Up-and-coming Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweights Robert Whittaker and Clint Hester battled last night (Fri., Nov. 7, 2014) at UFC Fight Night 55 inside Allphones Arena in Sydney, Australia.
Coming off of a four-fight win streak, Hester had a decent amount of hype behind him. After getting matched with a series of grapplers, Hester was finally given the opportunity to strike without worrying about his opponent's wrestling.
Whittaker found decent success at welterweight but opted to avoid the tough weight cut and move to middleweight. Last night, Whittaker had a chance to introduce himself to the division against Clint Hester.
And it was one hell of a first impression.
Early in the first round, both men connected cleanly at the same time, though Hester took most of the damage. The fighters continued to trade recklessly, and Hester landed a spinning elbow with a sickening crunch.
Somehow, Whittaker did not seem to be affected by the strike.
About one minute later, Whittaker landed a nasty counter strike and dropped "Headbussa." Whittaker then controlled top position until the end of the round, in which Hester scrambled back to his feet.
One round in, Whittaker's move up in weight seemed to be a smart decision.
For about 1.5 minutes, Whittaker continued to pierce Hester's defense with sharp jabs and low kicks. However, he fell off the track momentarily when Hester decided to throw a series of haymakers, as the fight momentarily devolved into a bit of a brawl.
Luckily for Whittaker, Hester's conditioning could not maintain that wild pace. After a failed takedown, Hester seemed to be running on empty, and Whittaker took advantage. "The Reaper" pushed him back into the cage with punches and then finished Hester with a knee strike.
The Australian successfully made a brilliant debut.
Whittaker's striking has never looked better. He routinely avoided Hester's telegraphed punches, landed his jab frequently, and remained sharp with his counters. During all of this, Whittaker's takedown defense remained excellent, as he denied each of Hester's attempts.
One particular technique that Whittaker used successfully is known as off-beat strikes. To put it simply, Whittaker continued to attack after throwing what is usually a combination ended, which then caught Hester by surprise.
For example, Whittaker landed several solid leg kicks. After a few of them, Whittaker sprung into a boxing combination immediately after his kicking leg had returned to stance. Hester, still sore and off-balance from the low kick, absorbed them without offering much defense.
After such a stellar middleweight debut, expect Whittaker to get a fighter just outside the top 15. For example, a match up with Derek Brunson would be an excellent style match up, in addition to being a serious test to Whittaker's takedown defense at middleweight.
This was a pretty poor showing for Hester. "Headbussa" loaded up on punches far too often and without set up, which allowed Whittaker to counter often. For a striking specialist, that's really not a good look.
Additionally, Hester's wrestling technique was pretty disappointing. He managed to get in deep on a couple of shots, but he did not attempt to finish the takedowns technically. Instead, he simply attempted to muscle Whittaker to the mat.
At UFC Fight Night 55, Robert Whittaker proved that middleweight is his optimum weight class, easily dispatching Clint Hester. How far can the Australian climb in his new division?
For complete UFC Fight Night 55 "Rockhold vs Bisping" results and play-by-play click HERE.