jacare guessing with every exchange. Jacare had some success with his right hand and even landed a takedown, but he would eventually succumb to the two things that make Whittaker dangerous.
One, Whittaker feints a ton and every real strike he throws is done so with variety while appearing to seem like the same movement. His punches are tight and his elbows always stay tucked in towards the centerline. That makes it difficult for the opponent to see if he’s going to launch a jab or a hook with his left hand, a straight cross or an uppercut with his right. Whittaker was utilizing his jabs to get a read on what Jacare would counter back with, then, once he was comfortable with the timing, exploded forward with a sharp right cross. From there we saw the young middleweight land a variety of strikes including that rear uppercut and a high right kick that nearly shut off Jacare’s lights. Some follow ground and pound and an oddly timed stoppage later and you’ve got your next big middleweight contender. Since things are so log jammed at the top of the division however, it’s likely that Whittaker will have to wait for a title shot. That means he’ll have the distinct pleasure of facing off with either former champ Luke Rockhold or the terrifying Yoel Romero. That’s like picking your poison where those match ups are concerned.
What should come next for the new contenders at UFC on Fox 24?