Robert Whittaker’s All-Time Middleweight Rank & UFC Saudi Arabia Fallout

UFC made its debut in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where Robert Whittaker defeated Ikram Aliskerov in the first round and Alexander Volkov secured a significant win over Sergei Pavlovich.

UFC Saudi Arabia is in the books as the promotion made its debut outing in Riyadh this past Saturday. Robert Whittaker demolished short-notice replacement Ikram Aliskerov in the first round. Alexander Volkov also picked up a big win over Sergei Pavlovich in the co-main event. Plus, some other things happened, so let’s dive into things before moving on to UFC 303 and International Fight Week.

Robert Whittaker

“Has Bobby Knuckles firmly established himself as the third greatest middleweight of all time over guys like Chris Weidman, Luke Rockhold, Dan Henderson and Gegard Mousasi?”

Great question! Though I’ll start by saying leaving Rich Franklin off this list is tough scenes. Franklin was an exceptional fighter who just so happened to have his prime run concurrently with Anderson Silva. Tough break.

I’ve said this plenty before but it bears repeating whenever we start arguing about the greatest anything: it’s a subjective thing. To me, “greatest” is primarily about accomplishment not “well, he beat this guy, ipso facto, he is better”. And by those terms, pretty inarguably the greatest middleweight of all time is Anderson Silva, with Israel Adesanya trailing considerably behind him.

No. 3 is interesting, though. If we’re talking all of MMA, I think the default for awhile has been Hendo, but I’m not sure it’s correct. Henderson has an incredible resume but it’s also all over the map with light heavyweight and openweight bouts. If we’re just talking what he’s done at 185 pounds, Whittaker probably surpassed him.

But Weidman is another story. Weidman is in that spot where he fell off so dramatically from his peak that newer fans overlook him (we refer to this as “The B.J. Penn Zone” or “The Tony Ferguson Zone”). But Weidman has a pretty major trump card over Whittaker’s all-time case: three title defenses.

Whittaker is an exceptional fighter but he also never successfully defended the belt. He won an interim title, got promoted to undisputed and then lost his next fight. It’s a bit harsh but it’s the truth.

I say it all the time but defending a title is the hardest thing to do in MMA. (Mike) Heck, even Whittaker sort of agreed with that by saying he lost to Dricus du Plessis because he underestimated him. You don’t do that sort of thing in a title fight because the gravity of a loss is so severe.

The stakes are different and fights simply mean more when you’re defending a title.

You can argue that Whittaker has more good wins than Weidman does at middleweight but none of those wins are as good as Weidman’s three title defenses.

I still have Weidman at No. 3 on my list.

Kudos to Whittaker though; maybe he should start a club with Rich Franklin about having almost an entire career being world-class-but-not-the-best.

Ikram Aliskerov

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