UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs Gastelum
The UFC is keeping the train rolling this Saturday. The finale of the Middleweight main events is on April 17 at UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs Gastelum, to find out who's next for a shot at Israel Adesanya.
Robert Whittaker vs Kelvin Gastelum
We have a fantastic main event between former 185lb champion and current #1 contender Robert Whittaker & the #8 work horse and fire hydrant Kelvin Gastelum.
Originally suppose to be Whittaker against #2 Paulo Costa, Kelvin is taking the fight on 2 weeks notice & maintaining a competitive main event this weekend. We also have a nice undercard filled with prospect vs prospect fights along with a few veterans defending their spot. The main event is the best fight on the card. Whittaker vs Gastelum was supposed to be for the title back in February 2019, but Robert had to pull out the day of the fight due to an unexpected hernia.
Kelvin Gastelum's Previous UFC Fights
Let’s dive in with Kelvin’s history and skillset first. Kelvin holds a 14-6 record in the UFC along with winning the Ultimate Fighter season 17. He’s incredibly experienced between the 170lb & 185lb divisions. Gastelum started off at 170lb, fighting guys like Jake Ellenberger, Nate Marquardt, and Neil Magny, along with former champions Johny Hendricks and Tyron Woodley. Being 5’9 with a 71” reach, Kelvin has the frame of a welterweight but he had a lot of issues making weight. As as a punishment, the UFC sent him to 185lbs. His first fight up a weight class was against middleweight veteran & Green Beret Tim Kennedy. Everyone was expecting Tim to run through Kelvin with his size and grappling.
Kelvin went in there, boxed him up for most of the fight & drowned him in the third. Next, they gave him former 205lb champion Vitor Belfort in his home country of Brazil. Kelvin went in there and knocked him out with constant beautiful 2-piece combinations. Kelvin was shocking everyone with his success at his new weight that everyone thought he’d struggle with. He continued fighting killer after killer, like former 185lb champ Chris Weidman in his hometown of Long Island, he got a beautiful slip and rip knockout on another former champ Michael Bisping, then beat Jacare Souza in a slugfest in his home country of Brazil.
With Rob pulling out of their first fight, the UFC offered Kelvin an interim title fight against Israel Adesanya. It ended being one the best middleweight title fights in the company’s history. Arguably Adesanya’s toughest fight in his career besides the Jan Blachowicz loss. Kelvin reminds me of a mini Cain Velazquez, beautiful boxing with great wrestling along with endless cardio. He’s one of the most underrated boxers in the UFC; with great accuracy, head movement, and combinations. He’s just a fantastic competitor, can come off unassuming but always finds a way to win & his ability to perform when the lights are the brightest might be his most powerful attribute. Although Kelvin went through an entire training camp for Rob before, he has his hands full.
Robert Whittaker's Previous UFC Fights
Let’s dissect arguably a top 5 middleweight of all time and mad loved Robert Whittaker. He made his way into the UFC by winning the Ultimate Fighter in Australia. He began his UFC career at 170lbs, where he went 3-2, then decided to move up a weight class feeling that the weight cut was depleting his performances. Moving to 185lbs, Rob put together an amazing 10-1 record filled with an amazing championship run along with a great bounce back string of wins. Included great wins like his brutal KO over Brad Taveres, Uriah Hall, his hometown KO over Derek Brunson, and an unexpected head kick KO over Jacare Souza. He went on to face one of the scariest middleweights ever, Yoel Romero, for the middleweight strap where he won a 5-round decision after blowing his knee out in the first round. He still got the better of the striking and wrestling against the Olympic silver medalist.
Rob had to face Yoel in a rematch his next fight, where he came out on top of a brutal 5-round war. To go 10 rounds with the division’s boogeyman is an accomplishment not a lot of champions have ever done. He went on to face Israel Adesanya in an Oceanic mega fight which holds the UFC record for the biggest audience with over 57,000 fans. He did end up getting finished by the current champion. He bounced back with a win over #6 Darren Till in an intense high-level striking chess match and put on a championship performance against #3 knockout artist Jared Cannonier.
