The last time Robert Whittaker was able to fight three times in a 12-month span, he knocked out Derek Brunson and Jacare Souza and defeated Yoel Romero to win the interim middleweight title.
He won Performance of the Night and Fight of the Night against Brunson, Performance of the Night against Souza and Fight of the Night against Romero while solidifying himself as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport.
Whittaker’s body has let him down since then, and he hasn’t been able to fight on anything close to a regular basis. Even though he fought Romero a second time 11 months later, on June 9, 2018, he had missed a date in the middle because he had a staph infection in his stomach.
But he’s physically and mentally renewed as he prepares to face Darren Till on Saturday in the final bout of the UFC’s month-long stay at Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. He lost his title to Israel Adesanya in October, took a few months to let the batteries recharge, and is back again in a fight that could establish himself as the leading contender for the title.
Whittaker is a slight favorite at the MGM Grand Sports Book. He is -130, while Till is +110. “Won’t go the distance” is -160, while “will go the distance” is +130. And in total rounds, “fight to start Round 3” is -225 and “fight won’t start Round 3” is +175.
Till figures to have the edge in power, but that is probably the only edge he has in this fight.
This is Whittaker’s fight to win and if he performs to his normal standards, he should win. He has a far more diverse game than Till and is comfortable in all phases. If the fight gets to the ground, Till will be looking to get up as soon as possible and turn it back into a kickboxing match, while Whittaker wouldn’t at all be concerned if it became a grappling match.
It makes sense that if Whittaker wins, he’ll get the first crack at the Adesanya-Paolo Costa winner. They are scheduled to fight on Sept. 19 in UFC 253, though UFC president Dana White stresses that it is not final and that Costa manager Wallid Ismail jumped the gun by announcing the fight was completed.
But Whittaker, who had a bit of burnout after the Adesanya fight, figures to be motivated by a chance to reclaim the belt he wore so proudly.
Given the disparity in their overall games, Whittaker at just -130 is a bargain and so I’m going recommend a three-unit play on him: bet $390 to make a $300 profit.
I’m going to bet one unit on will go the distance at +130. I’ll wager $100 hoping for a $130 profit. And since I believe Whittaker is going to win and that the fight will go the distance, I’m going to make two other bets. I will lay $100 on Whittaker by decision at +275 to win a $275 profit, and I’ll lay the -225 on the fight to start Round 3 with the hope of making a $100 profit.
Other plays for UFC Fight Island 3
• This is somewhat of a risk since I think both fighters are finished, but I’m going to recommend a two-unit play on Shogun Rua by KO/TKO/DQ at +150. I’ll lay $300 hoping to win $200.
• Marina Rodriguez is a -180 favorite to defeat Carla Esparza. I like Rodriguez to win, but I don’t want to lay that much. But since I think the fight will go the distance, I’ll recommend a one-unit play on Rodriguez by decision at even money. So I’ll bet $100 looking to make a $100 profit.
• I really like Alex Oliveira to defeat Peter Sobotta. Oliveira is -170 and Sobotta is +140. Oliveira can be inconsistent, but I’ll lay the $170 hoping for a $100 profit.
More from Yahoo Sports: