Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back after a week off to stage UFC Vegas 34 later tonight (Sat., Aug. 21, 2021) from inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. Headlining the event is a Middleweight bout between Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum.
It’s been a pretty tough stretch over the last few years for Kelvin Gastelum, the man many felt had the tools to hold the title at either Welterweight or Middleweight at one point. He does, after all, have wins over former champions Vitor Belfort, Michael Bisping and Johnny Hendricks. He also gave Israel Adesanya a run for his money in their title fight at UFC 236. But, the former The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) winner is just 1-4 in his last five fights inside the Octagon, though he has been taking on nothing but the cream of the crop during his bad stretch. While he has proven to have knockout power to turn it around in the blink of an eye, losing so many fights simply isn't good for his future aspirations. He is still lurking around the Top 10 (ranked No. 9), so he hasn’t completely fallen off. Another loss, though, may change all of that.
Cannonier, meanwhile, is ranked No. 3 and not too far off from possibly contending for the division strap currently held by the aforementioned Adesanya. Like Gastelum, “Killa Gorilla” is coming off a loss to Robert Whittaker, which snapped his three-fight win streak. Having once competed at Heavyweight, Cannonier has knockout power for days, which means Gastelum should try to avoid an all-out slug fest. That said, Gastelum does have better foot work and is a bit quicker to the punch. His best bet is to stick and move and avoid staying idle long enough to allow Cannonier in. It’s a 50/50 match up for me, which will likely go the distance. Both men need a win in a big way for drastically different reasons — one is trying to get a title shot while the other is trying to just hang on — so it should be a hell of a main event.
This card won’t get you jumping out of your seat for joy, but a lot of it has to do with the string of bad luck the promotion suffered during fight week, losing multiple bouts, forcing it to change course and salvage the event as best it could.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
Cannonier was originally set to face Paulo Costa, but after that fight fell through, Gastelum stepped in to fill the void. Mario Bautista was set to collide with Guido Cannetti before he was forced out of the fight after testing positive for COVID-19.
Sara McMann suffered an undisclosed injury and was forced out of the Ketlen Vieira bout. Aliaskhab Khizriev was also injured and forced out of his scheduled showdown against Alessio Di Chirico. Also, surging Flyweight contender Tracy Cortez suffered an injury and was forced out of her fight against J.J. Aldrich. All of the setbacks occurred with a span of 24 hours, leaving the promotion scrambling.
Saidyokub Kakhramonov will make his UFC debut after he agreed to replace Mana Martinez on just five days notice against Trevin Jones. After four years of fighting on the regional circuit, Kakhramonov got the call up to the big leagues. He is currently riding a two-fight win streak, but is just 3-2 in his last five fights, fighting for five different promotions during that span. The 25-year-old has a well-rounded game, but is in for a tough night against Jones, who has won four straight fights, though one of those bouts was overturned to a “No Contest.”
In women’s 135-pound action, Bea Malecki is trying to improve to 5-0 when she takes on Josiane Nunes, who is making her Octagon debut on the heels of six straight wins. With a nice record of 7-1 Nunes will try to make a splash in her debut in hopes off adding some new blood into the Bantamweight picture.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
Brian Kelleher is hoping to get back on track against Domingo Pilarte — who is also in search of a win after failing to obtain one in his first two fights inside the Octagon — when they collide in a Bantamweight affair.
Rising Featherweight prospect Luis Saldana got off to a great start in his UFC career, defeating Jordan Griffin earlier this year to up his win streak to five straight. He will be taking on Austin Lingo, who is coming off a win over Jacob Kilburn, his first victory inside the Octagon.
Also, WIlliam Knight and Fabio Cherant will collide in a battle of Light Heavyweights in need of a win. Both men came up short in their previous bouts, so avoiding a two fight losing streak is of the utmost importance here for both fighters if they want to ever get close to sniffing the Top 15.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
This one is a no-brainer. Gastelum needs a win in the worst way after going just 1-4 over his last five fights. While he is in no danger of getting cut — especially since he is so reliable when the promotion needs him to be — Gastelum still needs to get back in the win column to stay in the Top 10 and to prevent falling further down the ladder. He can always drop back down to Welterweight if he loses, but cutting weight has never been a friend to him. If he can get through Cannonier, it could help him revive his career and get back into the mix. In short, a loss would simply be catastrophic.
Interest Level: 5 of 10
In a weekend when Bellator MMA and PFL also put on fights, it’s hard to complain too much about this watered down event. But, there are some intriguing fights making up the main card. Among them is a crucial Flyweight bout between Alexandre Pantoja and Brandon Royval. Pantoja is ranked No. 3 while Royval is sitting at No. 6. Askar Askarov will likely get next dibs against division king Brandon Moreno, which means the winner of this fight could be in line to face the winner of that championship fight.
Yes, Clay Guida is still chugging along and yes he is still winning. UFC’s original wild man is coming off a big win over Michael Johnson earlier this year, snapping his two-fight skid. “The Carpenter” has always had great wrestling and stamina, but he will be at a severe disadvantage against Mark Madsen, who owns an Olympic silver medal in wrestling (Denmark). He is 10-0 so far in his MMA career, winning his first two fights inside the Octagon. The problem is he hasn’t been super active (blame COVID partially). He made his UFC debut in 2019, and has only fought twice since. A win over Guida will be a big feather in his cap (name-wise) and could give him the momentum to compete a bit more often in hopes of making some noise in the Lightweight division.
Heavy hitters Chase Sherman and Parker Porter will collide in a 265-pound match up. Porter has gone just 1-1 so far inside the Octagon while Sherman has competed for the promotion a whopping 12 times. Expect a big knockout here, though betting who will be the one to deliver it is a toss up.
While the Lightweight division goes on without Khabib Nurmagomedov and is now led by Charles Oliveira, there are some who are trying to get a bit more of the spotlight. Among them is Vinc Pichel. He is far from a household name but the man has been winning, earning a 6-2 record so far inside the eight-sided cage and is currently riding a two-fight win streak. The 155-pound weight class is stacked so a record like that simply isn’t good enough to get into the Top 15. All he can do is keep chugging along. He will face Austin Hubbard who has been consistently inconsistent, alternating wins and losses inside the Octagon with a record of 3-3.
Enjoy the fights!
UFC Vegas 34 Main Event On ESPN/ESPN+:
185 lbs.: Jared Cannonier vs. Kelvin Gastelum
UFC Vegas 34 Main Card On ESPN/ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Clay Guida vs. Mark Madsen
265 lbs.: Parker Porter vs. Chase Sherman
138.5 lbs.: Trevin Jones vs. Saidyokub Kakhramonov
155 lbs.: Austin Hubbard vs. Vinc Pichel
125 lbs.: Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Royval
UFC Vegas 34 ‘Prelims’ Card On ESPN2/ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET):
145 lbs.: Austin Lingo vs. Luis Saldana
135 lbs.: Brian Kelleher vs. Domingo Pilarte
135 lbs.: Bea Malecki vs. Josiane Nunes
205 lbs.: Fabio Cherant vs. William Knight
155 lbs.: Ignacio Bahamondes vs. Roosevelt Roberts
170 lbs.: Ramiz Brahimaj vs. Sasha Palatnikov
Remember that 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 ESPN/ESPN+ “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.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 34: “Cannonier vs. Gastelum” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.