Coach: Robert Whittaker is Georges St-Pierre 2.0

Elias CepedaYahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports
Robert Whittaker weighs in ahead of UFC 234 at Rod Laver Arena on Feb. 9, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Getty Images)
Robert Whittaker weighs in ahead of UFC 234 at Rod Laver Arena on Feb. 9, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Getty Images)

Robert Whittaker’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach, black belt Alex Prates won’t take a win for granted on Oct. 5 when his charge defends the middleweight world championship against challenger Israel Adesanya. Still, the coach does not seem to count Adesanya as anywhere near as big a threat to Whittaker as Yoel Romero, who “Bobby Knuckles” has already defeated twice.

“Robert defeated Romero twice. If you ask my personal opinion, my understanding of MMA, defeating Romero twice is a bigger feat than defeating Adesanya,” Prates recently told MMAFighting’s Guilherme Cruz.

“Israel definitely is a star here, but I think there’s a misunderstanding when people say he’s a new prospect. He’s older than Robert, he’s a veteran with more than 60 kickboxing fights. He’s super experienced, and that’s how we look at him. We don’t think his ground game is bad, that his wrestling is bad. He’s an MMA fighter. I just think that Robert combines it really well. When he combines his striking and wrestling, he’s really hard to read.”

Prates’ analysis of the upcoming fight isn’t hubris, however. There are ways he believes Adesanya could conceivably win.

“If Adesanya dictates the rhythm of the fight the way he likes to do, like he did against Anderson Silva, it’s going to be a good fight for him and he will probably win by decision,” Prates continued.

“Now, if Robert takes that away from him, his ability to dictate the pace, it will be bad for him. If they grapple, if there’s a bit of mixed martial arts in the fight, a bit of wrestling and striking, Robert won’t get tired.”

Prates doesn’t just believe that Whittaker has yet publicly displayed grappling prowess, he happens to believe that the former welterweight is also better at grappling in MMA than perhaps the most dominant grappler in the sport’s history - Georges St-Pierre.

“Maybe you’ll see Robert Whittaker using a style that I think is the one that suits him better but he never really needed it because it was always comfortable for him on the feet for most of his fights,” he went on.

“With Yoel Romero, for example, it would have been stupid to try to take him down. But Robert has great wrestling and great timing. I honestly think Robert is a better version of GSP. And we might see this now.”

Whittaker has won his past nine fights and though he has six submission wins in his pro career, he’s perhaps most well-regarded for his impressive stand-up striking results. The undefeated Adesanya is certainly most known for his impressive stand-up striking, with 13 of his 17 pro MMA career victories coming by way of KO or TKO.

Though Whittaker is more than competent and dangerous on the feet, his jiu-jitsu coach seems to believe that he’ll be most effective and efficient if he can mix levels up against the kickboxer Adesanya.

“The main difference of Robert using his wrestling and ground game with Israel is that he doesn’t depend on the ground, if that makes sense,” he concluded.

“He can take Israel to the ground, but if Israel starts to scramble and gets back up, he doesn’t need to spend energy there. Let him get back up. That’s the difference from a jiu-jitsu fighter or a wrestler that depends on keeping him on the ground.”

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