The UFC returns to action this Saturday at the APEX Facility in Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC Vegas 24: Whittaker vs Gastelum.
In the main event former UFC middleweight champion and current no. 1 ranked middleweight Robert Whittaker will take on no. 8 ranked middleweight Kelvin Gastelum in a five-round contest. Whittaker was supposed to fight no. 2 Paulo Costa in a title eliminator but after Costa withdrew with an injury, Gastelum gladly accepted the fight on short notice.
This isn’t the first time that Whittaker and Gastelum have been booked to fight each other. Gastelum was supposed to challenge Whittaker at UFC 234 in Melbourne, just hours before the event to undergo an emergency surgical procedure.
Gastelum ended up fighting Israel Adesanya for the interim belt at UFC 236 and lost via close decision. When Whittaker healed up, he unified the title against interim champ Adesanya and lost the belt. Now the Reaper is on a mission to reclaim what was once his while Gastelum tries to move closer to getting another crack at the real belt and Adesanya.
Let’s take a look at Saturday’s main event and pick our winner:
Since dropping back-to-back fights to Court McGee and Stephen Thompson as a welterweight, Robert Whittaker has won 10 out of his last 11 bouts, including nine at the middleweight division. His only loss during that period came against Israel Adesanya at UFC 243 when he yielded the middleweight title. Overall, Whitaker is 22-5 with 14 knockouts and 5 wins via submission.
Whittaker is a terrific kickboxer who averages 4.52 significant strikes landed per minute while only absorbing 3.44 significant strikes in return. He averages only 0.43 takedowns per 15 minutes but has an impressive 84% takedown defense which keeps his fight on the feet most of the time.
The Reaper likes to move from side to side, snapping away with a stiff jab that he works effectively behind. He closes the distance well and always throws combinations while doing so. Whittaker is clever in setting traps and landing the big blows when he has the opportunity.
Like Whittaker, Gastelum’s path to the UFC was the TUF, winning the 17th edition of the tournament which was fought at the middleweight division. However, he started his career at welterweight and later moved back to middleweight where he found some success. Gastelum has a record of 16-6 with six knockout wins and four wins via submission. He is 4-4 with one draw as a middleweight but has won just once in his last four bouts.
Gastelum likes to march forward on his feet, willing to eat a few shots in order to land his combinations and big bombs. He has a granite chin as he has never been knocked out in his MMA career although he has been submitted twice. He averages 3.64 significant strikes landed per minute and gets hit by only an average of 2.92 significant strikes per minute with a 59% striking defense.
In his last bout, Gastelum relied on his wrestling, taking down Ian Heinisch six times. That was the first time since 2015 when he took down Neil Magny twice that he completed more than one takedown in a fight. He averages 1.22 takedowns per 15 minutes at a 39% accuracy.
Robert Whittaker has looked like a man on a mission since losing his belt to Adesanya. The Reaper looked dominant during his wins over Darren Till and Jared Cannonier, both of whom are ranked higher than Kelvin Gastelum. Whittaker has also fought the best of the best in this division, so I don’t think that he will be surprised with anything that Gastelum brings to the fight.
But don’t forget that Gastelum gave Israel Adesanya a tougher fight than expected. He’s tough as nails and has a punch that’s powerful enough to hurt the big boys at middleweight. The main problem with Gastelum is that he’s undersized for this division and he’s fighting an opponent who is terrific in fighting at range in Whittaker.
Gastelum would prefer a close-in battle where he can neutralize Whittaker’s long-range fighting and hope to land one of his bombs. However, Whittaker’s side-to-side movement may make that difficult. Robert Whitaker is a hard target to hit unless you’re as tall as Israel Adesanya.
The only difference between him and Gastelum is that Whitaker can win this bout by fighting at a distance and Gastelum cannot. Being able to hit Whittaker doesn’t guarantee that Gastelum can hurt him badly. Remember that Whittaker went 10 rounds with the explosive Yoel Romero and kept his belt in both fights. Bobby Knuckles is as tough as they come too.
Prediction: Robert Whittaker -265
Although Robert Whittaker is a heavy hitter and power puncher, six out of his last eight wins have been by decision. The Reaper is an excellent striker who is okay with winning on points, dominating his opponent with a karate-style offense. It’s also worth noting that Kelvin Gastelum has never been knocked out, not even by Adesanya or Darren Till. I like Whittaker to win this fight easily but on points.
Best Bet to Make: Method of Victory – Robert Whittaker on Points (+125) at SportsBetting.ag
If you’re not sure about Whittaker and are also second-guessing Gastelum, take the “Fight goes the distance” prop bet and bet on “YES”. While Whittaker will be content at winning on points, I don’t think that Gastelum can knock out Whitaker on the feet. The best way for Gastelum to win is on points but that’s if he can. So if you’re not sure either, bet that this fight goes the distance. Prop Bet to Make:
Fight to go the distance- YES -135 at BetOnline.
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.