Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker is right back at the top of the division -- and some would say he never left.
Whittaker (22-5) defeated Jared Cannonier (13-5) via unanimous decision in the co-main event of UFC 254 on Saturday on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. It is Whittaker's second win in three months, as he outpointed Darren Till in a close fight in July in Abu Dhabi. Whittaker is now 2-0 since losing his title to Israel Adesanya in October 2019.
Adesanya (20-0) is still the champion and has defended the belt twice. The champ had picked Cannonier to win on Saturday and be his next title challenger, but Whittaker spoiled those plans.
"Straight off the back of my last fight, we diligently worked on a game plan [for Cannonier]," Whittaker said. "We know he's aggressive. Followed [the plan] to a T and got a very classy win."
UFC president Dana White said an Adesanya-Whittaker fight makes sense.
"Israel has a lot of options, but the fight that makes the most sense right now is Whittaker," White said. "I thought Cannonier was going to be a much tougher challenge for him. He looked good tonight."