Robert Whittaker had the better moments overall in this UFC 197 main card fight with Rafael Natal, rocking his opponent in the first and third rounds, though he didn’t have it all his own way, with Natal’s leg kicks taking a toll on him along the way.
Whittaker takes the center of the Octagon to start as Natal moves on the outside. Natal feeling out with the jab. Body kick for Whittaker.
Both men miss a strike apiece in close, but Whittaker lands one behind it. Now a solid jab for him. He goes for a head kick, but natal blocks.
Leg kick for Natal. Whittaker pressing forward, but Natal lands a counter. Leg kick for Whittaker. Natal comes up short with a one-two. Leg kick for Natal.
Nice right hand for Whittaker. Natal only just ducks under a head kick attempt and then goes for a takedown that doesn’t pay off. Leg kick for Whittaker.
Slightly lull then an upward jab for Whittaker. Solid leg kick for Natal. Left hook for Natal as Whittaker steps into range. Whittaker with a front kick to the midsection.
Leg kick for Whittaker and one to the body in return from Natal.
Right hand for Whittaker hurts Natal and another shots lands. Natal firing back though and both are throwing caution to the wind here. A slight slip to the mat, then back up. Whittaker lands another punch that seems to have Natal slightly wobbled, but he continues on until the end of the round.
Leg kick for Natal. Natal winging punches wildly that miss. natal looking for a single leg takedown, but it’s stuffed. He goes back to the leg kick.
Solid upper body kick for Whittaker. Overhand for Natal and then back to the leg kicks. Whittaker with a leg kick and then a side kick to the thigh.
Hard leg kick for Natal and Whittaker’s left leg is extremely red at this stage in the fight. Right hook for Natal. Back to the leg kick now. Whittaker with a head kick, but Natal goes underneath it.
Right hook for Natal knocks Whittaker off-balance. Leg kick for Whittaker, but not a lot in that one. He launches into a short flurry of punches. Front kick for Natal.
Hard kick to that same leg from Natal and it’s definitely taking it’s toll on Whittaker’s movement. Whittaker with a solid punch to the head.
Natal with the single leg attempt, but it’s stuffed again. Kick to the knee from Whittaker. And again. Natal repays him by landing his latest leg kick. Now Natal goes for the front kick to the body.
Whittaker with a leg kick then a superman punch attempt that misses. Whittaker leasp into a head kick that at least partially lands, but Natal is ok.
Whittaker complaining about his right hand being sore in-between rounds and while he didn’t say anything, it’s apparent Natal has tenderized his left leg as we head into the third.
That leg kick again for Natal and one in return from Whittaker that lands to the groin and forces a brief stoppage, but he’s ok to continue.
Whittaker changes his stance and Natal targets his new front leg with a kick, then to the body. Whittaker back to his former stance and lands a punch just as Natal kicks that lead leg.
Winging punch from Whittaker. Body kick for him now and then a leg kick. Pressing forward he lands a winging left. Exchange in close and Whittaker clocks Natal with another left hand.
Leg kick for Whittaker. He tries a superman punch. Couple of hooks land for Natal. Another leg kick for Whittaker. Now another. Then one comes in return from Natal.
Jab for Whittaker. A couple of solid leg kicks for Natal. Overhand left for Whittaker. Suddenly he lands a big head kick and it staggers Natal and drops him to his knees momentarily. Natal showing a great chin to stay in the fight after that, and luckily for him the final bell soon arrives.
Onto the scorecards we go then and it’s Robert Whittaker who emerges with a unanimous decision victory (29-28, 30-27 x2).