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Robert Whittaker Confident He Can Handle Khamzat Chimaev’s Ground Game



Robert Whittaker is confident that he will be able to hold his own in grappling exchanges against Khamzat Chimaev.

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Whittaker will look to hand Chimaev his first career loss in the main event at UFC Saudi Arabia on June 22. While “Bobby Knuckles” admits that his key to victory lies in keeping the fight on the feet, he isn’t afraid of grappling with “Borz.”

“It’s about going out there and pushing my game plan onto him and seeing how he adjusts to me. Because I bring an arsenal of skill sets that he’s not ready for, I believe," Whittaker recently told ESPN Australia. "And I think the shortest way to victory is to go in there, obviously not play to his strengths, which is not engaging in the wrestle, but not be afraid of it. I can wrestle with the best of them, and I have shown and proved that. So, I’m gonna go in there, I’m gonna fight my fight, I’m gonna fight a stand-up fight, I’m gonna see where it goes, I’m gonna drag it out. It’s a five-round fight. I have been in plenty of those, and I’ve got no quit in me. So, let’s see how this goes.”

While Chimaev essentially had his way on the ground with all of his early Ultimate Fighting Championship opponents, “Borz” was given a run for his money against elite competition like Gilbert Burns and Kamaru Usman. Meanwhile, Whittaker, who boasts a takedown defense rate of 82%, one of the highest in the division’s history, has proven his mettle against elite grapplers in the past. “The Reaper” is confident of handling Chimaev’s grappling as well.

“He's definitely got a really sound jiu-jitsu game, but he mixes it well with his wrestling,” said Whittaker. “And I think what a lot of people aren’t ready for is the mixture of the two, the making it really MMA-esque, like utilizing it up against the wall, utilizing his strength with his long arms and tall frame to just push his game plan on the fence, push it into the ground. And whilst I definitely think he is very dangerous there, I have been grappling my entire life. I’m very, very confident of my own skill sets. Even if it were a pure wrestling, jiu-jitsu format, I would hold my own, if not get a ‘W,’ in that way too.”

Whittaker is fresh off a unanimous decision victory over Paulo Costa at UFC 298 in February. Meanwhile, Chimaev hasn’t fought since a majority decision win over Usman in his middleweight debut at UFC 294 on October 2023.
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