Robert Whittaker Will Provide Main Event Worthy of a Saudi Arabia Card

April 3, 2024
3 months

UFC CEO Dana White knew he needed the right collection of talent to participate in a fight night card set for June 22 at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Over the past few years, the Saudi fight fans have been treated to some of the world’s top talent. In late 2023 and early this year, several high-profile boxing matches featuring Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, and Francis Ngannou were held in Saudi Arabia.

When the UFC couldn’t get the fighters together for an event in January, Saudi Arabia’s chairman of General Entertainment Authority Turki Al Alshaikh, postponed the event to get the best collection of talent together. What White was able to put together will keep fight fans intrigued.

Former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker will take on one of the hottest contenders, Khamzat Chimaev, in the main event. The best MMA news sites show there are a number of high-profile names on this card who should put on an interesting show.

Whittaker’s Not Washed Yet

Robert Whittaker appeared as though he might be done fighting at a championship level during his performance against now-middleweight champion Dricus du Plessis. During that fight at UFC 298, du Plessis bullied Whittaker with his physicality and scored a second-round knockout.

But Whittaker bounced back in his last fight, outlasting former title challenger Paulo Costa in a three-round affair. Now, Whittaker will face another tough challenger in Chimaev. Chimaev should have already been champion.

He debuted in the UFC with a lightning-bolt string of performances. Chimaev won three fights in two months in 2020, but has only fought four times since. There have been a number of issues holding Chimaev back.

He has struggled with his weight, illness, and some visa issues because of people he associates with outside the octagon. Chimaev is 13-0 and an exciting fighter. If he can make weight and keep his head on straight, he should be a champion by the time he retires.

There is a real hope that Chimaev will have put his health issues behind him and can be more active. Early in his career, Chimaev was notable for taking fights on short notice and seeking out different challengers.

It would be nice to see that spark come back.

Russian Heavyweights Will Dazzle Crowd

Sergei Pavlovich has terrifying power. But when he attempted to grab the UFC interim heavyweight championship at UFC 295 in November 2023, everything came crashing down. Pavlovich saw a six-fight win streak come crashing down in New York City when he was knocked out by Tom Aspinall in 1 minute, 9 seconds.

Pavlovich is ready to try to earn another shot at the belt when he takes on Alexander Volkov. Volkov, who also lost to Aspinall via submission in March 2022, is in one of the best stretches of his UFC career.

Volkov has won three straight fights and is only one short of his record in the promotion. This may be the last chance for Volkov to generate momentum to climb the rankings. Expect fireworks in this fight.

Gastelum is Always Game

It’s hard to believe Kelvin Gastelum is only 32 years old. He’s been in the UFC for 11 years and has been involved in some of the best fights in the promotion’s history. Gastelum’s unsuccessful challenge with Israel Adesanya at UFC 236 in April 2019 for the interim middleweight championship was named fight of the year.

While Gasetelum has always been a championship contender, he has also struggled with weight issues. Gastelum will fight Daniel Rodriguez in Saudi Arabia to try and get his career back on track. Gastelum is 2-5 over his last seven fights, including a submission loss to Sean Brady last December. Rodriguez is 17-4 in his career, but has hit a rough patch.

Rodriguez has lost his last two fights by finish to Ian Machado Garry and Neil Magny. This fight will be important for both men.

Johnny Walker Brings Flair With Him to Saudi Arabia

Another announced bout for this card will feature Brazilian star Johnny Walker. Walker is a fighter that not many people will want to miss. Usually, Walker’s fights go one of two ways.

Either Walker records a highlight-reel KO victory, or one of his opponents finds a way to do the same thing to him. Walker saw that pattern continue during his January fight with Magomed Ankalaev. In that bout, Ankalaev was able to stop Walker in the second round with a flurry of punches.

Before that, Walker was on a four-fight unbeaten streak. MMAfighting latest updates show that Walker is scheduled to fight Volkan Oezdemir in Saudi Arabia. Oezdemir is coming off a submission win over Bogdan Guskov. 

Oezdemir has an exciting style and has finished 14 of his 19 victories, including 12 by knockout. Walker is no stranger to excitement himself. During Walker’s career, he has picked up 16 KO victories.

UFC Excited to Make History With Trip

The UFC has faced a lot of criticism for holding a lot of fights at the nearly-empty UFC Apex in Nevada. But the company is known for traveling all over the world to stage fights. MMA news sites show that the UFC regularly holds events in foreign cities.

This will be the UFC’s first trip to Saudi Arabia. The UFC made its first trip to the Middle East in April 2010 when it held a pay-per-view card on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. During the pandemic, the UFC would come back to Yas Island to stage other fights. For this upcoming card, there will likely be a few more fight announcements coming soon as contracts are signed.

Here are two other fights listed for the upcoming card:

  • Middleweight, Sharabutdin Magomedov vs. Ihor Potieria
  • Lightweight, Nasrat Haqparast vs. Jared Gordon

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By Dean McHugh.

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