Earlier this week, the UFC’s November 26 trip to Melbourne, Australia took a significant blow, as former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold was forced out of his planned bout with Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza with an injury.
When this unfortunate news broke, there was speculation that the UFC might scramble to find a replacement opponent for Jacare. While that is still not out of the question, we can now confirm that Jacare will no longer participate in the main event. That honor will instead go to middleweights Robert Whittaker and Derek Brunson, who were originally expected to fill the co-main event spot.
Derek Brunson will enter this main event bout as the UFC’s 8th-ranked middleweight. When we last saw him in action, he earned a controversial but undeniably impressive first-round TKO over the once hyped Uriah Hall. Prior to this defeat of Hall, which marked his fourth first-round finish in a row, Brunson scored consecutive victories over Lorenz Larkin, Ed Herman, Sam Alvey and Roan Carneiro.
Whittaker, meanwhile, will enter this main event fight as the UFC’s 7th-ranked middleweight. He’ll also step onto the canvas with five-straight wins in his wake, having recently bested Mike Rhodes, Clint Hester, Brad Tavares, Uriah Hall and Rafael Natal. Widely regarded as Australia’s top mixed martial artist, Whittaker will have the crowd behind when he takes on Brunson – but with that support comes a pressure to perform.
“This is a massive honour… and it won’t be the last time I main event a UFC event, either,” Whittaker told Australia’s Daily Telegraph of the opportunity to main event the UFC’s return to Australia.
“For me it doesn’t really matter if it’s last fight, first fight, whatever, It’s still the same fight,” Whittaker elaborated. “But in saying that, I’m really looking forward to this opportunity. And I’ve never been more confident with a preparation.”
Other highlights of the UFC Melbourne lineup include a middleweight bout between Chris Camozzi and Daniel Kelly, a lightweight bout between Andrew Holbrook and Jake Matthews, and a welterweight battle between Kyle Noke and Omari Akhmedov.
Who do you think comes out on top in UFC Melbourne’s new main event? Sound off, PENN Nation!