luke rockhold, robert whittaker

Luke Rockhold believes Robert Whittaker is a “tougher” matchup for him than Israel Adesanya

Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold believes that Robert Whittaker is a “tougher” matchup for him than Israel Adesanya.

After more than three years away from the Octagon, Rockhold returns to the cage this summer at UFC 278 when he takes on Paulo Costa in a pivotal middleweight bout. Should Rockhold lose again, especially if he gets knocked out, there is a good chance he will likely hang up his gloves for good. But if Rockhold should defeat Costa, then he becomes a fresh contender at 185lbs given that he hasn’t fought the current champion Adesanya before.

In 2018, Rockhold was scheduled to fight Whittaker for the belt, but “The Reaper” was forced to pull out of the fight and we never got to see it. Four years later, and Whittaker is still the top contender at 185lbs. If Whittaker defeats Mavin Vettori at UFC Paris later this year, and if Rockhold beats Costa, there is a chance we could finally see this fight, with the winner potentially fighting Adesnaya for the UFC middleweight championship.

If that happens, then Rockhold believes it might actually be the tougher fight. Speaking to Submission Radio in a recent interview, Rockhold explained why he believes Whittaker is a “tougher” fight for him than Adesanya is.

“I know how to fight Izzy. It’s a straightforward fight. He’s a tough fight. He’s a big puzzle. He is the most complicated puzzle there is at middleweight and has been for a long time, so it’s gonna be interesting. I think the right game, and that’s my fight. I think the hardest fight for me right now is Whittaker, but if I play the right game with any of these guys, it’s my fight.” He continued, “For me, Israel’s a lot easier. He’s a lengthier body, he’s easier to control, he’s not as much of a spark plug. Whittaker’s got better wrestling defense, he’s harder to track down around the cage, he springs in and out. On paper, he seems a little bit tougher for me,” Rockhold said (via

Do you agree with Luke Rockhold that Robert Whittaker is a tougher fight for him than Israel Adesanya would be?


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Adam Martin
MMA journalist, podcast host, and handicapper for,, and MMAOB Daily Podcast host. Join me LIVE @ 5 pm EST every Monday for my live free podcast. Over 10 years of experience writing about MMA. I love this sport.