Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight strikers Kelvin Gastelum and Jared Cannonier will clash TONIGHT (Sat., Aug. 21, 2021) at UFC Vegas 34 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Gastelum has been fighting elite contenders for quite a few years now, but lately, that high level of competition has seemingly caught up to him, as he’s been coughing up losses more frequently. The 29-year-old is still a dangerous puncher with quality wrestling, but he needs to rebound here to remain a relevant title threat. Cannonier is also looking to bounce back from a loss to Robert Whittaker. Prior to that defeat, “Killa Gorilla” was on the fast track to a Middleweight title shot, having stopped three straight opponents. Like Gastelum, a return to the win column here moves Cannonier right back into the title mix.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 16-7 (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), Robert Whittaker (UFC Vegas 24), Darren Till (UFC 244), Jack Hermansson (UFC Fight Night 172)
Keys to Victory: There is nothing overly complicated about Gastelum’s approach to MMA. However, a crisp and crushing left hand and solid double leg takedown are excellent tools when applied by a quality athlete who understands the value of feints and timing.
Gastelum has to mix it up to some degree in this fight. He’s likely the better boxer on paper, but it’s hard to say that anything on paper matters given Cannonier’s power and reach advantage.
First and foremost, Gastelum has to kick. He cannot hope to compete with Cannonier’s range if “Killa Gorilla” is the only man throwing kicks. In addition, Gastelum may find more success committing forward with his 1-2 if he’s also established at least the threat of the takedown.
From a big picture perspective, Gastelum should also be looking to make use of his pace. Cannonier has slowed down before at the higher weight classes, when he was facing less of a water cut. If Gastelum is mixing takedowns, kicks, and his left hand hammer at a high pace, he stands a fair chance at breaking down the bigger man.
Key Wins: Jack Hermansson (UFC Fight Night 160), Anderson Silva (UFC 237) David Branch (UFC 230), Ion Cutelaba (TUF 24 Finale), Cyril Asker (UFC Fight Night 86)
Key Losses: Robert Whittaker (UFC 254), Glover Teixeira (UFC 208), Jan Blachowicz (UFC on FOX 26), Dominick Reyes (UFC Fight Night 129)
Keys to Victory: Cannonier has hurt people at every weight class he’s visited, but he’s a major power threat at 185 lbs. In addition, the Texan’s takedown defense has come a really long way, allowing him to make the most of his kickboxing skill.
Nine of his victories come via knockout.
Cannonier’s goal here should be maximizing his six inch reach advantage opposite the former Welterweight. Fortunately, Cannonier’s recent performances have seen a heavy focus on jabbing and kicking, which sounds like a grand recipe for punishing Gastelum at distance.
It’s true that Gastelum excels at suddenly closing distance with his fast 1-2, but that can be turned against him. If Cannonier is chewing his foe up from far away, he should be able to get a better read on the eventual lunge. Once Cannonier has his foe’s timing, interrupting that blitz could create a huge connection.
Otherwise, keep sticking the jab and letting the right kick fly to the inner thigh and mid-section.
One man scores a much-needed win.
There is still interest in Jared Cannonier as a title challenger. If Adesanya is able to score a second victory over Robert Whittaker, well, “Stylebender” vs. “Killa Gorilla” is an explosive kickboxing match that sells itself. Cannonier just has to be in the win column to take advantage of such an opportunity, and rebounding against a name like Gastelum would put him in a pretty solid place overall.
As for Gastelum, his recent results are not inspiring. If he’s to remain a relevant factor at Middleweight — which seems his only choice, given his struggles to make even 185-pounds — the TUF champ has to score a victory. This has the opportunity to be a big one, as Cannonier stands as the third-ranked Middleweight contender. For a veteran without a truly significant ranked win since 2018, victory here could be huge in confirming that Gastelum is still among the best.
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.
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At UFC Vegas 34, Kelvin Gastelum and Jared Cannonier will go to war in the main event. Which man earns the victory?