Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns later tonight (Sat., April 17, 2021) to stage UFC Vegas 24 from inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, featuring a Middleweight bout between Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum. In the co-main event, Drakkar Klose takes on Jeremy Stephens in a Lightweight affair.
Whittaker and Gastelum were originally booked to throw down at UFC 234 in Feb. 2019 for the Middleweight belt before Whittaker (who was champion at the time) was forced out the day of the fight with a hernia and twisted bowel. Ouch! Since then, Gastelum has only managed to rack up a 1-3 record, snapping his three-fight losing streak with a victory over Ian Heinisch at UFC 258 in Feb. 2021. Gastelum was once considered a legit threat to the title at both Welterweight and Middleweight, though he came up short in his lone bid to win a strap to current champion, Israel Adesanya, at UFC 236. Still, Gastelum is that fighter who always has a puncher’s chance because he gave “The Last Stylebender” everything he could handle and packs some power in his fists to send the best of them napping ... just ask Michael Bisping. In taking the fight against “The Reaper” on short notice, Gastelum sets himself up for a big payoff because a win over a former champion and the No. 1-ranked Middleweight in the world should get him into the Top 5 and closer to another shot at the strap.
Whittaker is also back on the hunt for UFC gold after losing his belt to the aforementioned Israel Adesanya at UFC 243 via knockout. That defeat was his first in six years and snapped his nine fight win streak. Since losing his belt, “The Reaper” has won two straight against Darren Till and Jared Cannonier, getting him closer to another crack at the title. He’s already done enough preparing and tape study on Gastelum seeing as how they were set to tango before, but he still needs to be on his toes because as I mentioned earlier, Gastelum can crack and has all the tools to pull off the upset here. This fights sets up another potential big time headliner down the road because I fully expect the winner of Whittaker vs Gastelum to face Paulo Costa next. That’s assuming the promotion doesn’t award “The Reaper” a shot at the title with a win.
In all honesty, there isn’t much to complain about here. Despite losing its main event of Whittaker vs. Costa, the promotion called an audible and wound up finding a great replacement. The rest of the main card is decent with a good line up of fights and the undercard is pretty healthy. No complaints here.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
The original main event had Whittaker facing off against Paulo Costa. But after “The Eraser” bowed out because of a severe case of the flu (as well as post-COVID 19 issues), Gastelum stepped in to fill the void. Anthony Birchak stepped in to face off against Tony Gravely after Nate Maness bowed out for undisclosed reasons.
Hannah Goldy pulled out of her scheduled fight against Jessica Penne for undisclosed reasons and was replaced by UFC newcomer Lupita Godinez. Also, Andrei Arlovski stepped in on short notice to face Chase Sherman after Parker Porter withdrew from the Heavyweight showdown.
A fight between Zarah Fairn and Josiane Nunes was scrapped after Fairn missed weight by a whopping eight pounds. The fight — which was originally supposed to go down at Bantamweight — has been previously agreed for at a catchweight of 139 pounds. Even that wiggle room wasn’t enough for Fairn to hit her mark.
Natan Levey was scratched from his fight against Austin Hubbard with an undisclosed injury. As a result the promotion tagged Dakota Bush as his replacement. Also, while not an injury, Ricardo Ramos was removed from his fight against Bill Algeo — and the fight as ultimately canceled — due to COVID-19 protocols.
Lupita Godinez is coming in undefeated at 5-0 and has no plans on letting up just because she’s under the bright lights of the UFC. She is a former LFA champion who knows how to deliver on the big stage and intends to do just that when she faces Jessica Penne, who is in desperate need of a win after losing three in a row, bringing her UFC mark to 1-3.
Wrestling standout Dakota Bush is making the jump to UFC from LFA where he amassed a 5-2 record with all his wins coming by way of stoppage. He will face another former LFA alum in Austin Hubbard who just hasn’t been able to find any sort of momentum during his time with UFC. He has alternated wins and losses to the tune of collecting a 2-3 mark and is coming off a loss to Joe Solecki. He’ll need to avoid the takedowns here if he wants to evade his second straight loss and possible a one-way ticket out of the promotion given his track record.
To get a more detailed look at all of the “New Blood” click here.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
The “Prelims” will feature rising women’s Flyweight sensation Tracy Cortez taking on Justin Kish. Winner of eight in a row — two inside the Octagon — Cortez is on the path to stardom for the promotion if she can keep winning, though she did miss weight for this fight, just barely. She will have a stiff test ahead of her in Kish, a six-fight UFC veteran who is hungry for a win after going 1-3 in her last four bouts after starting off her career at 6-0.
