Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight strikers Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum will clash TONIGHT (Sat., April 17, 2021) at UFC Vegas 24 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Whittaker is one of the best fighters competing right now, a former champion who didn’t lose a beat when he coughed up his title. He’s already dispatched a pair of top-tier contenders since losing his crown, and now he’ll look to settle unfinished business with Gastelum, another former title challenger. Speaking of, Gastelum rebounded last time out with a solid win, ending a tough losing streak. If he can rebuild momentum with a second consecutive win, the veteran power puncher is right back in mix of the Middleweight elite.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Yoel Romero (UFC 225, UFC 213), Darren Till (UFC on ESPN 14), Jared Cannonier (UFC 254), Ronaldo Souza (UFC on FOX 24), Derek Brunson (UFC Fight Night 101), Uriah Hall (UFC 193)
Key Losses: Israel Adesanya (UFC 243), Stephen Thompson (UFC 170), Court McGee (UFC Fight Night 27)
Keys to Victory: Whittaker is one of the best blends of traditional martial arts and boxing, able to smartly put together combinations and close distance shockingly quick. He’s also damn near impossible to take down, and his offensive wrestling has become more of a factor.
The great threat when facing Gastelum is his left hand. He’s light on his feet and has tremendous timing with his cross, particularly in extended exchanges. Whittaker is not defensively irresponsible, but nor is he impossible to hit.
To help mitigate that threat, I’d like to see Whittaker slamming his right leg into the Southpaw’s open side at every opportunity. There are few more effective tactics to slowing down a crisp straight then multiple hard blows to the forearm. Whittaker’s right kick can pin Gastelum’s left to his chin, helping to take away one of his greatest weapons.
Otherwise, Whittaker should be digging low kicks, round and side alike. Gastelum is at a range disadvantage, and he’s never been great at checking low kicks. If Whittaker is picking away and staying ahead on the scorecards, his cardio advantage will only grow more useful in the later rounds.
Record: 16-6 (1)
Key Wins: Ronaldo Souza (UFC 224), Michael Bisping (UFC on FOX 27), Johny Hendricks (UFC 200), Tim Kennedy (UFC 206), Rick Story (UFC 171), Ian Heinisch (UFC 258)
Key Losses: Israel Adesanya (UFC 236), Darren Till (UFC 244), Jack Hermansson (UFC Fight Night 172), Chris Weidman (UFC on FOX 25)
Keys to Victory: Gastelum is one of the most impressive meat-and-potatoes fighters in the sport. He drops just about everyone with feints and a 1-2, but Gastelum has recently returned to his wrestling roots more often.
This, however, is not the fight to shoot takedowns. Whittaker’s takedown defense is outstanding, and there’s nothing more exhausting then a failed takedown. That energy would be better spent trying to plant his left hand on Whittaker’s jaw, particularly since Gastelum has to plan for a five round fight.
Still, Gastelum has to mix up his offense, and I’d like to see him kick more actively. Whittaker’s in-and-out style definitely leaves him a bit vulnerable to low kicks. Plus, since it’s an open stance match up, firing lefts of left kicks into the mid-section is always a good idea.
If Gastelum can slow his foe down a bit with kicks, his chances of cracking Whittaker with a left only improve.
This is an awesome Middleweight fight with some real history behind it.
Whittaker has already earned a rematch with Israel Adesanya. However, “Stylebender” doesn’t appear all that interested, leaving “The Reaper” in limbo. The only path forward for Whittaker involves defeating absolutely elite competition. Even that may not be enough, as only a highlight reel finish can really guarantee Whittaker gets his opportunity.
As for Gastelum, this is a really major opportunity for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) champion. Given his relatively recent three-fight losing streak, it seemed likely that Gastelum would need a good few wins to get back into the mix. Instead, he can immediately jump into the mix by defeating Whittaker, who is currently ranked as the top Middleweight contender.
At UFC Vegas 24, Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum will go to war in the main event. Which man will earn the victory?
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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