- Date & Location: Saturday, April 17 @ UFC Apex in Las Vegas
- Odds: Robert Whittaker (-265) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (+210) via Bovada
- Prediction: Whittaker via decision
The main event of Saturday’s UFC Vegas 24 fight card initially featured a matchup between Robert Whittaker and Paulo Costa. Those two men sit next to each other at the top of the UFC middleweight rankings with Whittaker in the No. 1 spot and Costa at No. 2. That bout fell apart when a severe case of flu forced Costa from the card. Kelvin Gastelum, who is the No. eight ranked 185-pound UFC fighter, replaces Costa.
Whittaker, who is a former UFC middleweight champ, is on a two-fight winning streak since Israel Adesanya took the title from him via a second-round knockout in October 2019. The former titleholder has decision wins over Darren Till and Jared Cannonier since his loss to Adesanya. Whittaker, who is a former welterweight, is 10-1 at middleweight.
Gastelum, who also fought at 170 pounds, ended a three-fight losing skid in his most recent outing. He defeated Ian Heinisch in February, following setbacks to Adesanya and Jack Hermansson.
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WHITTAKER vs. GASTELUM PREDICTION & PICK
A UFC 234 booking between these two fell through on fight day when Whittaker had to undergo emergency surgery on his bowel and abdomen. Gastelum did not take the cancelation well. He declared himself champion and was at the event with a belt over his shoulder. The UFC did not agree with Gastelum. Whittaker remained the champion.
At the time of that booking. I thought Whittaker would defeat Gastelum. My opinion on the outcome of the fight has not changed over the past two years.
Not only has Whittaker remained at the top of his game since the fight was initially booked, but he has solidified himself as the best UFC middleweight not named Israel Adesanya. Gastelum is a tough fight for anyone in the 185-pound division, as he is talented and hard to stop, but he does not have the number or quality of tools Whittaker possesses.
Prediction: Whittaker -250 via Betonline
BETTING VALUE WITH WHITTAKER
In 23 fights, Kelvin Gastelum has been stopped twice. Both finishes came via submission. While Whittaker has five submission wins, none have come after 2011. I don’t see the former UFC champ moving to seven in this scrap. Whittaker has knockout power, but Gastelum is a tough out and I don’t think Whittaker will be the first fighter to score a knockout victory over Gastelum.
That leaves us with a decision and that is how I see Whittaker getting his hand raised in this bout. My feeling is this will be a grinding affair with Whittaker using his kicks to keep Gastelum at distance. That approach will sap Gastelum’s gas tank and force him to attempt to get the fight to the mat. I think the fight will eventually hit the ground and that’s where Whittaker will prevail, using his ground control to grind out a decision win.
Pick: Whittaker via decision -260 via BetUS.
WHO HAS THE EDGE?
Whittaker and Gastelum are both hard-nosed fighters who have good all-around skills. However, Whittaker is the more naturally talented of the two. He is also more fundamentally sound. Experience won’t play a role in this fight, but the ability to follow a game plan will and with that Whittaker has the better chance to pick up the win. Gastelum will make this a tough fight and he will make Whittaker work, but the difference in MMA fundamentals falls on the side of the Australian fighter and I think that will be the difference in this outing.
FIGHT STATS: WHITTAKER vs. GASTELUM
|Robert Whittaker||Category||Kelvin Gastelum|
|4.52||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||3.64|
|3.44||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||2.92|
|0.43||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||1.22|
|0.0||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||0.1|
WHAT’S AT STAKE
With his status as a former champion and his current ranking, Whittaker has a more than fair chance of landing a shot at Adesanya and his middleweight crown with a win over Gastelum.
Because of his recent losing skid, Gastelum is not in the same position as his opponent, but an upset win will give Gastelum a bump in the rankings and potentially a sizable bump at that.
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