PREVIEW: Robert Whittaker vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Featured Image Credit: The Writing Irish
It is nearly time! UFC 234 is tomorrow, and it is time to preview the headliner. Robert “The Reaper/Bobby Knuckles” Whittaker squares off against Kelvin “The Legend Killer” Gastelum in a showdown of 20-somethings for the 185 strap.
Robert Whittaker seems like he has been champion forever and should have a few title defenses, but he has one defense and has been champion for about a year and a half now, both winning his belt and defending it against Yoel Romero. That does not discredit him, however, as Yoel is a FREAK and he beat twice, both by decision. Whittaker seems like a guy, to me at least, who isn’t fantastic at any one thing, and I think that has been a large part of why he’s successful. He has very good striking, with his ability to piece together combinations being his greatest strength. He has more than good enough grappling. What really sticks out to me, similar to Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, is his fight IQ and game-plan going into fights. He found a way to beat Yoel twice, being the only man in UFC history to beat the Cuban phenom. He finished Jacare Souza and Derek Brunson. I think his camp deserves a lot of credit for finding the right holes to exploit in his opponents game and credit to Whittaker for going out and executing time and time again. If he keeps his head and avoids the big strike, which is easier said than done with a guy like Gastelum, don’t be surprised if the Australian keeps the belt down under.
Kelvin Gastelum is a problem. He has followed a bit of a legend killer route to the top, which we wrote about previously, which has panned out well for him. His only loss at 185 is to Chris Weidman, who has yet to show he can stay healthy long enough for another run at the title he once held. Beyond that blemish, he has knocked out Michael Bisping, former champion and winningest fighter in UFC history, Vitor Belfort (changed to a No Contest because Gastelum popped for marijuana), one of the sport’s all-time greats and former champion, and Tim Kennedy, seen as a pillar at 185, as well as getting a decision over Jacare Souza, former Strikeforce champion and MMA legend. He has built quite the resume at Middleweight in a short span of time. Using his boxing and underrated wrestling, he’s been able to dictate where the fight goes and that normally is on the feet, getting pieced up with stiff combinations. He also has knockout power, as demonstrated against Bisping. He’s a dangerous fighter, especially when he can fight at a more natural weight.
The beauty of this fight is that it will almost certainly not be the only time these guys square off. Whittaker just turned 28 and Gastelum is still 27. When you add in guys like Paulo Costa, 27, and Israel Adesanya, 29, you have to get a little giddy about the fun match-ups that this division can have for years to come. If you don’t get excited about it, I don’t want to be your friend.
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