Rob’s been through the meat grinder in the UFC and it caused him to attain an extremely unique and well-rounded skill set. If you saw a silhouette of Whittaker fighting you could tell its him. He has extremely awkward but effective kickboxing with his hooks coming from weird angles & an ability to change his tempo on head and body kicks. Brutal leg kicks with side kicks to the body and knees. Complete footwork to use when he'll blitz in or wants to be evasive. He’s got a black belt in Brazilian Ju jitsu and he’s put an insane amount of work into his wrestling where he won national wrestling titles in Australia & earned a spot in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, but he was forced to withdraw due to his championship obligations in the UFC.
Here's The Analysis
This is such a competitive fight, especially since they both had training camps for each other, which is rare for short notice fights. They both have a better understanding of what they have do to win than most short notice fights tend to have.
For Kelvin, he must get into boxing range with Rob to take away his kicks and mix up his target to the head and body with his precise combinations. Kelvin has the better hands, head movement, and Rob does get a stunned and dropped in many of his fights. If Kelvin can turn this into a boxing match it’ll be a solid path to victory.
For Rob, he’ll do his best work at kicking range. Hiding head and body kicks behind his jab straight. Working Kelvin’s legs and knees to slow his movement and make it tougher to put weight on his feet which is very important for fighters who have a heavy boxing game plan. If Rob can get Kelvin on his back, he can use some of the great top control he used on much bigger guys like Yoel Romero and Jared Cannonier. Even though Rob has no submissions in the UFC, they’re in his skillset & there’s a possible path to victory for Rob due to Kelvin being submitted twice in the promotion. I think we’re in for a treat with this fight. It'll show high level striking, defensive grappling, cardio, and two fighters who are absolute gamers.
If Rob gets it done, he’s a lock for the rematch for Adesanya. He'd have taken down two top 5 contenders and the #8 contender on short notice. For Kelvin, a win would move him into the top 3 and would probably make him one fight away from earning a rematch with the champ. High stakes in the main event this weekend and I think Israel Adesanya will be paying close attention.
Kolse vs Stephens
Next up, we got an interesting co main event this weekend with a lightweight bout between Drakkar Klose and Jeremy Stephens. A grappler versus striker matchup with both coming off a decent layoff after knockout losses. Stephens fighting for the promotion since 2007 with a ridiculous strength of schedule including Rafael Dos Anjos, Anthony Pettis, Donald Cerrone, Yves Edwards, Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira, Max Holloway, Renan Barao, Frankie Edgar, Josh Emmet, Jose Aldo, Zabit Magomedsharipov, Yair Rodriguez, and Calvin Kattar. 14 years of the best UFC has to offer & managed to keep his head above water. Jeremy can end the fight at any moment with his power in all his strikes which has produced so many jaw-dropping knockouts. Jeremy will have to bring his wrestling shoes, though, when facing Drakkar. Klose holding a 5-2 record in the UFC with solid wins like Bobby Green, Marc Diakiese, and Lando Vanatta. He’s a gritty wrestler with decent hands that has an obvious path to victory. With Jeremy coming up a weight class, Drakkar will have to use his size against the cage and on top. He is coming off a pretty brutal KO in his last fight so Jeremy could be able to put fear in him and make him zig when he should’ve zagged to pull the upset off.
We got some fun fights on the undercard as well. We got an interesting lightweight bout between 6’3 Luis Pena and wrestler Alex Munoz. A featherweight fight between fun contenders Ricardo Ramos and Bill Algeo. Former heavyweight champ and division gangster Andrei Arlovski is stepping up on short notice to fight action fighter Chase Sherman. A welterweight fight between KO artist Abdul Razak Alhassan takes on Rob Whittaker’s teammate Jacob Malkoun. Flyweight prospect Tracy Cortez is returning against the veteran Justine Kish. Lastly keep your eye on a great heavyweight prelim between hyped contenders the Moldovan Alexander Romanov against Spain’s Juan Espino. Some fun fights with a fantastic main event this weekend. Enjoy!