UFC Fight Night: Whittaker v Gastelum Preview, Tips & Prediction

ufc robert whittaker

UFC Whittaker v Gastelum Preview

This weekend’s UFC Fight Night sees Robert Whittaker face Kelvin Gastelum in the middleweight division. Whittaker’s last fight was back in October, where he comfortably beat the threatening Jared Cannonier by unanimous decision in Abu Dhabi, whilst Gastelum fought recently, beating Ian Heinisch in February and has taken this fight on four weeks notice.

This bout is a huge opportunity for Gastelum to move up the rankings, where he is currently the #8 contender and he could possibly earn a title fight if he is to beat the Australian, who is the #1 contender and no doubt one win away from a rematch with Israel Adesanya.

The two fighters were meant to meet at UFC 234 back in 2018, before the then champion Whittaker had to pull out due to injury. Gastelum is finally getting his chance after accepting the fight on short notice, with #2 contender Paulo Costa originally being scheduled to fight but pulling out due to illness. We take a look at how this fight goes down, the odds, and our tip for the fight.

Whittaker v Gastelum Tips

skybet betting tip

WHITTAKER TO WIN ON POINTS @ 11/8

How does Whittaker win the fight?

Whittaker won't be hunting for a knockout, as this has never been his game and how he is one of the most skilled middleweights of the past decade who can always bring out the points win. In fact, with a black belt in Gōjū-ryū karate, that emphasis on soft techniques really shines through in Whittaker taking fights long distances.

However, this is definitely a high-risk fight for the “The Reaper”, with Gastelum getting back in the win column and potentially back on track to cause damage at 185 against Heinisch. The original fight against Costa would almost certainly have given the winner a rematch against Adesanya, and although a win against Gastelum will likely do the same for the number one contender, another points win for the Australian won't prove much for that potential rematch.

With Whittaker the more intelligent fighter and skilled over the distance, many will be expecting a slugfest brought to the table by his opponent, and the best strategy for the Whittaker is to play it safe and win the rounds, boxing behind his jab, striking low with kicks and utilising his slight reach advantage. In fact, we expect an extremely similar fight to both fighters' bouts with Darren Till.

At the same time, Gastelum’s chin has proven its worth over the last few years and whilst Whittaker no doubt has the power to knock him out, it is not worth the risk of being over-eager and adversely aggressive to pursue a stoppage in the hopes of making a statement to the rest of the division.

Just like against Till and Cannonier - two knockout artists - Whittaker will take Gastelum into deeper waters and test his cardio just like Adesanya did over their 25-minute bout in 2019. If you ever remember correctly, the Australian once blitzed the American on a track run and barely broke a sweat while Gastelum threw up back on The Ultimate Fighter back in 2018.

Minor details, perhaps, but a noticeable superior ability for sure.

Whittaker v Gastelum Prediction

skybet betting tip

EITHER FIGHTER VIA STOPPAGE @ 6/5

How does Gastelum win the fight?

Gastelum will be desperate for a win, and in truth, he must get the victory to get inside the top half of the rankings and have any chance of a rematch with Adesanya. Having lost three of his last four fights, a victory over the former champion Whittaker would skyrocket him up the rankings and put him in contention for a title fight, or at the very least, a number one contender bout. He may also fancy his chances in a fight against Adesanya after coming closer to beating the Nigerian than anyone else in the division, stunning him on a couple of occasions.

To win the fight, Gastelum needs to make it a war and apply pressure from the off, keeping the fight in the proverbial 'phone booth'. He found success with this against Adesanya and also recorded knockout wins over Michael Bisping and Tim Kennedy, and proved against Till that unless you keep at a distance, Gastelum is ready to pounce with serious intent.

Meanwhile, Whittaker has been knocked out by Adesanya and Stephen Thompson when exchanging punches close up, which suits Gastelum down to the ground, so this is another clear fight where one man looks to take the fight further, whilst the other aims for a stoppage.

No doubt Gastelum has the gas tank to take Whittaker towards the end, despite the infamous cardio battle between the two on The Ultimate Fighter. However, with the former champion's superior intelligence, ability and overall experience in these latter rounds against the likes of Yoel Romero (x2) and Till, Gastelum will either need the performance of his life across five rounds, or the knockout.

Whittaker v Gastelum Odds

skybet betting tip

GASTELUM TO WIN VIA TKO/KO @ 9/2

Our UFC Prediction

Quite frankly, there is not much in a knockout finish for Whittaker, but more so just an aim to get another win on his incredible CV, as after beating stars like Cannonier and Till consecutively, he was already next for a title shot when Adesanya comes back down from light heavyweight. So, nothing changes for Whittaker but the opponent in this fight and a win is simply a win for him to get Dana White to book Adesanya v Whittaker 2. Plus, both men are without stoppage win since 2017 and we expect this to continue with the fight currently priced at 10/11 to go the distance.

As good as Gastelum’s combination stand-up game is, he has just one win since 2018 and sometimes it does just look as if he is too small for middleweight in stature, and his height and reach disadvantage will play into Whittaker's hands over the course of an intelligently fought fight for him.

The ex-champion is also a monster over this distance. Beating Romero over 50 minutes is unheard of, whilst taking apart the threatening and intelligent game of Till across 25 minutes and avoiding the knockout against Cannonier over 15 minutes is title shot worthy in itself.

Whittaker to win by decision is 11/8 and our tip for this fight.

By Tom Eaton

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