Aussie Robert Whittaker won TUF Smashies (okay, now they’re just making stuff up), while Rafael Natal is a veteran jiu-jitsu black belt who’s fallen in love with striking (which is sometimes to his detriment). How will this one play out?
As a vastly superior jiu-jitsu expert, Natal has the advantage of being able to throw kicks and punches with no worries about being taken down. Not so with Whittaker, who spends the round being judicious in his striking and being conscientious of the grappling. But other than a handful of takedown attempts, Natal seems content to swing wildly and chop away at his opponent’s lead leg with kicks. A few times Whittaker is successful in connecting with his fists, and yet the Brazilian cracks him right back.
Whittaker’s thigh is chewed up at the opening of Round 2, and that cuts down on the power behind his strikes. Natal adds front kicks into the equation, which makes the Aussie’s life even more hellish, but despite it all, he still manages to score and mark Natal up.
They continue to battle closely into the third – Natal with his wild swings and chopping kicks, Whittaker with his more accurate boxing and a side-kick to the lead leg. Back and forth, back and forth they go, and it’s a real puzzle as to who is edging ahead… and then comes a head-kick by Whittaker that forces Natal to take a knee, and that likely gave the Aussie the round.
Result: Robert Whittaker def. Rafael Natal via Unanimous Decision