Undefeated Heavyweight Alexander Romanov (13-0, 2-0 UFC) looks to keep his climb going when he takes on Juan Espino. It’s a battle of streaking big men because Espino is riding an eight fight win streak and is also 2-0 inside the Octagon. It’s no secret that these big boys crack hard, so this fight has the possibility of ending early. It’s a big opportunity for both men to climb the ranks and get closer to filling some of the voids left behind by Daniel Cormier, Junior dos Santos and Alistair Overeem.
Middleweight finishers Gerald Meerschaert and Bartosz Fabiński are both searching for a win after coming up short in their last fights. Meerschaert was starched by Khamzat Chimaev in just 17 seconds, while Fabinski was submitted by Andre Muniz in the very first round in Sept. 2020.
Anthony Birchak is on the hunt for his first UFC win in five years against Tony Gravely. Birchak took the fight on short notice and it will be his second bout inside the Octagon since getting the call back to the big leagues in Nov. 2020. Gravely is 8-1 in his last nine fights and picked up his first UFC win against Geraldo de Freitas Jr. after dropping his promotional debut against Brett Johns.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Jeremy Stephens is currently in the middle of the worst losing streak of his entire career, losing four out of his last five fights inside the Octagon. The fifth bout was a “No Contest” against Yair Rodriguez due to an inadvertent eye poke for “Pantera.” In the rematch, Rodriguez trampled Stephens on his way to a unanimous decision win. Stephens’ last win came in Feb. 2018.
While he has long been a fan favorite, he needs a win in the worst way here against Drakkar Klose. And it will be far from a cakewalk because Klose is 3-1 in his last four fights, though he is coming off a loss to Beneil Dariush. Despite Stephens’ losing streak, you can tell just how much the promotion values him since he is still getting co-headlining spots. That can all go away though if he drops another one.
Interest Level: 7/10
The card is pretty solid and the main event is just as good as the original and the co-main event has the makings of an all-out striking battle since Stephens and Klose don’t know the meaning of boring.
The rest of the main card is nice. Arlovski did UFC matchmakers a solid by stepping in to face Chase Sherman on short notice. “Pitbull” is coming off a tough loss to Tom Aspinall in Feb. 2020, snapping his two-fight win streak. It’s sort of a must-win for Arlovski seeing what happened to Junior dos Santos and Alistair Overeem. Should he lose, though, he may have another UFC fight left in him since he did step up big here. Sherman has won four straight so the big man is determined to get his fifth in a row in order to crack the Top 15.
Abdul Razak Alhassan is in desperate need of a victory after dropping his last two fights inside the Octagon since beginning his UFC career at 4-1. He will be facing Jacob Malkhoun, who failed to deliver in his UFC debut, suffering a first round knockout loss to Phil Hawes at UFC 254 in Oct. 2020 on “Fight Island.”
Rounding out the main card is a Lightweight fight between Luis Pena and Alexander Munoz. Pena is hoping to turn it around after he was choked out by Khama Worthy in his last fight. So far during his stint with the promotion, “Violent Bob Ross” hasn’t been able to live up to the hype many had of him after winning The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). He will face Munoz, who is also looking for a trip back to the winner’s podium after losing to Nasrat Haqparast in Aug. 2020, the first loss of his pro MMA career.
Enjoy the fights!
UFC Vegas 24 Full Fight Card:
UFC Vegas 24 Main Event on ESPN/ESPN+:
185 lbs.: Robert Whittaker vs. Kelvin Gastelum
UFC Vegas 24 Main Card on ESPN/ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Drakkar Klose vs. Jeremy Stephens— CANCELED (details here)
265 lbs.: Andrei Arlovski vs. Chase Sherman
185 lbs.: Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Jacob Malkoun
155 lbs.: Alexander Munoz vs. Luis Pena
145 lbs.: Bill Algeo vs. Ricardo Ramos— CANCELED (details here)
UFC Vegas 24 ‘Prelims’ Under Card on ESPN/ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET):
125 lbs.: Tracy Cortez vs. Justine Kish
265 lbs.: Juan Espino vs. Alexandr Romanov
115 lbs.: Lupita Godinez vs. Jessica Penne
185 lbs.: Bartosz Fabinski vs. Gerald Meerschaert
135 lbs.: Zarah Fairn vs. Josiane Nunes— CANCELED (details here)
135 lbs.: Anthony Birchak vs. Tony Gravely
155 lbs.: Austin Hubbard vs. Dakota Bush
*Fight card, bout order and number of fights remain subject to change due to COVID-19.*
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 24 fight card TONIGHT right here, starting with the ESPN+/ESPN2 “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET.
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