UFC Vegas 24: Whittaker vs Gastelum
UFC Vegas 24 is on Saturday, and we have a fun mid-level card that should make for a great night of entertainment and betting. The whole card may not have the greatest name value, but the main event is a banger at 185 that was supposed to fight for the undisputed title just a few short years ago.
Robert Whittaker (-260)
30 years old
22 – 5
64% finish rate
9 wins by KO/TKO
Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker is a bad man once that octagon door closes. One of the friendliest and most entertaining fighters outside of the cage turns into a complete monster once the bright lights are on and he is shut in with another human. The former 185 champions is currently working his way back to the belt and is riding a 2 fight win streak. The former champion has proven the doubters, myself included, wrong time and time again and in his last fight showed that he is simply a level above the rest of the division, and he belongs in the title picture.
Kelvin Gastelum (+220)
29 years old
16 – 6
63% finish rate
6 wins by KO/TKO
Kelvin Gastelum is a fighter who has had a bit of a wild ride for the last 3 years. Kelvin has long since been considered a fighter too small for 185, but he always shuts the people saying that up with fast hands and big wins. After taking current champion Israel Adesanya to his limit back in 2019, Kelvin Gastelum has not seemed like the same fighter. Gastelum is 3-1 in his last 4, and with his last victory over Ian Heinisch kept his contender’s status. Gastelum is far from where he needs to be, but a win over Whittaker on Saturday might get him back into title contention and a rematch with Izzy.
This fight is between two men who desperately need the win. Both prior opponents of champion Israel Adesanya are looking for redemption; the stakes are extremely high in this fight.
The Reaper is on an incredible run, with the only bad spot being his loss to champion Adesanya. If it weren’t for Izzy, Whittaker would not have lost since 2014. Robert Whittaker has shown himself to be a tad bit chinny in his last several fights, but he has always been able to dig deep and power through. That championship experience and heart keeps him running when it probably shouldn’t. The fact is that Whittaker doesn’t stop, and he has taken the best punches from the biggest fighters in the division and keeps coming.
Kelvin Gastelum has fast hands and big power, but his best wins are coming over aging veterans, and I haven’t seen anything in Kelvin recently that makes me feel like he has recovered. I truly believe that Gastelum left something of himself in the cage that night against Adesanya that he just never got back. The biggest red flag to me is that Kelvin has been employing a grappling game over his last several fights when his striking is by far his best skill, and his hand speed would be his greatest advantage in this fight.
Whittaker is bigger and stronger, as well as being more well-rounded and a former champion. Whittaker should win this fight. There is always the chance that one of these men lands a bomb over the course of 5 rounds, but if recent form has shown us anything, it’s that these once violent young guns have turned into risk-averse veterans. I think rather than laying all that juice on the former champion, you take them over and don’t worry about who gets their hand raised.