Two of the Middleweight division’s most fearsome punchers lock horns at the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) APEX facility this Sat. (Aug. 21, 2021) when Jared Cannonier takes on former interim title challenger Kelvin Gastelum on ESPN and ESPN+.
In the lightweight co-feature, 15-year Octagon veteran Clay Guida faces former Olympic wrestling medalist Mark O. Madson, who’s an unblemished 10-0 in his young mixed martial arts (MMA) career.
Our usual main card guy got called up to play for what’s left of the Cubs, so the duty falls to me once again. As always, you can check out our UFC Vegas 34 “Prelims” breakdowns here and here, Andrew Richardson’s championship analysis of the rest of the Aug. 21 main card is right here, and our look at the odds behind it all is over here.
On we go.
185 lbs.: Jared Cannonier vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Jared “The Killa Gorilla” Cannonier
Record: 13-5 | Age: 37 | Betting line: -150
Wins: 8 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 5’11” | Reach: 77” | Stance: Switch
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.70 | Striking accuracy: 52%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.09 | Striking Defense: 64%
Takedown Average: 0.16 (33% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 54%
Current Ranking: No. 3 | Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Robert Whittaker
Record: 17-7 | Age: 29 | Betting line: +130
Wins: 6 KO/TKO, 7 SUB, 7 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 5 DEC
Height: 5’9” | Reach: 71.5” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.52 | Striking accuracy: 42%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.24 | Striking Defense: 57%
Takedown Average: 1.16 (37% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 62%
Current Ranking: No. 9 | Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Robert Whittaker
As disappointed as I am that we won’t get to see Cannonier trade nuclear bombs with Paulo Costa, I can’t say I disapprove of this backup plan. The sheer power of Cannonier and the lethal boxing of Gastelum make for a delightfully volatile clash of styles that I can’t picture as anything but an absolute war.
Despite his recent struggles, I find myself leaning Gastelum’s way. While Cannonier has a clear edge in concussive force, Gastelum is enormously difficult to put away and has the offensive wrestling prowess to test Cannonier’s occasionally shaky takedown defense. In addition, Cannonier is 37 years old and unproven in lengthy fights, while Gastelum can push the pace for 25 minutes. If the early knockout isn’t there for Cannonier, and I don’t expect it to be, things will only get worse for him as the rounds go by.
Cannonier’s best shot is to compromise Gastelum’s lead leg in the early going and force him into close-quarters exchanges while he’s still fresh. As tough as Gastelum is, I’m not sure anyone at 185 can stand up to a sustained burst from “The Killa Gorilla.” So long as Gastelum can neutralize his low kicks with takedown attempts and keep busy enough to wear Cannonier out without staying in the line of fire, though, I like him to stop a flagging Cannonier in the championship rounds.
Prediction: Gastelum by fourth-round TKO
155 lbs.: Clay Guida vs. Mark O. Madsen
Clay “The Carpenter” Guida
Record: 36-20 | Age: 39 | Betting line: +145
Wins: 7 KO/TKO, 13 SUB, 15 DEC, | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 10 SUB, 7 DEC
Height: 5’7” | Reach: 70” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 2.44 | Striking accuracy: 34%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.57 | Striking Defense: 63%
Takedown Average: 3.36 (38% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 68%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Michael Johnson
Mark “The Olympian” Madsen
Record: 10-0 | Age: 36 | Betting line: -165
Wins: 3 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 5’8” | Reach: 72” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 2.28 | Striking accuracy: 42%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.53 | Striking Defense: 46%
Takedown Average: 8.33 (64% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 0%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Austin Hubbard
Weird as this may sound, I actually don’t think Clay Guida has declined terribly despite his advancing age and lengthy Octagon tenure. He’s simply become obsolete; his aggression is no longer sufficient to compensate for his mid-level wrestling and his standup never developed enough to give him a proper backup plan. The one thing he still has going for him is inhuman cardio, but for all of Madsen’s on-paper advantages, that’ll be enough to carry “The Carpenter” to victory.
While it’s beyond a cliche at this point to say that amateur wrestling doesn’t always translate well to MMA wrestling, Madsen’s appears to have made the transition intact; he’s capable of some truly spectacular takedowns, like the eight he racked up against Austin Hubbard. Unfortunately, the rest of his game has yet to catch up, and I’m not sure it ever will at 36 years old. Limited striking and finishing ability on the ground force him to rely on a grinding style when he can’t simply beast his way to an early finish, and he was severely gassed by the end of said Hubbard fight.
That’s not going to cut it against Guida, a durable and furious scrambler who will make Madsen fight for every inch of ground. “The Olympian” will inevitably spend the first chunk of the fight ragdolling Guida, but I don’t trust him to do so for long enough to stave off Guida’s late-round surge.
That said, Guida’s not a particularly great finisher, so all Madsen needs to do is win the first eight minutes or so and then avoid a 10-8. I see Guida taking control early enough to avoid that, though, so expect him to lock up a trio of 29-28s for the upset.
Prediction: Guida by unanimous decision
Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 34 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 34 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN2/ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN/ESPN+ main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 34 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archives here and here. For the finalized “Cannonier vs. Gastelum” fight card and ESPN/ESPN+ lineup click here.