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Saturday’s classic interim middleweight title fight between Israel Adesanya and Kevlin Gastelum is a surefire contender for 2019’s best fight but the man who holds the official 185-pound UFC title isn’t sold on Adesanya’s talents just yet.

New Zealand’s Adesanya set up a future date with Australia’s Whittaker with a surging fifth-round performance against Gastelum after what had been a close fight up until that point, drawing praise from all sections of the MMA landscape while doing so based on his pinpoint striking acumen.

Whittaker, though, is a different beast entirely. The 28-year-old has won nine straight bouts in the UFC including successive wins against divisional stalwarts Yoel Romero (x2) and Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza. The all-Australasia clash between him and Adesanya though will be an interesting affair between two of the division’s most complete strikers — though Whittaker isn’t overawed by what he sees in his Kiwi rival.

“He showed a lot of heart. He got hit a little bit and came back,” Whittaker said via Newshub. “He was very accurate, with high volume. It was a very impressive win.”

That said, the evidence displayed on Saturday night didn’t overawe ‘The Reaper’.

“He’s hittable. I’m better at striking [than Gastelum]. I’m going to punch him and I am very, very good at it, very fast and hit hard and he doesn’t like getting hit.”

Dana White intimated in the UFC 236 post-fight presser than he intends to hold the middleweight title unification bout in a stadium in Australia in what will without question be the biggest mixed martial arts contest to take place in that corner of the globe and, judging by his comments, the champion is in a quietly confident mood ahead of it.